Turning inner space into outer space

May 5, 2014

Notability offers many note-taking features without overkill found in the competition

With no shortage of note-taking apps available for mobile devices, many of them loaded with features, your choice may ultimately come down to personal preference.

I have long favoured Simplenote because of its ability to do the one thing I want most with no fuss or muss — take notes and make them available from any device.

But of course there can be much more to notes than simply typing text. Evernote has built a successful business by offering notes that can be formatted text, a webpage, a photograph, a voice memo or handwriting — all for free. A paid version has even more.

And then there’s Notability.

At version 5, this app for iPhone and iPad is not exactly a newcomer (it was launched in April 2010), but it will seem new to many people who have yet to give it a try.

The first thing you should know is that the focus is on doing a good job of taking notes. That means the ability to format text, make drawings or words with your fingertips, use a highlighter, create recordings and add photographs.

You can, in fact, create some spiffy layouts as shown in this gallery at the Made In Notability tumbler.

In my own testing of the iPhone app, I was quickly able to learn how to use all the features, including the creation of categories.

But what if I wanted to have a look at my Notability notes on my Mac or show them to someone with a PC? It’s possible. It just means sharing via email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Twitter or a number of other services. I tried Dropbox, and sure enough it produced a fine a fine PDF for my MacBook.

Sharing is not the same as syncing, though. If you need to be able to work on a single note from multiple iOS devices, you can do this via iCloud — a feature that was added in August 2013.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Notability is that it offers many of the features found in a full-fledged service like Evernote without getting into a confusing array of overkill that most people will likely never need.

On the other hand, it would be nice if syncing were as handy as it is with Simplenote, which requires only a web browser on any computer to view and edit notes.

So depending on your point of view, Notability can be either a good middle ground or too much of a compromise.

As of this writing, Notability was free in the App Store, but I have a feeling that will not always be the case.