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Summary:

As much as I try not to, I still like paper for some things. Boring, plain old paper, with all its failings and negative environmental impact. It seems a chore to pull out my iPhone or log in to Google Docs every time I want to […]

nplogo1As much as I try not to, I still like paper for some things. Boring, plain old paper, with all its failings and negative environmental impact. It seems a chore to pull out my iPhone or log in to Google Docs every time I want to make a note or write down someone’s number. Still, I want to keep trying to kick my paper habit, if only to establish a more clutter-free lifestyle.

A new web app called NotePub seems to be devised around the principle that, for computerized note-taking to be as useful as the paper kind, it should also be as simple and hassle-free. Accordingly, NotePub is built around the concept of an easy-to-edit wiki.

picture-2Initially, I mistook simple for confusing, which is never really a good sign. NotePub immediately presents you with a field for typing, but also a navigation bar on the right. I clicked “Home”, thinking it would lead to some more explanation or a proper launch page, but was greeted only with what you see in the above screen shot. The “Home” page is customized depending on your login, and initially every visitor is logged in as “Anonymous”, with access to that profile and that home page, and any notes published under the “Anonymous” account.

After I figured that out, it took me another few minutes to figure out how to register, which I managed to find via the “Help” link in the navigation menu. Even then, clicking the link brought me to an anchor about halfway down the help page, so I had to scroll up to locate what I was looking for. Registration, it turns out, is simple. Just type your name in the identification field attached to any text entry box at the bottom of any page, and you will be prompted for your password, if you already have an account. If you don’t have an account, and the name you chose is available, you’ll be prompted to set one.

picture-3Once signed in, clicking the “Home” link will bring you to a list of your own notes, which is obviously much more useful. Included in your list of notes are the NotePub help notes, to show you how you might use the site, including tips for using NotePub at school, or on your mobile phone. From here, you can see that NotePub automatically scrolls any page to the latest addition, which is why I was finding navigation so bizarre before. It just isn’t the type of browsing I’m used to.

Despite all the failings I’ve pointed out above, there are some things about NotePub that could prove invaluable to a web worker, depending on your specific needs. The first is quick and easy access.  I mentioned above how confusing the interface was initially, but once I figured it out, it’s a snap. You can even bookmark a quick link which allows you to go directly to your notes and compose new ones without logging in. Not very secure, but definitely a plus if you just want to jot down someone’s number so you don’t forget. Plus you can drag and drop files into the text editor field to save them for later.

NotePub also has a frequent autosave feature so you won’t ever lose much of your work due to connectivity issues or browser crashes. Hovering over notes will show you how old it is, if and how many times its been linked to, and give you the option to email it, share it on Facebook, move it, delete it, and more. Once you get to know it, the interface is robust, and admirable for its economy.

photoThere’s also mobile access to NotePub via cell phone browser, which really adds to its usefulness for web workers. You can access a special, pared-down version of the site that provides the perfect means for an autosaved, on-the-run quick note via a Safari home screen bookmark on my iPhone that’s then accessible via my computer later.

NotePub is not a perfect solution by any means. The UI is rough, and a little untamed for my tastes, and sometimes things aren’t quite as intuitive as they could be. That said, it provides a lot of great functionality underneath that flawed form, which goes a long way towards excusing its various warts. I’m definitely hoping for more to come out of NotePub, but in the meantime, I’ll try to excuse its poor manners so long as it keeps working for me.

What do you use for notetaking?

  1. It seems as if it would be pretty useful. I guess the major difference between it and Google Docs is that it is faster access.

    Pretty cool.

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  2. I use a custom help collection which I view using Microsoft Document Explorer. Most of my notes are code listings and web development cheat sheets so I need something that works like a browser.

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  3. Thanks for the tip on this web app. It’s a bit reminiscent of Evernote, but looks like it could be quite useful. It is true that NotePub is not real intuitive, but as I start to dig further, it seems to offer some worthwhile utility. I, for one, will keep trying it out.

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  4. I’m a sucker for trying out anything that can help to organize my webby life, so will definitely check this out Darrell, thanks!

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  5. It’s interesting how many different approaches there are to online notebooks – something that’s causing problems in figuring out how to market my own solution: http://gdnote.com. There’s apps based around web clippings (google reader does everything I need in that space), there’s apps like this one that are based on short notes you can search for later, and there are more structured apps for organising longer notes. All of them get called the same thing, which doesn’t help when you are looking for whatever it is that you personally think of as an “online notebook”.

    Personally I prefer something reasonably structured – if I don’t put notes in the right folder initially, they become very confusing later – and that’s not counting the handwritten ones that convert to text as stuff like “man page rodent”.

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  6. I am the notepub developer and I am very thankful for your valuable feedback. All the usability issues you have brought up will be addressed shortly.

    Thank you again.

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