10 Big Changes in CollaNote & the elephant in the room

CollaNote is the most updated note-taking app in 2021. It is probably the most updated app on App Store. As exciting as that might be, it has its problem. A full review of the app quickly becomes outdated. Do we sit out the update storm or ride it out? This article covers the updates for version 1.1.11 to 1.2.5

Homepage

On the homepage, your document thumbnails are now smaller, so you can fit more notes on the screen. The homepage now has a floating toolbar with five icons (at the bottom of the screen). It is superimposed on the documents in the app. A full-width tab would probably work better, like the one at the top of the homepage. You can now easily access icons to create a:

  • Quick Note to start taking notes with a single tap. You can determine the default name and template for your quick note under Settings.
  • New Note
  • New Folder
  • Import PDF

Under your Settings, you can Change Language to change the app’s user interface. For French and Russian, it’s still a work in progress. Most of the app’s user interface remains in English. The concept, though, is fascinating.

Text tool

When you accidentally tap on the text tool, you can now Cancel to exit the mode without having to add text. Under Basic you can do the following with your text: Copy, Duplicate or Delete. You also get options to play around with the layers on your page to Bring to front or Send to back. This only works with images and stickers in the app, though, not with handwriting. Your text always goes behind handwritten items. We hope our developer can extend this useful feature to inked items too.

After so many updates, the app still can’t select one text box for editing. CollaNote still selects all the items on the page when you want to edit one text box or one image. This needs some work.

Lasso tool

For the lasso tool, we’re still waiting for the labelled icons. The app can now pick up images and text together. However, if you select all things, the app picks up only the handwritten notes only. But, you now have the option to Move Everything if you also want to move your text too. We are happy about this; a lasso tool must pick all the items on a page.

Photos

You can now drag & drop images and text into CollaNote. At the moment, we can’t drag & drop out of the app though, a feature we hope to get in the future. The app now supports PNG images. Our developer is trying to replace icons with labelled actions for working with items in our notes. Under Basic, you can Copy, Duplicate and Delete. Your image also gets Layers options to Bring to front or Send to back when your images are overlapping any text.

Edit finally brings the Crop feature to CollaNote (which the app warns will come in the next versions). Why is the feature in the app if it’s an upcoming feature? The developer probably thinks that we’ll be excited to know a feature is coming. But, what’s more exciting than is THE ACTUAL FEATURE. Tapping on an icon to learn its coming (God knows when) is quite annoying. PLEASE STOP ADDING TEASER TO A FREE APP. That works for paid apps/features, even then, it’s annoying!

Scans

You can now scan documents into the app, with your camera. The app is using the native scanning feature in iPadOS. You can, therefore, choose the scan you want: Colour, Grayscale, Black & White and Photo. Autoscan is good, it captures great scans and you can adjust your image edges. When you are done, Save and the app saves as images. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to save our scans as PDFs.

You can also Scan Text with Camera to pick out text from a photo. Under settings, you can choose the language you want. Again, full names are better than flags and shorthand. Users shouldn’t have to think so hard about a language they’re looking for. They can just read it when it’s written in full. Like most features in CollaNote, scanning text was hit-and-miss.

PDF annotation

Finally, the app supports huge PDFs. The app is not loading them in their full resolution though. It gives the feeling that the document is still loading or that it’s a very good scanned copy. Even with the app’s limited zoom, you can still see the document’s resolution has been dramatically decreased. Markup (the simplest PDF reading tool on the iPad) handles PDFs better than this. Knowing our developer, he’s probably working on it as we speak.

The app now recognises hyperlinks and we are excited about that! Your hyperlinks don’t get activated when using your Apple Pencil. Under Gestures, you can choose how you want to interact with hyperlinks in your PDF. You can either:

  • Tap with a finger
  • Tap with your pen tool
  • Double tap with your pen tool. All these are decent options and it’s exciting that we have that much control over how we interact with our hyperlinks in the app.

CollaNote now supports PDF outlines. To bring it up, zoom out on your page. When you zoom in, the outline width becomes smaller until it eventually disappears. PDF navigation in CollaNote has just become easier and we are happy about that. You also see your bookmarked pages or add some. With new bookmarks, you can:

  • Name
  • Pick an icon and colour it

When you don’t have much time on your hands, just create a Quick Bookmark. This effectively creates a custom outline for your PDFs, which is awesome. You can’t edit your bookmarks once you’ve created them, though. You can only move or Delete them. CollaNote has made some impressive updates for PDF annotation.

Page Customisation

You can now change the paper template for one page in your notebook. You can then choose to apply the template to new pages as well. That means, in CollaNote, you can now have different page templates in one notebook. You can also move your pages up and down in your document. We look forward to having page rotation in the app.

You can still change the page templates for all your pages in the notebook. The app is smart enough to single out pages with custom templates to not change them. That is very impressive. Also apply for pages with own template is not changing custom templates, though.

Collaboration

Collaboration is the most buggy of all the features we’ve talked about so far. First of all, the app stopped collaborating on some documents that we were working on. We had to collaborate on them again. It was also difficult to get the features to work, we did a lot of trials to get a few shots for the YouTube video.

You can see the activity on your document and choose to see All, Draw, Erase and Page Changes. The section has Moderator Tools, but the funny thing is that I am not the moderator of my document. It makes us wonder, who moderates our private collaborations? Each time I tap on the Moderator Tools, I get a popup window…

This feature is only for moderator… CollaNote is looking for volunteer moderator, if you want to keep public rooms clean, just send me an email to… with title [Being Moderator].

It goes without saying, the owner of a document is its moderator. If every app required users to send emails for the moderation of their shared documents, that would be a terrible user experience. We should be able to moderate our shared documents without emailing the developer.

You can Report changes made by your colleagues. The app then sends the person a message that they have been reported and that people are voting to ban them. Even if you’re the owner of the document. We’ve sent multiple reports but, without a moderator for the document, I guess not much can be done about the reports.

Exporting audio

You can now export specific pages out of the app. You can choose the first and last page you want to share when exporting Multiple Pages. Let’s hope in the future we’ll be able to export specific pages, not just a range. You can export your document as PDF or PNG.

You can now export audio files out of the app. It’s great you can export one segment of the audio at a time. However, exporting all the recordings in a notebook, one by one, would be a little unpleasant. An option to select multiple audios or merge them first would be helpful.

Gestures

CollaNote now has Gesture Settings for:

  • Toggling the Box editing mode: double tap
  • Undo with 2 fingers: tap/double tap
  • Redo with 3 fingers: tap/doubletap
  • Hold to transform shapes: short, default or long
  • Double tap the Apple Pencil to switch between the eraser and last tool
  • Tap hyperlinks with a finger
  • Tap/double tap hyperlinks with the pen tool

The elephant in the room

Though CollaNote is the most updated note-taking app at the moment, it is also the most buggy. There are two possible explanations for that. Our developer could be neglecting the bugs to focus more on adding new features to the app. Or the bugs are a consequence of adding so many features so quickly. Whatever the reason, a buggy app is a dysfunctional app. It is better to have an app with two smooth, bugless features (an excellent example of that is Kyoku Flashcards) than to have an app with a thousand features that all malfunction.

Interestingly, despite all the bugs, CollaNote has managed to get a better App Store ranking than all the stable and older note-taking apps. It is ranking higher than GoodNotes, Notability, Noteshelf, Nebo, OneNote and Apple Notes! How is that possible? Noteshelf has received critical criticism for fewer atrocities than those committed by CollaNote.

Any thoughts? Do tell, do tell!