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HelvetiNote for iPad long on looks, functionality

An app with a domain like DeathtoMarkerFelt.com has a clear objective. The app itself, HelvetiNote (US$2.99) is a note-taking application for the iPad meant for folks who dislike the aesthetics of Apple's own offering. Minimalist, attractive and useful, it's earned a spot on myiPad. Here's what I like (and don't) about the Notes alternative.

I appreciate good design, but admit that I don't share the vehement opposition to Marker Felt that burns in the bellies of so many. It's cutsey, yes, and reminds me of a late-summer garage sale, but I can live with it. That said, Helvetinote looks beautiful.

By default, it features black text (I'll let you suss out which font it uses) on a field of muted gray. There are two view options in both landscape and portrait orientations: with the toolbar or without. The toolbar includes a search field, an option to add a new note and a button to hide the toolbar. As you create more notes, they're also listed here chronologically.




When the toolbar is hidden, the note itself takes over the entire display. It looks like a lined piece of paper and bears your title. The portrait keyboard keeps more of your note visible, so it's easiest to type on the portrait orientation. Ideally, you'll have a stand, Bluetooth keyboard and the software keyboard hidden.

Here's what's neat about HelvetiNote. In the upper right hand corner, two buttons let you toggle between text input and sketch. While in text mode, you type as you'd expect. Sketch mode does just what you'd expect: Turns HelvetiNote into a mini drawing application. Sketch with your finger at any point in a note. If you make a mistake you can tap the eraser or remove the entire sketch without affecting the text.

That brings me to my chief complaint about HelvetiNote. The text doesn't recognize where a sketch is, and will let you type right over it. Likewise, you can sketch over text. To get around a sketch, you've got to go a bit crazy with the Return key until the cursor is clear. Forget flowing text around your sketch webpage-style. I'd like it if the text were aware of a sketch's position, and could avoid it on its own.

Also, HelvetiNote doesn't sync apps with your desktop or any other service. That doesn't bother me, but I know a few of you like that sort of thing.

In the lower left-hand corner are various theme options. Select from four existing themes -- Grey, White, Black and a retina-searing Yellow -- or use various sliders to create your own. Finally, in the lower right-hand corner you'll find buttons to email your note or delete it entirely.

I spent a week using HelvetiNote exclusively for taking notes in meetings, both with and without a keyboard, and was quite pleased with the results. Using a keyboard is of course preferred, but not entirely necessary. Afterwords, it was a snap to email my notes to interested parties.

For three bucks, HelvetiNote is a well-done and ultimately useful note-taking application for the iPad.

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