I was flipping through apps last night in the remaining few minutes before the end of the Olympics and decided to check out Noteshelf, an app I had downloaded but I hadn’t really used yet. I don’t have much use for note-taking apps; I’m not in meetings a lot (thankfully) and the ones I do go to rarely require notes, and at conferences I either just listen or have my laptop.

Noteshelf appears to be your fairly straightforward note taking app: a blank screen onto which you can write using your finger. At the top is a toolbar but not an obtrusive one. Seemed fine. But as I played around with it a bit, I realized that it hides a good amount of power and versatility.

The ink colors and sizes are numerous. You can write freehand or type, as well as include pictures or stamps. But the real power comes from the paper. The paper choice didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was the built in templates. So of course you had your legal pad, your parchment, etc. but also, for instance, a ready made shopping list, a baseball scoresheet, a meeting notes template, and music sheets.

You can also build custom paper, which I did with the iPad camera. I was playing Scrabble with my son and figured I’d try to make a digital Scrabble score sheet. So I took a picture of the score sheet and imported it into Noteshelf. Immediately the problem of precision arose, i.e. it was difficult to write easily in the little boxes the numbers I needed to. But Noteshelf has a rather elegant solution to this. They have a magnifying glass that produces a magnified box at the bottom of the screen in which you can write with more precision. The box appears over the regular sized view so you can move it around with your finger, but this magnifying feature made it quite easy to write clearly (and you can see the difference in the pic below between the pre-box writing and the box writing).

So among all of those notetaking apps, I would put Noteshelf up there. One of those rare products that seems to find that line btween simple and complicated: not too much of either (and hopefully will stay that way).

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