Research, writing an article, listing down next week’s groceries, and planning travel itineraries—all these require you to take down notes. How else will you be able to remember what to bring or what aspect of your topic to research?
Thankfully, there are plenty of Mac apps to help you jot down notes. Keeping tabs on ideas, details, and information wherever you go is now easy and worry-free, since you won’t have to worry about misplacing pieces of paper and spending hours trying to locate them.
There are different types of note-taking apps the market, one category being a desktop application that syncs with a note-taking web app like Simplenote. Simplenote is quite popular for its simplicity, clean interface, and seamless integration with other apps such as Notational Velocity and Scrivener.
For today’s review, I’ll be taking a look at Metanota, a note-taking app that creates and syncs all of your notes to the cloud via Simplenote while making sure to maintain a simple and interference-free experience.
Metanota aims to make note-taking a simple and productive activity, keeping bells and whistles out of the way to help you focus on what you’re doing. More importantly, it is designed to save all of your notes onto the “cloud” through its integration with Simplenote, allowing you to take and save notes easily.
With its Mac-like design and with only the features necessary for note-taking, users can get to work as soon as the app opens up. Let’s take a look at what Metanota has to offer at version 1.4.
The First Requirement: SimplenoteIf you don’t have a Simplenote account, your first step to Metanota is not to download and open the Metanota app.
Metanota requires a Simplenote account, so without it you won’t be able to do anything with the app. A log-in box will drop down at launch and there’s no option to skip and start writing. It’s the first time I’ve encountered an app that requires me to create an account before anything else, so I found it a bit imposing.
Simplenote is free to use (ad-supported), so create an account to get started. Once Metanota validates it, you can immediately customize your account preferences. There’s just one option available though, and that’s choosing how you’d like Metanota to auto-sync. You can also tick the checkbox to manually sync your notes instead.
Metanota is also available as a free ad-supported version. The ads are displayed at the bottom of the first column along with other options. If you’d like to remove the ads, click on the “remove ads” button and you’ll be asked to pay $9.99 as an in-app purchase. You don’t get any other incentive than removing said ads, but at least you’re supporting the developers behind the app.
Overall DesignSo what you’re seeing here is a three-column dashboard where you can create, tag, organize, favorite, and sync your notes to the cloud. The first column is where you can navigate through your collection of notes. You have the Metanota group where both local and synched notes are located, and the Simplenote group where notes with tags are found.
The second column is where all your notes are listed. The list can be organized according to favorites, title, and date created. When you click on an existing note, the third column automatically opens the note where you can read and edit the content.
If you’re creating a new note for the first time, you’ll need to click on the gray plus sign at the top of the note editor to do so. Once a fresh and untitled note appears, you can begin typing away. At the bottom of the note editor, you’ll see the timestamp of the note as well as a word count, a handy feature if you’re writing an article and are conscious of the length.
Everything is pretty straightforward from there, but I’d enjoy using Metanota even more if the note editor wasn’t so grayish in color. Simplenote’s plain white text editor encourages me to write more on the web app than on Metanota itself.
Intelligent FormattingSimplenote as a web app supports plain text editing, so you won’t be able to format your notes. While it isn’t a problem for most people, reading through a lengthy note full of information can be tedious without headings and lists to make it more digestible.
Metanota does this for you through a feature called intelligent auto-formatting. It formats the first line as the header or title of the note and automatically indents paragraphs when written as list items by adding a dash (-) or a bullet point (•). So when writing an article or listing down items, it’s easy to organize the content for easy reading and comprehension.
This is one of Metanota’s strong points as a note-taking application. Writing blog posts and other research notes would always involve listing things down or breaking paragraphs. Metanota helps me format and organize my notes, Simplenote keeps them safe and sound on the cloud.
Favorites and FoldersTwo other Metanota features are favorites and folders.
Favorites are, well, your favorite notes. Simply press the star button at the bottom of the note editor—the third column of the dashboard—to mark a note as a favorite. You can arrange your list by putting Favorites at the top or filter the note list by clicking Favorites in the first column. On Simplenote, a favorites note is marked with a small pin icon.
A Folder is Metanota’s term for tags. You can place a note inside a new folder by clicking on the plus button at the top right of the note editor. Type in a folder name (spaces aren’t allowed) and it will appear under the Simplenote group along with the number of notes inside.
I can’t think of any other purpose for folders except for further organization within the app. Also, I don’t see why the developers wouldn’t just use the term “tags” since these folders don’t really function as actual folders. In fact, the name of the folder is displayed at the top of the note editor just like a tag would appear. But in any case, you can use folders to quickly search for the specific notes you need.
Search for Notes and Words in NotesSpeaking of search, Metanota has a search feature to enable you to do two things: find the notes you need and find specific words or details within your notes. If you’ve created a long list of notes on the app already or if you need to locate a particular section within your note, this should come in handy.
Just look for the magnifying glass button at the bottom of the second and third columns to open up the search bar. Type a word or phrase and Metanota will either display the notes containing these words or highlight the exact words found inside the note.
ConclusionMetanota is a pretty straightforward note-taking app. It holds true to its claim that it is a simple application with only the features you need, with easy synching between the app and Simplenote. If all you need is a place to write your school or work notes down, Metanota has the tools for you to use.
Of course, the simplicity it stands for means the absence of features like web clipping, uploading images or audio notes, and the like. The lack of clarity as to what some of its features are for (i.e. folders) also means there is still plenty of room for improvement. With that said, I look forward to seeing more updates in the future, especially for Metanota’s design and functionality.