Update: I received some answers and feedback from the developer of SpringNotes, which I have noted below.
SpringNotes is a markdown-based note manager for Mac and iOS that was released last month. There is nothing earth-shatteringly new about the app. It has a fairly typical three-panel layout, with the editor in a large pane on the right, the notes list in the center pane and the library panel on the left. But SpringNotes does have some notable features that taken together make it worth considering, if you’re looking for a new note-taking app in your Apple universe.
The developer’s goal is to make SpringNotes an outliner. There is no question that you can build decent outlines within your notes. But to be clear SpringNotes is not an outliner on the order of OmniOutliner. It is closer to Outlinely, although–as an outliner–it is not yet as capable as Outlinely, though it has other features that Outlinely does not have.
As I write this, the app costs
$10 $6 U.S. (the $10 price I originally quoted is in Australian dollars), which gives you access to the app on your Mac, iPhone and iPad. The developer suggests the price will go up after the introductory period, but the price and when this might happen is not disclosed.
I am writing this review about the Mac version.
Like Bear and a growing number of apps (see my Notejoy post), the markdown you apply in your SpringNotes is instantly rendered. The editor goes to focus mode (without any of the other panels showing) as soon as you begin editing a note.
Any paragraph with content indented beneath it receives a disclosure triangle with the ability to hide or show that indented content. Main headings all receive disclosure triangles, whether the sub-content is indented or not.
It’s easy to restructure your notes by dragging paragraphs around by the little drag handle icons on the far right of the editor. Any child content is also moved along with the parent paragraph.
Inline tasks can be assigned due dates
SpringNotes has what in my experience is a unique method of assigning due dates and priorities to tasks within notes. Swipe left on a designated task to open the task meta-data panel, where you can assign priority, due dates and percent complete.
See all notes with open tasks
You can view all your notes that have uncompleted tasks throughout your library.
You can designate a subset of tasks in a note as a single project by starting the line with a plus sign. When you put a hard end to the paragraph, a circular progress symbol appears along with a disclosure triangle and the next line is indented with a check box. Essentially, this is really a task with sub-tasks, but it is handy and not common in markdown note managers. (See the second screen shot for an example of a project heading with sub tasks.)
Create Groups and Folders
You can organize your notes with tags, and by folders that can be organized into related groups. But don’t try dragging a note onto a group name… the app quits. You need to drag a note onto a folder to move it without issue. SpringNotes supports nesting your folders. (In the first screen shot, you can see a group (software) and a folder (spring notes) in the library panel.)
Several export options
Export your notes as PDF, RTF, HTML, or JSON documents.
The app automatically saves periodic versions of your note, which you can roll back to if necessary.
The missing feature that stands out the most—especially these days—is a lack of linking options. You can’t even embed links via regular markdown syntax. I have sent an inquiry to the developer to learn if there are plans to add this functionality. When I hear back, I’ll update this review. (Update: The developer has informed me that linking is on his radar, but that it is not yet on his todo list.)
Linking and backlinking is a useful and even necessary feature if you’re creating a lot of granular notes. In an app like SpringNotes, it may be less important. It is clear that SpringNotes is made to create longer notes about a single subject. I’d still like to see linking in SpringNotes, but I don’t think it is as crucial as it would be in other apps.
TOC not an outline
This shortcoming isn’t really a complaint, but I am pointing out a “feature” that isn’t nearly as robust as it could be. When editing a note, there is an “outline” button in the upper right (the four circles), which is supposed to reveal the structure of your note as an outline. In practice what you get is just a listing of your main headings. So there is no revelation of the hierarchy of your note. Essentially then, this feature is really just a table of contents for your note. This might be useful, but it isn’t an outline.
The Bottom Line
SpringNotes grew on me as I wrote this review with it. A quick check of the app on my iPhone shows that the sync worked well, and it appears to be well-designed.
SpringNotes sits on the spectrum of markdown note-takers somewhere between Bear (it isn’t as polished) and NotePlan (it has fewer task management features, among other things). You might want to check it out if you like Bear, but need something with a bit more task-management power and you have no need of wiki-style links.
Update: The developer of SpringNotes appears to be highly responsive and eager to make the app excellent. He responded quickly to some of my slight criticisms of SpringNotes and has already fixed them or has corrections in the works.