Notebooks 12 Review

I’ve seen a few threads recently on notes type apps. I know, hard to believe such a topic would pop up here :joy:

I’ve generally been very happy with a couple of Markdown apps but for whatever reason (probably a thread here!) I ended up discovering Notebooks. I resisted for awhile but after a few visits to the App Store and their website finally decided to try it out. After several weeks I ended up writing a somewhat lengthy review and thought I’d share here.

Long story short, it seems to offer a set of features that might allow for it to become a replacement for a few other apps. I’m not certain yet but I’ve really enjoyed it as a Markdown editor. But in addition it’s also, various Evernote type features such as importing files, OCR on jpgs/pdf, and most importantly in my use as an easy way to add images as a part of my blog publishing process. Also, it’s got a very interesting, powerful implementation of task tracking.

So, for me, a potential Notes and Reminders replacement as well as a new Markdown/blogging tool.

All files stored stored as distinct files I can access in a folder in iCloud. Has a few other storage/synching options for Dropbox and local network file locations though I’ve not looked at those.


Slight correction: you can have different iCloud folders and switch between them, pretty much like Obsidian vaults ;). These “custom locations” are a small paid upgrade on the mobile application, but it’s totally worth it. Also, no subscriptions.

1 Like

Yeah, you may have missed it, but I mentioned that there are other storage options such as dropbox, etc. actually, I see that I use the word synching Which isn’t quite the same thing as storage I guess, though that was my intent!

I’m glad you pointed out that it’s a one time purchase rather than a subscription, I forgot to mention that.

Editing to add that upon rereading what you wrote, I wonder if there are other iCloud options that I missed? I am using multiple folders, but they are all stored in the main Notebooks folder in iCloud.

You are probably already aware but just in case…

I am aware, thanks! I’ve not upgraded to ssl yet.

The thing is on desktop you can choose any place you like on your iCloud Drive --and the mobile app needs that smaller one-time purchase to allow that-- and you can, for example, choose your Obsidian Vault location as a Notebooks folder so they can coexist.

1 Like

Ah, I see! Thanks for the clarification. That might be worth doing as it will allow me to shift my files over to a more unified storage location. One interesting aspect of all these markdown apps that use folders for files is that they have some features that only work when the app’s default iCloud storage location is used. One in particular is tagging. Several apps now offer tagging but only support it in the default iCloud location.

With the absence of Obsidian that, on mobile, requires you to store the vaults on the Obsidian default location. I’ve read the Obsidian forums and there seems to be solid technical reasons for that (under Apple’s file SDK an app only has limited access to folders that are outside their default iCloud location) but honestly I don’t know how Notebooks can do that while Obsidian cannot. Also, Obsidian is multiplatform while Notebooks is not, so perhaps there is a difference there.

The technical reasons why Obsidian needs access to all files in the folder, which it can only apparently have for its home folder, are explained here:

I’ve noticed the issue with the other apps as well. I also sometimes use Taio and iAWriter both of which support tags, but only in their assigned document folders. I believe both of those apps also offer search results in spotlight, but again it might only be for documents in their own folders. I’ll probably purchase the Notebooks the notebooks custom location add on and see what happens. It sounds to me from your post that it continues working as expected.

I don’t use tags or do deep linking between notes so I may have not noticed any degraded functionality in Notebooks, but for me the mobile paid upgrade for having custom iCloud Drive locations works just fine and is almost a no brainer in these days of subscriptions because it grants compatibility with desktop Obsidian. And with some symlinking I got EagleFiler pointing there too so I have 3 different apps working on the same folder hierarchy at the same time.

1 Like

It’s annoying how Apple are sandboxing everything to the detriment of its own users. In the past year I’ve massively reduced my icloud usage and with Apple moving the mobile storage to a non-choosable Library location I’m now moving off cloud storage altogether in favour of an external SSD (which is a darn sight faster anyway). iCloud’s continued syncing problems also determined that my ipad was replaced with a macbook pro so all these shenanigans are now slowly receding in my workflow. All because of poor decisions by apple as well as poor performing apple software.

I remember 10 years ago thinking there’s no way I would move to cloud based storage of any brand. But today with much better internet and I’ve got everything in iCloud: Photos, files, etc. and I get the occasional hiccup but I can’t imagine ever going back to local storage for anything but back-ups. For the past 3 or so years iCloud has been so reliable for me that I don’t even think about it other than the occasional situation such as this one where I’m switching apps.

After my exchange above I decided to try out moving my Notebooks storage to my iA Writer folder. I copied the 200mb of text and images from Notebooks default location in iCloud and added it to the iA Writer folder. Changed the setting in the Notebooks app to use the iA Writer folder and everything just worked. No delay or wait time.

I’m sure it’s not always so reliable for everyone. Certainly less so for those with more limited internet speed are data caps. But I can only praise it at this point. :nerd_face:

1 Like

It’s working great for me. Thanks so much for mentioning the option and explaining it to me!

1 Like

I never had any serious issues with iCloud Drive or CloudKit itself, perhaps once a month the sync status gets stuck and I have to ‘sudo killall bird’ from the terminal, but that’s it and it usually resolves by itself without any intervention. I would probably leave the Apple ecosystem if I was not confident that iCloud would work.

My only sync issues have been with Apple’s stock apps: Notes (after importing 20k notes from Evernote and never got a consistent state across 3 devices), Photos (why didn’t that photo get uploaded?) and Music (that song hasn’t been synced!). This sounds paradoxical but I guess the stock apps teams do not enjoy any better treatment than any 3rd party app vendor and they have to cope with their own legacy.

Here is my comparison of Notebooks with Keep It, I did a couple of months ago (Outliner Software: KeepIt vs Notebooks vs FSnotes)

KeepIt (version 1)

Formats: rtf, markdown, plaintext

Reasons why KeepIt is supperior to Notebooks (Alfons Schmid’s Notebooks):

  1. Native rtf support: format of of Notebooks are html, markdown and plain text
  2. The float window: the floating window is very useful for me.
  3. metadata: KI allows assigning not just tags, but also Spotlight comments directly within the app.
  4. Better organization tools:
  • Bundles
  • Labels
  • Folders—-these are reflected to finder: others are internal to the application
  • Saved searches
  1. universal tags: tags assigned in KI are finder tags: will be visible to Finder and DT.

Notebooks (v2)
Formats: html, markdown and plain text

Areas where Notebooks appears supperior to KeepIt:

  1. Contexts: tags:
    #noun (or @noun) within a document tags the document with the word “noun”.
  • even a new character can be assigned for this.
  • But, these tags are not finder tags
  1. Tasks:
  • it has internal task manager: and very useful for writing because can be assigned on any of the notes; and will popup seprately
  • tasks can be defined using speical characters; just like tags.
    For example, if use + sign, all lines after this sign will be considered as tasks.
  1. [[Linked]] style of linking. It would have been great if KT supports this feature.
    Other notable features:
  • supports opening in new tabs and windows—KP has this
  • WebDav server to sync with ipad: local network

My conclusion was: Keep It is able to transparently store the files in rtf file format. The transparently stored files can also be opened with other apps from Finder. Tags assigned and changed made inside Keep It are also visible to other applications. There is no process of import and export. That is huge advantage of Keep it (like Obsidian and DEVONthink). For that, I decided in favor of Keep It.