Notational Velocity vs. Nottingham: A Note-Taking Duel

Recently, I was asked to review Nottingham, a note-taking app by Tyler Hall. After using it for a while, I began to notice a lot of similarities between it and Notational Velocity. In fact, Tyler Hall actually makes it clear that Nottingham was created as a clone of Notational Velocity, out of a desire to improve on the features offered by the app.

The general premise of both is a quick, easy way to store information, with no hassle or unnecessary features. But which was actually better? I hope that this article will help you to make an informed decision.

Price

Pricing

This one is pretty straightforward – Notational Velocity is completely free, and open-source. Nottingham, on the other hand, offers a free trial, but in fact costs $19.95. Of course, the developer has to make a living, but considering how many great note-taking apps are out there for free, $20 seems a little extravagant.

So for that reason alone, Notational Velocity has to win this round.

Notational Velocity: 10/10
Nottingham: 3/10
Winner: Notational Velocity

Installation

Installation

In this section it’s virtually impossible to separate the two apps, but I’ll do my best! Both apps download in a ZIP from their respective sites. Both ZIPs are 1.6MB. Both ZIPs, once opened, have just the app inside, with no splash screen that makes it easier to drag the app into Applications. This means that you must do it manually. Admittedly, this isn’t difficult or particularly time-consuming, but it’s still nice to save a little time.

So with everything else about the installation process exactly the same, the only thing I can find is the size of each application – Notational Velocity is 4.1MB, Nottingham is 4.4MB. Both are quite small, and if you, like me, have 400GB free, 0.3MB is insignificant, but it’s the only way to separate them both.

Notational Velocity: 6/10
Nottingham: 5/10
Winner: Notational Velocity

Icon

Icons

As a designer by trade, I instantly look at the app icon straight away, and was pleasantly surprised. Both icons are full of detail and look beautiful. Both have some interesting textures, and both would easily make it only any list of great app icons.

However, there are a few things about the Nottingham icon which makes it a little better. Firstly, there is nothing that says “Notes” about the Notational Velocity icon. It is based on a filing cabinet, but when scaled down in a dock, that point isn’t instantly recognisable.

The Nottingham icon, however, is based on the more universal symbol of a stack of sticky notes, and this is much easier to spot, too, due to it’s bright colour. Also, the orientation of the Notational Velocity icon is different to most of Mac icons, which means that it looks out-of-place in your dock.

Notational Velocity: 6/10
Nottingham: 8/10
Winner: Nottingham

Interface

The general layout of these two apps are pretty similar, but there are a few differences which stand out. Hall, the developer of Nottingham, stated that he wanted to make Nottingham feel more like a Mac app than Notational Velocity does, and in some ways, he achieved that. The search bar, for example, looks much cleaner and is in the same style as that of the search bar in Finder, so that is a definite plus.

As for everything else, it falls a bit flat. The default font for your notes in Nottingham is a monospaced typewriter font, which looks completely out of place. This can be changed easily, but it’s nice for things to work out of the box. And if you’re using the free trial, a box stays at the top of the window which obscures the title, unless you make the window very wide.

As for Notational Velocity, well, it may not be the nicest looking ever app, but there are no blatant mistakes, and it does its job perfectly.

Notational Velocity: 7/10
Nottingham: 5/10
Winner: Notational Velocity

Ease of Use

Both are quite minimal note-taking apps, and are subsequently very easy to use. Simply use the search bar/input bar to create a new note, and then just type. It can also be done without using your mouse at all, using a range of shortcuts.

The biggest selling point of these apps is their ease of use, so it’s crucial that it’s as easy as possible. To make it easier, Notational Velocity gives you a series of sample notes with instructions on how to use it, whereas Nottingham has no help files.

This wasn’t a huge deal for me, as I had used Notational Velocity before, so it came easily to me. If, however, you weren’t familiar with this kind of application, it might not be as straightforward as it could be.

Notational Velocity: 8/10
Nottingham: 7/10
Winner: Notational Velocity

Features

Features

It’s here where Notational Velocity comes into its own. Nottingham has been stripped of almost all of its features. For example, if you paste a link into a note, it will act as just text, and not as a link. You can change this in Preferences, but it’s a feature that should really come as default.

It also doesn’t support things such as formatted text (bold, italics, etc.) or file linking. There is something to be said for simplicity, but I think that this takes it too far. One advantage it does have is MobileMe syncing.

Notational Velocity, on the other hand, has all the features you’d want – formatted text, file linking and web links. Not so many features that you’ll be overwhelmed, but enough for general note-taking.

One feature that’s missing from both apps is image embedding. It’s certainly one that I wouldn’t mind seeing in a future update. At least with Notational Velocity, however, you can link to your images. Both apps also include SimpleNote syncing.

Notational Velocity: 7/10
Nottingham: 4/10
Winner: Notational Velocity

Conclusion

Based on this review, Notational Velocity beats Nottingham at a score of 5-1. Whilst that does look like quite a conclusive defeat, I would by no means say that Nottingham is a bad app, but merely that Notational Velocity edges it out. Based on the averages of the above scores, Notational Velocity gets 7/10, whilst Nottingham gets 5/10. Personally, I’ll be sticking to Notational Velocity. Nottingham tried to go one better when it came to simplicity, but overstepped the mark, and that led to a lack of features.

To me, neither of these apps are for serious writing or note-taking – for that, you’d be better to go with a more fully featured app such as Evernote. But if you want to put your thoughts, ideas and links down, Notational Velocity looks like the way forward.


  • Peter

    Yes, let us all support the exceptional innovation that moves computing forward by leaps and bounds by purchasing Nottingham. What a creative approach to make money by Mr. Tyler. He deserves every dollars he can make off of Notational Velocity.

    I don’t think we need any more reviews of copycat products. You got a request to review Nottingham? Well, hit the delete key or reply that you do not want to promote such products.

  • http://brettterpstra.com Brett Terpstra

    The biggest reason for me to use NV over Nottingham is the ability to read and write separate text files from a Dropbox folder in NV. This makes it compatible with just about every other note-taking app I use on Mac, iPhone and iPad. I also use the branch of NV that can preview Markdown, which is what I use everywhere else, too. Works perfectly.

    (also, the headline should read “duel,” not “dual,” just FYI)

  • Bruno

    Notational Velocity can be improved and forked by users to improve/add features, like the Steven Frank’s fork with built-in Markdown and the Elastic Thread’s fork that has MultiMarkdown, fullscreen view, themes and more. Nottingham is just a weak rip-off that doesn’t deserve any money – at least in my opinion :P

  • http://www.handlungsplan.net to

    I prefer Slidepad.
    http://creativebe.com/slidepad

  • http://www.cloudsafe.com Roberto

    Notation Velocity beats all!

    It´s my #1 productivity tool on a Mac now. You should have mentoned easy synchronization via Simplenote:

    http://simplenoteapp.com//

    So it´s NV on a Mac and Simplenote on the Web and as an App in the iPhone.

    Waaay to go with “Notes”, Apple … :)

    • http://inspirationoverload.org Conor O’Driscoll

      I did briefly mention SimpleNote syncing, as the final sentence of Features. But considering that both apps have it, it didn’t add much to the debate.

      I don’t have an iPhone, nor do I use multiple computers, so I have never used SimpleNote, but I can imagine that it would be very useful.

      If you want the same service for all, Evernote will do everything – Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Web. However, the Mac app isn’t as quick to start up as NV.

      Thanks for commenting :)

  • Joshua Johnson

    JustNotes on the Mac synced with Simplenote for iOS is an awesome combination as well. I think the black UI is really sharp compared to the fairly boring design of the apps above.

    Great comparison article! Kept me interested all the way through.

  • Brian Lang

    I think you mean DUEL.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      We do indeed :-)

  • EMRK

    Why don’t add JustNote (another NV relative app), to the fight?

  • Guillermo

    I love NV, but Nottingham does have a few nice features like the ability to label notes by color, preview notes below the title and so forth. Too bad it doesn’t support reading .txt or .rtf files from a folder. I also like the optional ruler notepad background, similar to Mail.app’s Notes.

  • http://develemental.com Casen

    What about Circus Ponies Notebook? In college, I never could have lived with out it. It has a lot more features than I use on a regular basis, but note taking is AMAZING! You can TAB and SHIFT-TAB to indent notes, which become sub-notes to those above, and all levels are expandable and collapsable.

    I really recommend doing a review of it on this site if you haven’t already.

  • dixhuit

    JustNotes is way better than either of them IMHO.

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