Circus Ponies Notebook 3.0 Review


My ability to resist information management programs ranks right down there with Homer Simpson’s ability to resist doughnuts. I just can’t help myself. As such, when Circus Ponies’ Notebook 3.0 recently released, I was first in line.

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In case you haven’t heard of it, Notebook is … well … a virtual notebook. It creates a digital version of that spiral bound workhorse you grew up using. You can pick the kind of paper, the color, even the type of binding. In addition to this eye candy, Notebook does a lot of things your traditional paper notebook couldn’t. You can clip to your Notebook straight from the web. It also lets you easily create bulleted lists and outlines and links to you data such as address book contacts. You can mark up your pages with a tablet or highlight sections with the highlight tool.

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Version 3.0 adds several additional features including the ability to add and annotate pdf files. This feature is very useful to me although I would have liked it even more if I could use my tablet pen to add highlighting to my imported PDFs. The new version also allows you to create simple diagrams. The diagram tool does not raise to the level of OmniGraffle but if you want to sketch out simple relationships on a notebook page, you are good to go. Another new addition are sticky notes. With this you can paste a tab or sticky note right on your notebook. If your tab hangs off the end of your notebook, you can still see it with the Notebook closed and jump back to that page with just a click. You can also easily publish your notebook to the internet. One of my favorite features in Notebook is its robust indexing. Just about any data you stick in your notebook gets indexed including words, tabs, names, and links.

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Notebook is probably the most mature application available for OS X. It was originally developed for NeXT and then it literally followed the operating system to Apple. That being said, there is a lot of competition for information management applications including online solutions such as Evernote.

I am still trying to sort out exactly the best way to manage my bits of information. I like Evernote but can’t see myself putting all of my data in the cloud. In the past, I’ve used OmniOutliner and Bento to keep information. With its new features, Notebook is now a also a contender. I think the advantage of Notebook is its open flexibility and the ease of use in combining different kinds of data and files. It is not as robust at its individual components as stand alone applications. For instance, the outliner in OmniOutliner is better than that found in Notebook. What makes Notebook special is that you have all of these tools in one place. In writing this review I sent out word to the Twitter nation asking fellow Mac users how they used notebook and got a variety of interesting responses ranging from managing lawsuits to blog posts to wine lists. I think it boils down to personal preference. My wife, for instance, has no interest an outlining program but completely “gets” Notebook. I’ve used Notebook to plan vacations, work projects, and simply to collect ideas. In the end, I don’t think there is any one perfect application for information management. I do think, however, Notebook is an essntial tool in the never ending battle against lost data.

You can download a 30 day trial of Notebook at A license will cost $49.95 and an upgrade from the previous license will cost $19.95. They also have an academic licnse for $29.95. This application would be perfect for a student.

You can listen to this review on Surfbits episode 181.