Developer: neu.Pen LLC
Price: free Download on the App Store
Now and then you happen across an app that gives you something mindbogglingly simple yet so functional that you soon wonder how you ever got along without it. Other times, you happen across an app that leaves out so many no-brainers that you find yourself shouting at your iPad screen like an overly-immersed audience member at a horror movie: "No! Don't go in the basement... *sigh* Why do they always go in the basement..." neu.Notes for iPad is the note taking app that somehow manages to elicit both reactions.
First, let's talk about what neu.Notes for iPad does: it lets you sketch and add hand-written text onto your sketch. You can also import pictures and maps, edit them with different colored brushes (no snazzy special effects,) then export them. One thing to note is that neu.Notes is a vector-based app, rather than a raster "paint" app. This is no big deal when you're working on your iPad—in fact, it's nice because it means that you can zoom in super close without worrying about trying to decipher pixelated notes or a fuzzy mind-map. However, the downside is that if you export the document all the heavy lifting will have to be done in Illustrator or another vector drawing program. In a pinch, you can work on a raster version of your skech by sending it to yourself as a .png.
Here are the mindbogglingly simple yet functional features that makes neu.Notes worthy of a spot in your productivity toolbox. Because neu.Notes is supposed to be a productivity app, not just a quick fingersketching doodle-pad, a lot of attention has been paid to the ability to organize your notes and sketches. You can tag them by name, and you can search the tagged pages in a sketchbook — pretty handy if you've added a lot of pages in a single project. So by virtue of the organizational capabilities, you have indexing built-in, provided you choose "searchable" tag names. For example, if you name your pictures "beach car" and "beach umbrella" within one sketchbook, you can search for "beach" and only find those pages with a beach theme. If you use "umbrella" and "car," however, you're out of luck.
Now for the scream-at-the-screen part. This tagging functionality, useful as it could be if used properly, will still only lead you to a handful of poorly finger-drawn sketches. How hard would it be for neu.Notes to let me choose sketching "modes," and add functionality accordingly? For instance, I want to be able to jump into "recognition" mode, where the app would recognize my handwriting, and produce a rough approximation of the text I entered in an editable text box. I want to slip into "flowchart" mode, and have it square off my imperfectly drawn rectangles, then turn my hand-drawn arrows into "real" ones.
It may sound like I'm asking a lot, but with so many productivity tools on the market new apps have to be remarkable in order to stand out from the crowd. neu.Notes gives you the ability to search through your sketches — just not the power to convert them into professional products. Am I judging this app by what it's not? Perhaps. But a "whimsical" finger-doodling app doesn't belong in the "Productivity" category.
As a productivity app neu.Notes is on the right track. Many users will love neu.Notes exactly the way it is. If you do all of your note taking on the iPad then download this app now, however if you need to work on your notes outside of the app, you'll probably want to do a test run before deciding if neu.Notes is the best app for you.
If you don't have an iPad yet, check out neu.Notes for iPhone. It's been getting top ratings from iPhone users.