3 Free iOS Note Apps

| Free on iTunes

Dear Apple,

I am and have been a fan of your products for many years. I'm on my 7th Mac (iMac), 3rd iPad (iPad Air), 8th iPod, and 4th iPhone (iPhone 5). Everything still works, even my Cube and my desk lamp iMac still boot. I plan on buying a Macbook Air soon and I'll line up for the iPhone 6 whenever it becomes available.

Speaking of phones, many of my friends have abandoned yours in favor of phones with bigger screens and a more customizable user interfaces. I will admit to seeing some features the other guys have that are pretty interesting. But no matter how interesting a feature may be it has never once convinced me that my iPhone isn't the better product.

Free on iTunes

Ok, I will confess that I believe some of your built in iOS apps are getting long-toothed and clunky. When iOS 7 rolled out I had hoped for more than an interface update, though I greatly appreciated what was included. Some apps, especially what I'll call second tier apps (those that get used occasionally. Third tier are those that never get used), would get more use if you paid a bit more attention to them, update them to include some of the latest features. I'm sure you've got a new-hire programmer you can throw at, say, the Notes app.

I actually use the Notes app because, well..., it's there, but I'd use it more if it had more than a virtual scrap of paper. Others I know feel the same way.

My friend, Geoff, wants more formatting options and the ability to add media like photos or audio notes. My good friend, Carmen, just wants to be able to find her notes after an update. She's lost several important ones when she switched phones. We've never understood why or how it happened. Now she doesn't trust Notes with anything important.

In fact, Carmen's dilemma brings me another issue I'd like you to address. I would like the ability to define default apps and launch them from a button Control Center. The flashlight is convenient and all, but I seldom need a calculator or timer. I'd like to replace those and any Control Center app with apps that I like. I'd swap out the Camera app for PureShot, then replace the calculator app with voice memo, and the timer with a decent note taking app, and there are many.

Back to the Notes app. I know you work very hard at innovation, but so do a lot of other folks. Many software and hardware companies look to you for innovative inspiration. Maybe it's time you look to others for idea. I know of unique 3 note taking apps that could serve to inspire you. I'd like to show them to you, so let's get to it.

DraftPad [679 KB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 4.3, Maker: Manbu Ueno]

DraftPadDraftPad, nice simple note taker.

Think of DraftPad as a connected piece of virtual paper. Write whatever you need to then send your note through a variety of cloud and social media. You can even use it to kick off searches in Google where the app will open Safari and present you with search results.

DraftPad has a number of "assists," actions that can be performed with the text you've written. There's even an assist library from which you can download tools to do lots of different things.

draftpadAssists gives DraftPad many features

Another nicety is its history feature. You can revisit anything you've written by tapping the History button. You can also increase text size by tapping the text button. It's neat and easy.

There are some downsides to DraftPad. You can't include photos or other multimedia attachments. The biggest negative is that the developer has recently stopped supporting it in favor of a new for-pay app called Textwell.

Still, if you want to keep it simple it doesn't get much simpler than this.

Squarespace Note [14 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Squarespace Inc.]

Squarespace NoteSquarespace Note keeps nothing local, ideal for those with little onboard memory

Of the 3 listed here, this app is likely the closest to Notes in functionality, a good thing if you want to keep your customer's learning curve low. There is no formatting or multimedia encumbrances to deal with. In fact, like Notes, there aren't many features at all, but what sets Squarespace Note apart from the built in note app is that it is easy on the eyes. Black text on a white background seems like such a relief. The keyboard is in the opposite contrast, again making it easier for users to see.

Squarespace NotrAnd you can send you note nearly anywhere

Another difference is that, with an up-swipe, completed notes are immediately sent to a service of the customer's choosing. And there's a nice list of services too, from cloud storage like Dropbox, to social media like Twitter, to old standbys like email. Alas, messaging isn't included in the list.

Sent notes are listed by swiping from left to right. Swiping right to left opens a list of available services to which a customer can add a service if it accepts email input.

That's all there is to Squarespace Note.

SwiftKey Note [13.3 MB, runs on all iOS devices capable of running iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: TouchType Ltd.]

SwiftKey NoteVery capable SwiftKey Note has formatting features too

SwiftKey Note is the most feature rich of the 3 note apps I've listed, and some of the features it includes are very interesting.

Being from SwiftKey this app includes the autocorrect technology the company is noted for. Word suggestions appear in a small banner just above the keyboard, making it easy for users to see and tap a suggestion to include in the note.

There's formatting options for folks who want a bit more than a blank sheet of virtual paper. Other features include tagging and note titles, and the ability to include 3 languages in the text, so one can parler Français and hablar Español and get autocorrecting in those languages as well as English.

Swiftkey NoteThe usual suspects are supported as well

SwiftKey Note also allows a customer to organize notes in books, which can be a big help to those who write a lot of notes.

The app uses EverNote for cloud storage, no other storage option is supported, but a customer can send notes to social media, messages, email, Airdrop, or copy/paste into other apps.

So, there you have it Apple, 3 note apps with features that might inspire you to update your app. While I'm waiting for you to complete those updates I'll grab one of these and use it instead of your Notes app.

That's a wrap and thanks for listening.

By the way, thanks for the Free Single of the Week from Rixton called, "Me and My Broken Heart" and the Free App of the Week, Ridge Racer Slipstream.

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Many thanks for your open letter to Apple. I particularly appreciate your tier categories for apps, no less than your suggestions for customising control centre. Perhaps we can hope for such in iOS 8, if not in a near term iOS 7 update.

Although I frequently take notes, particularly at conferences and seminars, I almost invariably do so on Pages and send them to iCloud with automatic backup to both DropBox and SugarSync. I’ve read many complaints on tech websites and podcasts about Pages, but apart from some very specific issues around formatting for scientific journals (like footnotes for cells in tables), I’ve found Pages adequate for most needs, particularly simple note taking. 

Were I to use a third party app for this, one thing I would require is the ability to link those notes to specific files or folders that are topic-relevant, perhaps a new study protocol or related conference calls around a specific project, and to do so effectively with a click. Organisation is a must in my business, for better or worse.

Still, I might give these a look,  particularly Squarespace Note.



Good points all round, Vern. The problem seems to be laziness, or orphan syndrome. Stick ‘Em Up is a better Stickies but is no longer being nursed and has a naughty problem of suddenly updating in the background leaving you to search for where you left off.

Rearing the child is as important as having the baby, something that should be ingrained in Apple DNA but seems squandered in some of its most rudimentary but most practical, useable apps. (I don’t even want to enter into the hell that is lost music on iTunes-a long thorn in that programme’s existence.) Is there a lack of minions to work on these app and programme thorns that seem left to stagnate behind forgotten doors?

Maybe it is just a sense of superiority that when the cake is done it’s done, no matter how raw it is in the middle.

Or maybe Apple just assumes the competition is so far behind, it can slide rather than ride and drive the lonely trails of what it thinks it has forged so well. Perfection in both form and use seems lost to so much of Apple’s work and I would think it should be Apple’s drive to nudge the updates to higher degrees of perfection. Simplicity is often good but a building without a fire bell is incomplete - gad, I’ve been reading too much of Kirk’s pithy little aphorism lately.

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