Prior to getting my iPad, I didn’t have much use for notebook apps. After my computing life went mobile, however, I found myself needing to write things down without having a notepad within reach. And so I got Evernote, the same notebook app used by so many of the bloggers I followed. After a few days, however, I wasn’t happy. Evernote could do all the things I wanted it to, but it didn’t…feel right.
My editor suggested I take a look at Memonic, a notebook app developed by a Swiss startup named Nektoon AG. I said to him the same thing I say to everybody else: if something doesn’t feel right, then it can’t hurt to try the Swiss.
As a collaborative online notebook, Memonic lets you keep notes to yourself or share them with the world. It syncs your data between the Web, Windows and OS X desktops, iOS, and Android. It’s the whole kit and kaboodle for saving your kits and kaboodles.
Memonic is free to use, but they also offer a premium option. The free version limits you to 100 notes, 3 groups, and 2MB file attachments. For $28/year, you can upgrade to unlimited notes and groups, plus 20MB file attachments, plus “Gathering Mode” (more on that below). It’s a decent price for a powerful and user-friendly app.
After signing up for the service with your email and password, Memonic takes you to your dashboard, where you’ll find a welcome message with helpful instructions and a short video on how to get started.
Memonic’s first advice is to install their Web Clipper, which is an extension or bookmarklet for your browser. Next, they suggest you download their desktop and mobile apps to sync your notes to wherever you go. After that, they advise you to sign up for their premium service. But hold on, little doggies, we’re not quite ready for that.
The Web Clipper
The Memonic Web Clipper installs as an extension for Safari, FireFox, and Chrome, or as a bookmarklet for Internet Explorer, Opera, and Mobile Safari. And truth be told, it’s one of the coolest web clippers I’ve tried.
When you’re on a webpage and you see something you want to save, the Web Clipper gives you a variety of ways to save it. You can add a Bookmark, which copies the page’s URL into Memonic; Read Later, which copies the page’s content into Memonic; and Write A Note, which brings up a blank note for you to write in.
But the more advanced way to use the Web Clipper is to select “Clip Content,” which will let you clip just those parts of the page you want to save. The web clipper uses the page’s CSS to decide what’s clippable, so when you clip, you clip by sections of the page, not just by the text or images.
What’s even cooler is that you can choose more than one section at a time. If you want to clip an image, plus the headline that accompanies the image, plus the opening paragraph of the story, but you don’t want to clip the stuff that comes between them (such as the author’s name, the date of publication, and the tags for the story), you can select just those sections you want and then save them all in the same note. It’s really very cool.
The final way to use the Web Clipper is in “Gathering Mode,” which is restricted to premium members. Gathering Mode lets you “name a session and do your research aimed at just one folder. Once this is done, all new items from the clipper will automatically be saved into the folder.” You can get the same result from just clipping everything into your inbox and organizing them later, but for a price, Memonic will save you a step (they have to make money somehow, right?).
The Mobile & Desktop Versions
After installing the Web Clipper, I followed their advice and snagged Memonic for iPad and OS X (both free). They work pretty much the same way as the website, so I won’t go into too many details, but I will say this about the desktop version.
The desktop app (for OS X, anyways) runs on Titanium, which is like Adobe Air, without the sluggishness. While it feels like a window onto the web app, it’s actually a “real” desktop application; it’s just that it runs on Web technologies, not Mac technologies.
The syncing between the various versions of Memonic worked well enough for me. I took notes for this review on all three version, sometimes starting a note on the desktop, moving my process to the web, and then concluding on the iPad. I had some issues when deleting notes (a time-stamp thing, I believe), but sooner or later, everything looked the same.
But this is a website about Web apps, not desktop or mobile apps, so back to the web for us.
Creating a Note
Memonic’s note editor defaults to rich-text. If you’ve ever used a rich-text editor, you’ll be familiar with the controls: undo and redo buttons; basic HTML styles; character formatting for bold, italic, underline, and strikethrough; color choices for text and highlights; options to paste styled text, plain text, or text from Microsoft Word; list styles; indents; and text alignment. You can also insert images, links, tables, and horizontal lines.
You can also maximize Memonic’s note editor so it takes up the entirety of your browser window. I haven’t seen this option in an online note-editor before, so I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked on the icon and saw it expand.
Finally, if rich-text editors aren’t your thing, you can click on “Plain Text” to edit your note in…you know…plain text. If you’re a bit more nerdy, you can edit your note right in its source code, editing HTML tags to your delight.
My one critique of the rich-text editor is that the built-in spell checker (with its red squigglies and all) only finds your misspellings; it doesn’t suggest correct spelling in return. The result is that it creates a horribly-frustrating guessing game. I mean, seriously, just tell me how to spell “itinerary” already!
Organizing Your Notes
Memonic’s organizational structure is built around folders and tags. There’s nothing too tricky about that. Folders are for organizing notes around a particular project, such as a research paper, or a trip itinerary, or a collection of items you want people to buy you for Christmas.
Tags, on the other hand, allow you to collect related notes from various folders. For example, clicking on your tag for “books,” would allow you to browse through all the book-related notes you’ve ever added to Memonic, regardless of the project.
You can also organize your notes by groups, which means you can share it with friends, family, or coworkers (more on that in a second).
Another cool feature of the Web app is that you can drag and drop your notes from one folder to another. I’d expect this kind of functionality on the desktop, but to see it in a Web app was a nice surprise.
If you’re the type of person who can’t be bothered to organize your notes, never fear: you can leave your notes in chaos and find what you need with Memonic’s built-in search tool.
Sharing Your Notes
Memonic gives you multiple ways to share your notes with the wider world. You can create a group on Memonic to share your notes with other Memonic users (friends, coworkers, etc.), but if you can’t convince your buddies to sign up for Memonic, you can get them your notes in other ways. You can send it via email, post it to Facebook, tweet it out to the Twitterverse, or send it as a direct link (click here to see an example).
I enjoyed using Memonic more than I ever enjoyed using Evernote. It feels smoother somehow. Maybe it’s because everything takes place in one window, with notes expanding and collapsing right in place. Or maybe it’s because you can customize the background color of your notebook in Memonic. Or maybe it’s just something else, something that was too subtle for me to notice.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure I’ll stick with Memonic. I know I like it better than Evernote, but I don’t know if I like it enough to not pursue other options. One thing I do know is that if you’re in the market for a notebook app, Memonic deserves a look.