There are approximately a gazillion options available if you’re looking for an app to keep notes on your iPhone or iPad. The heavy hitters in the genre include SimpleNote, PlainText, Elements and Evernote, all of which either include or interface with existing online services that help to keep your notes in sync between iOS devices, cloud services and your Mac or Windows computers. Notefile is a new option for those looking for this kind of functionality.
To give Notefile a good test run, I’m using it to write this review. I can’t manage much typing on the iPhone’s screen keyboard, so I’ve paired my phone with a Bluetooth keyboard. Join us after the jump for a quick walkthrough of Notefile’s features, and a judgement of how it is to work with.
Notefile is made by Mike Piontek, the developer who came up with the excellent Delivery Status Dashboard widget several years ago. Under the company name Junecloud, Mike has produced a number of noteworthy apps and widgets. Delivery Status is beloved by many around the world, as it provides a simple and elegant way to keep track of parcels and other deliveries handled through a wide range of providers. The iOS version, Delivery Status Touch, brings the widget’s good features and elegant design to your iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad.
Those features obviously are characteristic of Junecloud’s productions, because they’re the best bits of Notefile, too. The app pares note keeping down to its simplest form. The visual metaphor is of a simple stack of vanilla notecards, and each note is an individual card.
Notefile in use
There are basically two views in Notefile: a list of your notes, and the body of each individual note. The list view is straightforward, with titles being taken from the first line of your text:
Making a new note is easy: just tap on the + at bottom-right and start typing.
If you’re wanting to view or edit an existing note, tap on the title of the note in the list view, and your note’s text will slide in from the right, so you can check on past notes or carry on writing where you left off last time.
And when you’re done, you can either swipe from left to right to return to the list of your notes, or tap the note count at the bottom of the screen.
If you’ve set up syncing via Junecloud’s free sync service, your notes are synced and usable on your other devices, via the free Dashboard widget or online at the Junecloud Sync page.
Notes sync automatically, but you can initiate a sync by touching the “Synced today at…” information line at the bottom of the screen.
In testing, I found an occasional lag in syncing up versions of a note between iPhone and iPad, but in real world use this is unlikely ever to pose a problem since you’re unlikely to need to have your devices in sync immediately moment by moment. In most real world situations, the sync service provides simple, hassle free, and — so far, at least — free, syncing.
What it is — and isn’t
I keep a bunch of documents full of quotes and extracts from books in an Archive folder that is synced to Simplenote and available anywhere. Notefile is not going to replace that function, and it doesn’t seem to me that this was ever the developer’s intention. Notefile is best suited to the kinds of notes you might otherwise write on the back of an envelope — quick, on the fly note taking, rather than longer and more complicated notes. I don’t think you would normally, for instance, use Notefile to write a full-length app review. That said, though, it’s worked out fine for me, so you certainly could if you wanted to.
If you’re happy working within the Junecloud ecosystem, you can have your notes (mostly) seamlessly synced between devices. But whereas services like Simplenote store your notes in plain text (and with a desktop app like Notational Velocity or ResophNotes you can keep a local copy on your Mac or PC in a format that is accessible from any other app), so far there’s no similar facility with JuneCloud sync. This means that your texts, while they can show up anywhere you have NoteFile installed or via a web browser anywhere else, are held in the app or the sync service, and if you want to use information from one of your notes, copying or cutting-and-pasting is the only way to get it into another app. That’s what I’ve had to do in writing this review: I typed it up on my iPhone, then opened up the Dashboard widget to get the text onto my MacBook, copied it from there and pasted it into iA Writer for a final readthrough and adding in screenshots. That workflow is pretty cumbersome, and though it would work now and then, it’s certainly not a setup that I would use ongoingly. But more to the point, the way your data is stored between the app, the widget and the sync server makes it that little bit harder to get your notes out again in a way that you can access them in other apps or keep backup copies. That consideration might be enough to keep some people away.
If you’re looking for a full featured notes app, there are better options available. But if all you’re after is a replacement for Apple’s Notes app, then Notefile is a very good, good looking and simple alternative that might just meet your needs exactly.