Apps for taking notes are a dime a dozen on every app marketplace. The Android Market also has its fare share, from heavyweights like Evernote and Springpad, to the super-light Epistle and Mobisle Notes. As an app developer, then, what do you do to keep yourself and your app relevant against such tough competition?
One way – if you believe the developers of Extensive Notes – is to cram your app with every feature, function, and add-on that one can think of. Let’s take an in-depth look at what makes this mind-numbingly full-featured app unique.
Let’s get one thing out of the way right up – Extensive Notes is not your friendly neighborhood note-taking app that does just one thing. It is quite the opposite, in fact. It tries to do everything there is for an app to do. Want to crunch some numbers? Check. Check your local weather? Check. Convert between units? Check. How about, er, take notes and make lists? Check that too!
Notes list and an open note
Interestingly enough, the buffet of features doesn’t feel too random. Every once in a while I need to calculate my expenses when entering gas costs in my notepad. Or translate a phrase from Italian to save it as a quote. Or convert from feet to meters when entering my height in a form that insists on centimeters instead of inches. Most of Extensive Notes’s features seem to have been well thought out and complement the basic functionality very well.
A demonstration of the well thought out integration can be seen in the way the app allows you to quickly save a discount calculation as a new note. Of course, you can share a note using the standard Android share menu, like pretty much any other app.
The discount calculator and a calculation converted to a note
A very interesting feature that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the ability to read out a note using text-to-speech technology. The first time you click the option, you are taken to a text-to-speech engine on the Android Market, which you will need to download and install. (Sadly I couldn’t try this myself because my phone does not support text-to-speech, but if you were able to get it to work, please share your results in the comments below.)
Notes and Lists
Before moving on to the frills, I would like to get the core functionality out of the way. Extensive Notes is primarily a note-taking app, and a pretty decent one at that. As is the norm with most similar apps now, you can decide between a regular note or a checklist (or to-do list). You can also create an ‘Account’ note, which can contain login details for a website – like your bank or credit card accounts. These notes are password-protected by default. Going a step further, you can also create audio and video notes using the phone’s microphone and camera.
Note types - List and Account
Each type of notes appear under a category for themselves, so it’s easy to quickly view all notes of a certain type at a glance. Everything can be further categorized under custom folders. You need to first create a folder and then move notes into it by editing the note or from the menu that appears when long-pressing a note.
Note types and Folders
The notes themselves are not too thin on features either. The creation and last modified time for each note is saved and is available when viewing the note, as is the character and word count. You can set priority for each note, checklist or each item in a checklist. A note can be set as ‘private’, so that you need to enter a password to access it. You can even add comments to text notes, which could come in handy for writing follow-up comments on something. Furthermore, a note can be geotagged, added to your Google Calendar as an event, translated using Google Translate, or added to the Android notification bar for quick access.
Note details and priority settings
Where Extensive Notes really shines, though, is in features outside the realm of traditional note-taking apps. It feels like the developers just went on a crazy drive to find anything and everything one would want in a mobile app and decided to somehow integrate each function inside Extensive Notes. The rundown is pretty long, so here goes:
Google Translate, inside the note editing interface or as a standalone feature
At least a couple dozen types of conversions; currency, area, bandwidth, time, temperature, you name it!
Media tools like lyrics and album art search, local events, artist info, etc.
A dozen different calculators including, but not limited to, discounts, fitness, mortgage and more
Reference tools like thesaurus, dictionary, recipe search, phrase search and more
A lot of these functions may seem extraneous and unnecessary for an app like this, but there is very much a common thread that binds it all together and ultimately makes Extensive Notes a tool you won’t really need to leave to get something from another app. And if you find yourself getting lost in all the different types of notes and folders, there is a robust search function that should find pretty much anything you need quickly.
More extras - translation and album art search
Although Extensive Notes does a lot of things, it isn’t exactly perfect yet. As can be expected from an app that attempts to do so much, all on the relatively tiny screen of your phone, the interface is not as touch-friendly as you would like it to be. For someone with fat fingers and on a smaller, sub-4 inch screen, it can be quite a challenge to click those links in the top-right corner for accessing notes lists or changing folders and priorities.
Given the plethora of options, it is also very easy to feel totally overwhelmed by all the functions and possibilities. After having spent a good few weeks with the app, I can safely say that I don’t know everything it has to offer, or even what each of the functions do. These are not show stoppers by any means, but have the potential to be deal breakers for some users.
My biggest gripe with the app, though, is the lack of an ability to seamlessly sync your notes with other devices or the web. In today’s world, when cloud storage and backup has become quite ubiquitous – and often trivial as far as implementation is concerned – the inability to let users store and access their notes from anywhere is too big a hole in an otherwise brilliant app. You can Share your notes to Dropbox, but this isn’t enough.
Although the free version of the app seems pretty complete (for lack of a more inclusive word, really), they do offer a Pro version for $1.99. Unfortunately, there’s practically no information available on the market page or within the app about what you get extra apart from access to the app’s settings. I haven’t tried the Pro version – mostly because I can’t seem to have enough of the free version yet – but if you have, any details in the comments section below would be greatly appreciated.