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NoteSuite a powerful note-taking app for Mac and iPad

Brian Beam | July 19, 2013
Previously known as Projectbook for iPad, NoteSuite now has a Mac companion, making its powerful note-taking tools available on two platforms.

As a Web developer, I find the new Web-clipper tool very useful. The desktop app provides a browser plug-in for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox that is easy to install from the website. On the iPad, you clip a webpage by tapping the Sharing icon within mobile Safari and choosing Copy. When you navigate back to NoteSuite, the app then prompts you to import the webpage. You can bring in Web clips either as text, which strips out extraneous content, or as an image of the webpage.

You can convert Web clippings and imported documents into PDF files that you can then annotate. You can convert a note to PDF and/or make annotations only on the iPad for some reason--it really needs to be included with the Mac app, too, and the Mac app can only export a note as a PDF (if you display an annotated PDF note on the Mac, it displays the annotations, but you cannot edit them). PDF conversion generally works well, but certain webpages I tried did not convert accurately.

As for annotation, you can insert text boxes to add typewritten text, and you can highlight, underline, or strike through text within a PDF. Various pen tools and geometric-shape tools allow you to write and draw on the page, as well. Writing and drawing are very smooth, even on the iPad mini's lower-resolution screen. NoteSuite also provides a clever magnifying tool that aids with handwriting. The pen tools and the shape tools are on separate tool palettes, which I find slightly annoying in cases when I need to switch tools frequently. But my biggest complaint is that the brush-size, color, and transparency options affect all the tools globally. I usually prefer to use different colors and brush sizes for writing and drawing, so it gets tiring having to change those options each time I switch tools.

Because the developers believe that you should have full control of your data, NoteSuite stores your data locally on your Mac or iPad, in contrast to similar cloud-based services that store your data on their servers and require you to pay a subscription fee to access your data offline. In contrast, NoteSuite gives you the best of both worlds by letting you use iCloud to keep your data in sync between your Mac and your iPad. Speaking of cloud services, you can also link the app to Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive in order to import and export data with those services. And you can link to Instapaper or Pocket to bring in content from those apps.

It's difficult to avoid making comparisons to Evernote, which is likely NoteSuite's biggest competitor. In some ways Evernote is more approachable for nontechnical users, but NoteSuite sports a greatly simplified user interface and provides well-written help, so new users should be less intimidated than before. When I inquired about converting Evernote data to NoteSuite, the developers said that this is a highly requested feature and is currently under research.


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