Review: Thoughts

Organize your notes instead of cluttering your desktop. (February 27th, 2010)

Thoughts creates notebooks to organize any type of tidbits you want to keep, including audio, video, text, or URLs.

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Product Manufacturer: Green and Slimy

Price: $32.68 US or 24 €

The Good

  • Nice layout and graphics.
    Saves links, text, and graphics.
    Auto saves.
    Supports 14 languages.
    Supports gestures on touch pad.
    iCal integration in Mac OS X 10.6.

The Bad

  • Minor bugs.
    Cannot resize graphics. Limited book title characters.
    No delete confirmation.
    Find command did not work well.
    Inconsistent.

If you create many notes while you are surfing or working, than you may want to use a program designed to handle those bits for you. MacNN reviewed Bare Bones Software's Yojimbo, which is just such a program, but takes a bit of time to learn due to its category structure and customization features. Yojimbo is a great program, but just a bit too much for me. Another good program that lets you save a variety of information and notes is FileMaker's Bento 3, but it also may be more than you want for information tracking.

A new simple note management program called Thoughts is now available. Thoughts uses a bookcase or library display, similar to asset cataloging programs like IntelliScanner's Collection and Delicious Library, but it depends on your typed input, not scanned codes.

A short six-minute video tutorial on the site or accessible through the opening screen as a Welcome Tour covers most of the basics you need to use Thoughts. The tour's only problem is repetitive music that quickly becomes annoying.

xtand heights

Navigation Screen


While Thoughts is simple to use, it just doesn't seem quite ready for prime time. In Thoughts you create a notebook to organize any type of notes you want to keep, including audio, video, text, or URLs. You can create as many notebooks as you need, and they all appear on your bookshelf. A scroll bar moves sideways, so you can choose the Notebook you want to open.

xtand heights

Bookshelf


My first issue with Thoughts lies with its book naming limitation. You're allowed 7 characters per line and only two lines. My attempts to use a smaller font went unheeded. You also cannot change the look of the Notebook. Each book has a brown leather-look, but it would be nice to be able to vary the cover colors. On the plus side, you can open more than one notebook at the same time.

You can set a page to include links, tables, images, or text. You can drag textClippings onto a page, web links, or PDFs and the file contents appear on the page. If you drop in an Excel or Word document though, you only get the file icon, not the content. You need to use the Links button and Link to the desired file. A double-click opens the linked file from within your Notebook, or if you prefer to input the file contents, you can copy and paste from Word or Excel into a page. An Excel table draws just fine in the lists I tested. In addition, you can format tables and set the number of rows, and columns, with borders, and colors.

 thoughts102-tableopen

Page with Table Dialog


Each page can include a title or date across the top. You can arrange the pages in any order, or set the View to always arrange by name or creation date. You simply drag the page in the left pane to reorder the pages. If you save many notes, that list becomes scrollable, but it's not an elegant way to view a large number of pages. A good notes program depends on its search function and the Find command did not locate any word I searched unless I was already on the correct page.

thoughts102-calendar

Find Dialog and Calendar


I created a Table of Contents page in each of my books, for easy organization. I dragged each notes page onto the contents page, which creates links to the other pages in the book. I tried dropping a page from a different book into another book's Table of Contents; it created the link, but it would not open that page in the other book. Ok, maybe I was pushing the program a bit, but that isn't the only problem I encountered. Sometimes I could not drag pages into the contents page, but when I closed the book and reopened it, that would work ok.

thoughts102-contents

Table of Contents with Editor Open


The developer gave a lot attention to the text entry code. You can change the font, size, color, alignment, styles, line spacing, create lists, spell and grammar check, and even transform the case. The Special Characters command in the Edit menu isn't implemented yet though. You can also export your notes in multiple formats, including RTF, PDF, DOC, DOCX, and ODT.

 thoughts102-editmenu-ed.jpg

Edit Menu


Thoughts claims it can handle images also, but I ran into problems with that feature. First, if I dropped a large JPEG file into the book, it only showed part of the image, and I couldn't move it to show the part I wanted to see, like the duck's head in the photo below. I also attempted to put a vertical shot in the book, but it displayed horizontally, which makes using it to store photos less than useful. Twice I accidentally overwrote the text I wanted included on the photo page, because the graphic paste didn't go where I had put my cursor. The site advertises that Thoughts is good for scrapbooking, but I don't agree.

 thoughts102-bookphoto

Page with Piece of Photo


Thoughts may become a useful program soon, but it still needs a bit of work. It quit on me a couple of times, dragging pages into the contents page didn't work reliably, plus it is too easy to delete an entry or even a whole page by accident. No dialog appears to confirm you want to delete something. I also had trouble showing the calendar while a previously filled page was open; sometimes it came up and other times it didn't.

The demo allows you to add up to 3 books with 3 pages each, but that should be enough to evaluate whether you want to spend your dollars for Thoughts. For about the same price, you can get the more stable Bento or Yojimbo.

by ilene hoffman, reviews editor


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