Notebook vs. Notetaker


I just took the plunge, adding a MacBook to the PCs in my life. I made this purchase mostly to take advantage of the apparently better writing/outlining software available for Mac – and, of course, Scrivener is at the top of my list.

But I’m also looking at a general purpose note taking program. I like what I’ve seen about Circus Ponies NoteBook, but it seems almost identical to Aquaminds NoteTaker. I’m wondering if anyone here can offer up some pros and cons of each of these. Is there a substantive difference between the two? If not, does one support more rapid development and/or better customer responsiveness?

Thanks in advance for any words of wisdom.

Both of these programs came from the same application back in the NeXT days, I believe, hence the similarity. It is amusing just how similar they are, all the way down to the marketing and registration techniques. Personal opinion aside (as they do offer enough difference to cater to slightly different audiences), I have heard that Notebook gets much better development attention and is more carefully designed. NoteTaker tends to be more “feature happy”, including things and never properly integrating them or making sure all of the bugs are worked out. There are many more happy Notebook users and Notetaker users, from what I can discern.

But I would recommend looking around a bit further before making a decision on either. There are a bounty of applications like these two for the Mac, and depending on what you need, they might be better options. MacJournal, Mori, Journler, DEVONnote, VoodooPad, just to mention a few; these are all priced roughly equivalent (Journler is donationware for now, but is going shareware soon), and they all have their own unique flavours, advantages, and disadvantages.


Thank you for the feedback. I’m relieved to read that Notebook is generally considered a stronger application, because it is also $20 cheaper.

I have looked at some of the other note taking programs, but I use OneNote on the PC and like the notebook metaphore. However, I will look at those other programs again based on your comments.

Thanks, again.



I have most of the apps AmberV mentioned (I don’t have MacJournal) and find that Circus Ponies’ Notebook is indeed the closest to OneNote. It isn’t a feature-by-feature equivalent, though, so perhaps you might consider making a list of the features you do use and matching those to the apps out there for Macs. I’ve being using Notebook for a couple of years and find it very useful. I do, however, keep most of my research in Devonthink Pro because of the sheer volume of PDFs I have.

I’m a happy Notebook user. I have a slightly different use for it: I’m a law student and I use it for taking lecture notes (I really like the feature to record voice and sync the recording to what you are typing) and also for compiling end of year course summaries for exam preparation.

I have always found it extremely well supported and the forums really helpful. For example, a few months back there was an issue with the recording feature tied to a Quicktime update Apple had made. The developers were very responsive, explained the problem, and suggested workarounds until Apple patched the problem with Quicktime. They even emailed me to let me know once Apple released the fix so I would be informed.

Thank you for the further input. Notebook sounds like a fine application. I like the indexing feature. That seems very useful… something OneNote does not have.

I’ve read good things about DevonThink, as well. Seems to me that Notebook, DevonThink and Scrivener might all complement one another.

How much information are you storing? And are you storing just your own notes, or extensive clips from other sources? How broad is the topic area?

For hundreds or thousands of PDF files, DevonThink/Pro/Office is the way to go. It handles large volumes far better than anything else I’ve tried.

For small to medium-sized collections of data, and especially for a topical or chronological collection of your own notes, Notebook has a lot of nice features. For instance, I like the three-pane Cornell notes pages for language studies (Language A, Language B, and vocabulary notes each get their own section.), and the outlining capability is nice for switching between the big picture and individual subtopics.

I don’t use Scrivener for information collection, just for writing. I’ve found that it and DevonThink do their respective tasks so well that it makes more sense to use both than to try to merge both their functions.

Lots of people like Tinderbox for notetaking as well. I remain ambivalent about it, but it might be worth a look.



Thank you for your thoughts about DevonThink and Notebook… I see them as complementary programs. Notebook for jotting notes and project-oriented organization, and DevonThink as a recepticle for documents I want to keep track of for whatever future purposes. Do you you think that would be a waste of resources. Can DT handle quick note taking and information capturing the way Notebook can?

Thanks, again!


I seem to have spent a fortune on this stuff over the years, and have everything. Latest buy Journlr, which is interesting but seems buggy and my pointing this out doesn’t get any replies on the forum (I can’t read stuff I import in the preview screen so it is quite a bug).

Notebook is nice but because I regularly switch from Mac Pro to one of two laptops it’s important for me to keep all this info synced between the machines. The easiest way to do this is through .Mac. Soho Notes, which has just released a new version, actually does this very well, and can manage parent and child folders. It’s slightly quirky but may be worth considering - you can set up short cuts that simply grab stuff direct to individual folders too.

What are the notes about? If they are research materials themselves, such as interview notes or notes on your reading, I would pull them into DT so that they’ll be searchable along with the rest of your DT database. If they are organizational, such as project planning or administrative details, I would keep them in Notebook.

Both DT and Notebook can handle notetaking; the difference seems to me to be philosophical. DT gives you a barebones RTF document. It doesn’t have “special” tools for notetaking, but it puts your notes in a database where you can bring all of the considerable power of DT to bear. Notebook gives you much fancier tools for the information capture phase, but IMO isn’t as good for the retrieval phase.