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Simple note taking from the command line (dev.to)
152 points by djug on Oct 2, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 56 comments

So if I'm reading this correctly, you need to quote your text, and it can't be multi-line... why not this:

    alias notes='cat >> ~/notes'
Just hit ctrl+c (stops cat) or ctrl+d (signals EOF) when you're done writing. No quoting, special characters that might act funny, line or size limits, etc.

I've been using a variation on this for a bit:

    (echo && date && cat) >> ~/notes.txt
Adds a newline and datestamp above each note group

Depending on the shell in use C-c (will|won't) write to the redirected output file.

C-d remains constant, but it's irritating that there's no way to consistently abort.

To deal with this our edit target needs to be a temporary file which we subsequently bless, append to the notes file and then trash.

Keeping notes open in an editor buffer that I can jump to easily, and manually:

>> notes.md

From the command line gains me all the utility I need while using a modern machine and zsh.

Of course, if I time travel, the GP trick is useful on old ultrix machines.

Anyone else use http://jrnl.sh/ ?

I prefer it over echoing into a file because it has more advanced display features - such as by date - and topics (hashtags [don't forget to escape the hash!], or @tags)

Got the journal files stored in Dropbox so they're everywhere I am

I have it setup but don’t use it as my main notes app. That would still be Simplenote (with Notational Velocity on desktop).

Mainly because I figured would rather use GUI for notes on both desktop and mobile. Maybe one of these days I should give Standard Notes a try (https://standardnotes.org). It’s OSS and client side encrypted (afaik).

Oh no for actual full on note notes I use Evernote. For little quips I use jrnl - infact I have it aliased to `log` so I can just type "log work started work on @project"

The way I have jrnl configured is that the "work" keyword makes it log to work.txt as opposed to my default log.txt

I also have a "todo" which I've configured as a relative path ./todo.txt so I can drop todos into the current directory/project

Yes! Jrnl is awesome and I've been using it for awhile now. Highly recommend it.

oooo good find! thank you.

Not as simple but well worth the extra weight would be org-mode. I personally find the vim-orgmode a balance between the full power of org vs my reliance on vim for day-to-day operations but I must admit I'm sometimes jealous of the power I see in emacs for this.

I have been a long-time Emacs user and I finally just started learning org-mode. I wish I had started earlier. Previously, I had used Zim to do my note-taking, but org-mode is just so much better in every way.

I have a feeling it's going to be my gateway into more heavy LaTeX usage for all manner of documents. The ability to evaluate code during document generation is a big deal to me.

Ha - I had that experience a few times: the first time I started using Org, the first time I started using the agenda, the first time I started using capture templates, the first time I started using code blocks, etc. Each time: Wow, why didn't I do this from the beginning.

Another vote for Org Mode. I just added this idea from the post to my laptop (adding a timestamp and sending it into an org-mode file):

    note() {
        echo "`date +%s`\t$1" >> ~/org/unsorted-notes.org

Sounds as if you will love spacemacs!

I like to use: `alias sp='vim ~/notes/scratchpad-$(date +"%m-%d-%Y-%T")'`

I use

    mkdir -p ~/Dropbox/scratch/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d")
    vim ~/Dropbox/scratch/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d")/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d-%H-%M-%S")
for convenient sorting by date, and throw stuff in Dropbox for automatic syncing across my machines.

This is neat, and there's a lot of interesting comments and pointers elsewhere in these comment threads.

What I've been doing (for the last 25 years or so) is simple. I always keep a window open, visible in all virtual desktops, on the bottom right of my screen, with: vi ~/notes/notes

For somewhat less than the last 25 years, ~/notes is an encrypted git repo. I have a cron that, minutely, adds, commits, pulls and pushes to a couple of my servers on the Internet.

I generally have one of these for each company I work for, and another one that I've used for all things personal.

Do you have code for this on GitHub?

There's really not much involved.

For the encrypted git repo, I use this:


The cron points to a shell script:


cd ~/notes

git add -A .

git commit -am wip

git pull

git push

So with that, I have the same directory, ~/notes/ syncd on all of my computers automatically, as long as I don't do conflicting edits within the space of a minute, which has never happened.

This looks interesting. I'm going to assume that you add whatever temporary buffer you use while editing the files to your gitignore? E.g. Vim will use .swp files.

Does this get annoying if you want to commit something specific? Let's say you edit an old note and save the file. Then, in the time it takes for you to write a commit about this new edit, your cron script has added your change as a 'wip'.

Also, is there a nice way to set this up with a cron script so that you can use git via ssh (rather than https) but still keep a passphrase on the key? I seem to remember having problems with cron and git regarding ssh keys.

Yes, I always have .sw? at the top of .gitignore.

I never do manual commits here; every single commit is always 'wip'. I'm basically not using that feature of git. I'm just using it for (dumb) history/backup and distribution.

I always setup the git repos with ssh, not https. The central (for each environment) git repo is a bare checkout on my personal account on a linode or tektonic VPS.

In short, since I can ssh from my various client machines to these central servers with no password, the git pull/push just works.

or just learn ed/ex, etc.

just as fast and you can actually edit when needed.

    $ ed ~/.todo
    this is a new bloat 
    this is a new note
    $ cat ~/.todo
    this is a new note
    $ ed ~/.todo
    this is another note.
    it goes across more lines.

Take note, people: ed is the standard text editor.

Such 'notes' function can seem 'useful' at first glance, but how You gonna 'organize these notes, for example after You have used it for about a year, or several years?

I prefer other approach.

Everytime I get to know some new switch for a command, or new use for them, or even a new command, I create ~/man/command file with examples and commends inside, like ~/man/tar or ~/man/gstat or ~/man/xorg.conf.

This way its already organized and you can grep -r 'something' ~/man for the thing you need.

My $0.02.

Why .md when you're inputting the command as plain text without any markdown?

Why not just have the flexibility of adding markdown whenever you feel like it (and not when you don't)? Now, you've got a file a markdown renderer can render whether or not you used markdown.

That applies to any file though.

The extension just suggests to some tools that they should treat the text as markdown.

Well, it's relying on you always inputting Markdown compliant input.

Something like:

  ls -lh ./*-2017-*.log
will not display correctly if rendered as markdown without any kind of escaping, and I can think of plenty of other examples.

now go and pitch VCs for you notes taking app

Do you really need a function for that?

cat >> ~/notes

does the same thing.

This will work fine until the day when you mistype >> into >, and all your notes are gone.

Not if you have `set -C` in your ~/.bashrc, which prevents you from overriding files with >.

That seems like a real risk, true.

But at least at $THE_OFFICE, I'm lucky that there's a trivial-to-recover ~/.snapshot/hourly.?/notes file. YMMV.

A `cat -i` switch could be good.

A flag for cat won't help you - it's your shell that does the redirection. You're looking for `set -o noclobber` (same as `set -C`).

Ah, let's go with `> -i` then! :)

rlwrap cat >> ~/notes

Would give you some rudimentary readline editing capability.

Small improvements: - No quotes needed - Just type 'notes' alone to less the file

notes() {

        if [ "$1" == "" ]; then

                less $HOME/notes.md


                echo $@ >> $HOME/notes.md



Combination of your improvements and the first commentor's in the link

- 'notes' by itself views the file (interactive shell only)

- 'notes' with args, the args are appended to file (original function)

- 'notes' with heredoc (or any piped data) allows for multiline notes

    notes() {
      if [ -n "$1" ]; then
        echo $@ >> "$HOME/notes.md"
        # detect if we're in a tty or a pipe
        if [ -t 0 ]; then
          less "$HOME/notes.md"
          cat - >> "$HOME/notes.md"

    $ notes 1
    $ notes 1 2 3
    $ notes <<EOF
    > this is a 
    > multiline note
    > EOF
    $ uptime | notes
    $ notes
    (opens less with the following content)
    1 2 3
    this is a 
    multiline note
     23:22:06 up 3 days, 11:41,  1 user,  load average: 0.25, 0.15, 0.26

You should use dollar-star and printf to prevent echo treating some of the arguments as flags:

    printf '%s\n' "$*"
Which works while

    echo "$@"
might not work as expected if you did e.g.:

    notes -n is a bad flag to pass to some commands
The latest posix bans echo from taking any - options, so you may be safe with /bin/echo or if your shebang specifies "sh" but that hasn't percolated down everywhere yet.

You still need quotes to prevent the shell from expanding $variables and globs. It’ll also mangle your spaces (try with `notes foo<space><space>bar`: it saves it as "foo<space>bar") due to the $@.

This probably sets the lowest bar for note taking...

It's like the camera-you-have being best - if my fingers remember how to take notes, I'll take notes.

This is extremely similar to the 'microscopic planner for shell' that I wrote and often use.

Take a look at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14126006

I also add a few aliases to make it even quicker:

  alias mcr='mplan create'
  alias msh='mplan show'
  alias mrm='mplan remove'
  alias mclear='mplan remove \*'
This will provide (in my opinion) both a very simple way to take notes and a somewhat mature and usable note taking 'program'.

> Take a look at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14126006

Direct link: https://github.com/jad-issa/mplan-sh. Why post a link to a 6-months years-old HN submission with no comments?

I have this: https://github.com/kgaughan/dotfiles/blob/master/local/bin/n...

It allows the editing of notes for a given day, listing of all notes, and display of a note for a given day, defaulting to today if no date is provided.

I keep meaning to add support for RCS or some other form of basic version control, but it's never been that much of an issue.

Would any such note-taking solution work across several ssh sessions?

I'm a small scale sysadmin, SSHing into multiple servers configured by my predecessors. I'd love to be able to some command | notes.txt or whatever. And no, I don't have my home directory mounted at all locations the same way. I even need to login as different user for different machines. The command factor is my Mac and Terminal.app

I'm going to assume that you can edit .bashrc for these as that's the premise from the original article.

You could adjust it so that it uses a central notes store on one ssh host pretty easily with something like:

  notes() {
      echo $1 | ssh user@remotehost "cat >> ~/notes.md"
then you probably need something like

  read_notes() {
      ssh user@remotehost "cat ~/notes.md" | more

Well, I got nerd-sniped by this, since lately I've been dumping text in Apple Notes which isn't really suitable for everything.


Kindly email me bugs, not pull requests.

With a few more features, but similar in spirit, is Gina Trapani's todo.txt: https://lifehacker.com/5155450/todotxt-cli-manages-your-task...

I've been doing something fairly similar for years now.

You can read about my method here:


I have a very similar script that lets me write notes to a file with today's filestamp. I use it to keep track of what I've done on which days.

Yup, I have a script `worklog` which boils down to this:

    mkdir ~/.worklog || true
    if [ -z "$1" ]; then
       cat ~/.worklog/$(date +%w).md
       echo "$(date): $*" >> ~/.worklog/$(date +%w).md

That gives a file per-week which can either have contents appended to it, or viewed. Usage is the obvious:

    $ worklog  "I did some stuff"
    $ worklog  [shows the output]

Another thing you can do is just use 'logger' and the syslog. You kinda have to be comfortable with viewing system logging, though; it's not for everyone - for example, I'm using sudo below just because I haven't set my user to view systemd's journal yet.

    $ logger hello
    $ logger <<EOF
    > this is a multiline
    > logging message
    > EOF
    $ sudo journalctl -t vacri
    -- Logs begin at Fri 2017-09-29 10:40:49 AEST, end at Mon 2017-10-02 23:44:13 AEDT
    Oct 02 23:40:24 myhost vacri[12320]: hello
    Oct 02 23:48:48 myhost vacri[12460]: this is a multiline
    Oct 02 23:48:48 myhost vacri[12460]: logging message
syslog is good for some use-cases (eg centralisation), and not so good for others. I imagine most people would prefer your directory-of-easily-findable-history.

You could decentish vi bindings within this by using vi mode for bash I'd guess? I'd probably usually just end up vim notes.md5 TBH.

I just have Sublime open all the time, and set a keyboard shortcut to open up a designated scratchpad text file. Open, jot, close.

man script.

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