How I arrange my iPhone 6 Plus home screen

To many people, their home screens seem like a trivial aspect of smartphone usage. But having a cluttered home screen goes against the concept of a smart phone itself: if you cannot find what you need when you need it without searching for it for hither and thither, it becomes clear that your phone is smarter than you. Which is a pretty dangerous thing when you think of it.

Whatever platform you are on, having your phone set up for the most efficient use is a no-brainer. Having moved from the freedom of Android to the decidedly more sophisticated approach of iOS, I will focus on setting up your iPhone 6 Plus home screen. But the basic ideas should carry on for most devices.

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Google Keep vs Evernote vs Springpad vs OneNote

WHEN IT COMES TO note-taking apps, speaking of Google Keep vs Evernote vs SpringPad and so on, you quickly realise there are two kinds: apps on a grand prix run with a million features we would all like but never use, and stripped down apps that help us take notes and do little else.

Both are hard to get right: you risk either over-stuffing your turkey or leaving it hollow. But if any four apps get the formula right, these four have to be it.

What we are looking for

Here are some important, must-have features we looked for in note-taking apps:

  • Speed and a light weight application
  • Syncing options
  • Widget for quick access
  • Security/encryption

 

And here are some extras we would enjoy:

  • Cross platform presence and syncing
  • Cross-device presence
  • Good design
  • Array of note types
  • Organising features
  • Sharing features

 

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Disclaimer

Neither this website nor anybody associated with it are being paid in any form to write for or against any app. These reviews are based on experience and are subjective but give a very accurate idea of the product and have been written from a neutral standpoint.

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Google Keep

Google’s silent entry into the note-taking world

 

Google began by turning users away by closing one product after another, often unannounced, and finally gave the public no good incentive to use their latest brainchild, Keep. If they tried, nobody knows about it. So then why is Keep on this list? It is because Keep —

  • is light weight, fast to save and syncs just as seamlessly
  • has a slick widget that offers scrolling previews and ability to start taking notes from your home screen
  • offers text, checklist, voice and photo notes
  • has presence on both desktops (via chrome,) phones (Android, iOS)

 

And what’s special about Keep?

  • Keep automatically transcribes voice notes (US english only, right now)
  • Keep saves using your 25GB space on your Google Drive
  • Keep allows text note to checklist conversion even after creating a text note
  • Keep uses color coding (limited to eight — and five really distinguishable — colours)

 

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The bottomline

If you take extensive vocal reminders and messages, Keep’s automatic transcribing may prove useful even if not 100% accurate. If you used Catch Notes before it was shut down, you will find Keep a pleasing alternative.

In other words, if you like to take quick notes and get done with it, Keep is just the app for you. And Keep works beautifully offline too.

Looking for a little extra muscle, though, or some charm or fun? Throw Keep out the window and head on to our next competitor.

[/sws_yellow_box] [sws_button_icon_ui label=”Download Google Keep from the Play Store” href=”https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.keep” ui_theme=”ui-smoothness” icon=”ui-icon-circle-arrow-s” target=”_blank”] [/sws_button_icon_ui]

Evernote

Does the veteran app still have what it takes?

 

If you came here just looking for an answer to that question just above, then you’ll be happy to know that yes, it does. But other apps are not exactly what you might consider stagnant.

Evernote satisfies the basic needs of any user, at any level, any profession, any use you can think of. Here are some of its most advantageous features:

  • Neat suite of apps including web clippers and readers
  • Excellent integration with third-party apps
  • Searches inside images
  • Perfect solution for long notes or long hours of note taking
  • Good cross-browser, cross-device presence

 

But there are some things that hold us back here too,

  • Way too many features: UI appears cluttered if you do not use them all
  • Free account gets you <50MB a month, but a $45/month paid option exists
  • Poor security (if you are really paranoid)
  • Overall, not a very intuitive or quick solution for note-taking

 

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The bottomline

Evernote is best for taking down college lecture notes, (or speeches and lectures in general,) interviews, creatives jotting down long ideas, shooting textual documents to use as notes and so on. It’s basically a lengthy note-taking process, but a perfect solution if you are looking at tonnes of crisp, formatted, heavily organised notes to maintain for a long time.

If all you want is to use an app as a digital edition of your post-it notes, get back to Google Keep, not Evernote. But if you have a huge notes collection you would rather hold on to for a long time, Evernote is perfect. And again, if you’re photo- (and generally media-) happy, try our next contender, SpringPad.

[/sws_yellow_box] [sws_button_icon_ui label=”Download Evernote from the Play Store” href=”https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.evernote&hl=en” ui_theme=”ui-smoothness” icon=”ui-icon-circle-arrow-s” target=”_blank”] [/sws_button_icon_ui]

SpringPad

The Pintrest of note-taking

[NB: Review carried over from our previous edition.]

I think Springpad was here before Pintrest, but people seem to compare  how similar it looks to the newer product, especially after the recent re-design. This is, in fact, the simplest definition of Springpad. It has a gorgeous interface laid out like pinboards and makes it a very visual task to manage your notes.

Springpad’s biggest plus still remains across-the-web, link, media and group sharing. And little else. But Springpad mostly makes things fun. Here’s what you’ll like:

  • Note-taking by categories such as movies, restaurants etc.
  • Great sharing capabilities for collaboration
  • Springpad boasts its own social network for its users
  • Tailored for media sharing and cataloguing

 

And, as always,

  • Works poorly for quick note-taking
  • Still shows only select tags on note pages
  • Nothing attractive, but a lot of useless features for text-heavy note-takers

 

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The bottomline

Springpad is for people who like to handle media, especially pictures, and bookmark stuff they come across on the web: you get the point, using Springpad is like having your very own Pintrest. With your very own Springpad social network.

If you want quick, or lots of text, Springpad is a poor option; if text is a once-in-a-while thing and pictures are your everyday style of usage, pick Springpad. In short, Springpad is for people with a flare for media, bookmarking, and group sharing, all without heavy emphasis on text.

But for uber serious note-takers who rarely use lot of media and neither prefer Keep’s simplicity or Evernote’s complication, but rather a mixture of the two, look at Microsoft’s very own One Note.

[/sws_yellow_box] [sws_button_icon_ui label=”Download Springpad from the Play Store” href=”https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.springpad&hl=en” ui_theme=”ui-smoothness” icon=”ui-icon-circle-arrow-s” target=”_blank”] [/sws_button_icon_ui]

OneNote

Microsoft got it right this time. Almost.

OneNote

I want you take a good look at the screenshots above. Take your time. What do you see? You see a little Microsoft Word.

Microsoft’s biggest strength is, arguably, its Office suite. And with OneNote, the tech giant has made a fine decision to use formatting and document creation to their advantage. And it’s one huge advantage, believe you me. Here are some things you’ll like:

  • Formatting. Formatting. Formatting.
  • Two-level organisation like Evernote’s notebooks and stacks
  • Autosync for SkyDrive Pro users (Office 365 or SharePoint)
  • Interesting Catch-like colour coding (not editable, though)

 

But OneNote has some drawbacks:

  • Not quick, not intuitive
  • Sync is slow at best, even with a pretty good Wifi connection
  • No handwriting features like the once-famous OneNote for PC

 

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The bottomline

OneNote users love a physical keyboard: Microsoft removed support for it in their latest update. That speaks volumes by itself. Also, that says OneNote is extensive enough in its “toolbar-equivalents” that it warrants the use of a physical keyboard.

But OneNote, surprisingly enough, serves as a fine quick note-taking app as well. Sort of like Keep. And the huge notes, formatted to perfection reflect a little Evernote. OneNote is cross between Keep’s simplicity and Evernote’s organisation with Microsoft’s rich text formatting thrown in for good measure. The best of both worlds? Yes, but at a price.

OneNote is laggy. It is slow. OneNote syncs poorly, sometimes not at all, but notes do not exactly go missing, so you’re safe there; they just hesitate to sync every now and then. What is good, though, is Microsoft’s track record in updating OneNote. It has been consistently pleasing and shows good signs of improvement.

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In conclusion

So which is the right note-taking app? Consider this to help you decide: which words best describe your usage and style of note-taking?

  1. Elaborate, extensive, well organised, multiple devices and OSes, liesurely
  2. Media, group sharing, social networking, browsing, bookmarking, heavy tablet usage
  3. Elaborate, organised, formatting, tables, charts etc., multiple devices and OSes
  4. Quick, simple, voice reminders, checklists, write and delete, multiple devices

 

If you picked 1, pick Evernote; 2, try Springpad; 3, OneNote; and 4 Keep.

That should help you choose. If you came here because Catch Notes was discontinued, you’ll enjoy Keep just as much, or you might also like the added advantages OneNote gives you.

So which app did you decide to use?

Share it with us in the comments below.

 Cover image: Taiwan Evernote users meet-up — Flickr/othree 

Evernote vs Springpad vs Catch Notes: which is the note-taking app for you?

Update:

Check out the updated August 2013 comparision

You can also read our detailed comparison with OneNote and Google Keep since Catch notes is being shut down.

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Evernote is arguably the reigning king of note-taking apps across all platforms. While there are several alternatives out there, only two others really stand a chance to challenge Evernote — and perhaps one even takes the throne?

The catch (no pun intended) here is that all three apps cater to different users and usage styles, so this quick review ought to help you decide very briefly which note-taking app is the one you have been looking for: Evernote, Springpad or Catch Notes?

Interested in this comparison?

Then take a look at our detailed, 7-part article series on how you can make your life and work more organised and efficient with Evernote!

Click here to read

As an aside before we head off comparing and chiding, if you have not been using note-taking apps, jump in and do it now. You almost definitely have a smartphone just as you have a passport, and that means you have no excuse for not making the best use of its capabilities.

Read on to find out more.

 Evernote : a big man with a few complications

Evernote for Android

Evernote was, to say the least, the best app of its kind, pioneering and creating a revolution. That was until the others caught up and started making nifty little things on their own. Evernote has since lost most of its trump cards already, but many people are still using it (often because they started with it and have a lot of data backed up.) Here is a quick run-through:

Pros:

  • The best web clipper aroundEvernote UI
  • Integrated into several third-party apps
  • Image search
  • Easy to handle long notes
  • Huge array of options for note-taking
  • Good accompanying widget

Cons:

  • Complicated, lengthy note-taking process
  • Design is not very intuitive
  • Slightly laggy UI
  • Free accounts get 40MB/month, paid account cost $45/year
  • Security is not stellar for free account holders
Download Evernote for Android        Download Evernote for iOS
Wondering about Google Keep?

You have probably heard of Google’s late entry into the party with its own note-taking app, Google Keep. How does it stack up against Evernote, Catch and Springpad? Perhaps Google Keep is the app you were looking for? Find out now!

 Springpad : the Pintrest of note-taking

Springpad for Android

I think Springpad was here before Pintrest, but people seem to compare  how similar it looks to the newer product, especially after the recent re-design. This is, in fact, the simplest definition of Springpad. It has a gorgeous interface laid out like pinboards and makes it a very visual task to manage your notes.

Springpad’s biggest plus, however, is that it takes note-sharing across the web into it’s stride, stamps it flat and makes it its own.

Pros:

  • Looks unique, especially on big screensSpringpad UI
  • Note-taking by type (e.g. Movies, Restaurants etc.)
  • Sharing is integrated beautifully
  • Simple interface to use
  • Especially good for sharing media Pintrest-style
  • Has its own social network to share with

Cons:

  • Design does not stand out on small screens
  • Does not offer a good interface for quick, on the go note-taking
  • Offers nothing radically different from Evernote or others
  • All tags do not appear on all note pages
Download Evernote for Android        Download Evernote for iOS

 Catch Notes : the sweet spot of note-taking

Catch Notes for Android

I use Catch Notes, and, while it is hardly the most feature-filled of the three we are seeing today, it is most definitely everything I need, looks great and (what I believe is most important) does its job in a straightforward manner. Yet, it is all still a matter of personal requirements, mind you.

Pros:

  • Simple, straightforward and easy to useCatch Notes UI
  • Note-taking is quick and hassle-free
  • Tagging feature is integrated beautifully
  • Note sharing or making private are both easily done
  • Looks great, works smooth, reacts beautifully
  • Integrated S-Pen/finger drawing with pressure sensitivity
  • Pass code lock for secure notes
  • Good accompanying widget
  • Checklist notes are a separate type themselves
  • Notes (similar to files) organised under spaces (similar to folders)

Cons:

  • Free account allows 70MB/month with $45 for 1GB/year
  • Re-ordering of spaces is impossible (as of the time of writing this article)
  • Slightly buggy audio memo
  • Integration with third-party apps is fewer than Evernote
Download Catch Notes for Android Download Catch Notes for iOS

Evernote vs Springpad vs Catch Notes — conclusion: which is right for you?

We have seen all the pros and cons of the three apps here, so you may already have made up your mind by now. However, it is often not in the list of specifications but in the feel and working of the app that the real choice hangs from. So here is a quick summary of each app to help you decide.

First of all, all three are cross-platform, all three have web browser integration and all three are safe and handy at all times with a cloud back up. Everything you need is, therefore, ready; what remains is what more you want.

Why Evernote?
If you’re the kind of person who likes to prepare their phone, get things ready and start taking notes — long notes — and then save them up to edit on your computer and turn those into huge documents, picking anything except Evernote would be plain foolish.

If you are a security enthusiast (or alarmist) too, then Evernote is your app. If note take for you comes with enough time to calmly fill in stuff, puff up your note and store it away safely, Evernote is for you.

If you occasionally search by images: shoot something, feed it to your app and ask Evernote to search based on some text in the image, for instance, then you guessed it, you need Evernote. It has Google Goggles style image search that works lags but is tolerable and, nonetheless, usable.

Why Springpad?
If you like to share a lot of media of any kind, be it pictures, videos, web clippings with previews showing, then you’ll love Springpad. If you are looking for something to build personal stuff on, collect things and share with the community, while still keeping a springboard or two exclusively for yourself, then Springpad is the way to go.

Springpad is for the media friendly with a lot of note-taking time and a crazy desire to have their own, personal Pintrest — besides a Pintrest account. Also, if you think you need a feature that lets you look up things automatically (think, enter “Must listen to ‘song name'” and the app draws out the album art, composer, singer etc. from the web) or you wish to categorise notes and look them up by category, then download and stick to Springpad.

Why Catch Notes?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll almost always be going, “Ah, that’s a good idea! I should write that down — dabble with your phone, two clicks,  enter text, one click, forget it —  then Catch Notes is what’s been missing all your life.

Catch Notes is for people who like to take notes and end it at that; nothing more, merely note taking, occasional sharing, and almost always having something at the tip of their tongue to note down hurriedly and let go of without making a huge mountain out of it.

Also, if you own an S-Pen device, Catch Note allows you to keep all your notes in one place by integrating almost all of S Note into its own app. Your own finger? No problem. If you want to keep note taking a side task and not your day job, Catch Notes it is.

So what app have you decided to download? Also take a look at other great recommended apps here and here. [vhb]  Cover Image: Flickr / Johan Larsson 

Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko: a good thing done too late or too early?

ONE OF THE reasons I support Mozilla is because they are open source. I love open source and, like the other billions of people around the world, I prefer everything free. While that is little more than a dream, I believe things like an ad-free user experience, open availability of code and cross-browser/cross-device integration, and boundless development possibilities are terribly important in a wide variety of instances. In this regard, I could only agree with Firefox Senior Director, Johnathan Nightingale, when he said of mobile operating systems and applications, “When you peel back the covers, most… are actually HTML5 with an added veneer for iOS or Android…”

Getting rid of corporate requirements

While Operating Systems like Android are open-source, they are still governed by the requirements of and rules set by a huge corporate like Google. This naturally introduces certain restrictions to web developers. With Boot to Gecko (B2G for short) Mozilla aims to introduce a new mobile operating system that is entirely on the cloud.

 

And when I say entirely, I mean absolutely on the cloud. It’s every millimetre!

If, for instance, you download an Android app and then also buy an iPhone, the app may not be on iOS; or it could be vice versa. The point of B2G is simply to make the OS directly HTML5, sans the company-specific overlays, and make it consistent to all phones. So you have one OS, several phones, and necessarily all applications supported on all phones without exception.

B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems: Mozilla

But this is just one face of the new venture. Initiated last year, on July the 25th, with Dr. Andreas Gal’s ((Director of Research at Mozilla Corporation)) disclosure on the mozilla.dev.platform mailing list, the Boot to Gecko project was started to “pursue the goal of building a complete, standalone operating system for the open web” in order to “find the gaps that keep web developers from being able to build apps that are — in every way — the equals of those native apps that are built for the iPhone, Android, and WP7.”

What does this mean for B2G?

 

The announcement meant new Web APIs to expose device and OS capabilities such as telephony and camera, a privilege model to safely expose these to web pages, applications to prove these capabilities, and low-level code to boot an Android-compatible device. As of now, since these already have ASCII-like standardisation boards ruling over them, Mozilla is yet to negotiate its terms of use before incorporating them into its B2G OS.

B2G's incoming call screen

Mozilla says that ‘B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems.’

Is it too late or too early?

 

The main question bothering me is the absence of a standardisation board in the case of B2G. While it is great to hear that Mozilla — like Google — is standing for the open source-ware, it is also important that we understand that the average user is still unprepared to live in a world of code that is set straight by random people across the world. Personally, I feel a slight regulation is necessary.

This brings us to the hard fact that this is exactly what Android already is! An open-source OS running under the lenient eyes of Google. So is B2G too late? Do we already have a B2G in Android, along with the positive aspects of a controlling authority who, while retaining an eye on security, needs only to cut down on the veneer to infinitely increase developmental possibilities? And if B2G does take centre-stage in the coming days, what about security? How secure will it be?

Take a look at the video below, showcasing the B2G for the first time at the World Mobile Congress (the device used is a Samsung Galaxy II,) and then let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  • What do you think about B2G?
  • Would you switch to B2G if it becomes publicly available, pre-installed?
  • What would you hope to find in B2G that you don’t already find in your mobile OS?
  • How will hardware manufacturers react to the possibility of B2G taking over Android as the crown OS?
  • Will this cause some mobile phone manufacturers to revert to their native OS?

[signoff]

The New Google and Google+

On June the 28th some lucky ones—including me—may have noticed a small tweak in Google’s homepage and most of its services save Gmail. And on Wednesday, this trial feature was formally launched for a larger groups, but still a limited one, of users around the world. Perhaps the most noticeable of these—at least the one that caught my eye—was the black bar at the very top of the page.

“We’re working on a project to bring you a new and improved Google experience, and over the next few months, you’ll continue to see more updates to our look and feel,” said Google’s digital creative director, Chris Wiggins.

Before I explain what Google hopes to achieve from this new look, let’s take a look at Google back in ‘97:

Charmed?

The main difference is that the colourful Google logo has been reduced in size, the search box has been made more prominent and two sets of links have been moved to the top and bottom of the page giving your browser what Wiggins described as a cleaner look.

While this goes quite the extent in making an already minimalist, clean page unnecessarily cleaner, the changes in other parts of Google do have an underlying utilitarian face to them. Wiggins describes these broadly as focus, elasticity and effortlessness.

Focus is perhaps what ought to be—and rightly is—on top of Google’s priority. No matter what they are doing on any of their services, the user’s concentration must effortlessly be able to put its entire self to what it is doing at present.

This shall be achieved in the coming weeks and months over which this gradual alteration shall be made to the users’ comfort by the use of bolder colours for actionable buttons and the possible automated hiding of anything the user will not need, such as the navigation buttons—which will of course re-appear when we do need them. This way the browser area in use will remain uncluttered.

Elasticity is Google’s attempt at fitting their services into all modern forms of technology, not merely the desktop computer or which it was originally intended, as though Google was built natively for that device. It makes one wonder if they forgot they were the ones who created Android in the first place.

The idea is that with the internet slowly becoming accessible from more locations and devices than one, Google should be moulded uniquely to best fit each of these—a tailor-made Google service for every possible alternative to the old desktop.

In fact this brings to my mind a key aspect discussed in Michio Kaku’s latest book Physics of the Future (which I only recently started reading!) where he says we will, in the near future—perhaps by 2030, be able to access the internet from everywhere—our spectacles, clothes, furniture, even our wallpaper. If this is indeed the case—and it looks most likely so—then Google seems to be the one taking the very first steps towards such an elasticity.

Effortlessness is the last of Google’s focii in its make over. How many of us actually put in effort when working on Google? And yet Wiggins explanation seeks to give us just this image.

He says it is Google’s web designing philosophy to combine power with simplicity. We want to keep our look simple and clean, but… use new technologies like HTML5, WebGL and the latest, fastest browsers to make sure you have all the power of the web behind you.

Alongside this, and an experimental feature I have not had the privilege of being included in (though my name still stands on the list of users for the forthcoming inclusion,) is Google’s take at providing internet users a structured social experience via what they call Google+.

Read Google Plus, this is basically a combination of five tools: circles, sparks, hangout, instant upload and huddle.

While it does, arguably, appear like a re-make of most existing services with Google’s signature on them, it seems that their real intention is that, through Google+, real-life sharing has been, in their own words, re-thought for the Web.

In Circles, Google’s version of a contact-storage system, you can group your contacts into suitable groups—what they probably call circles—and chose which group to conveniently share stuff with.

Sparks, like the Zite app, allows Google to monitor the kind of information you share with your contacts and streamline search results to suit your needs better.

In Hangouts, rather than trying to track down people on FaceTime, Skype and Fring, Hangouts lets you tell your friends or “Circles” where you are hanging out and invites them over to hang out with video chat. This will help people in your circles who are now far away to connect in a virtual pool and bring all camaraderie to a virtual conference—another instance straight out of Kaku’s book.

“The way people use and experience the Web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience — one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on.”

Chris Wiggins

Instant Upload is Google’s take on the concept first introduced by Apple’s iOS5 and iCloud. The idea is nothing different: pictures, say, that you click, will instantly get uploaded to a virtual cloud from where you can chose to do whatever is wise with them, like share it with a circle, perhaps?

The last one, Huddle in my opinion, is the only new concept Google has managed to introduce in this bunch. Presently, there is a large wall separating iPhone, BlackBerry and Android users. In spite of Android users making up the largest chunk of the three, there is no way for users of any of these platforms to communicate or chat with the users of any other platform. Huddle closes this gap by introducing its Google+ App for iPhone through which iPhone and Android users can chat cross-OS without the need for an external agent like a chat room or, say, an online application like Google Talk or Yahoo! Chat.

So much for Google+, which, in my opinion, will go on to get the bigger of the two receptions, mostly because the other, updated-design-feature is all too subtle for the daily I-don’t-care-what-your-website-looks-like set of internet users who claim to be around only because content (still) is king.

Very well Mr Wiggins, the world is prepared for the new Google—and I am quite sure three-quarters of the world will not give a damn as to what colour your top bar is, and then again, there is the small lot of us to whom it does make a difference.

My own idea is (and hopefully Google will agree) that even if users do not actually notice the new, black top bar, let alone blog or debate about it, the overall, subtle changes—and the ease and economical use of Google’s services—is something they are sure to notice in the days (or should I say months?) to come. Welcome, new Google!

What do you think of this? A milestone turn in Web 2.0, or another disappointment?