Below: Hog Bay Notebook’s interface may be a model of elegant simplicity, but it looks nothing like a hog, a bay or a notebook.
It’s a terrible name for a piece of software — right up there with Circus Ponies’ NoteBook and AquaMinds’ NoteTaker) — but Neuberg’s enthusiastic review was enough to convince me to download the software and give it a spin. Though I didn’t quite pick up the whole application in about a minute, Hog Bay Notebook is remarkably intuitive and easy to use. After playing around with it for about ten minutes, I felt comfortable enough with both its capabilities and technical underpinnings to import all my random notes from Stickies into it and give it a test spin. After working with it for two days or so, I can say that I like it a lot.
Hog Bay Notebook’s beauty can be accounted for by the fact that it’s written entirely in Cocoa, the preferred programming environment for Mac OS X. The result is a completely fluid and elegant user experience on par with any application that might have been developed by Apple Computer itself. Because of this, the application scores in a big way where StickyBrain, another would-be Stickies replacement I flirted with, did not: simply looking good.
In fact, the program is so at home among out-of-the-box Mac OS X software like Mail and TextEdit (upon which a large part of Hog Bay Notebook is built) that it actually suffers from a camoflouge effect. Where Stickies was a large, messy virtual bulletin board that could accomodate notes of all sizes and shapes, Hog Bay Notebook is confined a bit too neatly to discrete windows — my notes are organized, but they can no longer sprawl. On the plus side, this means that my screen is a lot tidier. But the disadvantage is that Hog Bay Notebook is a much more difficult target to find with my mouse because it is, at first glance, nearly indistinguishable from the half-dozen other similar looking applications I always have running.
That’s one of a dozen or so shortcomings that prevent Hog Bay Notebook from becoming a total grand slam for me, but at the same time, there’s a lot to be said for the program’s adherence to simplicity. The net effect of making further tweaks or adding more in-depth features would be bloatware, and who wants that? It’s almost a sure bet that the developers will succumb to such temptations with future versions, but the program is, for now at least, a fine example of designing exactly what’s needed and no more than that.