Holy Springpad, Batman – I’ve been Sprung … and why I admit I’m now wrong!

Springpad has busted through the crowded marketplace of developers looking to be the sole provider of that one centralized virtual repository for our critical information, instantaneous thoughts & tasks like a juggernaut on a mission to be number one. Like an Olympic athlete laser focused on winning the gold medal for their country, Springpad has sprung above everyone else and importantly, differentiated themselves in a big and meaningful way. Like a mature thoroughbred looking to win the Kentucky Derby, they have galloped past their competition by scoring the trifecta of excellence: (1) leveraging key technologies in HTML5, iOS and Android platforms; (2) listening … truly listening to user feedback, and (3) applying lessons learned across multiple platforms to provide a seamless user experience no matter where you are in your daily life! Floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, this platform once beaten up by me in my previous post on how it’ll never replace Evernote has snuck up on me landing a one-two knockout I wasn’t expecting … it has provided a definitive place in my life that allows it to have meaning and co-exist with Evernote is a very powerful way!

Here are the key areas I believe Springpad has differentiated itself: (1) Brainstorming a project with The Board; (2) Adding notebooks and tags; (3) Integration with Google Calendar; and (4) uniformity across multiple platforms.

Brainstorming a project with The Board
This is a game changer. This one enhancement not only leverages key technologies available in HTML5 and iOS platforms, but addresses a challenge that many of us have in transferring what we can feel and touch in the analog world and apply it in the digital world.

I love to brainstorm projects for both work and home on cork boards, whiteboards, and even vision boards. It allows me to visually see not only where I am, but importantly, where I need to go. When the iPad came out, I purchased an app called Corkulous. It allowed me to apply the thinking of a project in the digital world by “feeling” and “touching” sticky notes, photos, etc. to connect my ideas.

When Springpad released The Board it did something critical that I haven’t seen anyone else do right – leverage everything in your life from random thoughts, tasks, calendar events, notes, restaurants, maps, and content from the Internet in one centralized location and allows you to “touch” and “feel” these notes and stickies and tasks and ideas on a virtual board. Leveraging HTML5 and the iOS platform, you can have the same experience no matter where you are in the world.

It is that very experience that separates Springpad now from anyone else in this virtual repository space.

(Web app version of The Board)

(iPad Version is identical!)

Adding notebooks and tags
My big hangup in the older version, among others, was the lack of organization in Springpad. It took too long to create one simple note, didn’t have uniformity among platforms, and importantly, I never could understand the categories, types, and built-in apps organizational structure. It didn’t seem to grow organically with how we think and how we process data (or maybe it was just me).

Where Springpad now wins here is two-fold: (1) listening … truly listening and applying feedback provided by so many of it’s users – even the disenchanted ones like myself at one point; and (2) creating an organizational structure mapped around the way we organize, analyze, and process information in our minds.

In the analog world, I used to thrive off off of having many legal pads at my disposal, sticky notes, and of course Moleskine notebooks. In the virtual world, Evernote was the predominant champion here as it allowed for us to not only organize by notebook, but tag our notes with virtual sticky notes. What’s more, is the ability to add files to our notes, serving as virtual folders.

Springpad’s developers I believe heard this message loud and clear and ditched its apps in favor of notebooks and tags. This allows once more for a more seamless transition between the analog and digital worlds. Now, I can quickly choose what area of focus I’m currently involved in, and jump to the appropriate tag or even get things done with the tasks. It helps that the design is beautiful and it can be customized to your personal taste. While it doesn’t have a built-in OCR engine like Evernote (yet), I’m satisfied enough that I can upload my important PDF files and make a note about its importance. I’m not completely sold on Types and Categories, but one man’s confusion may be another’s solution.

Integration with Google Calendar
This will seal the deal for many people. This is where Evernote fails and where so many people wish the platform would win. The conversation need not be framed as a competition, as two of the commentators to my previous post said, but it does help to have a reference point to where people’s pain points and challenges are, and what we want out of a centralized virtual repository.

As you can see in the image, you can create an event in the web app (I did make a request to include this in the iPad and Android devices) and that event will magically show up on your Google calendar. You currently do not have the ability to create an event in your Google calendar and have it appear in Springpad, but I am sure if this is requested, they can figure out a way to make it happen. In the interim though, I’m pleased enough that while I am project planning, any events will show up in my calendar.

On a similar note, creating tasks has also become more meaningful now that there is Google calendar integration – providing you with one place to go to do project planning and task management. You can setup email and SMS reminders for your tasks so you’ll always remember what needs to get done and when.

Springpad has evolved in a big way and has differentiated itself in a very meaningful way for consumers searching for one centralized virtual platform to perform project management at home and work. In particular, by listening to it’s users, leveraging key technologies, and providing a uniform experience across multiple platforms, it now has a permanent place in my workflow … and I hope yours as well!


Posted on November 24, 2010, in @GTD & productivity and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Great angle on things, Dan. I too couldn’t give up Evernote, but this might inspire me to integrate Spingpad into my workflow.

    • Thanks, Evan, as always for the great comments! I agree … This won’t replace Evernote, but will allow them to live side-by-side. But what’s most notable about this update is the much bigger picture at play here … Developers listening to feedback, learning from past mistakes, and creating an outstanding work product as a result.

  2. I am honestly in love with Springpad – particularly post new features.

    So often these days we see services ‘update’ yet only to be let down. This most recent overhaul is a remarkable improvement on an already delightful service

    This coming from a list obsessive!

    I’ve found that it has seamlessly integrated into my everyday life – not many apps have that ability

    Great write-up


  3. Well, I’ll volunteer to offer some counter-point. We’re still waiting for The Board (unless you have luckily found yourself on some early release list or have the proper platform). This could be a great way to view an agenda, share an itinerary, post the family chores and games, work out a color scheme for a wedding, create a mood board for a fashion runway show: skies the limit.

    My experience with adding some recipes this weekend gets some mixed reviews. For one, if the body of the recipe was embedded in a further frame in the html, there was no chance of Springpad finding it. It would bump me out to “add manually or look it up.” My “look it up” experience never worked (most likely because the recipe was hidden in an additional frame on the page.) Although it can consistently extract the ingredient list, Springpad doesn’t trust itself to populate the Procedure field of your recipe item. Then I looked at my other options: “Cool, I can reference this with a ‘central ingredient’ tag, and associate it with a particular course, hmm, ‘dessert!’, then select media from the page that’s relevant. Well, I don’t need a picture of Martha, but that slice of the cake will do. Oh I won’t use other tags, like ‘dinner party’ because I already have that tag, and it’s not coming up automatically.” Finished. What occurred to me, after Evernote came to the rescue on the finiky pages that wouldn’t work with Springpad, was that I don’t need all this metadata and extensive workflow, despite how streamlined Springpad has made it. Here’s how I’d do it in Evernote:
    1) See recipe, maybe select just the body of the web-page itself, press button -for much of our audience, there won’t even be a step 2 or 3-
    2) Start typing ‘r’ for ‘recipe’ tag
    3) Close window, next.
    Do I really need additional data for “chocolate” to tell me it’s “dessert”? (I can filter out that molé recipe easy enough.) What if I just kept a web clipping of everything, and looked it up when I wanted it? Okay, it’s harder for people on the internet to then sell me chocolate, or tell me where the nearest chocolatier is, or have my friends point out “I like this.” But think about what organizational habits are really appealing to your sense of convenience and clarity, and ask if you really need the rest.

    I digress: Heck, if I dump ALL my files into a documents folder willy nilly, with some consistent naming convention, I’ll already be more organized than if I had 10 file cabinets sub-level. Press a column and I sort all those virtual cabinets by type, press another, and I’m back to an alphabetized list of accounts. This gives you a hint of what I think of separate notebooks, embedded or otherwise, for everything. (Hint: then you have to look in different places for things, and some things fit in different categories all at once, which leaves you falling back to some distinctive tags anyway.)

    As a segway to your other themes, what Springpad wants to bank on is the possibility that other sites will use HTML 5 like the Queens English, and properly tag their elements such that with a press of a button, a recipe can be tracked and saved in a uniform and reliable manner. Partnering is already central to their business strategy, but will you get martha to make her recipes organized just like everyone else? I’ll be waiting for quite some time, and meanwhile I’ll have more things invested in another platform.

    As for the google calendar integration: I’d really like to see one of the big competitors work out an “activity” or “running date” item. I don’t really want to see an all-day banner in my google calendar running the course of a month for a special gallery at the museum, but I wouldn’t mind clipping activities that come to mind for friends, myself, a date, and not missing them just because I overlooked the window of opportunity to see something or buy the tickets.

    • Hey James –

      I appreciated reading your thoughtful feedback on Springpad. It sounds like you are more of a DIY organizer than someone who relies on the automatic categorization/metadata that Springpad offers! Just the same, we should be able to satisfy your needs with our clipper.

      As for recipes, we do not pull directions because that content is copyrighted by the authors. We surely do our best to pull an accurate ingredient list, but as you’ve noted, guessing formatting per site can be tricky. That said, if you run across examples where we miss ingredients and feel inclined to help us out, please pass them along!

      If you are interested in trying out the Board, I suggest you try the Chrome browser – I’d love to hear your thoughts! (You might even want to check out the new Chrome Web Store: https://chrome.google.com/webstore – we are a featured app 🙂


      • @katin – thanks so much for your reply to James!! I think we are all grateful for the advances you all have made! I’m convinced that no matter how many advances we make in programs such as these, we’ll always find another way to say, “this is great … but …” Will be ever have the “perfect” solution? Probably not. However, what makes Springpad stand out from others in this space is their ability to listen to feedback that folks like James provides and apply it to future releases. Kudos to all for their feedback and folks like Katin for taking the charge in truly listening!

    • @james – great comments and thanks so much for taking the time to provide your insight! I agree on some level. Check out @Katin‘s response above! I think the most recent release addresses some of your concerns.

  4. Hi Katin, and thank you for making this introduction, Daniel.

    Agreed, the “yeah, but” for ourselves and others isn’t necessarily the only nor the best way to see a program, conversations with friends, or life even. This is a process, and thankfully not something built in a black box. I do agree that if you create a rapport with even the most curmudgeon of clients and customers, you’ll at least have that common bond, spoken or otherwise, that tells you “we’re both on board.”

    Couple things which I experienced with my recipe sniping, and they really are just a matter of warming up with the springpad, was that the areas of the recipe-course, cuisine, number of servings-was that the string fields, did not evidently get the curser focus when I clicked them. So just like the text box that I’m writing in now, if I clicked one of the other automatic categorizations, I’d wonder where the heck cursor went. However this ends up designed, it might not be so critical that the focus during the input of the item follows the linear flow of the final format (in this case for the recipe, bumping up to the top for number of servings, then back down for the description/procedure) just so long as the user is comfortable adding these pieces of information.

    And yes, I do use the categories/metadata built into the program, and I’m quite thankful for them. Thank you, Katin. Even the automated toggle like “I want to try this” vs “I would make this recipe again” communicates a wealth of useful information. In a networked setting, something as simple as this toggle can be the basis for a rating or sharing recipes, and for other sorts of items, this can help the individual organize items between archive, reference, and active/working. I only use my own tags where categories have yet to exist (say, “tonight’s ‘mixer settings’ behind the sound board.”

    Ah, again a simple addition: the web-clipper, when it asks for tags, doesn’t list one’s existing tags nor use predictive text to allow you to reference tags I have already assigned. So using the above example, I might already have a tag for ‘mixer settings’, but this time, perhaps not with my best interest in mind, I’ll tag it as “Mixer Settings” (Upper Case) or “Signal Processing” or “Sound Reinforcement.” As a consequence, I’ll end up with a sprawl of tags, many of which could be anything from spelling errors, redundancies, “New Tags” (like “untitled folder 3”-many of which I would want to have consolidated. Also, in springpad, the tags are associated with the item, not with my library, (like a local setting vs a global setting.), thus when someone deletes the item, they’ll also loose the tag.

    I tend to subscribe to a restrictive vocabulary when I’m committing to tags: like the check out clerk looking up that tropical fruit in your cart, I don’t want people to have to use their imagination describing it in every way, I want the code somewhere on either side of my figurative laminated hand out or pocket guide. So it’s not that I’m really a DIY organizer; I think you want the customer to have existing tags in front of them when given the option to tag an item with the clipper, or I for one would be hesitant to use this feature. I’d like to see this implemented in a checklist menu right in the Springpad clipper or tag cloud, and not as a predictive text or ‘most recent’ or ‘favorite’ short-list. None of the big competitors are doing this, to my surprise, not even in the desktop client. I’ll ramble on about my philosophy on this on a later occasion.

    I would still like to see my “running date” category be taken up by someone: google calendar, you guys, or whoever would like to carry the torch. You could test the waters with the Movie category: when someone captures a movie item, (it’s status is “I want to see this”) using alerts, reminders, or a lifespan for the item would be neat: “This is playing for only two more weekends at your neighborhood Regal Crown.” “Avatar’s back in IMAX just for this Academy Award week!” “You missed it! Holding out for the DVD?”

    I’m really not sure how or what would be most useful, let me think about it some more. A novel outcome of the calendar feature is that ideas remain relevant and prominent before the value of them (window of opportunity) drops off. And while we’re at it, folks like me are always talking GTD this and Covey that. Why not look into Autofocus, which has a more organic means of balancing the passion vs the “should” in people’s lives.

  5. Springpad is the best. An ocr element would be awesome addition. I use this app? across 3 platforms and it’s the same user experience. On the go with evo and ipad2, and sort at home on pc.

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