November 22, 2010


While investigating note taking apps, many of the comments also discussed solutions for archiving the notes once taken. This led into my discovery of Evernote, which has free ipad and desktop apps, as well as a web interface. I signed up for a free account and decided to give the various apps a whirl.

The first thing I noticed while playing with the ipad version was how limited it was. You can't tag items, create new tags, or even new notebooks. I guess it's useful for retrieving information, not for creating or organizing it. That seems like a major drawback, as I'm generally not at my desk when I need to enter something. I also can't create anything but text notes. I can't create checklists at all, and editing a bulleted list from the iPad is restricted to appending plain text to the note. Again, limiting for no reason.

In another oversight, there is no simple way to install the web clipper into mobile Safari, even though it's just a Javascript bookmarklet. The only way is to install is to drag and drop it on my bookmark bar, something I clearly can't do on the iPad. I also can't long-press and copy the URL because of the way they have it coded. If only they bothered to try it, they would see how hard it was to use.

I figured all these problems would be alleviated with the desktop version. Yes, and no. While I was free to create and organize to my heart's content (as well as integrate with my web browser for collection), the interface is clunky, buggy, and just not very pleasant to use. I was easily able to create a new tag, but applying it was rather unintuitive. It took me several tries to get it to work. I also found a bug where the tag had the correct name, but when applied to a note it displayed as "new tag".

The biggest problem I have is that I really can't figure out what to do with it. I can store some personal notes in it, but I really can't use it for work as I can't trust uploading confidential info to a third-party. So what do I use it for?

I did clip a hotel reservation confirmation from my browser, which I imagine will come in handy when I get to my destination. Then again, so would having it in my Gmail inbox. Now it's just one more site in the cloud to forget where I put my stuff. And, if and when I do find it, I won't be able to organize the note so that I can find it again - unless I'm on my desktop.

Posted by pinkerton at 8:07 AM | TrackBack

November 21, 2010

Penultimate Isn't That Ultimate

Here is the text of the review I wrote for Penultimate, which I figured I'd try after seeing all the good reviews and the very nice user interface.

My overall impression is that I'm disappointed with Penultimate, especially compared to other offerings. Here are my main complaints:

- even with the "thin" pen, the pen is still too thick. While the strokes are very smooth, it renders my handwriting into stylized chicken scratch.
- I can only get about five words on a line, which is less than a normal wide-ruled composition book. With NoteTaker HD, I get about fourteen or fifteen words per line. You also don't get any margins, so you get even less room than a paper notebook. I don't understand how people can use this as a serious tool. I'm always running out of space!
- the wrist protector works most of the time, but I still end up with lots of stray marks at the bottom of the page by the time I'm done. I have to pause to erase the lines and dots when I get near the bottom.
- no way to add pages in the middle or delete pages.
- each notebook can only have a single paper type.
- all pens are fully opaque so you can't highlight anything without crossing it out.
- while writing is mostly smooth, it often loses entire strokes, leaving me with half-formed letters or missing crossed t's.

The user interface is very clean and well thought-out, which is why I can give it some leeway, and why I really want to like it. However, I can barely get enough written on a page to make it worthwhile. This isn't for serious note takers.

(As an aside, I finally broke down and bought iA's Writer, which helped author this post. I really like it.)

Posted by pinkerton at 10:27 AM | TrackBack

November 6, 2010


My hotel room in Manhattan is swanky, but it's a hovel. A 12 x 12' closet with a window that overlooks a brick wall. I'm not making this up. For this, I pay a discounted corporate rate of $280/night.

I also get to be awoken at 6am by the alarm clock, set by the previous occupant. Isn't it the job of the cleaning staff to ensure that the alarm isn't set between guests? Apparently not at this hotel. Perhaps it's part of the closet experience.

The food at the NYC office (both lunch and dinner) is much better than what we get in Reston. Makes me miss being in a real office, but I sure don't miss the traffic.

Posted by pinkerton at 10:24 AM | TrackBack