Think of a typical task on your to-do list, and I’m sure there’s an app that can help you accomplish it. You’ve got Mac apps designed for a plethora of purposes, each designed to solve or complete different kinds of tasks in a number of unique ways. In fact, there are apps that are made to bring different standalone apps and services together to easily manage and keep track of. Off the top of my head are Words for save-for-later articles, MarsEdit for publishing to different blogging platforms, and Favs for all your social favorites.
For today’s review, I’ll be taking a look at Notesdeck for Mac, a relatively unique app that consolidates all of your iCloud, Dropbox, Simplenote, and Evernote notes into a single dashboard to view, edit, and sync in real time. Developed by Michael Petruzzo of Dark Heartfelt, it’s an app where notes—whichever service or note-taking app used—are editable and available at a click of a button.
With this concept in mind, can Notesdeck assist the everyday note-taking Mac user? How does Notesdeck fair in the productivity circle? Let’s find out.
Notesdeck (a.k.a. Notella) is a universal notes app that stores digital notes created with some of today’s most popular note-taking and file storage services: Dropbox, Apple’s iCloud, Simplenote, and Evernote (read-only). Because it is also available on iOS, you can take all of your notes wherever you go and access them whenever you need to.
The notable selling point, however, is having all your notes stored and displayed in one interface. It’s designed to enable you to view, edit, and sync changes made to your notes regardless of its origin, and so saves time and effort from doing so on each individual app or service. While you can create and save notes on Notesdeck, you can think of it as your go-to app for cleaning and organizing the hundreds of notes you’ve already created and, perhaps, momentarily forgotten overtime.
Notesdeck boasts of a couple of other features well-worth looking at, such as global search, customization, live Markdown preview, and drag and drop. We’ll get to these features later in the article.
How It Works
Fire up Notesdeck and a quick tutorial window welcomes and walks you through the basics of the app. Behind it is the actual dashboard itself with the list of apps/services on the left panel. You can go through the tutorial (it’s short and easy to breeze through) or close it to begin using the app.
Your first move would, of course, be to sync to your Evernote, Simplenote, and Dropbox accounts. This will bring all of your existing notes together on Notesdeck. By clicking on a particular service, a drop down window appears to prompt you for the username and password of your account. If, however, you’d like to create new notes on Notesdeck, they would automatically be saved on your iCloud account.
Once you have synched Notesdeck to your chosen app or service, their respective notes are then stored in folders. Default folders are created the moment you’ve successfully synched Notesdeck to the service, and you can create unique subfolders right after. In the case of Evernote, default folders are labeled according to your existing Evernote notebooks.
To begin creating a note, click on the Create button at the top right of the app. It will then open the grey-colored text editor from the far right column where you can begin writing your notes. The notes list in the middle column updates as you edit the note, bolding the first line to indicate the presumed title of the note.
If you have existing notes stored in a particular service like Simplenote or Evernote, Notesdeck lists these notes in the middle column. Click on a note and the text editor opens up automatically. If you’d like to rename or delete a folder, just right click the folder. To delete a note, hover the cursor over a note and click on the small grey delete button.
Notesdeck is a pretty straightforward app in terms of its functionality, but it does have a couple of features that enhances the note-taking, note-saving experience. Here are some of the most useful and interesting features so far.
You’ll first notice the global search bar where you can locate specific notes from Evernote, Simplenote, Dropbox, and iCloud via a single search bar. Just type a word or phrase and all related notes will appear immediately.
This is handy when you have a handful of saved notes and all you can remember are a couple of unique words to fish them out. Tags are nonexistent on Notesdeck though, which is actually a necessary feature since the app deals with different services and notes containing all kinds of content.
Live Markdown Preview
Another interesting feature is the live Markdown preview, which enables you to take a look at your Markdown-formatted notes as applied HTML. You can activate the live Markdown preview by clicking on the M magnifying glass at the bottom of the text editor.
While the Markdown preview window is detached from the app, it does update in real time, making it a potential contender to Marked, a popular Markdown preview-only app.
Custom hotkeys are keyboard shortcuts you assign to a specific folder. Once you use a custom hotkey, the app activates its distraction-free fullscreen view and lets you focus on writing that new note. To create a hotkey, go to the left panel, click on the square button beside the plus sign at the bottom, and type your desired shortcut.
When returning to the normal view, the note is already created and stored in its specific folder as per the shortcut assigned to it. This is another useful feature for users who have multiple folders and would like to skip that extra step of selecting and saving a new note to a particular folder.
Drag and Drop
Sifting through your trove of notes, you may decide to move a note or two from Simplenote to your iCloud account, or from Evernote to Dropbox. Whichever may be the desired destination, Notesdeck’s drag and drop feature allows you to easily move notes from one account to another. Just click and drag the note to the desired folder to move it.
Moving a note from my Simplenote account to iCloud took just a few seconds, as if I was simply moving a file from one folder to another on Finder.
Further Customization and Flexibility
Finally, you can modify Notesdeck’s look and feel through customization options, particularly the font face and size of the different aspects of the app. You can also switch from regular to fullscreen view, or hide or reveal the Notesdeck overview.
Sharing is also possible in Notesdeck. Click on the share button at the bottom of the text editor and a variety of share options will appear: email, Message, Twitter, Facebook, Squarespace, and Tumblr.
The Good and the Clunky
Notesdeck has a lot of good tricks up its sleeve. With its unique concept and existing features, it is certainly an app worth looking at if you’ve got a ton of notes saved on different services and would just like to get everything in one place.
For instance, global search, custom hotkeys, and drag-and-drop are features that can help save time and effort when managing and organizing your notes. Likewise, it’s easy to create and edit a note since the app switches views and opens up the different areas fast and smoothly.
You’ve also got real time synching to and from the different apps connected to Notesdeck. I’ve tried editing notes in Simplenote online and the changes appear on Notesdeck immediately. In the case of Evernote, text and image notes can be synched and viewed on Notesdeck, although downloading image notes will take some time depending on the size of the note.
There are, however, areas that Notesdeck needs work, especially since it’s got a relatively high price point ($21.99 for the Mac version). I’ve experienced some sluggishness when opening the Preferences and when I’m about to sync Notesdeck to a service like Dropbox or Evernote. Moreover, there are options in the preferences in which the terminology needs to be clarified, such as “Center on Horizon mode” and “Screen to run.” How do I create and run different screens then? What is Horizon mode and how do I activate it?
What I find problematic though is how the notes are displayed. There is no option to see all notes on Notesdeck nor can you see notes saved in a specific service without clicking on a folder. To see notes saved on Dropbox, for instance, you have to click on the folders synched to Dropbox to view and edit them. Simply clicking on Dropbox will only display Dropbox’s logo.
Design-wise, the default fonts are not as appealing, especially in the list of services where every service and folder is displayed on all caps and at 30-40 points. The text editor needs a fresh coat of paint as well since the grey colors cause the words to blend with the background, making it difficult to read.
I’m quite confident though that improvements are underway that could help fix these loose strands. The developer has made it clear in the official website that the app is under active development and that any problem, feedback, or suggestion can be sent his way via email.
With that said, I suggest waiting till the app is updated and the bugs found in the current version eradicated before purchasing. But overall, Notesdeck is a promising app catering to a niche audience; that’s where it’s got the upper hand. I look forward to seeing additional features and improvements in the coming versions that would make the app even better. It’s definitely got power to grow into something that could help note-taking fanatics in need of an organized dashboard for notes.
What do you think of Notesdeck? What other features and capabilities do you think would work well with an app like this? Share your thoughts in the comments.