Notion Mobile has been out for some time, and I have avoided writing about it until now. With my “new” (year four already!) elementary music position, my need for traditional notation software is extremely limited to those rare occasions that I am preparing music for my 4th & 5th grade extra-curricular choir, arranging string parts for our high school combined concert in the fall (something I still do, years after leaving my high school position), or when I am arranging things for ukulele (I currently have a collection of Christmas Carol Chord Melody arrangements for Ukulele available on my buymeacoffee page, as well as a series of classic hymn chord melody arrangements underway). Otherwise, my time is spent in video editing software or chord chart applications!
To be honest, I am not sure if any of the active bloggers have fully reviewed Notion Mobile–I have just spent a bit of time looking through Scoring Notes, Robby Burns’ blog (robbyburns.com), and Paul Shimmons’ blog (ipadmusiced.wordpress.com), and while Notion Mobile is mentioned, I don’t see it reviewed.
I’m not yet ready to offer a full review of the app, but there are a couple of major things to address.
First and foremost, if you haven’t heard about Notion Mobile, it is available and is truly multi-platform. It works on iOS, Mac (both Intel and Mac Silicon), Windows, Android, and on Chromebooks that run the Google Play Score. The Chromebook app had not worked for me when Notion Mobile was released, or some time after that, so I did not want to write about the app until it did. Well, I just made a short ukulele chord melody (You Are My Sunshine, which is under copyright, so I cannot post it) on my Chomebook (a Samsung with a touch screen, stylus, and Google Play), and while there were a few things that needed to be worked around…it works. And most importantly, the core functionality of this application is FREE. So, if you have been a “MuseScore is for me, because it is free,” user, you now have another option.
If you are a member of Notion’s Facebook Group, which is NOT run by Notion, there are a large number of iOS users who are very, very unhappy with Notion Mobile and its changes from the original version–to the point that one user jailbroke his iPad to downgrade the OS, to allow himself to reinstall the old version. This, quite simply, is a level of commitment that I am not willing to make to any software, and I am quite happy to try to use a new version of the application and to provide feedback about what isn’t working.
For a long time, my Chromebook couldn’t use Notion. I’m glad I tried again this evening. Sometimes, things don’t work quite right–for example, if I am entering notes for a ukulele chord in tablature/standard notion, and want to change a note in the tool that allows you to enter a chord, the entire existing chord disappears when I attempt to add or change a note of a chord on the fretboard, the chord disappears leaving only that note, and then I have to enter the whole chord again. Can I do that? Sure, but it is an extra three clicks (to create the rest of the chord) that didn’t need to happen.
In addition, as you enter notes, you need to advance to the next note, and the buttons to do that are either on the top of the screen (on the opposite side of the screen from the onscreen fretboard) or the arrows on your keyboard, and if you are right handed and writing with your Apple pencil, getting to either of those locations is not easy (either a reach or moving completely off your screen to get to the lower right of your keyboard). I’ve also had some issues with my Apple Pencil in Notion Mobile, where I am trying to use it as a stylus, but Notion has other functions built into the interaction with the Apple Pencil…it can be problematic to stop using the Pencil and switch to my hand. Sometimes I have to exit the score and reload it to get things like a tie to work.
But these are all issues inherent to an early version of software, particularly software that works across many platforms, and they will be sorted out eventually. The old Notion for iOS had its quirks (as does all software), and the learning curve does remain so much easier than other options on iOS (and other platforms), although not as easy as the past (Q for quarter note).
A couple of final thoughts for Notion Mobile: if you are a teacher hoping to use this with your students–I don’t know if that is possible. It requires a Google Play account, and in our district, that is turned off, as is Google Sharing (Google’s answer to AirPlay). So, as an elementary music educator, I am still looking for answers for simple composition on Chromebook, though thanks to Amy Burns’ posts this winter, I found the Dr. Musik Boomwriter, which can be modified for use with simple instruments and recorder (https://www.doctormusik.com/apps-and-games/boomwriter/). We can’t get the latest version of Music Snippet to work in our district, and we can’t use Flat.io or Noteflight as our students are not allowed to create accounts, and we are not going to fund subscriptions to those services. If you know of any other solutions, please send me an e-mail. I should also mention that I am also blocked as a teacher from the Google Play store on my district Google account.
At any rate, if you have been wanting to try Notion Mobile on Chromebook, and have a Chromebook that runs apps, and an account that lets you install apps, give it a try. And if you have any other platform, Notion Mobile should be installed as a tool for your use, even if you don’t use it on a regular basis.