Quick-Capture Notes Apps

Something I left out of my Simplenote / Dropbox / writing workflow article last week is what iPhone app lives in my Dock for the sole purpose of being the go-to for initially capturing ideas, lists, and other miscellaneous tidbits of information.

The iPhone can be pretty awkward when you need to quickly jot down a piece of information. Such as someone’s shipping address, phone number, and/or email address; a list of things to get while you’re out that your wife is rattling off to you as you walk out the door; the coffee order your co-worker wants you to pick up for them while you’re out; etcetera.

The point being, there are many occasions when typing the information into the app it belongs takes too much time and attention than you have at the moment.

For this stuff, and more, I use an app called Scratch by Sweet Mac Alum, Garrett Murray and his team at Karbon.


Scratch is a no-nonsense “scratch pad” app for your iPhone. It launches in a hot second, and greets you with a blank text-entry pane and blue blinking cursor. You are then free to type whatever it is you need to type out right now, and leave the fiddling to later when you have a few minutes.

The reason you want to use an app like Scratch for stuff like this is all in the way Scratch handles your text after you’ve typed it in.

Once you’ve made your note, you can export the text you’ve just typed by sending it to Simplenote, Byword, Notesy, et al. You can also email it; text message it; send it to OmniFocus as a to-do item, or as the note for a to-do item; tweet it from Tweetbot or post it to App.net; send it to Quotebook; send it to Day One; create a new text file in Dropbox, or append your new text to an already existing text file.

And the export options are customizable. When you tap the export button you don’t see the entire list of every supported app, you see only what you’ve enabled in Settings. I’ve enabled Simplenote, Day One, and Email export.

Scratch isn’t just for capturing now and processing when you’ve got a minute. It’s also great for capturing disposable information, like that coffee order or your Honey Do List — why launch an app that syncs when you only need to jot down something that’s relevant for the next hour?

The Custom Keyboard Row

Scratch makes clever use of a custom keyboard row. Instead of there being a top Navigation / Title bar, the text pane goes all the way to the top. And then above the default iOS keyboard is a 5th keyboard row.

This 5th row can be swiped left and right. It sports a set of Markdown-friendly custom keys, action buttons for your current note, and access to the settings pane.

Additional power-features include TextExpander support, and markdown auto completion for links.


Similar in scope to Scratch is another excellent app: Drafts.

A few of Draft’s main differences include:

  • An iPad version which syncs to the iPhone.
  • An option to always launch with a blank text entry box.
  • A link mode, which takes mailing addresses, emails, phone numbers, and events and turns them into tappable links.

* * *

I highly recommend either of these apps — Scratch being one of three apps in my Dock. People have asked me why I use Scratch over Drafts. And though Drafts has a few more power features and is available on the iPad, I prefer Scratch because of the design.

Quick-Capture Notes Apps