Review of Memo Master

This note taking program stores data in a database, there is no save file option, all changes are saved immediately.  There was no significant slowing of the response times when using a file with over one thousand notes.  Memo Master can have several databases open simultaneously.

The program is produced by a German company and the documentation (freely downloadable from their website) is in English but is obviously translated German, a smattering of words remain untranslated.

There is a tree structure to hold the notes (in the documentation Memo Master calls it’s notes memos).  In most of the other programs each note can have descendant notes, in Memo Master this is not the case, you can have ‘memos’ or ‘folders’ rather like a directory structure on a disk drive.  Memos cannot have descendants, folders can hold as many memos or folders as you want to put in them but cannot display any text.  This is unusual amongst note taking programs.

There is a free version available from http://www.jbsoftware.org/memomaster/index.htm , you have to submit all your details to them before they will send you a download link.  The free version starts out as a full version for 30 days then reverts to the free version and a significant portion of the functionality stops working.  The free version is actually quite a capable note taking program in its own right, this would be a good option if you want to find out more about note taking programs but don’t want to spend any money.  The free version certainly beats Keynote.

The one I am using is the Small Business Edition which is £39 or $59 (on 21st April 2013).  To see the difference between the full version and the free version look http://www.jbsoftware.org/memomaster/details.htm .  There is a more expensive version which allows multiple concurrent users and a centralised database.

Overall score = 43 out of 60

Verdict               Worth Buying.

1. Connectivity            =    8 out of 10

As with most of the other programs reviewed here Memo Master can create links in the text to external files, to a folder and to websites.  It can also create links from one note to another, even if the note is in another database.  The program can use universal links generated by other programs to link to notes in those programs but it cannot generate incoming universal links.  Paradoxically it can create a desktop link file which can call up one specific Memo Master note (memo).  I suppose one could set up a folder for these link files and create links to the link files from other programs, but this is not as straightforward as using universal links.  Files can be attached to a memo, the attached files appear in a list at the bottom of the memo.

2. Classification            =    8 out of 10

There is of course a hierarchical tree of notes (memos)

Memo Master has an excellent tagging scheme but they call it a Keyword Index, they also have what they call a tagging scheme which is a coarse classification scheme with about thirty categories before it starts to get cumbersome and difficult to use.

You can assign keywords (tags) to any memo using the keyword index, this is a flat list of keywords.  Once you have assigned keywords you can search for them using quite a sophisticated search engine.  As well as having a full index of all words used in the body text of the memos you can search just within the keywords and you can build up specific queries using AND, OR, NOT and brackets.  The memos also have a ‘description’ field and a ‘comments’ field, you are also allowed to search in these fields so you could use these fields for further classification of your memos.

The search dialog box looks a bit complex at first, more complex than it needs to be but perhaps some better documentation would help.  The search dialog box does allow you to search in the keywords only, I think the search facilities are almost as good as those in ‘Personal Knowbase’, if it allowed you to save named queries rather than creating them fresh each time then it would be equal to ‘Personal Knowbase’.

3. Text layout and formatting    =    10 out of 10

The editor is as good as a good word processor.  It has all the normal text formatting options of a word processor.  It handles tables very well once you have created a table you can drag the cell boundaries about with the mouse, this is the way it should work.  You can set headers and footers for when the document is printed out.

A note can contain a spreadsheet with working calculations, this is not just a gimmick this is a real quite sophisticated spreadsheet program.

You select the type of note when you create it, as well as a text memo and a spreadsheet there is a code memo, this is a programmers editor, plain monospaced text with line numbers and syntax highlighting for a number of different programming languages.

4. A sense of time            =    0 out of 10

Memo Master does not have a sense of time.  There is no calendar.  But bizarrely you can set an expiration date on a note so it gets automatically deleted after a specific date.

5. Ease of use            =    9 out of 10

I find this program very easy to use.  The note editor looks and feels like a high end word processor.  There is no switch between an edit mode and a viewing mode, you can edit at any time and the links appear as links, to edit a link you right click on it and select ‘hyperlink’ from the context menu, a dialog box appears with the link destination and the link text in different fields.

Memo Master has working spreadsheets built in.  It is incredibly useful to be able to have a spreadsheet in a note, this is the ultimate table and list making tool (with the benefit of formulas and calculations).

There are also code memos, these are for writing program code, they have syntax highlighting for many different programming languages.  There is no text formatting in a code memo and the typeface is monospaced (but the font can be set in the options).

There is a slight learning curve but that is true of all complex programs.

6. Visual Appeal            =    8 out of 10

The program has two fixed toolbars arranged one above the other, there is enough width on the small screen of my laptop to have these side by side but they are fixed in place thereby taking up double the height of a single toolbar across the whole screen.  This is a waste of space.

However having said that it is a very good looking program.

Memo Master screen shot

Memo Master screen shot

Apart from this one glaring error the user interface is quite slick and obvious.  This program looks good there are a number of different colour schemes you can select, it is perhaps not as configurable as some of the other programs reviewed here but the choices the designers have made are well thought out and sensible.

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