Simplenote Finally Makes Digital Note-Taking Convenient
The heart of Simplenote is the elegant and simple Web app. The interface is spartan, but not barren. There's a large area to compose your notes, and a small sidebar for navigating and searching your existing ones. Our only complaint is the stylish, but ultimately useless, rounded border and gray background that takes up precious note-taking space.
Basic accounts are free (although premium accounts cost a heaping $12 per year), and allow you to create an unlimited number of plain-text notes, which you can then sync to any number of mobile and desktop clients. (More on those later.) Plain text might seem limiting to some users, but the speed and slim size of plain text is a major perk. Simplenote doesn't even support rich-text formatting like bold or italics -- which can be an issue if you normally rely on visual cues. Creating, opening and searching notes using the Web app, though, is lightning fast. Reaction is immediate, even when connected with an EVDO USB modem.
The features could stop there, and Simplenote would still be a very compelling product. But, the site also tracks revisions to your notes, saving the last ten versions (30 on a premium account), while keeping things tagged for added organization. The nicest productivity touch is the pinning function, which keeps important notes at the top of your list for quick reference.
The natural partner to the Simplenote Web service is the official app for iPhone and iPad. The app provides offline access, as well as note-syncing and the ability to add new text when a data connection is available. In addition to basic viewing, searching and editing, the mobile app also allows you to share notes (via e-mail, not text).
The mobile apps aren't the only way to interact with Simplenote, though. Windows users can use the bare-bones Notes for Windows, or the more fully featured ResophNotes, which both allows internal linking and recognizes linked text (something we'd kill for in the Web app). Mac users have no shortage of options, but we like Notational Velocity, a top-notch plain-text app that syncs with Simplenote. Android users have a few options, too, including the free mNote and AndroNoter; although both have their shortcomings (like AndroNoter's lack of background syncing), they're both perfectly serviceable. Linux users must either stick with the Web app or run ResophNotes using Wine.
Springing for the $12 premium account offers a larger revision history, allows you to create notes via e-mail, and offers an RSS feed of your missives. Premium users are also promised unlimited access to their data by third-party apps, while free accounts are "throttled." Still, we never experienced any real drawbacks while using our unpaid membership.
Like distraction-free writing programs such as WriteRoom and FocusWriter, Simplenote packs only must-have features, and focuses on executing them flawlessly, providing a superior user experience. If you're the type who constantly jots down thoughts and quips (like those who don't mind paying the premium for a Moleskine), then Simplenote might be the digital solution for your paper-strewn life.