Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MagicalPad - Outliner, Mind Mapping & Notes

MagicalPad is a slick iPad app that enables you to create outlines, checklists, and standalone notes on an unlimited number of “infinite” workspaces, which can expand far beyond the confines of your iPad’s screen. While the app from MagicalPad is similar in many ways to other outlining programs, it boasts some interesting features; at the same time, some of the developer’s claims about the app overstate its capabilities.

Within the app, each “workspace” is, in essence, a separate page. On each page, you can easily create list notes, which can be hierarchical, and text notes. You create new notes either by double-tapping on the screen, selecting either the text note or list note icon from a bottom menubar, or, while creating a list, by simply tapping the return key on the keyboard.

Indenting, outdenting, changing the order of, and editing individual list items is simple and intuitive—you single-tap an item to select it, and then slide your finger either left to indent or right to outdent, and slide up or down to change the list order. You can easily combine lists, as well.

One particularly nice thing about MagicalPad is that it is easy to change each note’s font, font size, border color, and background color by selecting the note and choosing among clear menubar options. You can also create checklists or make individual items checklist items. Expanding and contracting lists is accomplished with the simple tap of an arrow.

MagicalPad also enables you to export workspaces to Google Docs, Evernote, and Dropbox, or share them via email. You can choose to export each workspace as a PDF, RTF (rich text file), OPML, or in MagicalPad’s own format. However, exporting doesn’t work very smoothly: When I exported a workspace as an RTF file to Google Docs, the file could not be read within Google Docs on my Macbook Pro. Subsequently I downloaded the file to my desktop, and it displayed perfectly within TextEdit.

The developer says that you can share MagicalPad workspaces with other apps, but in practice, you cannot do so directly. When you tap the “share” icon, only the four options noted above appear. My iPad includes many apps that can read PDF and RTF documents, but they did not appear in MagicalPad’s list. It was only when I consulted the online user guide that I found that by “sharing with other apps,” MagicalPad really means that you can download your MagicalPad documents from Google Docs, Dropbox, and so forth into other apps. MagicalPad’s App Store listing notes that you can “open RTF and TXT files … from anywhere in your iPad,” but there is no obvious way to do this, nor could I find a mention of how to do so in the user manual.

In its latest release, Version 2.0, you can make a $2 in-app purchase that enables you to connect individual text notes and lists with straight lines or arrows. While this was a necessary addition, it’s a limited function. Arrows and lines are straight, one color (black), thickness, and type (no dashed or dotted lines, for example), and there’s no option to make the arrows bidirectional. You are also only able to draw lines to entire lists, and not to individual list items.

As an outlining app, MagicalPad is terrific, and by digging deep into the user manual, users can learn that the developer plans to incorporate multimedia and drawing tools in future versions of the app. MagicalPad is prioritizing the inclusion of these features based in part on what users request. MagicalPad provides plenty of bang for the buck (save for the $2 in-app mind-mapping function), and it’s unfortunate that the company touts features and possible uses that it doesn’t currently support.


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