Circus Ponies Notebook 3.0 Review

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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 9420 w.png

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 circusponies.com. 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.

30 Comments Circus Ponies Notebook 3.0 Review

  1. finis@technoesq.com

    You know you can use your tablet within Notebook 3.0 now right? It works with Leopard’s handwriting recognition to recognize handwriting and also allows you do draw directly onto the page. Customize your toolbar and add the pen tool, then have fun!

    Reply
  2. finis@technoesq.com

    You know you can use your tablet within Notebook 3.0 now right? It works with Leopard’s handwriting recognition to recognize handwriting and also allows you do draw directly onto the page. Customize your toolbar and add the pen tool, then have fun!

    Reply
  3. finis@technoesq.com

    You know you can use your tablet within Notebook 3.0 now right? It works with Leopard’s handwriting recognition to recognize handwriting and also allows you do draw directly onto the page. Customize your toolbar and add the pen tool, then have fun!

    Reply
  4. finis@technoesq.com

    You know you can use your tablet within Notebook 3.0 now right? It works with Leopard’s handwriting recognition to recognize handwriting and also allows you do draw directly onto the page. Customize your toolbar and add the pen tool, then have fun!

    Reply
  5. finis@technoesq.com

    You know you can use your tablet within Notebook 3.0 now right? It works with Leopard’s handwriting recognition to recognize handwriting and also allows you do draw directly onto the page. Customize your toolbar and add the pen tool, then have fun!

    Reply
  6. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    I too am looking into software for information management and have just bought a license for the software Tinderbox. And was just wondering if you are aware of it.

    Reply
  7. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    I too am looking into software for information management and have just bought a license for the software Tinderbox. And was just wondering if you are aware of it.

    Reply
  8. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    I too am looking into software for information management and have just bought a license for the software Tinderbox. And was just wondering if you are aware of it.

    Reply
  9. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    I too am looking into software for information management and have just bought a license for the software Tinderbox. And was just wondering if you are aware of it.

    Reply
  10. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    I too am looking into software for information management and have just bought a license for the software Tinderbox. And was just wondering if you are aware of it.

    Reply
  11. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    Sorry, I realized that my post above wasn’t very informative. You can see an explanation of Tinderbox here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-djSAmKbMQY Their site is here: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

    Despite buying the accompanying book Tinderbox Way before I downloaded a trail of the software (not something I recommend. Just download and read the manual provided first), I can’t say a great deal about it. Perhaps it is the case with such pioneering software. I’m very much a newbie. Though I wasn’t at first draw to the software by the book analogy on youtube for justification of the program, I guess it does make sense when you think about the idea of “world building” – which I was drawn to as a concept. And though books are a great medium when thinking about world building, I guess it is better to see it more in the sense of an infinite space not unlike the internet itself. And not forgetting that immense infinite space of thought within your head. I guess the best way to describe Tinderbox is an attempt to bring the two worlds together on your computer – neural networks meets hypertexting.

    On researching this product before buying, I read that it has a step learning curve which can put people off. If it does have such a thing, then I’ve yet to be hit by it: I’ve just got on and done what I immediately need it to do – which is perhaps something that doesn’t require confronting the learning curve yet. Though I look forward to that challenge, if and when it comes.

    I guess it pays to start simple. At present I have not used the software for much other than creating VERY basic notes (the whole program is based around creating and taking notes) for certain websites that I visit each week to get news and general cultural and political commentary and which I want to keep a track of, and further to think about them both here and now and perhaps more importantly, in the future. As Mark Berstein, the creator of Tinderbox, has quoted as saying, creating notes is something you do for your future self and other people. How wonderfully provocative is that.

    I have to say I’m impressed. If not only that the software has enabled me to free up hard disc space. Previously, I would download every page to my hard disc that I wanted to read every week – how primitive is that – taking up valuable space. Now I don’t have to do this. Instead I create a note which has the article title and author and the note contains a hyperlink (URL) to the website. In addition I have a note space in which I can make comments on or about the article it references – great. It really facilitates and enhances thinking and “world building”. You can also link notes to notes within Tinderbox to make connections between them. I guess it is one big hyperlink program combined with a relational database which also has the facility to create very elaborate mind maps to facilitate thinking and understanding and “world building”.

    I’ve also just noticed that there is a real price difference between Tinderbox and Circus Ponies Notebook: Tinderbox is a lot more expensive. So I guess buying this software is not for the faint-hearted. Though I’ve yet to tap its full potential – and perhaps I never will – on the surface it appears to be a great “little” application.

    Reply
  12. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    Sorry, I realized that my post above wasn’t very informative. You can see an explanation of Tinderbox here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-djSAmKbMQY Their site is here: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

    Despite buying the accompanying book Tinderbox Way before I downloaded a trail of the software (not something I recommend. Just download and read the manual provided first), I can’t say a great deal about it. Perhaps it is the case with such pioneering software. I’m very much a newbie. Though I wasn’t at first draw to the software by the book analogy on youtube for justification of the program, I guess it does make sense when you think about the idea of “world building” – which I was drawn to as a concept. And though books are a great medium when thinking about world building, I guess it is better to see it more in the sense of an infinite space not unlike the internet itself. And not forgetting that immense infinite space of thought within your head. I guess the best way to describe Tinderbox is an attempt to bring the two worlds together on your computer – neural networks meets hypertexting.

    On researching this product before buying, I read that it has a step learning curve which can put people off. If it does have such a thing, then I’ve yet to be hit by it: I’ve just got on and done what I immediately need it to do – which is perhaps something that doesn’t require confronting the learning curve yet. Though I look forward to that challenge, if and when it comes.

    I guess it pays to start simple. At present I have not used the software for much other than creating VERY basic notes (the whole program is based around creating and taking notes) for certain websites that I visit each week to get news and general cultural and political commentary and which I want to keep a track of, and further to think about them both here and now and perhaps more importantly, in the future. As Mark Berstein, the creator of Tinderbox, has quoted as saying, creating notes is something you do for your future self and other people. How wonderfully provocative is that.

    I have to say I’m impressed. If not only that the software has enabled me to free up hard disc space. Previously, I would download every page to my hard disc that I wanted to read every week – how primitive is that – taking up valuable space. Now I don’t have to do this. Instead I create a note which has the article title and author and the note contains a hyperlink (URL) to the website. In addition I have a note space in which I can make comments on or about the article it references – great. It really facilitates and enhances thinking and “world building”. You can also link notes to notes within Tinderbox to make connections between them. I guess it is one big hyperlink program combined with a relational database which also has the facility to create very elaborate mind maps to facilitate thinking and understanding and “world building”.

    I’ve also just noticed that there is a real price difference between Tinderbox and Circus Ponies Notebook: Tinderbox is a lot more expensive. So I guess buying this software is not for the faint-hearted. Though I’ve yet to tap its full potential – and perhaps I never will – on the surface it appears to be a great “little” application.

    Reply
  13. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    Sorry, I realized that my post above wasn’t very informative. You can see an explanation of Tinderbox here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-djSAmKbMQY Their site is here: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

    Despite buying the accompanying book Tinderbox Way before I downloaded a trail of the software (not something I recommend. Just download and read the manual provided first), I can’t say a great deal about it. Perhaps it is the case with such pioneering software. I’m very much a newbie. Though I wasn’t at first draw to the software by the book analogy on youtube for justification of the program, I guess it does make sense when you think about the idea of “world building” – which I was drawn to as a concept. And though books are a great medium when thinking about world building, I guess it is better to see it more in the sense of an infinite space not unlike the internet itself. And not forgetting that immense infinite space of thought within your head. I guess the best way to describe Tinderbox is an attempt to bring the two worlds together on your computer – neural networks meets hypertexting.

    On researching this product before buying, I read that it has a step learning curve which can put people off. If it does have such a thing, then I’ve yet to be hit by it: I’ve just got on and done what I immediately need it to do – which is perhaps something that doesn’t require confronting the learning curve yet. Though I look forward to that challenge, if and when it comes.

    I guess it pays to start simple. At present I have not used the software for much other than creating VERY basic notes (the whole program is based around creating and taking notes) for certain websites that I visit each week to get news and general cultural and political commentary and which I want to keep a track of, and further to think about them both here and now and perhaps more importantly, in the future. As Mark Berstein, the creator of Tinderbox, has quoted as saying, creating notes is something you do for your future self and other people. How wonderfully provocative is that.

    I have to say I’m impressed. If not only that the software has enabled me to free up hard disc space. Previously, I would download every page to my hard disc that I wanted to read every week – how primitive is that – taking up valuable space. Now I don’t have to do this. Instead I create a note which has the article title and author and the note contains a hyperlink (URL) to the website. In addition I have a note space in which I can make comments on or about the article it references – great. It really facilitates and enhances thinking and “world building”. You can also link notes to notes within Tinderbox to make connections between them. I guess it is one big hyperlink program combined with a relational database which also has the facility to create very elaborate mind maps to facilitate thinking and understanding and “world building”.

    I’ve also just noticed that there is a real price difference between Tinderbox and Circus Ponies Notebook: Tinderbox is a lot more expensive. So I guess buying this software is not for the faint-hearted. Though I’ve yet to tap its full potential – and perhaps I never will – on the surface it appears to be a great “little” application.

    Reply
  14. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    Sorry, I realized that my post above wasn’t very informative. You can see an explanation of Tinderbox here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-djSAmKbMQY Their site is here: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

    Despite buying the accompanying book Tinderbox Way before I downloaded a trail of the software (not something I recommend. Just download and read the manual provided first), I can’t say a great deal about it. Perhaps it is the case with such pioneering software. I’m very much a newbie. Though I wasn’t at first draw to the software by the book analogy on youtube for justification of the program, I guess it does make sense when you think about the idea of “world building” – which I was drawn to as a concept. And though books are a great medium when thinking about world building, I guess it is better to see it more in the sense of an infinite space not unlike the internet itself. And not forgetting that immense infinite space of thought within your head. I guess the best way to describe Tinderbox is an attempt to bring the two worlds together on your computer – neural networks meets hypertexting.

    On researching this product before buying, I read that it has a step learning curve which can put people off. If it does have such a thing, then I’ve yet to be hit by it: I’ve just got on and done what I immediately need it to do – which is perhaps something that doesn’t require confronting the learning curve yet. Though I look forward to that challenge, if and when it comes.

    I guess it pays to start simple. At present I have not used the software for much other than creating VERY basic notes (the whole program is based around creating and taking notes) for certain websites that I visit each week to get news and general cultural and political commentary and which I want to keep a track of, and further to think about them both here and now and perhaps more importantly, in the future. As Mark Berstein, the creator of Tinderbox, has quoted as saying, creating notes is something you do for your future self and other people. How wonderfully provocative is that.

    I have to say I’m impressed. If not only that the software has enabled me to free up hard disc space. Previously, I would download every page to my hard disc that I wanted to read every week – how primitive is that – taking up valuable space. Now I don’t have to do this. Instead I create a note which has the article title and author and the note contains a hyperlink (URL) to the website. In addition I have a note space in which I can make comments on or about the article it references – great. It really facilitates and enhances thinking and “world building”. You can also link notes to notes within Tinderbox to make connections between them. I guess it is one big hyperlink program combined with a relational database which also has the facility to create very elaborate mind maps to facilitate thinking and understanding and “world building”.

    I’ve also just noticed that there is a real price difference between Tinderbox and Circus Ponies Notebook: Tinderbox is a lot more expensive. So I guess buying this software is not for the faint-hearted. Though I’ve yet to tap its full potential – and perhaps I never will – on the surface it appears to be a great “little” application.

    Reply
  15. simon.g@macunlimited.net

    Sorry, I realized that my post above wasn’t very informative. You can see an explanation of Tinderbox here: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=-djSAmKbMQY Their site is here: http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

    Despite buying the accompanying book Tinderbox Way before I downloaded a trail of the software (not something I recommend. Just download and read the manual provided first), I can’t say a great deal about it. Perhaps it is the case with such pioneering software. I’m very much a newbie. Though I wasn’t at first draw to the software by the book analogy on youtube for justification of the program, I guess it does make sense when you think about the idea of “world building” – which I was drawn to as a concept. And though books are a great medium when thinking about world building, I guess it is better to see it more in the sense of an infinite space not unlike the internet itself. And not forgetting that immense infinite space of thought within your head. I guess the best way to describe Tinderbox is an attempt to bring the two worlds together on your computer – neural networks meets hypertexting.

    On researching this product before buying, I read that it has a step learning curve which can put people off. If it does have such a thing, then I’ve yet to be hit by it: I’ve just got on and done what I immediately need it to do – which is perhaps something that doesn’t require confronting the learning curve yet. Though I look forward to that challenge, if and when it comes.

    I guess it pays to start simple. At present I have not used the software for much other than creating VERY basic notes (the whole program is based around creating and taking notes) for certain websites that I visit each week to get news and general cultural and political commentary and which I want to keep a track of, and further to think about them both here and now and perhaps more importantly, in the future. As Mark Berstein, the creator of Tinderbox, has quoted as saying, creating notes is something you do for your future self and other people. How wonderfully provocative is that.

    I have to say I’m impressed. If not only that the software has enabled me to free up hard disc space. Previously, I would download every page to my hard disc that I wanted to read every week – how primitive is that – taking up valuable space. Now I don’t have to do this. Instead I create a note which has the article title and author and the note contains a hyperlink (URL) to the website. In addition I have a note space in which I can make comments on or about the article it references – great. It really facilitates and enhances thinking and “world building”. You can also link notes to notes within Tinderbox to make connections between them. I guess it is one big hyperlink program combined with a relational database which also has the facility to create very elaborate mind maps to facilitate thinking and understanding and “world building”.

    I’ve also just noticed that there is a real price difference between Tinderbox and Circus Ponies Notebook: Tinderbox is a lot more expensive. So I guess buying this software is not for the faint-hearted. Though I’ve yet to tap its full potential – and perhaps I never will – on the surface it appears to be a great “little” application.

    Reply
  16. micsaund@micsaund.com

    I came here for the review of Notebook, but discovered Tinderbox from Simon’s comment. TB looks neat, but $230? That’s a bit much for my budget to keep track of stuff.

    I think I’ll try Notebook’s trial. I’ve got EverNote, but I want somewhere more like a piece of paper where I can write and lay-out thoughts vs. the “clipping” manner that I tend to use EverNote with.

    Reply
  17. micsaund@micsaund.com

    I came here for the review of Notebook, but discovered Tinderbox from Simon’s comment. TB looks neat, but $230? That’s a bit much for my budget to keep track of stuff.

    I think I’ll try Notebook’s trial. I’ve got EverNote, but I want somewhere more like a piece of paper where I can write and lay-out thoughts vs. the “clipping” manner that I tend to use EverNote with.

    Reply
  18. micsaund@micsaund.com

    I came here for the review of Notebook, but discovered Tinderbox from Simon’s comment. TB looks neat, but $230? That’s a bit much for my budget to keep track of stuff.

    I think I’ll try Notebook’s trial. I’ve got EverNote, but I want somewhere more like a piece of paper where I can write and lay-out thoughts vs. the “clipping” manner that I tend to use EverNote with.

    Reply
  19. micsaund@micsaund.com

    I came here for the review of Notebook, but discovered Tinderbox from Simon’s comment. TB looks neat, but $230? That’s a bit much for my budget to keep track of stuff.

    I think I’ll try Notebook’s trial. I’ve got EverNote, but I want somewhere more like a piece of paper where I can write and lay-out thoughts vs. the “clipping” manner that I tend to use EverNote with.

    Reply
  20. micsaund@micsaund.com

    I came here for the review of Notebook, but discovered Tinderbox from Simon’s comment. TB looks neat, but $230? That’s a bit much for my budget to keep track of stuff.

    I think I’ll try Notebook’s trial. I’ve got EverNote, but I want somewhere more like a piece of paper where I can write and lay-out thoughts vs. the “clipping” manner that I tend to use EverNote with.

    Reply
  21. walkerv45@hotmail.com

    I’m a desktop clutterer… With so many projects going at once, I find my desktop becoming so riddled with icons that it’s nearly impossible to find anything.
    ENTER NOTEBOOK – My wife kept telling me, “You need a single notebook and a pen to keep all your stuff straight.” She’s right- but NOTEBOOK 3.0 is that PLUS an interactive, straightforward, easy-to-use program that organizes all of the stuff I used to keep on my desktop, now neatly ordered within its pages.
    My one concern – and it may be a huge advantage – is that everything I drag into notebook – pictures, PDFs, etc.- all become part of that notebook database file (a SINGLE file, similar to a PST file generated by MS Outlook) – and keep in mind that the files are COPIED – not moved (unless you use the CNTL button, which drags files in as an alias. That said, it makes notebook EASY to backup – but backups are a must!

    All in all, this is a DREAM program for people juggling multiple projects. Will keep you posted as the notebook gets fatter!!

    Reply
  22. walkerv45@hotmail.com

    I’m a desktop clutterer… With so many projects going at once, I find my desktop becoming so riddled with icons that it’s nearly impossible to find anything.
    ENTER NOTEBOOK – My wife kept telling me, “You need a single notebook and a pen to keep all your stuff straight.” She’s right- but NOTEBOOK 3.0 is that PLUS an interactive, straightforward, easy-to-use program that organizes all of the stuff I used to keep on my desktop, now neatly ordered within its pages.
    My one concern – and it may be a huge advantage – is that everything I drag into notebook – pictures, PDFs, etc.- all become part of that notebook database file (a SINGLE file, similar to a PST file generated by MS Outlook) – and keep in mind that the files are COPIED – not moved (unless you use the CNTL button, which drags files in as an alias. That said, it makes notebook EASY to backup – but backups are a must!

    All in all, this is a DREAM program for people juggling multiple projects. Will keep you posted as the notebook gets fatter!!

    Reply
  23. walkerv45@hotmail.com

    I’m a desktop clutterer… With so many projects going at once, I find my desktop becoming so riddled with icons that it’s nearly impossible to find anything.
    ENTER NOTEBOOK – My wife kept telling me, “You need a single notebook and a pen to keep all your stuff straight.” She’s right- but NOTEBOOK 3.0 is that PLUS an interactive, straightforward, easy-to-use program that organizes all of the stuff I used to keep on my desktop, now neatly ordered within its pages.
    My one concern – and it may be a huge advantage – is that everything I drag into notebook – pictures, PDFs, etc.- all become part of that notebook database file (a SINGLE file, similar to a PST file generated by MS Outlook) – and keep in mind that the files are COPIED – not moved (unless you use the CNTL button, which drags files in as an alias. That said, it makes notebook EASY to backup – but backups are a must!

    All in all, this is a DREAM program for people juggling multiple projects. Will keep you posted as the notebook gets fatter!!

    Reply
  24. walkerv45@hotmail.com

    I’m a desktop clutterer… With so many projects going at once, I find my desktop becoming so riddled with icons that it’s nearly impossible to find anything.
    ENTER NOTEBOOK – My wife kept telling me, “You need a single notebook and a pen to keep all your stuff straight.” She’s right- but NOTEBOOK 3.0 is that PLUS an interactive, straightforward, easy-to-use program that organizes all of the stuff I used to keep on my desktop, now neatly ordered within its pages.
    My one concern – and it may be a huge advantage – is that everything I drag into notebook – pictures, PDFs, etc.- all become part of that notebook database file (a SINGLE file, similar to a PST file generated by MS Outlook) – and keep in mind that the files are COPIED – not moved (unless you use the CNTL button, which drags files in as an alias. That said, it makes notebook EASY to backup – but backups are a must!

    All in all, this is a DREAM program for people juggling multiple projects. Will keep you posted as the notebook gets fatter!!

    Reply
  25. walkerv45@hotmail.com

    I’m a desktop clutterer… With so many projects going at once, I find my desktop becoming so riddled with icons that it’s nearly impossible to find anything.
    ENTER NOTEBOOK – My wife kept telling me, “You need a single notebook and a pen to keep all your stuff straight.” She’s right- but NOTEBOOK 3.0 is that PLUS an interactive, straightforward, easy-to-use program that organizes all of the stuff I used to keep on my desktop, now neatly ordered within its pages.
    My one concern – and it may be a huge advantage – is that everything I drag into notebook – pictures, PDFs, etc.- all become part of that notebook database file (a SINGLE file, similar to a PST file generated by MS Outlook) – and keep in mind that the files are COPIED – not moved (unless you use the CNTL button, which drags files in as an alias. That said, it makes notebook EASY to backup – but backups are a must!

    All in all, this is a DREAM program for people juggling multiple projects. Will keep you posted as the notebook gets fatter!!

    Reply

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