ThinkBook gets a face lift, more

[Update: It occured to me that this article needed a screenshot of a ThinkBook outline. Now it does.]

ThinkBook is a nifty iPad app for taking notes and planning projects. You can create notebooks, pages, notes, todos, questions and other items using the unique slider feature. It also is smart with the types of gestures you need to re-organize your information. You can see the slider in action on the developer’s website (note that at the time of this writing the videos used the previous version of ThinkBook, so the look of the app will be different, but the action of the slider is still pretty much the same).

ThinkBook on my home page, featuring the various notebooks I've created. Note the slider on the right (the little triangular thingy), which you tap to bring up the menu of various item types that you can add to your notes.

ThinkBook on my home page, featuring the various notebooks I’ve created. Note the slider on the right (the little triangular thingy), which you tap to bring up the menu of various item types that you can add to your notes.

The app also has some other nice features, like making it easy to create custom dashboards which pull information from your various notes based on criteria you set. ThinkBook just recently got a major update, which mostly revolves around getting the UI to conform more closely to iOS 8 standards.

But it has also received a few new wrinkles. The primary one is that it is now a universal app (that is “universal” in Apple parlance, which means that it can run on an iPad and on an iPhone/iPod Touch). Along with this comes the option to synchronize selected pieces of data (whole notebooks, just pages, or only notes) via iCloud (requires a $3.99 in-app purchase).

In order to perform this operation, you need to first create an equally named item on each of your devices. This is slightly awkward, I think. First, you need to create same-named items on both your iPad and iPhone. So, for instance, if you have a page on your iPad called “Weekly Meeting,” you need to create the same page on your iPhone. As soon as you do, you get a prompt that a sync is waiting. This works fine, but it discourages you from having all your notes on all devices, though it doesn’t make it impossible. (I believe that if you synchronize at the top level notebook, all the sub-content will sync too.) But you also need to be careful that you keep your notes uniquely named. So, you’d probably want to name that meeting note something like “Meeting – week of May 11, 2015” so you don’t run into a problem next week.

Still, this syncing does seem to work fine, and it helps slightly to alleviate one of the problems with ThinkBook, which is that it is kind of out there on an island of its own. You can export notes in what I’d call the usual iOS ways, but there isn’t much other cross-app integration. ToDos are not saved to your Apple reminders. There is no way to use your information efficiently on your Mac (let alone your PC), other than exporting chunks of it at a time. At least now you can create notes on your iPhone and view them on your iPad and vice versa. That’s something.

If ThinkBook had a Mac client, then it would be my go-to information manager, I think — that’s how much I like it otherwise.

Creating nice looking and useful outlines is easy in ThinkBook.

Creating nice looking and useful outlines is easy in ThinkBook.

Another nice feature of ThinkBook is that it is a pretty handy outline builder, so if you’re looking for that functionality on your iPad and iPhone, you should take a look at it.

One other note about ThinkBook: The app is now free, though it features several in-app purchases. Some of these are just cosmetic features, but I bought them anyway to support the developer.

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