Our brains are not that good at memorizing and recalling specific details on demand. There's far too many times when we can't remember exactly what we need, when we need it. Technology should help, but often it just becomes another chore to finish out each day instead of actually augmenting our brain.
Notebook apps can be the best tool to combat forgetfulness. You can just add everything you ever need to remember, and thanks to smartphones, you'll have everything a tap away no matter where you are. And yet, notebook apps are typically dumb. They have the data we add, but no more.
Springpad's different. It's a smart notebook that helps you not only remember content, but tries to put it into context and help you use it. Save a product you want to buy, and Springpad will automatically add a link to buy it on Amazon, reviews of the product, and a price comparison tool. Add a movie, and your note will automatically have a movie synopsis, release date, reviews, cast information, and more.
That's powerful, but it can also be confusing if you're just getting started. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use Springpad to make you smarter by saving all your info and doing the research for you automatically.
Getting Started with Springpad
Springpad is a smart notebook that'll be more helpful to you than a normal notebook once you've used it for quite a while, but it can be a bit more complicated to get started using. As normal, all you'll need is a free Springpad account, and a few notebooks to store your data, and then a few minutes to get used to how everything works.
First up, the notebooks. In Springpad, notebooks are like categories to organize your information into, like “Recipes to Try,” “Reading List,” “Upcoming Movies,” and more. To create a new notebook in Springpad, click +New Notebook and you'll see a menu offering eight different notebooks, including example starter notebooks for movies, recipes, and more, and a blank notebook to use as you'd like. Choose the one you'd like, and then it's time to start collecting data.
There's a number of ways to add content to your Springpad notebooks, including just typing in info as you might do in another notebook app. But there's smarter ways to add info to Springpad, including web clippings, barcode scanning, and web clips.
Web clips are likely the Springpad tool you'll use most. They're simple: you can either copy/paste URL into the web app, or use the Springpad bookmarklet to instantly add a web page, article or anything else you see on the web to a notebook. You can even use the bookmarklet on mobile; it'll be auto-installed on Android, and on iOS you can click the Install the Safari Web Clipper from the app settings.
Then, no matter where you're browsing the web, just tap the Springpad bookmarklet and it will try to detect what you’re saving and extract the relevant information. It'll separate the ingredients and servings in a recipe, recognize product links for shopping items you save, and more.
Another simple way to add info to your notebook is via Barcode scan. Let’s say you are in a bookstore and you spot several books you want, but you can't purchase them right now. Should you instead write down the title, author, publisher and price of every book? That might be what you'd do with another notebook app.
Every book has a barcode and your smartphone is already equipped with camera—and Springpad puts those together to let you scan items into your notebooks. Instead of writing down all the information, just snap the barcode and Springpad will then save all the relevant information, including title, author, cover photo, price and links to buy the book later on Amazon.
Then, there's Springpad's email feature that lets you save anything from your email inbox. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the email account that you used to sign up for Springpad and within a few moments, a new item will be created in Springpad that includes the content of your email. The subject of your email will become the item’s title, the body will be the note, and attached files will be attached to the new item in Springpad. You can send notes and links from other email accounts if you want through personal email address. This personal address is different for everyone and can be “regenerated” at any time.
To set a specific notebook as the destination of your note, add @notebook-name to the end of email subject. Or, to add tags, just append #tag-name to the end of email subject. You can even add a due date to a note via email by adding a date at the beginning of the email body. Do remember, though, that tags are case sensitive and notebook name should match the name of your existing notebook in Springpad, and if you're forwarding an email to Springpad, the send date of the forwarded email may be accidentally picked up as a due date.
Organizing Your Notes
The blank notebook in Springpad is one of the best method to store lists, notes, bookmarks, snippets from web, or anything else you want to keep for future reference. It is useful for organizing big projects and ideas. You can customize the blank notebook by giving it a name, a style (including textures and color), and an option to keep the notebook private or public.
Your notebook page has 4 main features: a + button to add notes, tasks, checklists, and more, a search bar, view options, and settings.
- Clean out old, or no longer used paper bills, notes from the cupboard.
- Take things to other areas to see whether they would more logically be stored there.
- Sort what will remain here into categories e.g. books, magazines
- Make a list of racks, office supplies needed.
Quick Notes and Checklists
Springpad makes it easy to jot down quick note for viewing later. Whether it’s a text, a photo, or a voice memo, you can easily jump into a specific option, add information, and let it automatically sync it to cloud. In my experience, a simple note taking app is often used for grocery and shopping list and the like, but Springpad goes one step further and allows you to create a basic checklist as well. You can create checklist based on the actual products that you’ve added to Springpad or just plain text for more simple grocery runs. When you edit any item in checklist or notes, the displayed options are contextual too.
In case of notes, you can edit in fullscreen and convert a text note to HTML to add formatting. Similarly, in a checklist, you can either uncheck all the checked items or delete checked items at once. This sort of minute additions in the app makes it more predictable and easy to use. In case of my project I made a checklist of all the goals and in the quick note I added tips, ideas, annotated images of my cupboard to highlight the problematic areas and voice memos to create longer version of notes.
Tasks and Reminders
Springpad has a full to-do list and reminder support. You can quickly add tasks, complete with due dates, notebook, and a description, and then get reminded when tasks are close to being due. To add reminders on a web click Edit and select Remind Me. A display will popup wherein you can Add a new reminder.
The ability to add tasks definitely helps in long run but in my project I divided my checklist into a series of tasks because of the complexity of the project, then added a due date to each of the tasks and explained the strategy in the description area. I also recommend you to add tags to tasks to make them searchable and filter them either by type or context and also to avoid getting lost in big projects.
One of the greatest strengths of the Springpad is it’s ability to allow items (tasks, products, notes, and more) to be kept in multiple notebooks. To add a particular item to different notebook, hover over mouse over a particular item and click the notebook sign as shown in the screenshot. Select your notebook and Done. Now my item is in two different notebooks, one “Clean Your Cupboard” notebook and other “Purchases” notebook. Having your tasks in two different notebooks can help you in rapid and comprehensive organization of ideas and develops a cognitive process of flow of ideas in your brain.
Recurring Events and Calendars
You can also add calendar events, which you can sync to Google Calendar. When you view your calendar on Google Calendar, you’ll be able to see events as normal and within Springpad itself with all your other stuff. To integrate Springpad with Google Calendar, go to Settings and then Service Integration and click Authorize.
One of the essential part of my project is to perform recurrent task such as to monitor the incoming notes and paper bills, but sadly this feature is missing in Springpad. IFTTT fills the whole, though, so check this tutorial for how to get started and then you can add this recipe to send reminders for recurring events from Google Calendar to Springpad as tasks.
With Springpad notebooks, you can collect all the things you need for your project and invite people to collaborate, so you can share it all in real time, no matter where you are. The best part is that whenever you add any new items or comment on existing springs, your collaborators will get an alert, so they always know what’s new. This is a critical part for any project, but in my case I have to get ideas and opinion from my brother because I share my cupboard with him.
If you online, then open the notebook you want to share or create a new notebook. Click Settings in the lower left menu then select Collaborators. Type in the Springpad email address of the person you want to invite and click Done. When your collaborator accepts, the existing notebook contents will automatically sync to their account. You can invite up to 25 collaborators to each notebook and everyone has the same view/edit privileges, while this seems to be fine for personal use cases, it is not recommend for business use cases. If a member delete the notebook from their account, your copy will remain intact, but they will no longer be a collaborator.
Over time, your project may get filled with ideas, checklist, tasks, bookmarks and products. It may give you a feeling that I am just throwing random information in the notebook. But organization does not work like that, it should have a hierarchy and a method to visualize information in various ways. Springpad provides a wide variety of choice in which every notebook can be viewed and sorted in different ways, so in the View Option you will find four choices (gallery view, list view, detailed view and visual view).
Click the symbol, as shown in the screenshot and you’ll be taken entirely into a different board wherein you can add note, label, and map. You can drag and drop the item into the board giving you a feeling that you are adding and organizing post-it notes to blackboard.
So far we have been discussing about organizing your big ideas with Springpad but sometimes you might want to organize simple things such as books, movies, recipes, bookmarks, and more. For that creating and managing a blank notebook may be a bit overwhelming to you. There's the starter notebooks previously mentioned that work great for organizing recipes, movies, purchases, and more. They work the same as a normal notebook, but have extra views that make the extra info Springpad uncovers for the data type more useful.
Then, there's the new Springpad Notebook Store, which includes a variety of extra notebooks to do even more with premade notebooks for more categories. Each notebook include custom features for everything from Cooking and Food and Task Management, to Productivity, Travel, and more. In my project, I was able to add everything right from notes, checklist, task, books, reminders and more. There were still a few features missing, though: a journal and a companion guide to help me audit how I spend my time in finding things. This notebook from the store add these missing features and now I can process and understand my project workflow much better than with the starter notebook.
With this tutorial, you should have the basics of how to use Springpad's features to save everything and make your notes far smarter than they'd be in any other notebook. Springpad is incredibly intuitive, and lets you focus more on your info and less on the interface.
If you have any trouble getting started with Springpad, or have any unique ways you love using it, be sure to let us know in the comments below.