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Springpad (Android) review: Powerful personal assistant with some flaws

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The Good Springpad is a beautifully designed app with tons of features that make it easy to save anything you want to remember.

The Bad The app gives you many ways to save content, and it can get overwhelming to navigate all of the features.

The Bottom Line Springpad takes time to set up, but once you find how it works for you, it's a fantastic free tool for staying organized.


8.5 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 8
  • Interface 9
  • Performance 8

Outsource the task of remembering anything with Springpad (Android|iOS), a free app that lets you jot down notes, create lists, bookmark Web sites and products, save recipes, record voice memos, and so much more, right from your mobile device or desktop browser.

The best way to describe what Springpad can do, is to imagine you have a personal assistant who researches lifestyle-related topics for you, from which wine to pair with the roasted chicken recipe you just found online, to alerting you when the TV you want to buy goes on sale. Using a built-in search engine and partnerships with a handful of shopping and lifestyle websites, Springpad acts as a digital personal assistant that helps you find products, recipes, and other kinds of content.

Springpad started as a simple note-taking app, and has grown into a mixture of Evernote and Pinterest, with a dash of Google. While the app is awesome at gathering everything you want to save, its seemingly endless features can make it overwhelming to set up and use.

Getting started
After you first launch the app, create a Springpad account using Facebook, Google+, or an unique username and password combo. That account will sync with Springpad's website, and the Springpad app on other devices.

Once you're logged in on your mobile device, you'll see your home screen, which displays every single item you've saved to Springpad. There are toggles at the top of the app to view all of your notebooks (collections of items) and a search portal, where you can look up recipes, videos, music, books and more. There's also a left sidebar that shows all of your notebooks and has a search bar where you can search through all of your springs.

Springpad can be overwhelming at first, because there are a whopping eighteen types of content you can save, plus several ways to share and collaborate in the app. I really only use maybe fifty percent of the app's features, choosing the ones that fit my personal needs best and ignoring the rest. My best advice is to start slowly and figure out what kinds of things you want to save with Springpad, whether that's recipes, shopping lists, and personal notes, or books, movies, and TV shows you want to buy. Don't try to use every feature at once.

Get organized
With Springpad, you can save anything you find online, photos and files from your own device, and anything you type out on your own. Any individual piece of content you save -- a text note, voice recording, link, photo, etc -- is called a spring. You can create a new spring by tapping the large yellow plus sign in the app, and either start typing a text note, record an audio clip, or use Springpad's search feature to look up movies, recipes, businesses, or products on Amazon.

The layout of each spring depends on the content, but most have a spot at the top for photos or a map, followed by text, tags, links to external Web sites, and a place to leave comments. The comment field is especially helpful for when you share a notebook with another Springpad user to collaborate.

Your home screen shows everything you've saved in the app. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

You can also attach photos, links, audio recordings, PDFs, and reminders to each note, which makes for an incredibly robust note-taking experience. And of course, you can share a link to your notes with any of your device's other installed applications using Android's share feature.

There are several different kinds of springs: Note (regular text), Task (essentially a time-sensitive action and reminder), Business, Restaurant, Wine, Product, Book, Movie, TV Show, Album, Shopping List, Packing List, Check List, Recipe. The nice thing is that Springpad will format your note appropriately and even add some relevant information according to the category selected. For instance, add a movie, and you'll get a synopsis, release date, and cast information. Add a restaurant, and Springpad will show its location on a map and embed a link to the corresponding Yelp, Foursquare, and OpenTable pages where available. Conversely, if you're looking at a restaurant from your Yelp app, share it with Springpad, and Springpad will turn it into a Restaurant note with all the relevant information. It's a very convenient feature.

If you save a Web site bookmark or online article, Springpad will only pull in the link and small snippet of text into the spring, not the full text of an article. That's disappointing to me, because I like to save entire articles to reference later and to do that in Springpad, I'd have to copy and paste the article into the spring after I saved it. In contrast, Evernote's clipper tool captures the full Web page or article.

You can group your springs into collections called notebooks. You can customize each notebook by giving it a name; choosing a color and design scheme, which includes a handful of textile, paper, and wood textures (such as denim and grid paper); and choosing to share it with others or keep it private so only you can view it. If you don't keep your notebook private, other Springpad users can see it when they browse public notebooks in the app. I am a big fan of the notebook themes, where I can choose a color and textured background. The effect in the notebook is subtle, but it makes the app look refined and pretty to look at.

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