Notability for iPad
If there’s a more complete note-taking app on the market than Notability, it’s not readily apparent. The iPad offering from Ginger Labs is equally useful for stripped-down business uses or more complicated and playful creative efforts.
Notability is so chock-full of features, in fact, that it does the work of up to four other apps.
Like the iPad’s native Notes application—or the pricier Keeper HD app—Notability offers straightforward word-professing capabilities: Fire up the app, start a new file, and start typing. You can create new documents for class lectures, interviews, or simply jot down ideas for your next novel. But simple typing is just the beginning of what the app does: Users can choose fonts, sizes, styles, and colors of the type they see on the screen.
Like Pear Note for iPad, Notability offers some multimedia capabilities—namely, the ability to record live audio while you’re taking the notes. Once recording is complete, you can go back into your notes later and tap a word; the app will start playing what was being said into the recorder at the exact moment you typed that word. That’s extremely useful for fleshing out quotes or simply double-checking the accuracy of what you wrote down—a feature that journalists, in particular, might find useful.
Like Moleskine’s iOS app, Notability doesn’t confine itself to a bare-bones display: You can choose from a variety of “paper” types and colors to compose upon, and users can also shift into a handwriting mode—a stylus is useful, but not necessary—with a variety of ink colors and line widths available. This mode is great for taking handwritten notes or making sketches. The app also allows you to take images from the web or your iPad’s photo library and insert them into the document, allowing for the creation of great-looking journals in a digital format.
And like GoodReader or PDF Reader Pro, Notability lets you pull up PDFs and annotate them, either to fill out forms or to provide editorial feedback to colleagues on a printed presentation. This isn’t quite the app’s best feature; Notability didn’t always want to let me make notations on the precise location of the document that I wished.
Notability also excels in letting users share the documents they’ve created: Files can be shared in either PDF, RTF, or audio note formats—and they can be printed directly from your tablet, shared via email, or saved to iTunes, Dropbox, iDisk, or WebDav services. Organizing your Notability documents is also easy; you can create topic files, if you like, but keyword searching is also available.
If there’s one other shortcoming, it’s that Notability doesn’t offer every single feature available in the competing apps named above. Pear Note, for example, will let users import video and take notes during the playback; Notability has no video capabilities.
But it seems somewhat nitpicky to point out that minor drawback when you look at all the things Notability does well. It doesn’t quite achieve perfection, but it comes very close.
[Joel Mathis is a freelance journalist and political columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. He lives in Philadelphia.]