Review of Keynote-NF

Keynote was one of the first note taking programs to use a hierarchical tree as its organisational paradigm.  It is still around and if you just want a simple hierarchical tree organiser for a small number of notes then it still holds its own against the more modern competition.  It is free and open source and it is one of the best free note taking programs around.

This note taking program is file based, that is it stores its data in files.  There was a very significant slowing of the response times when using a file with only two hundred notes.  A file containing one thousand notes was virtually unusable.  The slowing of the response time seems to be proportional to the size of the file rather than the number of notes, thus a file containing many small notes might be faster than a file with fewer notes containing lots of text or large graphics.  I managed to almost cripple a file which only had twenty notes by putting a moderately sized (3 megapixel) picture in each note, the speed was almost unusable.  Keynote can only have one file open at once.

There is no tagging scheme.  But Keynote does support transclusion so one note can appear in many places.  Also external files can appear in the tree as notes and can be edited.  These are known as ‘virtual notes’.

Keynote is free and Open Source and is available from http://code.google.com/p/keynote-nf/ .  This would be a good introductory program to use if you are interested in finding out what use a note taking program might be to you but don’t want to spend any money.

Overall score = 25 out of 60

Verdict   Not as good as some of the others but you can’t argue with the price!

1. Connectivity            =    7

A note may contain a link to a file or a link to a URL or to another note, the other note can be in another file.  The file links are ugly, and it could not access a file located in one of the Windows 7 libraries however creating a link to the same file through it’s normal address on the disk worked.  Web URL’s work as expected.  Keynote does not support universal links.  The inability to work with Windows libraries is a problem but it is understandable given the vintage of this program, it cannot be expected to be compatible with standards which weren’t even written when the program was released.

An interesting feature of Keynote is its support for transclusion, if it were not for the other limitations of this program this would make it a ‘must have’ especially as it is free.  Transclusion is implemented as ‘virtual notes’ which is a note that is a clone of another note, but if you edit one of them the edits also show up in the other note because they are the same note.

A ‘virtual note’ may also be an external file, so it takes up no space in the file, if you edit that note you are really editing the external file.

2. Classification            =    2

The only form of classification a note gets is its position in the hierarchical tree.  There are no keywords or tag lists in Keynote.

3. Text layout and formatting    =    5

There are the usual basic editing facilities, font, font size, colour of letters, bold, italic, superscript, subscript, alignment, indenting and bulleted and numbered lists.  You can even include pictures but if you put too many pictures in your notes the speed of response will slow down dramatically.

Keynote has only the most rudimentary support for tables, you can import a table from another application into a keynote note but after you have imported it the only thing you can change is the contents of the cells, you cannot alter the size of the cells or the borders or anything else about the table.

4. A sense of time            =    0

There is no calendar.

5. Ease of use            =    6

This program is reasonably easy to use, all the toolbar icons and buttons have tool-tips and all the buttons work as expected.  There is no switch between edit mode and viewing mode, you just start typing.

There is no documentation apart from the example note file and the .CHM file which is in the program folder after installation.

6. Visual Appeal            =    5

The program looks somewhat dated.  You can change the default fonts for various parts of the screen display but this program is not particularly configurable.  The panel to the right of the text area holds some useful functions but I couldn’t see a way of switching it off in the options dialog.

Keynote screenshot

Keynote screenshot

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2 thoughts on “Review of Keynote-NF

  1. Probably the best freeware notetaking application not included in a Microsoft suite. The only problem is the lack of email. While it is able to send email it seems built for sysadmins and not for outliners.

    • I disagree, Keynote has many problems, it does not handle large files very well and lacks many capabilities that more modern not taking programs have. But it was the first and it is free. There is another free note taking/Outlining program which I have not investigated yet but it seems much more capable of handling large amounts of information, it is called KeepNote. You might want to take a look.

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