While Notebooks‘ name may imply a focus on plain text note-taking, you can actually do much more with it and compose visually appealing formatted documents with styles, tables, lists, and embedded images. You can use Notebooks‘ built in WYSIWYG editor for this purpose, but Notebooks also supports Markdown, which allows you to create formatted documents by typing plain text. This flexibility empowers you to produce a variety of content, from simple notes to richly designed documents, all within Notebooks.

Notebooks is not limited to being an editor, as it allows you to import and store a wide range of document types created in other applications such as Pages, Numbers, MS Word, PDF or RTF. So you can import email messages, photos, movies, web page contents and all your essential materials. Whether you are working on a research project or simply need to keep important files close at hand, Notebooks allows you to gather and organize everything in one place.

Notebooks stores your documents as regular files on the file system of your device. Documents you create in Notebooks are saved as plain text or HTML, two standard formats compatible with a wide range of devices; documents you import remain in their original format.

This file-based approach ensures that your documents remain portable and reusable, and you never need to worry about how to export your documents. This provides a unique degree of openness in the sense that you can share Notebooks‘ documents across applications and devices, and your documents are never locked into Notebooks.

This chapter will walk you through the process of creating new documents, making changes to the text, formatting the content, and customizing the visual appearance of your documents.

Editable Documents

Although Notebooks can manage and display a wide range of document formats, it is important to remember that it allows you to edit only certain types. Let us start by exploring document types which you can edit directly in Notebooks.

Plain Text .txt

  • Plain text is the most universal and future-proof document format, as it can be read and edited on any platform.
  • This is what Notebooks‘ uses for its plain text documents. They use a single font, style and color, and they do not support any special functionality like embedded images or styles.
  • Notebooks includes a set of shortcuts and convenience tools to help you edit plain text documents efficiently. You find more information on this topic in a separate chapter about plain text documents.
  • Notebooks provides options to apply basic formatting and automatically align lists in plain text to add structure to otherwise unstructured text. These options make plain text documents much easier to read and improve their overall appearance and organization.
    As Notebooks performs formatting on the fly, it is important to remember that the format is not saved as part of the document. If you wish to retain the formatting in the saved file, you can use a formatted document instead of plain text, but you can also convert the plain text to a formatted document, or save it as PDF.
  • Notebooks can open most document types that are known to be in plain text format. This includes files with extensions such as .css, .fountain, .php, .ajax, .jquery, .bib, .yaml and many more. With this capability, you can keep and edit a wide range of documents in Notebooks.

Formatted Documents .html, .htm

  • HTML is the standard language for building web sites, and as such it is a universal format, readable and editable on almost any device.
  • Notebooks‘ Formatted Documents are saved as HTML, so they are compatible across platforms and devices, which makes them future-proof, too.
  • Formatted Documents allow you to apply text styles, insert tables and tables of contents, create indented lists and checklists, embed images and more. This is similar to what you may know from Apple’s Pages and Microsoft Word, but in a more lightweight and easy-to-use way. With Formatted Documents, you can create professional-looking documents that are easy to edit and maintain.
  • As with plain text, Notebooks provides tools and shortcuts for efficiently editing formatted documents, too. You find more information in the chapter about Formatted Documents.
  • When you add web pages from a browser to Notebooks, they are stored as HTML, which means that you can edit, customize and modify the imported web pages, and adjust their layout to Notebooks‘ overall style.

Markdown .md, .mdown, .markdown, .text

  • Markdown documents are plain text files, in which simple abbreviations and special characters add formatting to the text. They are designed to be easily readable and writable in their plain text form, but allow for basic formatting like headings, emphasis, and lists. When converted to HTML, Markdown’s formatting commands turn into beautifully laid out documents.
  • To further improve readability of Markdown text, Notebooks supports syntax highlighting and text alignment. You find all the details about Markdown and Notebooks’ options in the chapter about Markdown Documents.
  • One of the benefits of Markdown is that it allows you to separate content from layout: you focus on content and basic structure while composing your document; when finished (or anytime in between) check the formatted version of the document, and fine tune the layout by choosing the right document theme.

Fountain .fountain

  • Fountain is a specific document format for screen writers. Like Markdown is is based on plain text, and Notebooks handles it exactly the same: you edit the plain text version, and Notebooks converts and displays the text as a formatted, perfectly laid out screenplay.

PDF Documents .pdf

  • Although you cannot directly edit the text of PDF documents in Notebooks, you can add, remove and rearrange pages, highlight text, add annotations and more. Notebooks‘ annotation tools are identical to those provided by iOS and iPadOS, and of course you can use an Apple Pencil, too.
  • You cannot add annotations directly in Notebooks for Mac, but if you open the PDF document in Preview or your preferred PDF tool (you can use the keyboard shortcut ⌘O), and add annotations, the changes will automatically save back to Notebooks.

Sketches (iPhone and iPad)

  • In NotebooksSketches are essentially a set of PDF pages, so you can utilize the same annotation tools which are available for regular PDF documents and write, draw or paint.
  • When you create a new sketch, Notebooks actually creates a PDF document with a few empty pages. You can add, remove and rearrange the pages from thumbnail strip, or from Notebooks‘ toolbar buttons.
  • In Notebooks you have the option to add a ruled, checked, or patterned background to new sketches. To do this, adjust the background pattern in the parent book’s info.

Photos, Images, Drawings

  • When you import these types of documents into Notebooks, you can paint, scribble, write or annotate photos and images just like PDF documents.

Non-Editable Documents

In addition to the editable documents, you can store, open and view many other document types like .rtf.pages.docx in Notebooks as well. You cannot edit them, though. However, with the corresponding application installed on your device, you can use the Open in… options to edit these documents in their native application. Your changes are saved back to the original document in Notebooks, so there is no need to worry about duplicate copies.

There are document types which Notebooks cannot even display. You can still store them in Notebooks, they will be preserved in their original format.