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Springpad 3.0 hands-on: the online notebook goes social

Springpad 3.0 hands-on: the online notebook goes social


Springpad has launched a new web interface and mobile apps for Android and iOS which focus on sharing and collaboration.

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Web clipping and note-taking service Springpad has just launched a major update that brings a number of new features, a sharp new look, and an increased emphasis on sharing and context-awareness. Import a movie into a 'favorite films' notebook, and the service will automatically flesh out the entry with ratings from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, along with local showtimes. Add an album and Springpad finds the best place for you to buy it, along with offering tour dates for the band so you can go and see them in person. There are a number of different note types that help to categorize each entry, be it a product, place, or bookmark.

Besides these neat, time-saving features, there's a real focus on collaboration. Springpad aims to build a social network around its notebooks, allowing users to invite others to contribute to their creations as well as make them publicly available. Springpad hopes that this will also allow it to be used as a productivity tool, letting users share notes, bookmarks, and tasks with ease.

Web Interface

The web interface is where you'll probably spend most of your time adding content. When you first log in you're presented with all of your existing notebooks, along with a search box allowing you to quickly find the note you're after, and an add notebook button. Each notebook can be categorized (entertainment, design, news, travel etc.) as well as styled with background textures and highlight colors. It's an attractive interface that makes it quick and easy to add and organize your content. There's also a category for to do lists — something we find invaluable.

Once you've created your notebook, you can begin adding notes to it. Springpad makes this easy: a search box in the top right prompts you to add a note based on a web address, or search for something new. Anything that's been

The attractive interface makes it easy to add and organize your content

added to the service by other users (like obscure film titles or local places) will appear in your results, though you can also choose to search the web for more suggestions. If even that fails you, you can add a URL, set the type for the note (a product, for example) and then fill in the rest of the information. Notes can contain almost anything — along with photos, videos, and links, it's possible to upload any file to share as part of the note. There's also a "Spring It!" bookmarklet, which brings up a dialog allowing you to add a note without having to leave the site you're on.

Having added everything to your notebook, you can choose whether to set it as public or private and invite other users to collaborate. The sharing is very simple — simply add a friend using an email address or username — but there's no address book or auto-suggestion, meaning that you'll either need a good memory or have to open up your address book each time. The best public notebooks are shown under the Explore tab at the top of the page, letting you find other users with similar tastes and search for inspiration easily. You can also follow individual notebooks, or a user's entire output.

Mobile Apps

The Springpad update extends to the company's mobile apps for Android and iOS, and we're told that apps for other platforms are also on the cards. The styles you create for your notebooks carry over, with the same textures and highlight colors appearing on your mobile device. Everything you create on the web interface is automatically available in the apps, and it's also possible to enable background sync, meaning that you can be notified of any changes or comments to your notebooks on the move.

Springpad has created different interfaces for the iOS and Android apps. The iOS app is universal (meaning that it'll work just as well on your iPad as your iPhone or iPod touch), with a primary yellow navigation bar running across the top of the screen at all times. It should feel instantly familiar, following Apple's design language with minimalist navigation, and content given the majority of the screen space. The Android version is reminiscent of the official Facebook app, with a button in the top left hiding a pop-up navigation menu and a large plus symbol on the right adding new notebooks or notes depending on where you are in the app.

The apps also have another really useful feature. In the add note dialog, you're presented with more options than in the web interface: as well as adding by web search, you can also add photos directly from the camera, record an audio note, use GPS to find nearby places, or scan a barcode on an product. The barcode search works particularly well — we tried it with a number of books, CDs, and DVDs — with the app taking just a couple of seconds to grab the title, reviews, and artwork.

One area that Springpad is lagging behind its rivals like Evernote is the lack of a dedicated desktop app. While the web interface works well, there's no way to quickly upload files and photos direct from your desktop or access notebooks while offline.

The new interface and Android apps are available now, with the iOS update coming soon.

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