I was going to hold off on writing another post about alternatives to Apple’s notes app for a while, but after a couple of weeks of solidly using Craft, I just had to share what I think.
It’s a little hard to pin down Craft in terms of categories, but it’s a superb app which you could use for organising your notes, writing long-form documents or working on content collaboratively with your colleagues.
I’ve been using it in earnest on the work front, writing documents, collating ideas, keeping track of meeting notes and sharing some of these outputs with colleagues. It’s been a virtually flawless experience. It’s not a perfect app (what is?!) but it has some definite advantages over Apple’s stock notes app.
Craft was obviously made with love. Everything about the interface is a delight and the flexibility with which you can display your notes is just lovely. It’s also extremely intuitive to use. It’s super across iOS, iPadOS and macOS and synching seems near instantaneous.
Standout features for me are the use of header images to make your content stand out (direct from Unsplash if you like!), the choice to write in markdown or use the (collapsable) editing menu on the right hand side and the minimalist, uncluttered interface as a whole. It’s perfect for long-form writing, as well as simple notes.
Organising your content
Notes are organised into folders, into which you can put sub-folders. So if you don’t like using tags (like in Bear Notes) and prefer how apps like Evernote and Apple Notes do things, then you’re going to like this.
But on top of this, you can create different workspaces. A simple example would be a ‘personal’ space and a ‘professional’ space. While segregation of content can be handy from an organising point of view, it also means you can share an entire professional workspace with colleagues, but keep your personal stuff private. Or, share different workspaces with different clients.
While Craft doesn’t allow you to pin notes, you can ‘star’ them to find important content more easily. But the search functionality is top notch and this isn’t something I’ve used a lot.
You can also easily link between notes, which in effect gives you a soft of personal wiki.
Sharing your content
One of my favourite things about Craft is its approach to sharing. You can export into a variety of formats, send the note as an email, grab a unique link to share with others and even allow them to comment on the content.
Sharing is basically fool-proof and the resulting online notes are high quality and appropriate for professional use (in my view anyway!). And the other person doesn’t even have to use Craft. This is slowly replacing email attachments in my professional life.
You can add the note’s URL to a calendar invite, drop it into Slack or a text message – basically, any channel you can think of. And for those people who insist on getting a document, it exports to a beautiful PDF with a single click.
I’ve been using Craft for professional and personal activities for a couple of weeks and found it useful for:
- Sketching out blog posts
- Creating show notes for my podcast
- Sharing podcast scripts and instructions with guests
- Organising my Japanese lesson notes
- Keeping track of business ideas I have while out walking
This is basically the app I’d hoped Evernote would be and goes so much further than Notes in terms of functionality. I still use Apple Notes for ‘handwritten’ notes with the Apple Pencil, but then I can grab that text and drag it over into Craft for the addition of text, images, or sharing with someone else.
How it could be better
Tags: Even though folder organisation is great, I’d love them to add tags so I can use them across folders. Client notes are in different folders, but they’re all clients. I have notes referring to ‘wellbeing’ spread across different folders, but they’re all about the same topic. I can see how tags would be very useful, but I’m content to use the app as is for now.
Alarms and reminders: this is a constant with me! I’d love to be able to set a reminder on a note, so that it pops up in time for a meeting – complete with agenda and key things I want to get from the session. Yes, I can add a deep link from the note to a reminder in Todoist (and have done) but this would be a more elegant solution.
Sketching and hand-writing: While I still use Apple Notes for anything I create with the Apple Pencil, I’d love if the pencil could be used the same way in Craft. As it is, it’s more designed for diagrams and sketches, not hand-written notes. This would completely replace my use of Apple Notes, for work at least.
Shapes (as in notes): On a related note (ha!) you can’t create perfect shapes with the Apple Pencil by holding the nib down – like you can in Apple Notes. This would make diagrams a lot neater.
One of the things that stands out for me is the fast pace of development by the creators of Craft. That and the transparency of discussion and support. They have an open Slack channel where they respond to questions and suggestions and demonstrate a responsiveness that I’ve never seen in other app developers.
This fills me with confidence that the app will continue to add useful functionality, but avoid becoming bloated and unusable. For instance, they’re very clear that they don’t want to replicate any of the task management apps out there. Instead, they’re building in great sharing capabilities so checklists become tasks in your task app of choice.
I’m genuinely excited to see where Craft goes in the coming months and can recommend it as an excellent alternative to Apple’s Notes app – if you’re looking for one. For me, it really puts another nail in Evernote’s coffin and illustrates what thoughtful and joined up design can look like.