Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

A Month With Simplenote

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Simplenote is an app that I've loved for a long time, but several design choices like small text on the iPad, unreliable syncing, and too simplistic of a design with mobile apps has made it unusable in my opinion. 

Until now. 

Simplenote, in late August, unveiled a complete redesign of their mobile apps for all platforms, including iOS for iPhone and iPad and also for Android. I've been teaching and preaching from it for the last 30 days exclusively. 

I was very excited about Editorial for iPad, with it's great interface, configureable buttons and layout, customized workflows and Markdown support, and I had purchased it and began using it when the new Simplenote came out. Needless to say, I was impressed. 

For the longest time, my workflow included plain text editing with Elements on iPad and iPhone, syncing with Dropbox, and I would actually preach and teach from within Elements. But Elements, at least for me, started getting buggy, even with regular updates. (I'm sure it's been fixed, but 1 or 2 crashes while I am speaking to 300+ people is 1 or 2 times too many.)  So I stopped using it and turned to Nebulous Notes.

While syncing with Dropbox offered some flexibility (like seamlessly offering my lessons as .txt files for download on my website, copying and moving files, and making backups easy), I found that it was a few too many steps. I would compose a text file in my Mac text editor of choice (usually Textastic), save it as either a .txt or .md file if I wanted limited styling, make sure it was in the correct folder in Dropbox, then search for that file under my Elements directory to pull it up on my iPad for teaching. 

With Simplenote, I write my lesson in the Simplenote app for Mac (which is incredibly nice by the way), and my changes are automatically pushed to my devices. All I need to do is load the app on the iPad and whoosh - it's there. And syncing with SImplenote is incredibly fast. 

Another thing that helps is local note caching. All my notes once synced will be available for edit and viewing whether connected to a network or not. I've had lots of speaking engagements where there is no connection whatsoever - even through a cell network - and my notes, provided I synced before I left, are there. No having to worry whether or not that 7th revision to my sermon synced to the correct folder and file in Dropbox. Dropbox doesn't append the file (unless you're using specific programs), it re-uploads the entire file if one letter is changed. I know text files aren't that big to begin with, but when you're out in the middle of nowhere with little or no data connection, every byte is hard to come by. 

Simplenote Mac app. Click for larger. 

I mentioned it before, but what helped push me over the edge was the Mac desktop app for Simplenote. You can see for yourself that Simplenote really lives up to its name with its very spartan and minimalist interface. The changes are almost instant - I can type and sentence on the desktop and watch it be pushed to the iPad app seconds later. It's great. 

I love Editorial, plain text, and Markdown, but to tell you the truth, I don't need any of that. All I need is text, and the new redesigns for the mobile apps make the fonts much easier to read and far better to compose in. And if a worst-case scenario happens and I lose all my devices, including my Mac, my notes are all backed up on Simplenote servers. I can log on to simplenote.com and edit and back up my notes from there. 

If you're looking for a simple, elegant solution and don't want all the fuss with saving file and formatting, look no further than Simplenote. It's free and it's wonderful. What do you have to lose?

 

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