Circus Ponies Notebook part II: the iPad version

Recently, I was chatting to kylera at MacRumors who pointed out that my previous post on Circus Ponies Notebooks didn’t contain much information about the iPad app. While I’m very happy with the mac version of CPN, the iPad version is a bit of a different animal. Therefore, I thought I’d add some information on the iPad version, for those considering purchasing both.

On the good side:

The main added advantage of the iPad app, for my purposes, is that all my academic notes are always with me. I primarily use the CPN iPad app as a reader, and the iPad is the device that always stays with me (my Air is usually left at home or in my office). While the developers don’t offer a seamless sync option, I’ve used MacDropAny to set up automatic sync between my mac and DropBox, which means that my mac and iPad versions of CPN are always in sync. I should add, though, that my notes primarily consist of text, so I can’t say much about how well notes pages with tables, images and elaborate formatting sync between the two operating systems. With text, I sometimes encounter differences in line spacing, but apart from that I haven’t had any sync issues.

The iPad version also offers a rich feature set, such as multiple notebooks, an outliner with check boxes and priority status, multi font text, attachments, key words, diagrams, voice annotated notes, PDF import, dividers, and a multidex (see my previous post for more details on some of these features). Navigating through the different sections is easy, and export as PDF as well as by email were recently added. As iPad apps for note taking go, that’s a pretty decent set up.

On the disappointing side:

Hand writing on the iPad app is a non starter. Not smooth at all, and no zoom window. For hand writing, I always turn to Notability (and integrate it later into CPN as a pdf file, if it needs to be added to my other notes).

There are no writing pages, only notes pages (see my previous post on the difference between the two). I find this quite annoying, partially because I just don’t understand why such a seemingly simple feature isn’t offered in the iPad version, and partially because this is the only type of page I use. As a work around, I keep a ‘default writing page’ in each of my notebooks, which I then copy and paste if I want to add a writing page in the iPad version.

Having said that, typing on the iPad version also is not that smooth, compared to a lot of my other note taking apps on the iPad. Basic things like placing the cursor is sometimes a pain, and it can be a little bit sluggish. However, your mileage may vary –  if you do a google search, you will find mixed opinions on this.

In sum:

In spite of being slightly over priced, I think the iPad version is worth the money if you are buying it in conjunction with the mac version. If you’re just looking for a note taking app for your iPad and don’t require anything that syncs to mac, I would look elsewhere – Notability, 7NotesHD or Noteshelf would be good places to start. If hand writing is not important to you and you want cross plat form sync, Evernote is an obvious choice.

Related posts on this blog:

Academic note taking: Evernote versus Circus Ponies Notebooks

Reviewing Literature with Circus Ponies Notebooks

Circus Ponies Notebook Part III: Organising review notes with Notes Pages

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2 Responses to Circus Ponies Notebook part II: the iPad version

  1. I’m curious if you’re still using the iPad version of CPN, and whether it has improved or gotten worse…I get the sense from recent App Store reviews that a recent upgrade has been pretty buggy. I have CPN for Mac (just switched from Aqua Minds Notetaker, which is based on the same code, but was not getting updated) and am on the fence about getting the iPad version.

    • macademise says:

      I use CPN for iPad for reference purposes. I don’t always have my Air with me, so I sync all my outlines to my iPad via DropBox, so that I can consult them if I don’t have my Air close by.

      These days it’s very rare that I use the iPad app to take notes (I used it more when I first purchased it), part of that is that is because I don’t think it’s as smooth to navigate as many other note taking apps, part of it is my current ‘division of labour’ for what kind of information goes where, and part of it is that I find myself using my iPad less for writing these days. I’ve been falling into the typical “mac for production, iPad for consumption” pattern, mainly because I use multitasking and side by side views a lot on my mac and find that this really aids my workflow.

      So, I guess it depends on whether you generally use your iPad much in situations where your mac isn’t around? If you don’t, I’m not sure I’d say it’s worth the investment at this point – it’s not an awful app, but it’s not great, either. I really wish they’d do some more work on the iPad version because as a general outline tool I think the CPN mac version is pretty awesome.

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