I’m a huge fan of Simplenote, the free web service that works anywhere and allows you to create and sync notes across the web, iPhone, iPad and desktop computers thanks to a plethora of native third-party apps. In fact, I believe Simplenote is the easiest, yet most powerful note-syncing tool currently available on iOS devices: forget MobileMe’s notes, Simplenote is elegant, minimal, and when unlocked at its full potential with a $19.99 Premium account it allows you to do some nifty things with your notes like turn them into plain text lists, back them up on Dropbox (thus opening a whole new layer of possibilities) and create a personalized RSS feed. Simplenote works well as a free service, but it becomes a powerhouse of notes when using it as a Premium subscriber. It doesn’t surprise anyone that in the past year dozens of apps that sync with Simplenote and also sport Dropbox integration have been released in the App Store. Thanks to all these apps (including the excellent Notational Velocity for Mac), users have found a way to keep notes in the cloud, and have them always available, anywhere, on any device.
Listary, a new iPhone app by developers Portmanteau, wants to turn Simplenote into a list management tool without requiring a Premium subscription. With an elegant interface and the use of its own plain text syntax to recognize new and completed items, Listary works on the iPhone as a native app but can be accessed by any other Simplenote app, text editor or web browser. It basically works like this: once logged in with your Simplenote account, Listary will look into your note database and asks you if there’s any existing note you’d like to turn into a list.
Listary’s notes follow this simple syntax:
A new item
Another new item
/A completed item
This means that, whilst in Listary for iPhone you’ll see fancy checkboxes and a bar to show / hide completed items, in a desktop text editor or Simplenote itself you’ll see something like the fake list I created above. And if you can see it, you can edit it. And if you can edit it, the cloud will sync it back to Listary immediately, thus allowing you to create lists anywhere without purchasing a Premium subscription. Of course, if you are a Premium user and you already have the possibility to turn notes into lists, the feature won’t work well with Listary. Simplenote’s native lists get a special UI on iOS devices, and if you try to combine these native lists with Listary you’ll end up with lots of blank lines. My suggestion: keep notes saved as “notes” and let Listary do its job.
Listary as an app is very straightforward: like I said it enables you to create lists made of new and completed items, but it can also let you pick a default list where all your new items will be saved to. Items can be moved around, and adding a new one is as simple as tapping the + button in a list, and keep hitting Return to stack items on top of each other. It couldn’t be simpler. The app constantly syncs back to Simplenote, and in my tests I’ve always found notes to become available on the desktop and webapp literally 2 seconds after I was done editing in Listary.
At $1.99 in the App Store, Listary is a great way to turn Simplenote’s notes into lists without purchasing a Premium subscription. For Premium users, Listary is a great tool nevertheless in the way it keeps things minimal, and always accessible. Download here.