Appening 1 – Note & Share on iOS

(Originally posted 2013-02-17.)

I’ve added the words “on iOS” because this might spread to other platforms.

A week ago I posted that I’d pick an app a week and try to get value out of it. I also said I might blog about what I think.

This week’s app is Note & Share – an app that runs on both the iPad and the iPhone. (Probably on iPod Touch also but I don’t have one of those.)

Needless to say this isn’t an official IBM view or endorsement but my own personal experience.

I’m actually writing this post (interstitially) using Note & Share. I started it on the Piccadilly Line and am continuing it elsewhere. I wrote my previous post the same way.

So here are my thoughts on the app.

Basic Information

  • iTunes URL. The same company (ignitionsoft) makes EverClip (installed.) They are based in Hong Kong.
  • Purpose: Allow note taking using Markdown syntax, saving to Evernote, Dropbox and other services.
  • Release tested: 1.7.2 on iPad with iOS 6.1

Evernote Integration

Setting up the link to Evernote is straightforward. Notes sync to the default notebook for the linked account – and they sync quickly.

You can easily keep a MarkDown version in the Note & Share app itself – so you can revise it. Updating the note and re-sending to Evernote leads to the note being updated in Evernote, rather than a new one being created. But the “created” time stamp is also updated, rather than just the “updated” one, when you send the note to Evernote.

Tags don’t seem to make it through to Evernote properly but appear in the app’s own note list. Tags appear in title in both Evernote web app and iPad app but in both cases a tag search shows the tagged notes appropriately. iPad app shows the tags in the note info. Putting the tags on their own line doesn’t work. You might be able to clean this up with AutoEver.

Dropbox Integration

Dropbox integration works really well: When you save a note in Note & Share it is also saved to Dropbox. Even with Markdown Conversion on it saves without doing the conversion. This makes it easy to transfer to another computer.

I started this paragraph using the gedit editor on Linux, using MarkDown syntax and saved it in a folder watched by DropBox, with the updated file automatically imported into Note & Share. Then I added text to the paragraph in BBEdit on my Macbook Pro, again with the DropBox client active. (In BBEdit I selected MarkDown from the list of languages under “Edit” -> “Text Options” to enable syntax colouring and formatting with “Markup” -> “Preview in BBEdit”.) Preview in BBEdit also reloads when the file changes, whether locally (even before saving) or in Dropbox.

You have to reload the note in Note & Share for updates made elsewhere to appear on your editing screen, despite Dropbox tapping the app on the shoulder. You might also have to bring Note & Share to the foreground.

BBEdit automatically reloads the note when Dropbox alerts it to the fact the note has been changed – unless you turn off this option in Preferences. gedit prompts you as to whether you want it reloaded.

I also edited the document from Dropbox with Geany on Linux. It will also do syntax highlighting if you set the filetype to MarkDown.

Dropbox is the key to sharing between iPads and iPhones: I successfully shared this note between 2 iPads and an iPhone, authoring changes on the 2 iPads.

I created a note in gedit on Linux and saved it to Note & Share’s Dropbox folder and it showed up just fine in Note & Share. Late in the week I installed Marked on the Mac. It takes Markdown and creates other formats, such as HTML and RTF. It works fine.

To get this paragraph and the one before it into another Markdown document is a matter of copying and pasting.

Ease Of Composition

MarkDown syntax is simple to master but a little tough with the iPad keyboard. The MarkDown toolbar makes this much easier, though.

Standard iOS spelling suggestions are quite handy. Otherwise I’d soon get fed up with the on-screen keyboard.

TextExpander works but only after you enable immediate expansion and restart Note & Share. This is also true if you add a snippet to TextExpander. TextExpander support could be handy for creating more complex MarkDown. I’ve raided the restart issue with both ignitionsoft and SmileOnMyMac. The latter tells me there’s a specific API the former should be using to avoid the requirement for a restart.

Headings need a blank line after them.

Snippets in iOS 5 or later works OK. For example, typing “zo” offers “z/OS” as an expansion (which you can decline).

Exporting HTML

Enabling the clipboard allows you to put HTML onto the clipboard. If you disable MarkDown conversion you can get the original markup there (and can then email it or save the note to Evernote). This is, however, for all services – but the option is near the top of the options dialog, so it’s not too inconvenient.

Safari Bookmarklet

This is quite easy to set up but is not a way to import HTML as it only starts a new note with the page’s URL in.

Other MarkDown Editors / Viewers

For an online editor and converter go to Daring Fireball: MarkDown Web Dingus. It converts to HTML and displays that HTML. It also has a MarkDown cheat sheet.

All the above is the contents of a note I built over the week. To get it into this one I copied and pasted it in. (The copy icon in the app creates HTML which I don’t want at this stage.)

I could be criticised for not being inclined to put bounds round things: One learning point is it’s sometimes difficult (and maybe unhelpful) to review one product in isolation. As you’ll see from the above I roped in other tools (and in one case paid for one, though not much). You might expect a tool to stand alone but conversely to integrate well with others. Note & Share does both nicely. Recall the main point was to live with Note & Share and get value out of it. Writing a review was very much secondary. Hopefully you’ll find this interesting both ways: As a product review and a view of how it fits into my kitbag of tools.

This one’s a keeper – and on the front page if my phone.

Now to decide what next to try out for a week. It might be a game. I don’t know if I’ll write a review – we’ll see. In any case I consider the experiment to be a success.

And standing outside a shop in Oxford Street I’m ready to post. 🙂


… Between writing this and posting the next day I notice Brett Terpstra has blogged about another (new) Markdown editor: iOS App Review: Write for iPhone. I’m not about to rush out and switch to it, being happy enough with Note & Share.

Published by Martin Packer


One thought on “Appening 1 – Note & Share on iOS

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