Why I’ll probably quit SpringPad.

Not everything benefits from having social thrust upon it - here's why I'll probably quit Springpad.

New SpringPad for iPhoneI have been a staunch user of SpringPad for the past couple of years preferring it over the superior Evernote. In that time I have used it to plan and write well over a hundred blog posts so when I heard that a new version of SpringPad was coming and, as it has formed such an essential part of my workflow, I was obviously excited about what was coming.

My initial reactions to the new website and iPhone app were mixed but after changing a few display settings I thought I would be okay. Now I'm not so sure.

I can't criticise Springpad for wanting to develop and enhance their product but, for me, it has become overkill for what I need.

First impressions

On installing the iPhone update my immediate thought was that the default Gallery view, with items laid out in Metro-like squares just didn't work - there has been a lot of comment that the new version looks like a child of Evernote and Pinterest - unfortunately it is the bastard child and definitely inherits its looks from its image sharing mother.

Switching to list view was an improvement but the font is too large and not configurable.

Getting past the views we have a problem with items that have been written outside of the app itself not wrapping for the smaller screen (unless re-edited locally to remove formatting) which makes them largely unreadable even when previewing.

Too small to read

Social

SpringPad has succumbed to the lure of social and, in my opinion, suffered for it. The emphasis is now on sharing and comments. Where you used to be able to add notes to your items and edit those notes later you can now only add comments which are intransient.

You can still attach images to items, either directly by taking a photo or from the camera roll, but not links unless as normal text in a comment. Frustratingly, those comments are purely social and require an active connection to be submitted whereas notes used to be added locally and synced with the main item.

The new website suffers in a similar manner to the new look at Google+ in that there is too much unused space (although in SpringPad it's not necessarily white).

The service is no longer a competitor with Evernote as far as I am concerned and tries too hard to be something it never was. The spirit of the service has been lost in a mad rush to capitalise on the popularity of social.

While you could previously follow others there was still a predominant focus on your data and syncing that between multiple devices - that focus has gone and the data now plays second fiddle.

It's not all bad

One saving grace for SpringPad (at least as far as I'm concerned) is that the formatting markup it supports matches Google+ so it is a simple matter of a quick copy & paste to get pre-formatted text in to Plus. On its own, however, this isn't enough when other things have been lost.

It is such a shame that the core functionality has altered so drastically in this new iteration as the app itself looks good and has an excellent pop-out menu on the left - just like the Facebook app - which gives quick access to your notebooks.

Less is more

As much as I hate to say it, it looks as though I will now be looking for another editor to replace SpringPad both on the iPhone and on the web. The service has become overcomplicated and forgotten what originally made it so great.

Many will probably love the update but not everything benefits from having social thrust upon it.

UPDATE

In what could almost be a direct response SpringPad CEO, Jeff Chow, has admitted in a post that they dropped the ball in a number of areas and will move "forward by looking back". Specific issues he mentions include those I included above such as comments you can't edit, poor use of space and going overly social.

I'll watch developments with great interest.

  1. David K says: #
    Couldn't agree more; the best thing about Springpad in its previous incarnation was that it really was a comprehensive, standalone tool for which I would have been happy to pay. Sadly, developers seem to be incapable of understanding that the socially-networked side of things is an unwanted encumbrance for many of us, who want to use their products as wholly-private productivity tools. With a little luck, Springpad will at least offer a choice to users in its next iteration. Otherwise, I'll be leaving it behind with no little sadness and wondering why software developers, much like politicians, don't seem to know when to just leave things alone.

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