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There are many applications designed to help you cope with a flood of information, from simple notepads to sophisticated personal information managers. Most are either too lightweight to keep up or so complex that they make the task even more overwhelming.
Circus Ponies’ NoteBook 1.2, like its competitor AquaMinds’ NoteTaker, uses a spiral-notebook metaphor for captur-ing your notes and outlines, so it’s intui-tive and easy to use. NoteBook’s fea-tures—unlimited annotation, automatic (and extensive) indexing, and a Super-Find function—make it an outstanding information manager.
A NoteBook document (called a Notebook) can contain any number of pages divided by tabs into sections. You create as many sections and subsections as you like. As you enter notes, NoteBook arranges them into a hierarchical outline of individual cells containing attributes such as a due date, an action-item check box, a priority level, or highlighting. NoteBook automatically records some attributes, such as the creation date. While NoteTaker limits annotations to one category for each entry, NoteBook lets you annotate entries with as many keywords and Stickers (icons) as you like.
A Clipping Services feature makes it easy to harvest information from other applications. Add a Clipping Service to one or more pages in a Notebook, and the pages appear in the Services and contextual menus throughout OS X. A Clip And Annotate item is also added to the contextual menu. Selecting it opens a dialog sheet where you can give the clipping a title, edit its content, or convert it to plain text.
NoteBook isn’t just for text notes. You can add clippings, images, Web links, movies, audio, documents, and folders to a cell. NoteBook can record voice annotations and import files directly from a digital camera. Using OS X’s Inkwell feature, you can write or sketch just as you would in a paper notebook.
It’s easy to find your way around NoteBook. Control-clicking on any tab brings up a shortcut menu to all the pages in that section. NoteBook automatically creates an index of all cell attributes and adds it to the back of your Notebook. There’s even a Discarded Attachments Index, a kind of Trash for your Notebook (your file can grow to an unwieldy size if you don’t empty this periodically). The index makes finding things a snap, but it can also append a ream of extra pages, so select only the pages you really want when you print.
In case the index isn’t enough, NoteBook also has a Super-Find feature, which lets you search for combinations of attributes. For example, you can find all of a keyword’s entries that are highlighted in purple, or only the high-priority action items with empty check boxes. Super-Find is impressive, but it overlooks items on the Contents and Divider pages (Circus Ponies says it will address this in the next major release).
Keeping Up Appearances
What fun is a notebook if you can’t personalize it? NoteBook is completely customizable. Hide the spiral, hole punches, or page curl. Add a metallic appearance. Change the cover image, page background, or highlighter colors. Resize divider tabs, assign colors or images to them, or adjust their transparency. Assign styles to different levels in the outline. Multimedia items can have a Media Frame, which allows you to add borders, drop shadows, and photo corners, as well as scale and rotate images.
You can share Notebooks, or parts of Notebooks, with other NoteBook users. Just save individual pages or sections as a Page Bundle, a special kind of NoteBook file. You can open a Page Bundle as a new Notebook or drop it into an existing one.
There’s no viewer application for sharing Notebooks with people who don’t have NoteBook. However, you can export your Notebooks to HTML with a few clicks. An exported Web page looks and functions much like a Notebook, and you can turn off the spiral, hole punches, page curl, and tabs if you want a less notebooklike appearance. NoteBook won’t export index pages to HTML; that’s fine for a small site, but not for a larger one, where an index (or even better, something like Super-Find) would aid navigation.
NoteBook can also export pages to text, RTF, and OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language, a standard outline format). Unfortunately, it can export only one page at a time.
You can also share your Notebooks by printing them. NoteBook adds an entry to the Print dialog box, where you can adjust settings and turn off the spiral, for example (oddly, you can’t opt to print the cover).
You can also password-protect your Notebook to secure it from prying eyes, but this stops snoops only from opening it in NoteBook. A Notebook document is actually a bundle (a folder containing multiple program resources), and password protection won’t prevent people from peeking inside. You can encrypt individual pages, but this secures only the text, not embedded files.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
NoteBook 1.2 has a friendly, flexible interface. Its unlimited annotations, extensive indexing, and Super-Find feature are efficient ways to manage a glut of information.