I almost didn't review Catch, because AK Notepad also uses catch.com. I believed Catch would just be a refinement on the already-unsuitable AK Notepad.

Boy, am I glad I didn't let my emotions make that decision. Catch rocks!

  • Text Entry: Good.

    This is not the big difference between Catch and AK Notepad. Granted, Catch's text entry field looks better, but it's still got the Android long-note scrolling problem. Eh, you learn to deal with it.

  • Data Synchronization: Excellent!

    Well, with the name, you didn't expect it to sync through Google Docs, did you? Catch syncs with catch.com. You need to get an account, but it's free, and comes with 70MB of storage. Catch.com works fine from my Linux machine running Firefox; it should work for just about anybody.

    Synchronization does have one problem: if a single note has been modified in multiple places since the last sync, the latest version wins. No notification, no merging, no nothing. Syncing is a difficult problem, and this is a simple solution; however, if I'm going to lose data, you should at least tell me.

    Note that Catch doesn't have AK Notepad's problem with titles. That's because Catch doesn't use titles. It uses a preview of two to four lines from the note.

  • Search Integration: Perfect!

    From your global settings, go to "Search", then "Searchable Items". Make sure "Catch" is enabled (I think it installs that way by default). Now use that nifty search button to search your phone (still no such thing on iPhone). Any results from the text of your notes are displayed under "More Results". The search is plenty fast, since Catch doesn't have to connect to catch.com over the Internet to search: it keeps a local copy of your notes.

    It would be nice if it would highlight the search term, and maybe even scroll to it. But that's not really an integration problem, so no points deducted.

  • Import/Export: Excellent!

    Strictly speaking, Catch has no import capabilities. However, the Catch FAQ (under the preferences menu) took me to Catch.com's FAQ, which had an item there about importing notes from other services. It uses the web interface to import notes from a CSV with note and category information.

    I didn't try to import directly from my Palm notes, but used the already-massaged data I had from trying to import into Note Everything. I encountered several errors, but eventually figured out my problem: too many notes. I cut them down to batches of about 100, and spent about an hour importing everything to catch.com.

    Best of all, catch.com added my Palm categories to the bottom of each note as a tag! Suddenly I had all my notes, back in my phone and organized!

    The Catch app does export your notes to your SD card. Like other apps, this is an all-or-nothing deal: no selecting notes or tags to export. It's not CSV format, but catch.com swears they'll import from that file if you like. Meanwhile, the web service also exports to HTML, CSV, or Google Earth KML. (I assume that's for the geo-tagging I don't use.)

    Granted, there's still room here for improvement, but then, there's always room for improvement. Taken as a whole, this functionality is fantastic!

  • Data Hierarchy: Good.

    Catch uses hash tags for its data hierarchy. You can put multiple tags on a single note.

    The tags aren't technically hierarchical, but you can fake it. Just use an underscore for each level of the hierarchy. For instance, personal_school_SHS. When you search for "personal_", it'll pick up all the sub-tags, too.

    Unfortunately, you don't search for text in tags; you search for tags that have already been recognized by Catch. So you need to have a note that includes all the tags in the hierarchy. It's a hack, but it works. Hey, that's why it didn't get an "Excellent".

    Catch also solves the tag proliferation problem! While editing, it adds a handy tag picker at the bottom of each note, just above the keyboard. Scroll along it to find the tag you want to add, and press the button; the tag is added at the cursor location. Or, start typing the tag; if you use the octothorpe (really, vocabulary, people) on the tag picker, your Swype keyboard won't even force a space on you. And as you type characters, the tag picker shows you the matching available tags!

    The tag detector is pretty... beta. It won't accept anything in a tag except letters, numbers, and the underscore, so all my tags with dashes are truncated. It searches everywhere in the text, and there's no way to stop it. The web version won't recognize single-digit tags, but the app does; therefore I now have tags like "#6". I spent a while adding spaces to unwanted tags in my notes. Sigh.

  • Data Integration: Good.

    Catch automatically turns telephone numbers, web URLs, and tags into clickable links. However, it considered my dates (written in computer programmer format, like 2011-06-08) to be telephone numbers.

    Catch only shows clickable links in view mode, not edit mode. However, you can get to edit mode with a single click in the button bar. Or by long-pressing a note. It's no big deal. I would like the clickable links to be a different color in edit mode, so I can easily find them and modify them if necessary.

  • App Integration: Poor.

    I was SHOCKED to find that there are Android apps that integrate with Catch. There are browser plugins that let you save HTML pages to catch.com. There's even a web API that lets website visitors save stuff to catch.

    I suppose it's not really Catch's fault that there's no calendar, task, or contact app that integrates with it. And from the PIM perspective, everything else is just frosting. Still, it's better than anything else I've seen!

While you can't change the theme of the Catch app, you do have several preferences at your disposal. And they actually work, unlike AK Notepad's sorting preference. I set all my text to "small", which gives me plenty of space for editing and reading notes. I wish I could use only one line of preview in the note list, but I'll take two if I have to. I don't like that I have to give the app my password; I'd prefer some kind of token-based authentication.

On the other hand, the appearance is slick. Notes are organized, and it's easy to see what you're clicking on. The interface supports intuitive gestures. And not only does Catch get do all the important stuff well, it's pretty good at everything. It even lets you attach pictures and voice clips to your notes, if that's what you're into.

Customer support was a mixed bag: I asked two questions, one of which was answered correctly, but only after I'd figured it out on my own. The other still hasn't gotten a response, but the problem fixed itself.

Overall, I rate Catch "Excellent"! I'd like it to implement a search within a note, search highlighting, and a custom editing field that doesn't suffer from the Android long-note-scrolling bug. This is my new notepad!