To Notebook or to Notebooks that is the Question


Circus Ponies Notebook and Notebooks, although they have almost identical names, are two very different applications. To Notebook or to Notebooks really is very much based on one’s needs. In actuality, you might need both of these applications as although they have some overlapping functionality they really are two very different animals.

Circus Ponies Notebook

Notebook has a long history. It was started when Steve Jobs was running NeXt Computers. When he came back to Apple, Notebook found it’s way there and became an OSX application. Based on a paper based notebook metaphor it is anything but a paper based notebook. This is a very powerful application and you can throw any kind of media at it and it will store that media.

Notebook is probably the most powerful outliner for OSX. I use it extensively to prepare my articles and develop the structure for them. However, Notebook, due to it’s multi-media capabilities is much more than an outliner. It can accept web clippings automatically and you can have as many Notebooks as you desire all possibly for a specialized purpose. Think of Notebook as a digital grab bag of all things.

Notebook introduced an iPad version that provides solid sync between the desktop and the iPad. I feel the strength of Notebook lies in the desktop product though. Although the IOS version is well done, it is quite different from the desktop version and takes a bit of time to get on to. It’s powerful but I prefer working at the desktop level of the product as I find it is more flexible and powerful. The IOS version should not be discounted in any fashion as it is a good product but the toolset is very different in function from the desktop.


Notebooks is an excellent product in its own right. It is very different though than Notebook although they are both equally meant to compose notes and compile information, provide storage and retrieval for that information. Unlike Notebook, which can be a series of Notebooks with different themes and areas of concentration, Notebook is designed more on a database architecture. There is only one Notebook not many Notebooks. Within Notebooks though is this robust information architecture based on hierarchical and nested folders. A folder, in a way could be thought of as a Notebook.

One of Notebooks key strengths is its support of Markdown. You can write fully formatted Notebooks in Markdown. The Markdown in Notebooks is also very robust. Notebooks really started as an IOS product and Markdown has been very popular for IOS products. However, Notebooks does have an OSX counterpart in beta (has been for quite some time) and works very well. Where though Notebook gets its strength from its OSX beginnings Notebooks very much draws upon its strength as mature and well featured IOS Notebook.

Notebooks is also a product that can store a variety of different things and it can also generate RTF and PDF exported files. This product provides you a great deal of flexibility where it comes to maintaining a Notebook of good value.

One or Both

Choosing between these two styles of Notebooks I do believe is very much based on individual need. Your needs may be such that you need both. Possibly not. In considering these notebooks bear in mind that Notebooks is based on a central repository of sorts whereas Notebook is a collection of Notebooks in different topic areas. So you might think of Notebooks folders as these individual Notebooks in Notebook.

However, don’t let the individual Notebook schema of Notebook fool you. This is extremely powerful software and you can make your Notebook theoretically as large as you want it with any array of digital media in it. It’s an impressive system and can even be used to put together a project.

Notebooks, on the other hand, gives you the central repository approach, is available for both the iPhone and iPad plus the Mac and allows you to write in Markdown. This is important for some.

If you need an outliner and a powerful one at that then it’s Notebook that you would choose. After this point it solely is a matter of personal choice. For myself, I prefer Notebook but I also like Notebooks very much. I’m must however say that I am much more productive with Notebook. I like that you can easily capture web clippings and PDF’s plus any matter of digital media and store it all right there in front of you. This can get a little daunting though and you could at times feel that it’s becoming a jumble. The outlining structure of Notebook, it’s divider tabs and pages all lend themselves to bringing order quickly to the house. When it all gets boiled down though it’s really what works for you best that will dictate your decision as to one over the other.

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