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

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Since explaining everything that Springpad can do could go on for pages, I'll describe two ways I've used the app over the last several years.

First, Springpad has served as a digital cookbook, where I store recipes I find all over the Web. When I'm poking around online cooking blogs and find a dish I want to save, I use Springpad's clipper, available for both desktop and mobile browsers, to save the recipe ingredients, directions, and any photos to my account. Every recipe is saved as its own spring, and I can then organize them into themed notebooks, such as "Breakfast Recipes" or "Desserts and Treats." Springpad formats each recipe so that the ingredient list and directions are as easy to read as they would be in a cookbook.

You can organize your Springs into notebooks. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Another way I've used Springpad is to save anything that I want to buy for myself, including gadgets, books, and beauty products. In the app, I tap the plus sign to add a new spring, and select the appropriate category, such as books, movies, or albums.

For anything that doesn't fit into one of Springpad's genre-specific category, I just choose the generic "product" category. Then I search for what I want to buy using the product name, such as "iPad Mini" or "To Kill A Mockingbird." The app searches Amazon and other databases to find the product and gives you a list of search results. When you find the right match, you can save it to Springpad and the app will include a description, product category, price, photos, and any other relevant information. If the item goes on sale, the app will send you an alert.

I had occasional problems with Springpad showing the wrong price for a product I saved, which was annoying. You can manually edit that detail in the spring, but I wished it got it right the first time.

Sharing and discovering
If you choose to keep your notebooks public, other Springpad users can see them and follow them. The way it works is similar to Pinterest; you can create a theme-specific notebook, such as "Hot Tech Gadgets" or "5K Training Workouts" and add springs that match that theme. Others who use Springpad can find and follow those notebooks, and whenever you add a new item, it will show up in the home feed.

If you want to find notebooks to follow, tap the search button at the top of the app and choose the Explore option. You'll see trending notebooks, and collections of notebooks broken down by theme, like organization and entertainment. Springpad's partnered with Glamour, Real Simple, Breville, and other brands and Web sites to create curated notebooks. You can follow any number of notebooks and re-spring items to your own notebooks.

You can explore other user's notebooks and follow them to get updates. Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Springpad lets you share your notebooks with just a few other people so you can collaborate with friends, family, or co-workers. For example, you could have a notebook for an upcoming trip to Europe that you share with your fellow travels where everyone can save points of interest they want to visit and share their thoughts about places to stay.

At top of your Home feed, there's a slider that controls which Springs you can see: Only your content, content from others users with whom you collaborate, and content from the Springpad users that you follow. That helps keep your Home screen organized as you follow notebooks in the app.

Conclusion

With its seemingly endless number of features and ways to save content, Springpad can feel overwhelming, even to me, who's used the service off and on for the last few years. But once you figure out exactly how Springpad works for you, whether it's a place to save all of the gadgets you want to purchase or a digital recipe box, it's easy to see how valuable the app can be.

Overall, I think Springpad is an incredibly useful note-taking tool for those of us who sometimes suffer from information overload. The way it handles notes according to the category of information they contain (e.g. Restaurant, Movie, etc.), really makes it more unique and proactive than Evernote. However, at the same time, I wish it had more robust text editing and could handle file attachments the way Evernote does. Regardless, Springpad is a powerful note-taker; it comes with customizable Home screen widgets, it can create reminder alarms, and I highly recommend it.

Portions of this review were taken from an older review on Download.com, written by Jaymar Cabebe.

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