Looking For a Smarter Note Tool? Try Springpad

When it comes to note taking and organizing, many services and applications have attempted to create a solution that syncs across platforms and provides an ultimate experience. From the legendary Evernote, to more graphic applications that emulate the look of a notepad or a post-it, to ones that provide a simple .txt editor that synchronizes with Dropbox like Epistle or Todo.txt Touch, the Market abounds with solutions that fit anyone’s needs. One of these services, Springpad, stood out for me thanks to its ability to do more than just notes.

Springpad’s pillar is that it uses “smart notes” divided by type, enhanced by intelligent content and followed up by alerts. This feature transforms Springpad from a simple note application into anything you want it to be: a collection of tasks and thoughts, a shopping list, a personal inventory, a product reminder database, a catalog of your favorite places or recipes… Honestly, there is no easy way to describe what Springpad is, because every person will make it their own.

Main Interface

Springpad is one beautifully crafted application that presents with a stack of Notebooks differentiated by color coding. Two default stacks are always available: My Stuff and Friends Stuff. The first one gives you full access to all your items and the second one lets you access public items from your Springpad friends. From here, you can view at a glance how many items each Notebook contains, change its name, theme color or delete it.

Springpad Main View

Springpad Main View

Notebook View

The Notebook view presents with a list of its included items and a top bar. This will allow you to go back to the main Springpad page, add a new item, or filter the contents by types of items, tags, and alerts. Also included is the ability to add a Quick Note in any Notebook, delete any item by long pressing on it, and sort items by name, popularity, date created or date modified.

Springpad Notebook View

Springpad Notebook View

Notebook Filters and Alerts

Notebook Filters and Alerts

Item View

The item view is where the superiority of Springpad shows in comparison to other notes applications. Here, depending on the type, you will see all relevant information at a glance:

  • a simple note shows just the text
  • a checklist displays the different items with a check box next to them
  • a product lays out its image (if available), its price, and a link to buy it
  • a recipe features the servings, ingredients, type of cuisine, directions, and an image of the finished recipe
  • a movie presents its poster image, release date, cast members, directors, rating, and plot.

You can expect similar attention to details in all other product types: businesses, restaurants, wine, books, TV shows, music albums, shopping lists and packing lists.

Viewing Smart Notes

Viewing Smart Notes

Also shown are small indicators to tell the source of the details, whether an item is public or private, owned or wanted, as well as personalized star ratings, and “Quicklinks” to buy the item or view more information about it. Sometimes, you will also spot an alert in there, like when a movie you haven’t seen becomes available on DVD.

Adding an Item and Personalizing It

Springpad gives you the choice to add a note or task, scan a barcode, search nearby, add media (photos or audio), and look up any product regardless of its type or by pre-selecting its type. The supported types are the same discussed earlier in the item view section, namely: note, task, business, restaurant, wine, product, book, movie, TV show, album, shopping list, packing list, check list and recipe.

Adding A Smart Note

Adding a Smart Note

After clicking and approving your search result, you land back in the Item View page. From here, a simple click on Menu lets you edit and personalize every aspect of the product. From attaching an image, note or audio recording, to changing its containing Notebook, passing by personal ratings, settings, tagging, flagging and reminder settings: everything is covered.

Adding And Personalizing A Smart Note

Adding and Personalizing a Smart Note

Search

One of the killer features of Springpad is its all-encompassing Search. A simple click on the button on your phone will let you search note titles and content. Say you’re wondering which movie you’ve seen that has Russell Crowe as one of the actors; type his name and you will see all the movies in your list that he is in. You can also use the Search as a fast finder, if you have large Notebooks and you don’t want to go looking for what you need inside them.

Springpad Search

Springpad Search

Settings

Springpad comes with only two aspects that you can change: the theme displayed as a background on the main view page, and whether or not to allow automatic sync. Synchronization works between the Springpad Android version, iOS version and the web application.

Springpad Settings

Springpad Settings

A Springpad Use Case Scenario

As you must have gathered, Springpad is an extensive application with unlimited possibilities. When I decided to give it a go, it was to use it as a personal movie catalog. I had been looking for months for a service that would allow me to build my DVD collection by simply typing the movie’s name or scanning its barcode, and then do all the heavy lifting of fetching the details. I wanted that service to synchronize with the web so I would be able to access and edit my database from my computer, and I was looking for the ability to personalize movies by saying which ones I had already seen and rating them. Every other solution I tried fell short in at least one of these aspects, and the few that seemed appropriate cost a fortune.

I eventually discovered Springpad and decided to give it a run only to discover that every feature I wanted is included. I now have three Notebooks to easily differentiate movies I own, those I’ve seen at a theater, and my wishlist. But there’s also the awesome option to search by director or actor and to share items that have proven to be even more phenomenal, allowing me to give my friends a link so they can browse online through my collection and see if there is a movie they’d like to grab for a few days. This has replaced them coming to my house and rumbling manually through my DVD collection, which always ended up in a lot of chaos and my having to rearrange everything.

Upsides and Downsides

There is a lot to love about Springpad, like the sharing and private options explained above, but one of the coolest features is that all data is cached to your Android device. This will make any information available offline, and will help you search and browse quickly instead of waiting for the server and connection to handle things.

However, I have ran across a few downsides throughout my usage of Springpad:

  • Redundancy: when adding a new item, you can instantly choose a note or a task, but if you “add by type”, you will also be able to add a note or task. This sort of redundancy could be avoided to make more use of the screen estate.
  • No way to save the sorting: try as I might, there seems to be no way to keep items sorted by name inside Notebooks. Every time I go back to the main screen and reopen a Notebook, the default sorting will be by date created.
  • More filters: I would like to filter items according to rating, privacy or sharing setting, and whether I own them or not, but this option doesn’t exist. The only filtering possible is by tag or type.
  • No way to multiple edit items: right now, there seems to be no way of batch editing items. You will have to select and edit each one separately.
  • No landscape mode: given that I use Springpad on my HTC Desire Z, being able to view it with the keyboard open in landscape is a must, but is currently lacking.

Conclusion

QR Code

QR Code

There is a lot to love about Springpad if you are serious about organization, whether it’s your thoughts, belongings, checklists, recipes or favorite spots. The feature set for personalizing any item is extensive, the search function is all inclusive, and the use case scenarios are unlimited.

Springpad is available in the Android Market for free for devices running Android 1.6 and higher.


Summary

A smart notes application that lets you create notes by type and organize them, personalize them and get follow-up alerts.

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