I had written my own article, The app I tried, about a similar application called Notes Plus. I actually penned my piece back in December 2016, but this article only just made it onto Embedded.com a few days ago at the time of this writing (you can see a brief demo of Notes Plus in this video).
Based on Max's column, I decided to download a copy of Nebo (which is currently free), and experiment with it a little. In this article, I thought I might put down some of the differences I see between Nebo and Notes Plus. I should add that if I make any disparaging remarks about the capabilities of either, it could just be that I missed something whilst using them. I should also note that my impression of Nebo is based on a very quick evaluation. Keeping all of this in mind, my thoughts are as follows:
Nebo has the ability for automatic "bulleting" (including both graphic and numbered bullets). I didn't see this in Notes Plus.
Tables are foreign to both. It is possible to construct them graphically, but automation would be nice.
Nebo seems to handle the creation of the decision diamond in a flow diagram quite well, although it did seem to require a fairly good hand-drawn shape to get it equal opposite angles and not an odd polygon. Notes Plus required me to swivel a square. Flow arrows are easier in Nebo as well.
Moving blocks of text and portions of drawing is intuitive and easy in Nebo as you can see in the video in Max's blog. I didn't really try this out in Notes Plus.
Equation entry and solution generation is excellent in Nebo. Unavailable in Notes Plus.
Editing of text in Nebo is intuitive and appeared to be more versatile than Notes Plus, like adding <CR><LF> equivalents or removing them using downward and upward strokes of the pen, respectively; similarly for inserting or deleting spaces in words; all while working with your handwritten text.
The handwriting recognition is stunning in both apps. My handwriting must be up there with the worst of them, so I was more than impressed that Nebo could read what I wrote when I couldn't! My wife's writing is stylish and neat, but -- in my opinion -- impossible to read. I got her to write a sentence in Nebo. Her cursive capital I (as in first person singular) is rather like a printed "9" and Nebo initially interpreted it as such, but by time she had finished her third word, Nebo had re-interpreted it in the context of the sentence and converted it to an "I". Nebo's approach is different to that of Notes Plus. Nebo transposes on-the-fly, so you can see what it believes you have written and you can edit it there and then if there are any misinterpretations. By comparison, Note Plus operates in a batch mode, working on an entire block of handwriting at a time. Having said all this, I cannot say whose conversion is the better.
Writing multiple pages with Notes Plus needs two-handed operation to scroll while you write. I had some difficulty with this, although I am sure I could adjust my style to accommodate it. There is also an area reserved for your palm on the screen to prevent erroneous entries. I haven't quite figured out how, but Nebo just seems to know what to do as you keep adding lines. Also, Nebo detects and ignores your palm resting on the screen, so there is no need for a reserved area.
As near as I can tell, Nebo can only import photos/videos or direct access to the camera. Notes Plus can import pictures and photos as well as PDF files, to say nothing of audio files. Perhaps this alone is the reason Nebo can't be used as a notebook.
On the other hand, Nebo can export in a variety of formats, including Word, PDF, HTML, and text. Notes Plus is stuck with PDF.
Although Nebo insists on the Apple pencil to input text etc., tapping and double tapping for conversion and selection of objects must be performed using a finger. I found this to be a little disconcerting, since -- at the very least -- you have to grasp the pencil in some way whilst waving your index finger around. You might even feel more comfortable putting the pencil down. I was stuck on the tutorial page on tapping for a couple of days until I figured this out.
If you go to a meeting and forget your Apple Pencil, you are dead in the water with Nebo, because it doesn't support handwritten input using your finger or even a traditional (passive) stylus. Also, there's no soft keyboard (or real Bluetooth keyboard) support either. By comparison, Notes Plus does support finger input for handwriting along with soft and hard keyboards for direct text input.
At the end of the day, the two products don't quite address the same market. Despite the feelings in my aforementioned blog, Notes Plus has more features and could definitely be used as full-up replacement for a paper engineering notebook; I don't believe Nebo could. However, if you are just capturing notes, equations, diagrams, and sketches with the intention of exporting them into another application, then Nebo is great. In fact, I wish much of Nebo's use-model and technology was included in Notes Plus.
Notwithstanding the pros and cons of both these apps, my reservations about the iPad remain, and this will probably mean that neither app will become part of my daily arsenal.
So the search continues for a notebook replacement...
There are some people here at work who are using OneNote as a notebook. It seems to work fairly well (at least on a PC) but since I'm using it on a windows 7 desktop, there's no handwriting entry.
I've seen some reviews indicating that the Windows 10 OneNote app allows handwriting entry. For my use, a Windows 10 tablet/convertable would be better than an iPad so if I get one, I'll give it a try. I'm tempted by the Surface Pro but the price is a bit out of my reach.