I read somewhere that no application or utility is feature complete until it does email. Features tend to spread like flies on a watermelon, ants at a picnic.
Take outliners for the Mac. There’s one in Pages. One in Word. Neither holds a candle to all the features in OmniOutliner, Notebook, NoteTaker, Opal, and their comrades. These are masculine outliners that grew up on performance enhancing drugs. But do they do email?
I’m a long time fan of Notebook, attracted to it because it looked like a notebook, and it seemed to have more features than I needed at the time. What great criteria for selecting an application.
Notebook, like my other Mac organizational love, Together, is more than it seems. Both collect things. Both organize things. One has an outliner built in, the other does not, neither has an iPhone version, and that’s why I’m looking elsewhere.
It’s 2009 already. The iPhone is a hit. So I want my applications and utilities to work in both places, and I want my data totally mobile. Is that too much to ask from applications with everything thrown in except email?
Pages and Word give you the very basics of outlining; indented organization with plenty of typography features. One day, someone, somewhere decided to add more to the outliner table stakes and came up with information organization. That’s what you find in the class of outliners from Notebook to NoteTaker to Opal and OmniOutliner.
They all do far more than mere outlining. No email feature yet, but they will hold your important email messages. OmniOutliner has two versions; basic and Pro. Both structure documents that create composite information, collect information, and organize it.
Ditto for NoteTaker which has an outliner function but does far more; with special focus on notes and ideas. NoteTaker smells and looks and feels a lot like Notebook.
Opal bills itself as an organizer of information that includes everything in the form of an outline. Outliners love hierarchical lists of information—the stuff that lists are made of, and notes, plans, projects. The works.
DEVONnote is more like Together but with note taking features and sans the outliner focus. The list of features is astounding, though it’s obvious that the migration path to DEVONthink Personal and Pro is there for a reason.
Personal information management is the rage of all these applications, even if some are afraid to use the term PIM. TopXNotes knows no such fear and boldly avoids the outliner functions and focuses on text notes. Mori is similar, and familiar, with plenty of text and collection features, a wonderfully flexible organization structure, but it was more fun when owned by Hog Bay Software.
There are more than a few outliners and notebook applications in the iPhone App Store, more of the latter than the former. And that’s the problem I have. What I want is Circus Ponies Notebook on my iPhone so what I do here can also be synchronized over there.
I want Together on my iPhone so what I collect on my Mac can be viewed with mobility in mind. Would iPhone toting students go for an iPhone version of Opal? NoteTaker on a MacBook is delicious, but where’s the iPhone counterpart?
Overall, there isn’t much difference between Notebook, NoteTaker, and OmniOutliner. They’re magnets for information gathering and organizing. They’re also complex beasts that do more than you can imagine you’d need to do. Except email, which I don’t think I want them to do. Ever.
What I want is remarkably simple. Whatever keeps my information, organizes my information, helps me to think, plan, share, keep also needs to work on both of my chosen platforms—my Mac and my iPhone. Look at the feature list of these beasts. Obviously, someone listened to a few customer suggestions.
The spiral notebook metaphor works fine for my Mac’s nearly vertical screen, iMac or MacBook. Wouldn’t that same layout work in a handheld device? Of course. All that’s missing is the easy ability to move my organized information back and forth.