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  • Prem Sundaram

The 5 Best Index Card Apps for Mac

Updated: Jun 7

Index Card apps for Mac aim to bring the experience of physical index cards into a digital environment, and being digital allows you to make, use and even print index cards in ways just not possible with traditional pen and paper index cards. As the NoteDex branding team says: 'Beyond Index Cards'.


There are a few such apps, and we have reviewed them to compare and contrast with NoteDex. The first thing you should know is we think all developers who make apps are great - we are one of them and know how hard it is. We also think everyone has different needs and styles - so it is wrong to say that there is a 'best' app - the question really is 'What is the best app for you?'



Creating and Studying on a Mac and iPad

At NoteDex we believe that the software you choose should depend on your goals and outcomes that you want to accomplish and we have put together some criteria for you to help you judge different apps with each other and ultimately - we hope - allow you to make the best choice of app for you. You may have seen in many of our other posts that we don't say that you should only use NoteDex - we encourage you to have a toolkit of apps that together allow you to create the right workflow to get your work done.


So with that introduction here is our review of what we believe are 'good' index cards apps.

5 Criteria to evaluate Index Cards App for Mac


We think that a good index card app should score well on these criteria:


1) Cross Platform Sync and Sharing

2) Rich Text - Text, Hyperlinks and Tables

3) Digital Inking

4) Organizer View

5) Categorization with Tags

We reviewed 5 apps that are available on the App Store and these are our findings:


1) Cross Platform Sync

In the age of the internet and web you would think that being able to share your information with anyone is given. However, it is surprising that nearly all the apps on the list do not allow you to create index cards on one device and continue on another operating system or device. Most of the apps are only able to create on a Mac or iPad and then save or sync a file to iCloud - very Apple MacOS iOS centric.


Only NoteDex and Scrivener allow you to edit on either Mac or Windows - critical if you are working in a team. And only NoteDex allows you to do this with real cloud sync - with Scrivener you still have to export a document and import it again. Furthermore, NoteDex is the only app that allows you to share a weblink and for your colleague to open and even edit cards on a web-browser - even without having the app.


Another reason why cross platform sync is important is if you are studying and using spaced repetition - you want to be able to create cards on your computer and review them not only on your iPhone, but also for example - on your Android phone or Windows computer.


Winner: NoteDex

Runner-Up: Scrivener



2) Rich Text

Rich text editing was more common but there are still differences. The older Index Card 4 and Scrivener apps only offer very limited bold/italic type options. Cardflow and Anki Notes fared better - but NoteDex takes the title again with its support for adding hyperlinks, tables, and text fonts, sizing, justification, lists and symbols. Most apps allowed for users to add images.


Winner: NoteDex

Runner-Up: Anki Notes


3) Digital Inking

Digital inking with a stylus (Apple Pencil) is a great capability for an Index Card app - since it mimics what a real index card is like when you jot down your ideas with a pen. It's just like writing on a piece of paper with your Apple Pencil.


Of the apps reviewed only two have such capability, and only NoteDex is cross-platform - meaning you can draw ink on Mac and further edit on a PC. CardFlow is the other app with ink capability but it is only editable within Mac/iOS world. The use of ink is very powerful during the brainstorming and creative mode and this definitely makes these two apps stand out from the rest.


Winner: NoteDex

Runner-Up: CardFlow


4) Organizer View

Organizing Index Cards on 'storyboards' - like a corkboard - is also a 'must-have' for a good index cards app. This allows the writer to see and organize their cards just like in the real world storyboard. An organizer view is critical as a writing tool to help you plan out your writing, such as plot, characters and helps your screenwriting or projects to be more organized.


While all the apps except Anki Notes did have some form of organizer view, NoteDex had 6 views in it's powerful Organizer View which gives the user the maximum control of their views, as well as the ability to 'drag' cards from one area to another in a Kanban type action. Cardflow has a free-form view where cards can be moved around on the canvas they call Magic Arrange. Index Cards 4 has a range of outline and view options which at this time make us actually rate it the highest in this category with NoteDex close behind. Once NoteDex has more outline and export capabilities (in development) then it will rate highest.


Winner: Index Cards 4

Runner-Up: NoteDex


5) Categorization with Tags

Being able to categorize index cards is critical for a writing tool as you collect and write more information in your projects. You need the ability to tag, filter, sort and group cards for your different ideas and themes.


Of the apps tested only NoteDex, Scrivener and Index Cards 4 had tag capability. NoteDex was the most comprehensive followed by Scrivener.


Winner: NoteDex

Runner-Up: Scrivener


Conclusion

We hope this review has been helpful and, based on the criteria, we find that NoteDex is a strong contender for being the best app in each category. We encourage you to check out all the apps and see if you agree with our review. There are of course additional or other criteria we could use, such as the existence of Study Mode Spaced Repetition if used as a study app learning tool, or what range of import-export options the app has. In the future we will expand this review to accommodate more feature comparisons.


NoteDex which provides a simple and easy to use interface, yet broad set of capabilities for all manner of users - professionals, researchers, writers and students. From its advanced text capabilities to its support for Apple Pencil, NoteDex is a powerful and flexible Index Cards app for note taking, writing and study. We look forward to hearing what you think about our app.



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