Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I've given up on using any sort of branded app for notetaking. At best it's open source and the maintainers will lose interest in a few years.

When you write things down, you're investing in your future. It's silly to use software that isn't making that same investment.

After trying Evernote, wikis, org-mode, and essentially everything else I could find, I gave up and tried building my own system for notes. Plain timestamped markdown files linked together. Edited with vim and a few bash scripts, rendered with a custom deployment of Gollum. All in a git repo.

It's... wonderful. Surprisingly easy. Fast. If there's a feature I wish it had, I can write a quick bash script to implement it. If Gollum stops being maintained, I can use whatever the next best markdown renderer is. Markdown isn't going away anytime soon.

It's liberating to be in control. I find myself more eager to write things down. I'm surprised more people don't do the same.

Edit: here's what my system looks like https://imgur.com/a/nGplj




Org mode in a git repo. Easy enough. Don't need a fussy rendering step. Generate a PDF or HTML from org. Regardless of how you do it -- plain text will endure and using git makes it really simple. Markdown can never "go away" and neither can org files. They are inherently readable with cat and the naked eye. If I can't legibly read it with cat / less it will eventually leave me disappointed in some way.


I'm similar, my note-taking system is a directory full of org and markdown files, synced to dropbox.

I don't think i could ever go back to a notes-as-a-service system again.


org-mode's format sucks, is only partially supported outside of Emacs, and is on its way out. org-mode is only any good if you're using the full power of it (tasks, agenda, etc), which is buying into a system that's soon going away.


> Emacs, and is on its way out

Being active on the Emacs and Org mode mailing lists, and other forums, I can say with confidence that this is not true.

In fact, I am seeing active development in both Emacs and Org; not just bug fixes, but frequent additions of new features.

> org-mode is only any good if you're using the full power of it (tasks, agenda, etc), which is buying into

Org markup is much more powerful than Markdown. So you can be much more productive by using Org just as markup. One example is '#+INCLUDE: "foo.py" :lines-5-10'.. This is tremendously useful if you are writing notes that export to some format or blogging.. you don't need to copy-paste code snippets, Org will fetch them for you. (I have a customization built on top of that.. instead of specifying the line numbers, I can specify the start and end regexp for the lines containing my snippet). Add org-babel to this mix, and you don't even need to run the snippets, and copy the results manually; again Org does it.

I recently blogged about comparing string related functions between Python and Nim: https://scripter.co/notes/string-functions-nim-vs-python/

I cannot imagine myself writing (and maintaining) that post in Markdown!

On the next update of Nim version, I'll simply run org-babel over the whole file, see git diff to check if anything major has changed, and update the post accordingly.. no copy/pasting ever :)

> a system that's soon going away.

Again, really? What made you think that?


> I recently blogged about comparing string related functions between Python and Nim: https://scripter.co/notes/string-functions-nim-vs-python/ I cannot imagine myself writing (and maintaining) that post in Markdown!

Convincing!

I am curious about the org-source you used for that article, is it public?


Yes, here's the source:

- source of that specific post in raw org [1] - site source [2]

[1]: https://gitlab.com/kaushalmodi/kaushalmodi.gitlab.io/raw/mas...

[2]: https://gitlab.com/kaushalmodi/kaushalmodi.gitlab.io

(I wish HN supported some markup :P)


Thanks! How did you edit that? As shown? I assumed it included many INCLUDEs?


That, I have edited as shown (except the snippet outputs). That was an example of using Org Babel. Note that the #+RESULT blocks in that file are all auto-generated; none hand-written.

That post does not have any #+INCLUDE because all the code snippets are trivial. I would use #+INCLUDE in posts where I have a code file, and I want to talk about only few lines from that.

I have different examples of #+INCLUDE in my examples file[1] for my Org to Markdown for Hugo exporter -- ox-hugo[2]. There I use the inbuilt INCLUDE feature where I choose to include only the specified Org sub-tree (using the sub-tree CUSTOM_ID). The above referenced post on Nim/Python is converted to Markdown for Hugo using the same exporter.

[1]: https://raw.githubusercontent.com/kaushalmodi/ox-hugo/master... [2]: https://github.com/kaushalmodi/ox-hugo


(I have a customization built on top of that.. instead of specifying the line numbers, I can specify the start and end regexp for the lines containing my snippet).

This is awesome. Is this available anywhere? I'd like to use it.



Thank you! I had been meaning to write something like this for myself. It's more useful than line numbers, which typically change often.


Emacs has been with us for well over 30 years and during that time has always had folks claim it was obsolete (no graphical UI, no OOP etc). Emacs will be around for at least another 30 years.


It isn't the best, but it is also very simple. I like the actual hierarchy vs Markdown. I can navigate a lot of notes fast in org. Emacs packages last a long time. Emacs API is stable. I am confident it will still work in ten years.


Emacs and plain org-mode may work, but will that be how you want to edit files in the future?

It's been a decade and they still haven't figured out mobile.


I find this statement odd. "Figured out mobile" in what sense? The laptop solved the mobility issue for Emacs about 2 decades ago. If you mean "runs on Android or iOS", it's likely Emacs will still be around after one or both of those have been consigned to the scrap heap.


Not everyone wants to have to whip out their laptop every time they want to update their orgsniser. I mean I can get that before smartphones become a thing but we're supposed to be making things better and easier over time. Are you seriously trying to justify the lack of progress on that front by saying that a 20 year old technological innovation made things a little easier already? That's like claiming transport is OK with just horses even though the combustion engine exists.


That's more like claiming transport is OK with just tanks when we've got electric vehicles. Tanks are not that efficient and neither are they that fast, and probably will not be allowed in the city - but they can go literally anywhere. And to be fair the guy has a point (a had a point for years beforehand).

Unless you're that networking guy that just massively tries to organise a thousand meetings a day on the go - I believe that a laptop is a better way to use your organiser.

I've had a lecturer at the university who still used a console-based e-mail client. He knew all of the shortcuts by heart - and I am pretty sure it would probably take me a few years to casually learn how to use Outlook/Gmail/etc.. as efficiently (and even then - most of the UI-based applications tend to somehow forget that a keyboard exists at all).

You'll ask me: "but what about mobile?". Well - the guy _never_ replied to your e-mails outside his office hours; but when he did - he gave you a proper, short and an informal answer. And to be fair, he seemed to have a great personal life.


Excuse me - I did write a lot here, but had forgotten to make the primary point: I don't think that the availability of productivity tools on mobile is that crucial for someone using them professionally.

Besides, if you are a true power-user of these tools and had been years before - there's quite a high probability that the newer tools would require quite some time to mature in order to make them a fully-functional alternative.

This is to say that I still find Calendar apps on mobile quite tricky to use as opposed to a fast "point-and-drag" alternative on desktop. I would rather open up a laptop unless I don't have it.


"it's likely Emacs will still be around after one or both of those have been consigned to the scrap heap."

That may be true, but it does nothing for people who need to take notes using their phone now.


Orgzly (http://www.orgzly.com/) works well enough for me. It can sync to DropBox, so I can put all my .org files into DropBox for replication/backups and have Orgzly read & update them.

It's not full org mode for sure, but it's a solid way to read and do simple changes to my .org files on my phone.


I am not even a regular Emacs user (sorry, on the Vim side for now), and I think Orgzly is a great note-taking app. Actually the best one I've tried so far. It's true! :)


As tools like Evernote and OneNote rose to fame, I've always wondered why do people use such sophisticated note taking apps? People don't seem to be using it for to do list? Maybe because it allows things to be searched? Can someone explain what notes they take or how do they use it?


I still end up using a sophisticated note app (AnyList) for remembering spinach. Real-enough-time syncing with my non-techie significant other's phone is pretty great, the latency is low enough that we divide and conquer at the grocery store.

When I take meeting notes, I end up using OneNote or Google Docs:

- I have a tree of `Who - What` (and the counter-bikeshedding).

- Images of block diagrams sneak in, especially if it's a planning or design meeting.

- Full text search is handy, one-note especially spoiled me by doing OCR

- I like GDocs in particular for the real-enough-time collaboration. It can help quieter people not get steamrolled in conversation, especially if you have a boisterous note-taker to speak up for them :)


How do you mean “on its way out”? Do you just mean that people searching for new organizational software nowadays are decreasingly likely to choose it?


Yes and for a piece of software that heavily relies on its ecosystem, you want the ecosystem to be vibrant in 10 years from now.


I've been using pretty much the same features from org-mode now that I used when I first started using it at least 11 years ago (actually, probably using even fewer features now, in the beginning I would export things, but these days I rarely see the need). All my notes still work, and are still plain text, and still don't rely on any "ecosystem", just Emacs and git.


Emacs and org-mode will still be here (along with the armoured cockroaches) long after we're all gone. In fact, I have more faith in the longevity of emacs than I do of Android or iOS, or Evernote/OneNote for that matter.


well, without any extra information, the expected future lifetime of a thing is proportional (equal, actually) to its lifetime so far. therefore, yes, it's perfectly sensible to expect Emacs to last longer :)


small example: mobile client for ios is kinda bunk


For taking notes you don't need todos or the agenda -- it's heirarchical, fast to search through, and pleasing to the eye (at least, to a similar level to markdown). Aside from that, the syntax is at least as expressive, if not more so because of the extensibility of the language it's written in.

Yes, buying into the todo and agenda systems effectively requires using an external integration script or using emacs all the way through, so that's not all that great. I, too, have yet to figure out how to integrate it into the usual PIM stuff like next loud calendars, etc.

Has anyone else managed to figure this bit out?


Can you elaborate what going away means here


"They are inherently readable with cat and the naked eye."


For those who want a very similar setup but don't mind the risk of a vim-plugin going unmaintained, I can highly recommend vimwiki. Its a very simple markdown based wiki all within vim. A few features that I find particularly good:

- a 'diary' function that allows you to make a page per day. Vimwiki then produces an index page of all diary entries.

- you can go to your wiki anytime from within vim with a command ( <leader>ww )

- vimwiki can generate html files from yout wiki files

- the coolest thing in my opinon: since the whole thing is just markdown, I actually just use vimwiki as my personal website hosted on github pages. You just have to add some Jekyll related files and github can process everything else as is.

A small note on obselescence: I actually don't even know if vimwiki is in active development anymore. Haven't bothered updating it in maybe 4 years and it works fine. So maybe its fine to not roll your own.


+1 for vimwiki. I use it for everything, from taking notes and todo lists to writing blogposts. The wiki format just works so well with my brain.

My favourite features are nested syntax (highlighting for codeblocks in any language vim has highlighting for)

>since the whole thing is just markdown

I was going to write a complaint about how vimwiki uses its own markup language instead of Markdown, but I looked in the help file to be sure and now I you can set it to use Markdown or even Mediawiki instead (vimwiki-option-syntax). I like it even more now!


+1 for vimwiki, though I mostly use it for the diary shortcut (<leader>w<leader>w).

I also use it in conjunction with gollum, which works nicely (gives search, live editing, etc).


I like your effort and all but honestly the last thing I want to do on a phone is to use a command line on it. It's just not cut out for the job


Command line isn't really necessary. I have a similar setup (gollum wiki on Dropbox) and I only need a text editor to edit files, and there's tons of mobile text editors that hook up with Dropbox.


I tried to do this, but I missed a lot of the convenient features and flexibility of OneNote too much and made my way back to it.

OneNote is proprietary, with a proprietary file format, but at least it's "self hosted" (your notes live in concrete files you control, not in a service), and it's got a lot of nice features that make it a joy to use.


No local hosting on mac. On mac is either ms cloud or sharepoint, unfortunately.


This. Got me using Quiver with Syncthing pointed at the database (json). So far I like it but the iOS app requires WebDAV if you can't use Dropbox. I might set that up soon.


I once tried to use one note for taking notes for work (1:1s, etc.) on a surface pro 4, and found that unless you go to great lengths, OneNote does everything it can to sync your notes to OneDrive. Even after turning off sync for specific books, those books ended up in OneDrive. In the end, I had to uninstall onedrive, disable syncing globally, and then login to OneDrive to delete the previously synced copies.

So users that care about privacy in their notes beware: it does take a bit of work to turn off all of the cloud functionality.


That sounds like the free version of OneNote that comes with Windows 10. The "full-fat" desktop version that comes with Office ("OneNote 2016") is much more flexible in this regard, and has a more powerful interface.

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/What-s-the-differen...

That said, the OneDrive integration is something I like about it; my notes aren't very useful to me unless they're cloud-synced.


I've been curious about entering into OneNote. I liked the brief experience I had using the Android app. I've been using Google Keep, but I hit a tag limit (50 tags max) that really soured my taste for it since I write about so many different subjects I'd like arbitrary tagging. I need to learn more about the organizing structure OneNote permits.


I like OneNote and have used it for many years, but I have started running into "this section is corrupted" since I tried using the android app. The iOS app is very good, but the android app is buggy, slow, sometimes won't load pages and other times won't start. So I stopped using it, and guess what? No more corrupted pages for over a month.

Be aware that the files are also proprietary and I only know of manual ways to migrate away. I am still looking for another option.


> Be aware that the files are also proprietary

Actually the file format specification for OneNote [MS-ONE] is open: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd924743(v=office.1...


Thank you. Are you aware of any program that exists or is under development that can import the file format or access the data stored in a notebook? I have never found one and did assume the spec was closed.


I ended up with dropbox paper for now. It has quite a few useful capabilities, markdown syntax, ... and of course dropbox integration. On PCs you use the quite good web client and for iOS there's apps. Of all the options I found it the best for now even though it is still a compromise.


I use Onenote a lot for handwritten notes and also web clipping, and even for typing its fine and has been around long enough that i don't really worry about it going anywhere. Since it's included in the Office365 subscription and on all major platforms, i prefer it to Evernote. It isn't perfect, but for a complex tool like this it is immensely useful.


Same here and for mobile access I use "Notebooks" [1] iOS app via WebDAV sync.

[1] https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/notebooks-all-your-documents...


I have also used markdown files in git for quite some time. When I was running Windows 7, I added my notes folder to the Document library and was able to search my notes from the start menu - that was really great. But then Windows search got broken in Windows 8+ and I started looking for alternatives. I played with OneNote for a while, but missed VIM key bindings, markdown and easy online access to my notes (OneNote online editor is quite heavy). About two months ago I switched to a private Wordpress and till now I am really happy: full-text search works like a charm, I can tag my notes, use markdown (even with Latex expressions) and for cheat sheets (or field notes) I use pages.


What terminal are you using on iOS?


Any chance you have a blog post referencing more of this? I have gone the way of markdown + git + vim a few years ago but your model seems a bit more hierarchical and organized.


I've been window shopping for something similar to Tomboy notes. This seems like a nice compromise. Thanks for sharing.


did you have a look at vimwiki [0]? it has a diary function with plain timestamped markdown files.

[0] https://github.com/vimwiki/vimwiki


Is that android? If so what keyboard is that?


It appears like iOS to me.


How do you create/edit notes on mobile?


Apologies for the poor Imgur formatting, but like this: https://imgur.com/a/nGplj

I use a Mosh client for iOS called Blink to connect to a tmux session on my personal server. I do the same thing to edit on desktop, just from a larger screen.


Sounds like vimwiki.


I'm curious what you don't like about Evernote, I personally love it.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: