On Saturday morning, an update became available for nvNotes that added Dropbox integration. For those who aren't aware of the app, nvNotes is an iPhone plain-text editor which was inspired by the functionality that the popular Mac app Notational Velocity (and in turn, nvALT) had pioneered.
So over the weekend, I took Notesy and Scratch (my current plain-text note taking apps) off my homescreen to give nvNotes a full test to see how the updated app fairs in a real-world scenario.
Comparing to Notational Velocity
When I tested out the app after I first learned about it, I tested what I felt signified the Notational Velocity experience:
- Using the search bar to search for a term that was either part of the name or part of the note content
- If there were no results, hitting return (or in this case, Next) would create the note based on my search term.
- Search results appear as you type
- Automatic saving
In the previous version I downloaded, the app had already performed these tasks fairly well. This version is no different. Search results appear in real time while creating new notes if the search doesn't exist.
Of course, this app doesn't possess the high-octane features that nvALT possesses, but that wasn't what the app advertised.
While plain-text apps typically depend on color, typefaces, and chrome to give the app pizzazz, for the most part, they're all pretty minimal. nvNotes is no different. While the app is minimal, the lack of tweaks in terms of the aforementioned UI enhancements give the app a feel that can only be categorized as "plain" — or even "basic".
While the lack of UI enhancements doesn't take away from its root functionality, iOS users have become accustomed to the polish and "prettiness" that the designers and/or developers have put into their apps to help them stand out against the many apps that accomplish similar goals.
As I used this app over the weekend, there were a few things that nagged me.
Swipe to return
After I entered a note, I wasn't sure how to return back to my list of notes. In Notational Velocity, and nvALT, I would clear the search box of whatever was there and it would then show me my full list of notes. However, after creating a note in this app, the search box already clears out — thus eliminating that approach.
Looking at the app, there wasn't any sort of back button to take you back to the list. So I did what I hope I didn't have to do.
I swiped the screen from left to right. Unfortunately, it worked.
Granted I took the app and ran with it without reading any sort of documentation about it, this approach seems inconvenient and non-intuitive.
Small search bar
While I don't have any hard data to support this other than my eyes — the size of the search bar appears to be much smaller than any search field I've come across in any app. The reason for this might be the lack of padding around the search field, but given the size of the preview row for each note (which appears directly below the search bar), the "feel" of the search bar feels rather miniature. Miniature to the point where it seems hard to tap. This might be all in my head, but with user experience, it's all about the "feel".
With the search bar being, in my opinion, the most important part of Notational Velocity, this is truly disappointing.
While the app delivered Dropbox integration as promised, there were a couple drawbacks that I wasn't really expecting.
The creates a folder (nvNotes) in the /Apps folder on the root of your Dropbox. I have never been a fan of any app telling me where to store my data.
This app only keeps record of notes that were created with this app. In other words, any notes that I have created through any other means aside from nvNotes will not be seen.
As soon as I came across the latter Dropbox inconvenience, I knew that I couldn't use this app full-time.
Launch Center Pro
As I was testing the app, I decided to create a Launch Center Pro action in order to grab the full experience. I created a basic "New Note" with a keyboard prompt for both the title and the note. It worked as expected. In fact, it actually solved a problem I didn't realize that the app had until later.
While the app does support TextExpander within the note field, it does not (through my experiences) work in the title bar. I always use a TextExpander snippet when creating new note titles — so the lack of this feature really proved to be inconvenient. In fact, the workaround with this, as I hinted earlier, was with Launch Center Pro. Since Launch Center Pro allows TextExpander snippets to work with in their input prompts, I was able to use my note naming snippets to conform to my note naming scheme.
Within the notes view, there is a toolbar above the keyboard that has a few functions.
Light/Dark - This changes the note color scheme to dark text on a light background to light text on a dark background.
Font Size - This enlarges the font for the notes section. Tapping this will allow you to set the font size to 3 different sizes (2 larger ones and the default).
Email - This will email the note as is. Since there is no Markdown rendering in this app, you will get the note as is.
Tweet - This brings up the iOS integrated Tweet dialog box with the text copied into it.
Show/Hide Toolbar - Pretty self explanatory.
Not Ready for Primetime
There are quite a few improvements that this app needs to go through in order to:
be able for primetime
dethrone Notesy as my default note app.
A lot of geeky Mac nerds have been in search for the Notational Velocity-counterpart for iOS. Since this app came out and specifically stated that it was inspired by the functionality of Notational Velocity, I believe it jockeyed itself into a position to actually deliver that experience. However as noted within my experiences above, it isn't quite there. However with that said, improving the UI, the UX, and possibly dropping in some nerdy goodness (Markdown rendering, opening notes in other apps, etc.) would probably improve its chances of winning the hearts of the plain-text iOS nerds out there.
You can check out nvNotes in the App Store.