I attend, watch and listen to lectures everyday. As a student, I find that if you jot down notes as fast as humanly possible during a lecture, you’ll be able to get the most information out of a lecture written down — and that’s especially important for me if I want to ace a semester exam.
For that to happen, every lecture I go to, I always bring my iPhone with me, because it’s small enough to take anywhere, handy, and fast enough that I don’t have to fumble around with extra power cords or worry about WiFi connectivity. On the iPhone, I use Simplenote to its fullest capacity to write down all my lecture notes.
With Simplenote — and almost every other writing app made for the iPhone — I found that the amount of time it takes to unlock the phone, launch the app and pre-sync all my notes is enough time for me to write a couple more key notes down. I find that annoying, especially when an admired lecturer of mine passes me down a corridor to give me a few extra tidbits of knowledge: scrambling to reach the phone, fumbling to unlock and waiting for that pre-sync. All that whilst trying to listen intently, holding it in my memory, and as soon as I begin to write, I try to unjumble the once-meaningful message that favoured lecturer of mine just gave me as they disappear.
Here at The Industry, we’ve taken a look at apps that solve this problem. Since we’re lovers of great design, and we all know that great design solves a problem in its process, we’re now here to take a look at the newest, and most recently launched app by the guys that brought you Ego: Scratch for the iPhone.
What I love about Scratch:
The app’s visual design is both unique and vivid, and qualities like that completely sell an app to me. If you take a look at the screenshots above, Scratch features an aqua-green color scheme, which makes the app’s look stand out from all my others. The app also has slick animations (saving a file shrinks the text area and ‘shoots’ into the history icon) which give the app a nice touch (pun intended).
Also, the rounded app edges give the app a nice ‘compact’ feel to it, too, giving the impression that it’s both lightweight yet purposeful at the same time. Just staring at Scratch’s user interface is enough to get me jotting notes down.
Since the app is both visually clean, navigating within the app should be simple. Also, for a quick-input writing app to be successful, the keyboard and the text area should be ready for you on launch — and that’s what Scratch does. Aside from that, on startup, Scratch features three simple buttons on its aqua-green styled toolbar above the keyboard. The buttons perform simple, common tasks (from left to right: Save/New note, Note history, and Share), but swiping to the left reveals more features.
Scratch’s toolbar is insanely fun to use. As stated before, swiping across the toolbar reveals more of Scratch’s abilities, and it contains four sections of which I’ve named as follows: ‘Settings’ (swipe to the right at startup), ‘The common tasks,’ ‘the extended keyboard’ (more on this in a bit) and the ‘Markdown tools.’ The toolbar can also be swiped down to hide the keyboard so you can read your text in a taller viewport.
The extended keyboard is great. Apps like iA Writer use this to their advantage, and to quickly format Markdown easier. But Scratch takes this even further, because the extended keyboard is entirely customizable (you can tap and hold a key and then tap another key on the keyboard to replace it). That also means, you get to write quicker.
Dropbox syncing, file appending, selectable exporting, tweeting, messaging, and emailing — the fact that Scratch can do all this (mainly the Dropbox file appending) is great. I can take my notes everywhere, quickly append a shopping list, or log a list of Twitter drafts. It’s perfect for my workflow.
Markdown support is awesome. I live and breathe in Markdown, and support for it in Scratch gets this app some extra love from me.
Bonus points: Sometimes, an app’s icon “previews” its design (yep, I’m talking about you, Notes, Reminders and Find my Friends), and Scratch’s does exactly that. Plus, the aqua-green stands out so well that if I squint and I happen to need to jot down a note, I can tell which icon I need to tap. (If that ever happens.)
Not so much love for these:
Dropbox appending is great, but at times I don’t get how it’ll work. I’m not sure if means it will append my changes (I often hit back older notes and append some changes) or if it’ll append the entire text area. A perfect solution for this should be the option to enable Dropbox file editing. Something akin to iA Writer or PlainText.
It should have Simplenote sync. I have a database of notes synced to Simplenote, which is then synced to Dropbox only for the purpose of editing it through Scratch and Notational Velocity. If there was some way for Scratch to work well with Simplenote, provided that I didn’t need to use Dropbox, then Scratch would function far better than the rest of the other writing apps tailored for on-the-go portability.
And lastly, I actually thought hard if I should include font-customization as a suggestion for criticism. And indeed it is true; I’m a sucker for font-customization. I sometimes prefer writing in sans-serif for some notes, and serif for others. But it may be because I’m a font geek and I could be totally biased.
But in summary
I now use Scratch more than my other writing apps (in total, I have about 5 writing apps, excluding Notes) on my iPhone. Its speedy, navigable, well-designed user interface is what triumphs over the rest. And Scratch is indeed a well-designed solution to a simple problem.
So go check out Scratch on the App Store for $2.99.