Simplenote: Straightforward and reliable note taking in the cloud (Review)
Just as in any category at this point, there is a wide variety of applications for note taking in the Play Store. Applications like Evernote, Microsoft’s OneNote, and Google’s own Keep Notes are the most popular ones available, offering a plethora of tools and features. However, if all you want is to take notes in a dead-simple app with a minimal interface, astounding performance, and unlimited syncing across platforms, then you should definitely give Simplenote a chance.
Developer: Automattic, Inc
Upon installation of the app, you can login with your current account or sign up for a new one. In case you have a WordPress account, you can login with that as well. After logging in, Simplenote will create a new note for you with instructions tailored to the Android app.
Unlike competitors like Evernote or Google Keep Notes, the interface of Simplenote is dead simple. No notebooks, no image attachments, no grocery lists, nothing. Just a notepad and you.
Depending on the usage you want to give to it, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. If you just want a way to organize your random notes in a place while syncing them across devices (and for free!), then Simplenote is perfect for you. However, if you want more robust capabilities, then that is not what Simplenote was created for, and trying to use it in a complex workflow would just bring frustration to you.
As the name implies, Simplenote wants to make the note-taking process as simple as possible. This is apparent in every feature of the app. For starters, there is not even a title field or something similar. The first line of your note is used as the title automatically. After that, everything is plain text.
The good thing is that, if you want different fonts, titles and subtitles, and lists, Simplenote also supports markdown. In case you don’t know what it is, markdown syntax is a markup language that you can use to format documents. You can read more about it here. However, markdown support for a note is turned off by default, and you have to go manually into the note’s options to activate it.
This will change the interface to have a tab bar at the top: one for editing and one for previewing. This way, you can easily see how your markdown-formatted note will look. It is pretty neat and works without hiccups.
One of the flaws of the lack of notebooks or other types of categorization is that having a lot of notes starts to get disorganized pretty quickly. Simplenote’s answer to this is the addition of tags. At the bottom of the note, you can add tags to a note. Each one will then appear on the sidebar of your application, letting you filter by them.
For people coming from Evernote and OneNote, this might not seem enough. Then again, people coming from those apps are not Simplenote’s target. For people like me, who prefer a simple, streamlined, no-nonsense way of managing notes, tags are enough.
Publishing, history, and more
Regardless of the simplicity of Simplenote, it still has some tricks up its sleeve. There’s an option to publish a note, which will generate a link to it. You can then share this link and other people will be able to see it, even if they don’t have a Simplenote account. Also, you can delete this public link at any time.
There is also a Collaborate option, which lets you share a note with someone else. This will allow them to edit the note as well, similar to how Google Docs works for collaborating with documents.
In case you want to go back to a previous version of your note, Simplenote has the History option at your disposal. This takes snapshots of your notes and lets you go back in time to restore something you have done previously.
Finally, there is also a Trash, to which all your deleted notes go to die. Unlike how the Recycle Bin works in Windows or Gmail, the notes in Simplenote’s trash can are not cleared after a period of time. In order to delete them completely, you have to empty the trash, which fortunately is just a button away.
There’s a few settings that, while not truly earth-shattering, can make your experience a bit better. You can activate a “condensed note list” option, which strips away the note’s text and shows an interface with the title only. Also, you can change the sorting order of the notes. The default is “newest modified date”, but you can select options like newest created date, oldest modified date, alphabetically, among others.
For those of you who prefer a dark theme, I’m happy to tell you that, while Google shifts into making everything whiter and whiter, Simplenote offers a dark theme option. You can also change the fonts, select if links are formatted and ready for their opening in the browser of your choice, and protect the app with a custom PIN code.
If I have not been clear enough throughout the review, Simplenote follows the always-reliable KISS method for its app. There is no unneeded, flashy functionality. There is no power user options. There is no silly two-device limit. With Simplenote, just as with old HTML editors, what you see is what you get.
This, however, does not mean that Simplenote is a bad application or that it doesn’t have any useful features. Simple note taking, markdown support, collaboration tools, filtering through tags, and unmatched performance are all available in a package that has the accessible price of free. What more can one ask for?
Download and install Simplenote from the Google Play Store.