Review of MyBase

This note taking program stores its notes in a database, however there is a save changes item in the file menu, I don’t know how often the database gets updated without using this menu item.  There was a noticeable slowing of the response times when using a file with over one thousand notes, especially when launching the program and saving a note.  There is also a limit of 300Mb on the size of the file, this is easy to exceed if you put all your notes in one database.

The answer is to split your notes into several databases but the problem with this is that MyBase cannot link a note in one database with a note in another database, this is a serious limitation. You can have more than one database open at once but you cannot create links between notes in different databases.

This program does not support universal links.

In some ways this program is the closest to being the perfect note taking program but it has some severe shortcomings with the way it fails to link things together which make it less useful than some of the less perfect programs.

The program costs $59 from the MyBase website (price correct at 14th June 2013).

Overall Score  = 41 out of 60

Verdict    So near and yet so far.

1. Connectivity            =    4

A number of different types of links are available but the program only supports these, it does not support universal links either in or out.  There is no way to create a link to a note in a MyBase database from outside the program.

You can insert a link to a file on the local file system, or to a folder on the local file system.  You can insert a link to another note in the database you are using but it cannot link a note in one database with a note in a different database.

You can create a link to a URL on the web or to a Mailto address, but it checks the format of these links rigorously and if you try to alter it to represent a universal link then the link is automatically converted to plain text and no longer functions as a link.

Each note can have a list of files attached to it, it can also have other notes from the same database attached to it as ‘Related Items’.  The attachments list also includes a list of symbolic links, these are the other places where this note appears as a transclusion and is automatically created.

The failure to be able to link things together is the most significant problem with this program, if this program did support universal links (supporting universal links into a database would automatically give it the ability to link to a note in a different database) then it would be the most awesome note taking program around and would blow away the competition.

But it doesn’t, oh well …

2. Classification            =    7

This is the only one out of the programs reviewed here to support hierarchical tagging.  In this program tags are called labels.  This means that there are two hierarchical trees.

The first one is called the outline and this is the same hierarchical tree which almost all of the note taking programs reviewed here have, but this one also supports transclusion (which they call Symbolic Links) so that a note may appear at more than one location.  No need to decide whether it is more appropriate for a note about the history of science to be filed under science or history because it can appear under both.  This is a really good feature.

The other tree is a list of tags or keywords, with many of the other programs if they have a tag list then it is a flat list.  But this program has a hierarchy of tags so you can have a tag for ‘science’ which is a sub tag of ‘physics’ if you define your tags like that.  Inheritance is not implemented but this is easy to do and actually gives you more control over how to tag something.  With a tagging scheme the note appears wherever it has been tagged in the tree, but it may appear many times.  No need to decide whether it is more appropriate for the note about the history of science to be labelled (tagged) as science or history because it can be labelled as both.

The point of tagging something is to find it again and so the search facilities are very important.  The search facilities in MyBase are not that good.  The advanced search has AND, OR and NOT for searching in the notes and in their titles but this does not apply to searching in the labels (tags), that is just a simple OR of any label you select, i.e. the note will be selected if it has any of the labels you selected to search for, this is not usually what you want.

You can also search within notes using ‘regular expressions’.

One interesting feature is the ability to search in the file attachments.  This searches in any file or web page that appears in the attachments list.

There are also facilities to search the local file system and to search for notes with a particular icon.  In short this program has a lot of search options but only a few of them are actually useful.

3. Text layout and formatting    =    7

The text formatting whilst not up to the standards of a word processor is quite good, all the usual effects can be applied, font, size, bold, italic, colour and line spacing.  Table handling is very rudimentary.  Pictures can be inserted into notes and re-sized.

4. A sense of time            =    8

This program has a calendar and you can link notes to specific dates.  You can set a reminder on a note so that you will be reminded of that note on the date which you set.  You can also set the reminder to repeat.

5. Ease of use            =    7

This is not the easiest of programs to use and it is certainly not very well documented.  The documentation (if you manage to find it) consists of one very long web page holding an incomplete version of a manual for one of the previous versions of the program.  This program is not very configurable.

One thing which you can change is the background colour and font of many of the panels in the interface.  This is useful to distinguish their functions, they all start off with a white background and a very small sans serif font which means that sometimes it is not obvious at first glance which panels you are looking at.  The different background colours solve this problem.

6. Visual Appeal            =    8

Not the best looking of the programs reviewed here but certainly not the worst.  The toolbars are a little too busy, but then there are lots of tools to display.

screenshot of MyBase

screenshot of MyBase