Digital Note Showdown | Part 1: Springpad

I recently saw this video, a first look at the new Springpad features by Robert Scoble. More found here.

This convinced me to sit down and not only give Springpad another chance, but rethink my whole digital note-taking strategy. This in turn inspired me to write this series.

I really like the idea of Springpad. Really like it. However, when I sat down and gave it another go the other day after they released a whole slew of updates I was severely disappointed. I have two main gripes (which cover most aspect of the program); 1. Usability 2. Quick Adding.

Let me address both points. Firstly and foremost, I hate that there is no downloadable app for PC. No proper Chrome extension, no desktop client. Don’t get me wrong, I love web apps, but when my patience is tested by one for no valid reason, I am left thoroughly unimpressed. Sure this recent pivot to a more social experience seems suited to the web, however I am constantly confronted with lag. Lag to load pages, lag to add notes, lag to open a note. Why so much lag? It just results in an unresponsive UI. My internet connection may not be the fastest, but I don’t struggle with any of the Google Apps, that is certain.

Now maybe I am being too harsh, so let us ignore this apparent unresponsiveness. How about the amazing semantic ‘Quick Add’ feature? Now as far as I know, this feature IS the draw card for Springpad. So why is it tucked in the top right corner, barely larger than my email displayed above it? I want it front and centre; supersized. Now, the general functioning of the ‘Quick Add’, in my experience, can be described as mediocre. In most use cases, it has required an initial prompt to add context to my search term. For example, while trying to plan an evening for my 2 year anniversary with my girlfriend, I tried adding the restaurant and movie theatre I decided on. This either returned nothing, or places in foreign countries. When I ‘searched the web’ and looked for ‘places’, it was able to find the venues. Why doesn’t the geolocate work straight from the omnibar? Once these two notes were added to my notebook, I was less than impressed by the metadata provided too. Sure, it was able to show me a Google map of where the places are, but there was no link to their websites, menu or movie times. Phone numbers, foursquare tips and Yelp reviews were all present and welcome, however I expected more from Springpad’s key feature.

I haven’t had a chance to use the new social features much yet, but I’m still optimistic about their implementation. Almost anything will beat Evernote’s (free) collaboration attempt.

Finally, here is a run down of the key points.

Springpad

Pros

  • Quick Add is great when it works and adds useful metadata
  • Lots of social features with proper privacy controls!
  • Universal
Cons
  • Very disappointing user experience
  • Quick Add could still use some fine tuning
  • Notebooks default to Public

Stay tuned for the rest of the series where I will cover Pinterest, Evernote, Plaintext, and my personal preference!

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