Scrawl: Notetaking Made Simple Again

The app market sure isn’t short on note-taking apps. From Notational Velocity to Evernote, you have pretty much any kind of note-taking that you would ever want or need. They all have different gimmicks or features, and some work better for some people than they do for others. However, none of them are really as simple to learn and use as the app that we are reviewing today.

It’s called Scrawl and it strips down all the shiny features of note-taking apps to leave only the necessary ones. Do you want to check it out?

Getting Started



Scrawl is a very simple note-taking app that resides on your menu-bar. Although it looks pretty basic, it has pretty much anything you would need from one of these apps, even syncing through iCloud with several computers. It can also hold as many notes as you’d like, and it is all handled through the little menu bar interface.

How It Works

Writing Notes

Writing Notes

The menu bar drop down looks like a translucent dark small grid with a few buttons on the bottom. With them, you can search your notes, and add new ones or delete existing ones. In the grid, all of your available notes will be shown with the most recent ones on top, and here you can scroll down to reveal the older ones. Like I said, you can delete notes pretty easily, which gives the app the ability of handling somewhat temporary notes that you might only need for a few hours.

Adding new notes is just as easy, you just have to hit the plus sign and the editor will come up. In it, The first line that you use in your note will be displayed as the title on the main menu, so you can dedicate the first line specifically to it, or just let it pick the first few words of your note as the title.




Some of you may be wondering, “Why not just use my Mac’s built in Stickies app or the widgets note thing?” Well, if you’re not going to use it a lot, then you could do fine with something like them (you can even get real knee-deep into Stickies). Personally, I find both of them to be a little inconvenient and lackluster. But most importantly, none of them have any sync features at all, and they’re not as easily accessible as Scrawl is in your menu bar.

Comparing this type of app with other note-taking apps like Evernote is unfair because they are really not even close to being similar, and they both work for different type of situations. Scrawl is super intuitive and simple, but it also isn’t very useful for other things. Personally, I think both of these apps can coexist to make things easier. I plan on continuing using Scrawl as a small notebook-type thing, but while still keeping Evernote as my main go-to app for media files and bigger notes that need formatting, organization or extra space.

Some Thoughts on Simplicity



Note taking is not supposed to be a complicated task. I still always keep a small notebook at all times with me, because taking quick notes on Evernote with my iPod is still not as convenient and fast as I’d like it to be. It also sometimes feels like it gives me too many options for everything: tags, notebooks, titles, attachments; tons and tons of settings that I don’t always need and yet feel obligated to use in order to keep an organized library. I love Evernote, it really is one of my favorite apps. But the more time I spend with it, the more I realize it isn’t really a “note-taking” app. It’s almost a text editor with tons of organization. Notes, for me, are meant to be summarized, short, focused and fast.

It feels nice having a menu bar app to quickly go to for quickly jotting down something, instead of having to open an app to do it. Again, this ties in with the “temporary notes” thing that I was talking about before. For example: I’ve been going through several radio stations trying to find new artists for a music festival that I’m going to attend. Sometimes I stumble upon great artists that I want to remember to look up later, and with Scrawl I can quickly write their name down without really interrupting what I’m doing or getting too distracted.


Scrawl is not really an app for anyone. Some people might not find it very useful, but for the ones who are like me and need to write many things down each day before they forget them forever, then this app is just for you. The price is not very attractive, especially when you have free options that offer much more, but remember that sometimes less is better. I wouldn’t mind paying two dollars for an app that I am going to be using a bunch.

Whether you will like this app (and justify paying for it or not) is entirely up to how you use it and how you work. Maybe a companion iOS app (which is said to be in the works) could make its price feel a little more fair. What do you think? Could you benefit from using an app like this? Would you pay for something like it when there are free options available?

Editor’s Note

This review was written by Jorge Rodriguez but I (Mac.AppStorm Editor Josh Johnson) couldn’t help jumping in. Scrawl is no doubt a very simple app, but it’s also quite useful and perfectly functional. This is quite impressive considering that Scrawl is the creation of Paul Dunahoo, a 13-year old whiz kid developer. Also note that it’s currently featured in Apple’s “New and Noteworthy” section on the App Store.

Now, I don’t know what you were doing at 13, but I certainly wasn’t creating anything important enough to be featured on a popular tech blog, much less on one of Apple’s main distribution streams. Huge AppStorm props go out to Paul Dunahoo. I definitely encourage you to help Paul out by downloading his app and leaving an encouraging review.


Scrawl is a simplistic note-taking app that lives in your app and offers not much else than what is absolutely necessary.



Add Yours
  • Thank you ever so much for review Scrawl!

    If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.

    • I don’t have any questions, but I do want to say that I’ll try out the app and that it looks great from a UX perspective. Also, it’s awesome that you’ve made something useful at such a young age (no patronization intended); keep it up and you’ll be making the next quicksilver or textmate!

  • Hmmm… my final impression upon finishing the review (which was pretty objective and reasonably worthwhile) was not about the application but about the addendum by the editor.

    So, in a site that presents reviews and supposedly not biased promotion we have an editor fishing for a good rating? Does anyone else see a conflict of interest here? This does not really do anything for the site’s image or that of any indicated developer.

    Back to something more to the point. I found the app quite sound upon testing. Though it doesn’t do all that I need, nor in the way that work, I know that my my needs are off the beaten track. It was still efficient and functional for its intent. I can see it being worthwhile for the common user with general needs. As to the price point…

    I’ve watched the prices rise for utilitarian and specialty applications over the last few years (especially the last 6 months) in the Android, Windows, and Mac markets. Overall, Android is getting to be the worst but in a schizophrenic was, with Mac coming in at a close second, though Android has the largest counter movement of free apps that actually put the paid apps against the wall. The Mac arena has gone the other way with paid apps most often doing less than the free ones… though the free ones require more digging to find them. Then there’s the big box store paradigm mixed with big brother is watching paradigm that is killing off private sites AND private developers who don’t knuckle under.

    In a more open market for OSes (plural), Scrawl would not do so well. Not because it isn’t worthwhile but because in thinking cross-platform there are apps for the Android and Windows markets that can do as much or more and often for free. But in the Mac market, especially a close system like the AppStore, I’d say $2 is not so bad for what it does… and of course it’s too new to know about support and future development.

    It’s a good start and we’ll have to wait and see where it goes. For now, I have (1) other apps that do more, (2) work more closely with my more individual needs, and (3) even have interaction across platforms such as syncing to any of my various Android and Linux devices.

    Keep at it, Paul, and we will be paying attention. Disregarding your age, your doing well for starters.

    • Actually, he said leave an encouraging review, not a high or good one.

      Also, that is not what “conflict of interest” means. The editor was not involved with the developer in any way that I could see. An honest recommendation in a review blog is not a conflict of interest.

      I’m not trying to be a dick :) Your analysis of the price and market was interesting and, for the most part, quite right in my opinion.

  • I appreciate your thoughts, but you’re over thinking it. Jorge wrote the review in its entirety without regard to any developer info before I ever heard abut the app or its creator. I merely gave a hat tip where I thought one was due (and still do). I also never “fished for a good rating” but merely said to be encouraging. Bottom line, it’s a simple app that represents an impressive accomplishment and the review says exactly that. Cheers.

  • Hey, where can I find those wallpapers of Florence, Italy? I like ’em. Lots.

    • Not trying to advertise for someone else, but I found them in Wallpaper Wizard, a paid app on the Mac App Store.

      • That’s right. The app is now broken for me, but that one wallpaper still exists in one of my spaces.

  • I just downloaded it, I don’t see any preferences or options for keyboard commands, am I not looking hard enough?

    • Right click on the Scrawl menubar icon, and then click on the “Preferences” menu option.

      Sometimes this does not work with some mouses, so let me know if it does not work.

      • Just downloaded Scrawl from App. store having seen recommendations. I use an apple bluetooth mouse. Right clicking is not producing any reaction. Also getting the iCloud not available message. Is this important?
        Am trying to clear a backlog of stickies that hang out on my desktop, or at least hang on to the notes in a less obvious but still accessible way.

      • Yeah, that is pretty annoying. Try using a non-wireless mouse, and see if that does it.

        Are you signed into iCloud in System Preferences?

  • How is this different from (similar-looking) Shovebox?

    • Well first of all, Scrawl is a menu bar app (while Shovebox is not). This enables Scrawl to be accessed anywhere with a simple click, while you would have to leave the Shovebox window open, and then enter Expose to use it. Scrawl is also much more basic and easy to use.

      Plus, Scrawl is $1.99, instead of $24.99.

      • Well, actually, Shovebox IS a menu bar app! (a great one, in fact)

        ” It sits up in your menubar, waiting for you to drag in text, images, URLs, and more.” (

        No window has to be open and you don’t have to enter Expose to use it either!
        (have you tried it ever?)

        Your app Scrawl is much more basic, thats right Paul, but its definitely not easier to use.

        Anyways, your App might be nice, keep at it, Paul.

      • While it has a menubar applet, that is just a small area. Shovebox has a window, buttons, keywords, and other things, which Scrawl does not have.

  • Scrawl looks like a good app, but it won’t run on my 6-year-old 32-bit machine/OS. A relic, I know, but does an app this simple really *need* to be 64-bit only?

    I’ve been using xpad ( which is a good app, maybe comparable to Simplicity.

    • If you really want to know why it is 64-bit, I’ll tell you. It is pretty funny in fact.

      So I was converting a bunch of old VHSs into movie files on my computer, and then I began running out of space. I then decided to run Monolingual, which sadly, made Scrawl 64-bit only. I’m currently trying to made it 32-bit and 64-bit again at this point.

    • Hey, I know it has been awhile, but a 32-bit and 64-bit version of Scrawl is coming out this August (hopefully within the next three weeks).

      Thanks for waiting!