I love note-taking apps. Having been an Evernote user for many years and not liking the recent changes, I decided to look for an alternative to Evernote. I came across a beautiful note-taking app called UpNote. I tried it and purchased the lifetime access for a very reasonable price of $15. If you are unfamiliar with UpNote, this review will give you a complete overview of using the app on the iPad. I highlight some differences between the iPad, desktop and iPhone apps.
What is the UpNote app?
The UpNote app is a cross-platform note-taking app. It is available for Mac, iPhone, iPad and Windows devices. We can use the app offline, and it syncs automatically between devices.
The Android app of the UpNote App was recently launched!
First impressions and appearance
The UpNote app is a beautiful note-taking app. It is pleasing to look at and can be customised to your liking by choosing a theme. There are three themes to choose from, dark, light or system-based. Each of these options has different colour options.
When you open the app, you will see a list of your notes on the left side, with the active note on the right. The sidebar will open up if you click on the hamburger menu in the top left corner.
The sidebar (on the left)
The sidebar contains a heading for all notes, and under it To Dos – which includes any note with a checklist – and any uncategorised notes. Below this, you will find the quick access heading. A starred note appears under the quick access heading.
Below the quick access section is a notebook heading. All your notebooks will be listed under this heading. Nested notebooks are indented in the list of notebooks.
Under the notebook section, there is a link to the trash can. To see the notes you have deleted, click on the trash link.
The top menu
The top menu offers a drawing icon (to add a handwritten note or sketch to your document) and a pin to pin a note to the top of the notes list. Click the star to add a note to the sidebar for quick access.
Next to these items, there is an ellipsis and when you click on it, it will open up a menu with items such as typography, note duplication, note export, note sharing, moving the note to trash. At the bottom of this menu, you can click to find backlinks to the note or to copy the link to the specific note.
In the typography option, UpNote gives you different fonts to choose from. UpNote includes a set of standard fonts; you cannot upload your own fonts. You can change the font size and the line spacing in your document. My experience in using the app for a few days showed that the font you choose will apply to all notes in the app – you cannot change the font per document or even per paragraph in a document. For me this is not a significant limitation, but others may prefer using a range of fonts when formatting a document.
Upnote offers a variety of export options, including text, PDF, markdown and HTML. I tested exporting to a PDF document and it the formatting was perfect!
Creating a notebook
There are two options for creating a notebook:
- If the sidebar is open, you can click on the + next to notebooks to add a new notebook.
- You can click on the little notebook in the notes’ column (left bottom corner if the sidebar is closed) to see all your notebooks. To create a new notebook, click on the + in the top right corner.
You can choose from a range of beautiful notebook covers in the app, or you can import a picture from your camera roll for a notebook cover. You can create nested notebooks by creating a new notebook within an existing notebook.
Creating a note and notes organisation
After creating a notebook, you can click on the pen icon in the notes’ column to create a new note in the selected notebook. There is no limit to the number of notes you can create in UpNote. Notes are added to notebooks or nested notebooks. You can sort notes on the iPad by dragging and dropping the notes in the order you want.
The note-taking experience in the UpNote app
You will find an information button at the bottom right of a note. Click on this will show you the word count, number of sentences, paragraphs, etc. The display includes the creation date and the last update made to the note. The date created is coloured, and you can change the date created by clicking on the date and changing it.
You can find the notebook name and a notebook icon to the left of the information button. You can add or remove the note to any notebook on the list by clicking on the notebook icon.
Below this, you will find a formatting menu bar. The standard options to bold, underline or make text italic exist, and you can add 3 pre-set heading sizes. The standard alignment options exist for text, including left-handed, right-handed and centred alignment. You can also change the colour of the font to a limited selection of colours. Creating an ordered or unordered list is easy in UpNote. You also have an undo and redo buttons. Further, text can be indented and added spaces while working on a note. Text can also be highlighted to set a range of colours. UpNote allows you to write in focus mode by removing the sidebar, list of notes and menu options.
Additions to documents
There are several options for adding items to your note. You can access these options by clicking the + block on the bottom left. Additions you can make to your note:
- Scan directly from UpNote and add the scanned item to your notes.
- Add attachments to any note. If you do an attachment, it will be available at the bottom of the note.
- Insert pictures taken from your camera or roll to any note.
- Add a code block to a note.
- Insert a table into your note
Using tables in the UpNote App
Although the functionality to add a table to a note exists in UpNote, you cannot format it fully. You can, for example, not change the colours of cells, but you can add or delete rows and columns. In addition, you cannot select one entire column at a time to change the text to a specific column.
Adding a drawing or handwritten note to your note
You can click on the pen icon in the top menubar to insert a drawing into a note. The drawing facility looks similar to Apple Notes and offers the same functionality, which includes:
- The regular handwriting options, including writing with a pen in any colour, highlighting, erasing either an object or pixels
- There is a slightly sluggish lasso tool.
- If you finish writing or drawing, you must click on done to add the notepad to your note. If you click the cancel option, it will instantly delete the item.
- A ruler tool is available to draw straight lines and can be moved around using two fingers.
Bi-directional linking in Upnote
These features drew me to Upnote. UpNote allows you to link notes and sections of notes to other notes. To link notes to each other, use the double bracket ([]) notation, and a list of notes will pop up for you to choose from for your link. If you refer to a note that does not exist, UpNote will automatically create the note. To see the backlinks for any note, you have to access the ellipsis in the top right (…) where the backlinks will be listed. You can also find the link to the specific note in the same menu.
On the iPad and iPhone, you can link to a section in a note by making it a heading. To get the link to a heading, click on the heading menu, and the link option is on the right. I did struggle to create a hyperlink in Upnote.
Markdown in UpNote
The standard markdown syntax applies for using markdown in Upnote.
Multi-tasking in the UpNote App
You can use UpNote with a split screen on the iPad, but you cannot have two notes open side-by-side.
Security and back-ups of notes
UpNote allows you to lock access to the app or each notebook individually. You cannot choose where to save your notes. UpNote does not allow you to save to iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive. Based on the feedback from the developer, this is because the app is a cross-platform app that needs to cater for people using any of the platforms.
Differences in using the app on the iPad and the MacBook
I love using UpNote on the iPad, but the experience on a MacBook is even better!
There are several differences between using the app on the iPad versus the MacBook:
- Tables are much easier to format on the desktop app
- On a desktop, you can choose to have an “always-on” for your notes to help you take notes during conferences and work sessions
- You can import markdown notes and notes from Evernote on the desktop version through the general settings menu. This is a premium feature.
- You can save your searches in the search bar by clicking the save search icon in the search bar. It will save your searches in the sidebar.
- The desktop app allows you to sort your notes by various options. You can do this by clicking the ellipsis (…) next to the middle column where notes are listed. A menu will pop up and you can choose from sorting notes by date created, updated or alphabetically (or in reverse). You can sort notes by dragging and dropping them to the desired position in the list of notes, similar to how you do it on the iPad app.
- The desktop version has a variety of keyboard shortcuts to make using UpNote easier.
The free version of UpNote is functional and depends on your needs. You may not have to upgrade to the premium version. You can upgrade to the premium version for $0.99 a month or get lifetime access for $14.99.
UpNote app review and ratings
UpNote is a functional note-taking app. Most of the normal text formatting options are available but some of the more advanced functionality for tables, for example, is a bit limited. The bidirectional linking is a plus for a tool of this price but hyperlinking on the iPad is challenging. Although it offers some handwriting functionality, it is limited. The UpNote app offers excellent value for the money.
If you need a simple note-taking app, consider Google Keep!
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