Notebooks’s default appearance is fine, but you can customize fonts, page colors, and layout, too.
Not all writing is created equal. Sometimes you’re trying to pen War and Peace; other times you just need to jot down an appointment. Notebooks for iPad aims to deliver the best of both worlds, combining extensive document management and syncing with basic text-editing and task-scheduling features. It’s not perfect, but Notebooks hits a middle ground that will be especially appealing to writers who need to edit plain text and organize multiple files.
First thing’s first: Notebooks only creates and edits plain text files (more on this below) or quick sketches with its basic drawing tools. You can view almost any digital file, however: PDFs, iWork files, Word docs, and more. Files can be kept loose or in notebooks — great for organizing big projects like novels or research notes — and a tap calls up a list of notebooks to help you navigate complex collections quickly. To manage your real life, you can create to-do lists and check off items with multiple states (started, cancelled, etc.), then apply due date alerts that appear in the sidebar when deadlines loom.
Extra keyboard buttons let you add hyperlinks, pictures, and more to your text.
The sidebar is Notebooks’ Finder. There you can navigate and search files, move and duplicate them, edit metadata, and create and open ZIP archives for faster file transfers. It’s easy to get documents in and out of Notebooks thanks to WebDAV and Dropbox syncing, local Wi-Fi and iTunes file sharing, AirPrint printing, and plain-old email. You can also export to-do lists to iOS apps like OmniFocus, so you’ll have no excuses for not getting work done.
Writing works as you’d expect, with a few twists. Notebooks supports Markdown, a dead-simple markup language for styling text that’s well-explained in the extensive documentation, but it’s still no substitute for Pages when laying out complex documents. Optional onscreen controls put Markdown commands and more (like handy tab and date-insertion buttons) at your fingertips, and the main toolbar lets you select fonts, search text, and manage notes without leaving the roomy full-screen writing view. The live word count keeps your verbosity in check, and navigating notebooks while you write is easy — just scroll through individual files and swipe to see the next one.
The bottom line. Part plain-text word-processor, part to-do app, Notebooks for iPad isn’t for everyone. But it’s great choice for toting a scrapbook of files or editing lengthy text on the go.
iPad running iOS 4.0 or later
Extensive file syncing, sharing, and organization options. Displays numerous document types. Basic to-do features.
Can’t edit Word docs. Can’t style text like Pages. Not universal; an iPhone-specific app is sold separately for $5.99.