App Review: Notes HD 9
The built-in Memos app for webOS isn't all that great. We all know it. With a big 9.7-inch screen like that on the TouchPad, its even more unforgivable how basic it is and how little its been updated. If there's one good thing about the pitifulness of the TouchPad Memos app, it's that it has opened the door for several third-party developers to built the better notepad. One such developer is Inglorious Apps, who created the aptly titled and well-featured Notes HD.
For the asking price of $1.99, Notes HD drags memos on webOS up to modern standards. Well, really it brings back a lot of the features from the Palm OS Memos app, including titles, password protection, and categories (gasp).
Being a TouchPad app, Notes HD is built with the Enyo framework, which gives it a webOS-consistent look as well as the flexibility of Enyo's sliding panels and pop-over dialogs. The three columns are categories, a memos list, and the memo itself. On launch Notes HD smartly opens with a fresh blank memo ready just one tap away from your starting to type. The top bar over the memo lists the title - if you don't type in a custom one it will automatically use the first few words. The bar is colored with the hue of the category; the category can be changed with a tap on the right side of the title bar.
Below that is the big empty space meant for your note-taking endeavours. It's clean and free of obstruction. The bottom bar features the expected sliding panel grab handle (you can slide it all the way to the left for full screen composition), a share button to email, upload, or tweet your memo, and the creation date and time of that memo. The bottom right corner features two buttons that look to be undo/redo or reply/forward, but for the life of us we couldn't figure out what they were supposed to do, because all we saw happen when we pushed them was nothing.
More interesting is the button to the left, just on the other side of the trash button. It's a paperclip, the universal icon for attaching non-paper things. Tapping it brings up the standard TouchPad photo-picker, from which you can select multiple photos to be associated with the memo. Attached photos are displayed as large thumbnails at the bottom of the memo view, organized by days with the oldest on the left. Should you have more photos than can be displayed across the bottom of the screen, the strip of images will scroll horizontally. Very smartly, when you share a note via email, Notes HD takes any attached images and automatically attaches them to that email.
The middle column, as noted earlier, is the list of memos for your selected category. It's topped by a search box that checks both the memo titles and content. Like the memo header, the list header changes color based on the selected category; the theme color is assumed when All is the choice. The list below that displays a bolded title and two-line preview. A narrow strip of pixels on the left side is dedicated to each memo's category color. If any photos are attached, the first one is slapped into a little thumbnail n the right side. The list column gives good at-a-glance info for your memos, especially without the distracting sticky-note colors of the default Memos app. It appears that memos are sorted by their creation date, but we really couldn't be certain.
Finally on our user-interface tour is the far left side: categories. Here a narrow list of your created categories is displayed, with the category color displayed in a little box on the left and the total memo count on the right. Like the list view, we're confused about the categories list order, as it's not alphabetical, by edit or creation order, or even memo count. You can add a category by tapping the big + button at the bottom, and categories can be edited with a long-press - a feature that wasn't immediately obvious at first or second glance and we only discovered by tapping-and-holding to see if we could manually reorder the categories (we can't). In the edit pop-up you can change the name and color, which is done quite annoyingly by tapping the color nocturnal you find one you like instead of picking from a list.
That category edit did you cover a surprise feature, that though listed in the App Catalog entry for Notes HD isn't obvious in the user interface (like the category edit itself): password protection. Enable this and set a password and that category will gain a lock icon and its contained memos will disappear from the All list and search. Tapping the category will prompt you for the password. The password feature has no log-in memory, even during a single session you'll have to enter the password every time you tap that category. But it's good to have the option to hide your memos away from prying eyes, be it a trade secret company document, a holiday gift list, or your diary/journal.
Keeping with the theme of hidden features, going into Notes HD's preferences reveals the ability to upload and download your memos to Google Docs or Simple Note, with options for automatic times backups. Additionally, Notes HD has a pair of extra themes, so if the pastel yellow isn't your thing you can opt to go with webOS-standard light gray or dark gray. Though our tired strained eyes could better differentiate out the category color strips in the list view in these other themes, we kept going back to the classic yellow.
All told, Notes HD is more than an evolution of the webOS Memos app. It's a rethink, and in many ways its more webOSy than the disappointment that is the default app. While there are a lot of hidden features, they're hidden because you don't explicitly need them in order to use the app. Most users would be perfectly fine using Notes HD with the default categories, default theme, and no cloud syncing. But for those that want finer customization and more options, those choices exist without getting in the way of note taking. If you're the type that does lots of note taking on your TouchPad, it's hard not to recommend Notes HD, especially at $1.99.