Review: Magic Pad HD, by MagicPad
Magical Pad HD, by MagicalPad
• Very robust management app
• Quick start guide and extensive manual
• Steep learning curve
• May be too time consuming for practical use
• No context sensitive help
Management and planning apps can be very useful, but usually they consist of a glorified to-do list and task manager. Magical Pad HD as able to manage notes, outlines, personal and business needs, tasks, and more. How well does it deliver?
The way to think of Magical Pad is that it is trying to do a lot of things at once. Most apps may focus on one thing - a task manager, or to do list, or tracking agendas, or brainstorming app, etc. Magical Pad HD tries to incorporate all those features into one, well designed, visually appealing app. Once these components are integrated, then (in theory) your life becomes much simpler.
Figure 1 - Multiple pads can be created for each aspect of your life - work, play, or crazy daughters!
When you start off the app, you are given a quick, scene by scene introduction of how to use Magical Pad HD. It shows you (via static images) the basics of designing your “pad”, adding information, using gestures, and modifying content. However, despite the inclusion of the help scenes, and the inclusion of a fairly extensive manual, the learning curve is pretty steep. Change that – it is VERY steep. I will admit that I am not one for reading manuals, and so I just tried to jump in and start using the app. I added a few word bubbles, added a picture or two, but almost immediately felt like I was drowning in the deep end. Despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to get my “pads” to look that nice – or even to have the same kind of design and layout that I was looking for. One thing I almost missed immediately was any sort of context sensitive help button. As I was sitting there trying to get my word bubbles connected with a nice curved line, it would have been nice to have some sort of help button to hit for each of the features I was trying to use. Instead, I was forced to figure things out via trial and error (although in fairness, RTFM would have been reasonable advice for me!).
Figure 2 - When you start, a quick help guide shows you the basics of creating the paages and pads.
The feature set is impressive – you can add flow charts, bubbles, lists, check lists, images, drawing, and text. If you want to spend more time, you can color code certain features, you can modify design elements to your choosing, you can create intricately connect diagrams and mapping elements (such as an intricate chain of command design). Once I started to play around a little bit, I was able to create checklists, add some images, create associated flow diagrams, and more. But I noticed that it was taking a lot of time and effort for me to create “visually appealing” productivity diagrams. As such, I question the robust features and the practicality of including the huge array of options. Sure, you can make something that look really nice, but if it takes you 30 minutes to create even the simplest of pages (like it did for the sample “travel” page I included here) is it really helping your productivity? You may be better off using a simpler, less full-featured app, but one that you can learn and start using in two or three minutes.
Figure 3 - The steep learning curve means that it may take some time to make visually appealing management/productivity tools.
The app comes with three pre-designed pads to show you what you can produce. And I have to say, those three pre-designed pads are pretty impressive. They show a complex set of options and tools designed for school, home, or the workplace, to help you in your productivity. You can create your own “pads”, and each pad can have multiple pages. Once completed, you can export them to dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, twitter, facebook, or your photoalbum (although I don’t know why you would want to use that last three). You can also email it. When exporting, you can choose formats of PDF, JPEG, RTF, MPX (the Magic Pad proprietary extension), or OPML. You can also import pages and pads from the same export locations as well.
Figure 4 - With a little practice, I was able to start getting some "nice" task/management pads.
In addition to context sensitive help, it would have been nice if the app included some sort of templates or pre-configured elements. By giving so much control to the user, they app makes some of the features actually more difficult. For example, if I wanted to add some sort of organization chart, I have to add each element directly – I can’t indicate I was an organization tree with 3 layers and 4 boxes at each later. These are the kinds of elements that will look very nice in the end, but can potentially take a long time to develop. I am sure if someone uses the app extensively, the process does get faster and faster, but it seems to me that it would still take some time to master the functionality.
Figure 5 - Some sample pads are included that show the level of creativity that you can achieve, although I wonder how long it would take to actually create similar pages.
All in all, Magical Pad HD is a full function productivity/management app with many features – almost too many features. The level of control a user has means that while you can ultimately produce very nice management guides, there is a steep learning curve and it may take a significant amount of time to produce the stylized “pad” that you want. The price seems to fluctuate all over the place – a month ago it was $19.99, while now it is $0.99. If you can get it on a cheaper price day, and have to time to devote to create these nicely designed pads, the app may be well worth it. However, if you want something to create quick management diagrams or task lists, or if you don’t have the time to sit down and create an extensive display, then the app may lose some of its “magic”. Three out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.