Scratch: Your New iOS Notepad

Word processing and document editing is never going to be easy on the iPhone. The screen’s small, the keyboard’s smaller and you can’t insert any animated cat gifs, at least not without a lot of effort. There are some pretty spiffy writing apps for iOS, but it’s not the same as working on a desktop.

You know what, though? The iPhone is great at note-taking. Scribble out some ideas or outline your next draft — that’s where a writer can find some real use for an iPhone. Scratch, a note-taking app, is pushing those scribbles to the next level. Integration with just about everything and Markdown support really makes this little app a strong contender in the note-taking field.

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Quick Notes on the Go

You don’t have to sign up or log in or link accounts when you first open up Scratch. All of that’s available, and it’s actually pretty great, but if you’re in a hurry to get a thought out on paper, signing into something would just slow you down. Then you’d forget what you wanted to write about in the first place; you’d keep trying to get that great idea back, sure, but it would never come. Instead, you can just open Scratch and get to typing. Day saved.

The Scratch toolbar provides you with lots of shortcuts and makes Markdown a breeze.

The Scratch toolbar provides you with lots of shortcuts and makes Markdown a breeze.

For a few more functions beyond typing letters on a white screen, swipe the blue toolbar above the keyboard to the left. This will bring up some keyboard shortcuts. You can stick any keystrokes here that you find yourself using often but have to dig to get to; they’re suddently easy to find in the toolbar. There are a bunch of great symbols already loaded up for you by default, but you can change these really easily, too. Tap and hold any of them, and they’ll become editable. Tap another key to replace it.

Most of what Scratch gives you in the shortcut toolbar is useful for writing and editing in Markdown, but for those of us who just can’t be bothered — I know who you are, because you’re me — give the blue toolbar another swipe to get the Markdown toolbar. Now you can create easy headings, lists, links and more, all without even having to really know what Markdown is.

Exporting with Dropbox

Let’s imagine you’ve been typing, and you’ve got something really great in Scratch. What do you do with it? Swipe to the right until you find the toolbar with the clock in the center. The icon on the left will clear and close your note. Never fear, though, because all closed notes are saved in the history, viewable by tapping the clock. Which is great and all, but so far, your notes are still shackled to Scratch.

You can export your note all over the place, and Scratch has Dropbox integration.

You can export your note all over the place, and Scratch has Dropbox integration.

To get your notes out of Scratch and to someplace a little more useful, tap the icon all the way to the right. You can email, message or tweet your note by default, and if you toggle the correct switch in the settings, you can also share via Facebook or within the Twitter app itself. All that’s boring. Everybody’s doing that stuff. Cool kids like Scratch are appending their notes to Dropbox files.

Say what? You heard me! Link Scratch to your Dropbox account and you can upload your notes as various file formats or tack them onto other files in Dropbox. You can also open the note in a bunch of other apps, too. I was able to open my notes via iA Writer, Evernote, Droplr and Google Drive. Those were just the compatible apps I had installed, though. I don’t doubt it works with other writing apps, but I couldn’t find a comprehensive list anywhere.

The History shows your previous notes, and the settings pane allows you to toggle your preferences and manage Scratch's connection to Dropbox.

The History shows your previous notes, and the settings pane allows you to toggle your preferences and manage Scratch’s connection to Dropbox.

If you think about it, I have those apps installed because I use them all the time. I’m writing this article, for instance, in a Google Document on Google Drive. It’s going to be insanely helpful to jot down a few notes in Scratch and then just have them appear in my No. 1 writing app like some kind of iOS voodoo. Similarly, I keep track of just about anything and everything in Evernote, but with all its (admittedly awesome) bells and whistles, even Evernote can get to be a bit much when I just want to take quick note. I’m envisioning myself writing all sorts of notes in Scratch and then whizzing them over to Evernote when I have a moment, slotting them into the appropriate notebooks, like the organized adult I so desperately want to be.

Conclusion

Scratch is going to the top of the heap for me, at least for quickly jotting down notes. Scratch works because it functions so surprisingly well, is so disarmingly simple and yet has such complete integration with every other app I could possible want.

I don’t see myself doing any complicated word processing or editing in Scratch, but that’s not the point. You’re supposed to do that stuff somewhere else anyway. Scratch is your springboard, and it’s a pretty nice place to get a good bounce.


Summary

A great notepad app for getting your thoughts out quick. Exports to just about anything and includes Markdown support.

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