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Ask HN: Favorite note-taking software?
374 points by brownguy 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 429 comments
I've been using Evernote but I'm tired of the 2 device limit; suggestions for alternatives? Thanks!

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, Workflowy, Notion, 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

X-post from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15057002 10 months ago. Still using & loving it.

Alternatively, you can use something which saves in a format that would be trivial to make a replacement for reading/writing it.

One example is jrnl[1]. Each journal (collection of entries) is written in a flat text file. You can optionally encrypt it with AES. They even give you reference code on how you could decrypt it yourself[2].

If jrnl stops being a thing, I can probably re-implement all of its functionality in a day. Or someone else can. Its output is very simple.

1. http://jrnl.sh/overview.html

2. http://jrnl.sh/encryption.html#manual-decryption

I used jrnl.sh for about a year. I was able to extend it to parse the output so I could do some analysis on what I had written (I was using it partially to track time spent on certain tasks). However, I came to find that write long-form on the command line is just awkward. Lately I have been using checkvist.com which has been working out great.

In case you hadn't seen this jrnl has a config option for setting the default editor. http://jrnl.sh/recipes.html#external-editors

I always use jrnl with vim, and never compose on the commandline.

I actually wrote my own jrnl command as a shell one-liner:

    pushd $JRNL_DIR && git pull && echo "##### "(date) >> (date "+%Y-%m-%d.txt") && vim (date "+%Y-%m-%d.txt") && git add *.txt && git commit -m "jrnl "(date "+%Y-%m-%d.txt") && git push && popd

I had the same sort of idea. I built this when Notational Velocity broke when upgrading to the latest macOS: https://github.com/JesseAldridge/toothbrush It's a single python file for grepping a directory of text files as I type. I have a global keyboard shortcut cmd+J that gives focus to my terminal and I then launch the script by running `t`. Then I can just start typing to search a career's worth of notes.

Would be cool if you could share your setup on GitHub.

There is FSNotes.

brew cask install fsnotes


Notational Velocity broke? Any details? I'm continuing to use it happily on High Sierra.

Yeah High Sierra was what broke for me: https://github.com/scrod/nv/issues/365

Maybe it's working now?

I switched to this: http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

Now, if I could just find something as brilliant for this Surface Book 2.

Weird; I don't think I've updated NV in quite a while, and my disk is APFS. I have no idea what could be different. Anyways, thanks for the detail.

What is wrong with org-mode? It is plain text file. I see no major differences compared to markdown.

I use Spacemacs in my day job as a Clojure programmer but I prefer Bear Note for note taking because it starts up faster and all actions (pasting, adding images, adding todos, merging notes, exporting mardown) match simpler and I don't need to memorize new hotkeys and do any additional setup/scripting. If taking notes was my daily job I would probably spend some efforts to learn org-mode.

I find org-mode perfect for this. It's lightweight, the files can be interlinked and over time, expanded, if necessary into larger notes.

I've been using a variant of the zettelkasten method for keeping book summaries and notes on index cards. It's been nice but the indexing method I'm using is cumbersome. I've been toying with the idea of moving just that into something digital.

Another thing that I recently came across is https://www.gnu.org/software/hyperbole/. It's also Emacs based and might be something I can actually use.

People are much too afraid of Emacs to ever use it.

> afraid

That's quite the value judgement. Emacs, when compared with Atom and Sublime Text, has a tremendous learning curve for little payback. It's extensible? So are they, and with programming languages that are useful outside the editor, no less. It's powerful? So are they.

And more, they implement something resembling a common UI to the rest of the applications on your system. Sure, you can emulate that with the proper installation of modes into Emacs, but at that point you're already down the rabbit hole.

Emacs may still be the king of the hill, but it's a really nasty hill to climb. And with Atom and Sublime text sitting just a little below the summit with a nice, paved road to them it's going to take more than just being a bit better than them to justify that final hill climb.

So, no, people aren't afraid. Emacs is just not worth most people's time.

Sincerely, a VIM and emacs user.

You're ignoring distributions of Emacs which are designed to solve this problem by bundling and pre-configuring everything.

Spacemacs, Prelude, and Scimacs are all good options depending on your use-case.

I mean if all you want is a text editor, some SCM integration, some build tool integration, syntax highlighting, and code completion then going with a specialized tool just for that is a good choice.

But the power of Emacs is that it can do nigh-anything and everything is a few lines of elisp away from being tightly integrated.

* Organize your tasks and projects with org-mode and work seemelessly with your team by syncing with org-trello.

* Use mu4e and magit integration to seemelessly send and apply patches and pull projects and todo items directly from email.

* Use one of the IRC clients or emacs-slack to do the same thing. Generate snippets on the fly in your team's chat from the currently selected text.

* Use org mode with org-babel and TRAMP to create interactive notebooks carrying out tricky tasks directly on the remote server from within emacs.

* Use emacsclient --tramp when you're SSH'd on a remote box to transparently edit in your local emacs.

* Replace tmux and tmuxinator with emacs-server.

I don't realy think it's small step up.

Respectfully, you're describing workflows that very few people use today. Patches over email or chat? I've only seen that use at any scale with Linux kernel development. Tricky tasks on remote servers, editing files on remote servers? Most places prefer immutable servers, which run peer reviewed remedial scripts via Ansible/Puppet/Chef/Salt.

Org mode is one of the few unique bits of software available only on Emacs, but you can get 80% (if not more) of its functionality with markdown notes and regular email/calendaring software for 20% (if not less) of the learning curve.

EDIT: And I'm not ignoring Spacemacs and its kin. Yes, they are more user friendly, but they still do not follow many of the common OS UI models, and you still are interacting with a single-purpose programming language for any customization. The abstraction falls apart quickly when you try do do something more powerful (like opening the package manager).

Not to mention, the last three times I tried to do Go development in Spacemacs it would freeze in an infinite busy loop. It's unfortunate that a broken mode can completely hose the entire editor in this day.

Side note: I have been coding a large golang application for 3y now on emacs/spacemacs with the 'go' layer. Never had a single problem.

Otoh, I tried both atom and vscode for the same job, but quickly ran away because using an editor on which modal editing is not a first class citizen is not for me anymore.

> Organize your tasks and projects with org-mode and work seemelessly with your team by syncing with org-trello.

I disagree to this point. org-trello should work in that way "in theory", but actually it doesn't. Its usage is quite opinionated, and its syncing didn't work as I expected when I tried it out. Instead, we probably should have an org-mode integration with GitHub/GitLab issues.

I sincerely agree all you mentioned above. I believe emacs is the best editing tool, actually it is an Operating System. But I still not gonna use it, since it just not worth my time to master all of them skills comparing alternatives, which is just use Sublime and Atom. For me the choice equals to setup my own Git server, or use Github or Gitlab.

But how hard is it to learn, and remember, how to do all these things?

Have you tried using it on mobile?

There is Orgzly, but it's not very practical.

There is a huge difference. It's proprietary, what I mean by that is you can't really edit it with anything else than Emacs. I used it with Spacemacs, and when an upgrade broke it, I left with no notes... Very frustrating experience, I immedieately abandoned it when it happened. Never used org-mode since then.

It's not proprietary, it's still just plain text, and can be edited with anything. Emacs adds a lot of nice features on top of it to manipulate that text, but it's still just text.

See http://karl-voit.at/2017/09/23/orgmode-as-markup-only/.

Yes, I have been fooled by the "oh it's just plain text" notion also and have regretted it. Did you try to actually open an org-mode file with anything else than Emacs? Did you try get any meaningful information out of it on a mobile phone or with an another editor? I did...

Take a look at Orgzly for interacting with org files on Android, and set up a dropbox shared folder between your devices, including your smartphone. Works well for me.

As for extracting meaningful info with other editors, I would say it depends on how you structure your notes. For me it's just a very long bullet list with some tags here and there. So a plain text editor will only 'add' some star characters at the beginning of each lines, which appears quite readable to my eyes.

TBH, I wonder why you had to "leave without your notes", when pandoc eats org-mode for breakfast and gives you a multitude of target options, including markdown (and this is really after wondering what prevented you from using a fresh Emacs install, if you couldn't fix yours, to export them in the first place)

I've been opening org files with Atom, VS Code and inside Github without a problem.

Gogs renders well behaved org files also. The VS Code extension should get the update to allow folding soon. After that the Ctrl-c Ctrl-v crowd could use it nicely with Orgzly and Syncthing say bypassing Emacs until they need a full development environment. You could use Pandoc importing/exporting to other formats without Emacs. For note taking it's promising. Sharing to Orgzly on mobile captures a lot.

All the time. I'm curious as to what problems you were having?

Obviously you won't be able to execute code blocks, reformat tables, follow links, fold sections etc.. but everything is just a search away..

> It's proprietary, what I mean by that...

That’s not what that means.

I take your point in it being bound to Emacs however. Pandoc is an excellent tool for conversion though, and other editors are catching up quickly.

In that sense markdown is also proprietary, since you need some editor making things easy for you to manipulate and navigate the text document(that's all emacs does; even github renders org docs).

Except Markdown looks like text with some special characters to embellish it a little. It's perfectly readable and legible in any text editor. Navigation is the only thing lacking, but manipulation is as easy as manipulating text is in your editor of choice.

Note: I don't know what raw orgmode files look like, maybe they're similar to Markdown.

They are. Org format is kind of a better and more powerful Markdown. As plaintext, it looks cleaner to me.

The thing is, Org format is defined by the way Org-mode in Emacs handles it. Beyond Markdown-like features (which are rather easy to parse out; the format is similar), you get things in the data format that to date are handled only by Emacs. Think of Emacs + org mode as a better Jupyter notebooks than just editor for static text documents.

Consider this note I have in my org file for work tasks.

  ** DONE [#A] Testing prior to syncup meeting       :CUSTOMER_development:
     CLOSED: [2018-07-13 Fri 14:04]
     CLOCK: [2018-07-13 Fri 12:14]--[2018-07-13 Fri 14:04] =>  1:50
     - [X] Baseline test for REDACTED
     - [X] Baseline test for SOMETHING ELSE
If you rendered this as a static document (e.g. export to HTML), you'd see the headline "Testing prior to syncup meeting", and the bullet-point list at the bottom. The remaining things are metadata, nicely formatted by Emacs (and partially hidden; e.g. :LOGBOOK: / :END: block starts folded by default). The metadata shown are part of Org-mode's task management aspect - the todo state (DONE), date of task's finalization, time clocking (CLOCK: entries), tags (CUSTOMER_development). Together, they enable me to very efficiently mange tasks, track spent time, and autogenerate invoice data.

In this sense, org format is both a nice Markdown alternative, and - when coupled with Emacs - enables very powerful interactive documents that can handle task management, time clocking, literate programming, spreadsheeting, and other tasks.

I suspect Org will never be as popular as Markdown simply because, if you wanted to go beyond Markdown feature parity, you'd have to reimplement half of Emacs to handle those "advanced" aspects.

Oh I don't doubt the usefulness of Org-Mode, but I guess the point is the one you bring up: if you want to use Org-Mode it's Emacs or the highway.

With Markdown I can use any editor from a full-featured IDE all the way down to `cat` or `ed` and all I'm giving up are some quality of life features. It's the same format at the bottom, and it has the added benefit of being ubiquitous in that nearly every editor has some basic Markdown support. I can write it anywhere and take it anywhere, not so for Org-Mode.

I think I prefer the Markdown approach of keeping the file format light and plain, and building the quality of life features on top in the editor.

To be clear: Org format is just plaintext, and you can use it mostly in the same way you use Markdown. It's nowhere near as popular, but if all you want is Markdown feature parity, then there is growing support in other editors and places. It's only when you want to go beyond Markdown that this becomes "Emacs or the highway".

Biggest difference for me is, that I had already been taking notes in markdown since before I heard about it. The only change for me was the welcome relief of not having to be creative any more about what headings or links should look like. Rest of the syntax I already used because that's how I've always made text files "look good".

As for your orgmode example, it's not a very good example of "just plaintext" if the metadata code in between the bits of text is larger than the content of the note. I imagine that with nice syntax highlighting it becomes easier to parse in just a glance, but then it's no longer "just plaintext" in the same way that e.g. YAML isn't.

It probably works very well, but to me it looks a lot like a plaintext encoding of a database record or something. It's a different use case. Not a simple note that is "basically plaintext". For instance I would not feel entirely comfortable editing your example without worrying I'd mess up the structure or produce a syntax error. Though maybe the format is really forgiving, I can't tell. What happens if you forget the :END: bit, for instance?

You can certainly write org in ed, if you're masochistic enough. You could also use Vim or VSCode or whatever floats your boat, and you will just be missing the more useful stuff (agenda integration, babel, etc), but if you just want to use it as a markup language, there's good support in other editors, and ease of export as well (pdf, html, docx, odt...) with pandoc. I don't get why you think that editing org is any harder than editing markdown, given editor support.

The big difference is that Markdown is way simpler, you can read it reasonably easy with Notepad even, and this is why every reasonable editor can Render it preview it, export it. Even browsers or small apps can show a HTML rendered markdown. There are even standalone Markdown editors, but there is no standalone org-mode editor.

You can render a subset of Org mode just as easily as Markdown - they mostly differ with syntax. The problem is, Org format is not just a format for static documents - it also accounts for things you'd like to achieve with plaintext notes, and most of those "extra features" are defined in terms of their Emacs/Org-mode implementation. Which is something very hard to clone.

This is a silly comment.

Of course you can read Orgmode in plain text, because that’s all it is. Maybe you looked at a file with a bunch of meta-data, or a file with a bunch of code blocks, but so what? Ignore the meta-data and just read the notes. They are all delimited by asterisks by their header level. Links are simple. Tables are simple, even tables with formulas are readable.

Further more Markdown is a poorly defined plaintext format, which is why there are so many variants of it, and processors specific to those variants. If you don’t believe me, remember that GFM is not official markdown.

Orgmode is at least well defined, so when other editors catch up and are able to implement all the features Emacs has when using it, they should behave similarly. If you want a well defined plain text format that exports to HTML/PDF/Word/RichText take a look at AsciiDoc or reStructuredText.

But don’t blame Emacs for leveraging its power over a relatively simple plain text format. There are even packages these days for Vim, Sublime, Atom, Jetbrains to make good use of Orgmode without Emacs.

I just use HTML directly if I need formatting. I find it wuch easier to remember its syntax than Markdown.

An org-mode subset comparable to Markdown isn't more complex than Markdown itself.

Org-mode itself is an Emacs addon, so it's not surprising that you cannot run it without Emacs. Emacs and org-mode are much more stable and much less likely to die than any other software, and that's precisely why I'm using them for a decade already.

The org-mode file format is plaintext, just like Markdown, and you definitely can edit and view it with any text editor. You will obviously lose the convenience of org-mode, though. Additionally, it's simple enough that you can easily implement a parser/importer for any other software.

what? it's plain text, you could read it with notepad.

For vim users, vimwiki[1] is great. It combines the wiki with jounaling features and is easy to call up while editing any other files. Just make sure to change the default from wiki to markdown format.

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

> 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.

I strongly agree with this. Actually I'm surprised that creating one's own tools is not more widespread in our industry as I consider this a quite unique trait of our profession.

> I consider this a quite unique trait of our profession.

(In case you really meant unique rather than special or valued). Machinists, woodworkers, and craftsmen in general all make their own tools when the situation calls for it.

You use the word "unique" in the strict database sense. That is also a unique trait of our profession.

(and yes the above sentence was meant to be a logical moron)

Making our own tools in software used to be more common.

Although the difference between tool-making and yak shaving is itself a yak shaveable debate.

Yep a private repo in GitHub goes a loooong way. With git you can be offline, dump whatever comes at any time. Markup syntax is remarkable in its simplicity but how much you can get out of it.

GitHub UI for on the move web committing is also pretty well done.

For a lot of things in life, you want to have simple interface yet sophisticated functionality. It’s incredibly hard to achieve that balance and so many software products screw up that balance.

Another useful tool I've been using for note-taking is `mdbook` which I think accomplishes the same thing - organizing markdown files into a book of sorts. Just thought I would throw the name out here in case anyone is looking for alternatives to research.

I too am thinking of going this route so as to reduce dependencies on custom software for something as important as note taking. However, how do you handle images in such a system? For instance, I sometimes take pictures of a whiteboard discussion and paste them as is in One Note - how do I do the same with plaintext files?

I have two folders: notes/ and uploads/. I've been uploading any attachments (images, PDFs, etc) to uploads/ with a timestamped name (ex. "2018-07-15_interesting_document.pdf") and linking them from the associated note.

At first this was pretty annoying, but then I wrote a couple scripts to automate the upload + naming process. Now it's as simple as running the script and getting the Markdown reference copied to your clipboard (ex. "![Interesting Image](../uploads/2018-07-15_interesting_image.jpg)").

> lain 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.

That sounds a lot like zimwiki,except it uses a media wiki derived markup, but does have wysiwyg ui. http://zim-wiki.org/

I recently switched to simple markdown files as well.

"I find myself more eager to write things down." I feel exactly the same. Something about the simplicity and lightweight approach makes it more inviting for writing.

I use QOwnNotes to manage the notes, it's open source and available on osx/linux/windows, uses a sqlLite DB to add tagging and fast searching.


I use nextcloud for syncing the notes to a server and across devices.

I have a similar setup. Markdown files published in the open¹ using Hugo. That said, I'd love to have an easy way to add tagging and searching without having to create my Hugo template.

¹ https://davidgasquez.github.io/handbook/

I've been doing that for quite some time as well, but recentlish (<6 month ago) stumbled upon BoostNote [0] (electron based) and have to say that I think its pretty neat.

Especially because I can (if it ever becomes unmaintained), export the data to my preferred format with a simple script, as everytthing is saved in plain json files.

[0] https://github.com/BoostIO/Boostnote

I have to agree with you... but in a...an _expanded_ sort of way. I use Epsilon and you can do anything except maybe make an Omelet. That comes out in the next version. lol. No, seriously: Epsilon is an either/or/both kind of app. It is happy letting you use Markdown, or _just_ as happy if you decide on CommonMark (which is like Github-flavored Markdown and Multi-Markdown combined, then made easier to use than either of those). It has FontAwesome Icons, Tags, Indexing, YAML, MathJax, and CSS. You can find it on G+ if you are curious but not sure if you are interested in a full commit just yet. I don't even work for or have any vested interest in Epsilon Notes. I just Love it that much. Yeah Markdown IS here to stay. It's crazy-easy to learn and even more so on the fun and useful side of things. Ciao, and Happy Coding! ~MJC

I went through a similar path. Tried everything and it all kinda sucked. Finally settled on using plain markdown files stored in a folder on Dropbox and edited by Sublime Text.

I love the format, enjoy using Sublime for text-editing and never had a problem with syncing (as opposed to say OneNone or Evernote).

Still doing the same as many years ago;

  * a git repo (private on gitlab)
  * markdown editor (desktop, phone)
  * and several means of rendering (pandoc, gollum, etc)
See: http://gbraad.nl/blog/task-management-and-personal-kanban-ho... and http://gbraad.nl/blog/document-generation-using-markdown-and...

I use a container image to generate my resume, my blog, knowledgebase and presentations. All from the same files and workflow...

I’ve always favored physical notebooks (there’s something about putting pen to paper that you just don’t get from a laptop and keyboard), but I’ve since played around with org-journal on emacs to track my programming work and the fact the buffer is only one shortcut away makes it really welcoming. I can put it in git, version it, and it’s plain text as you say so as long as I maintain some kind of structure I can code against it.

Now if I added some stuff to automatically link to JIRA tickets or GitHub PRs, or even specific commits if I go to that level, that would be fantastic.

Same here, I built a UWP app called flatnote. It's basically just a markdown editor with a directory tree. Everything is stored in Dropbox and I have a mobile app which does the same.

I built it when OneNote had a week long outage on Windows Phone. I'll never go back. Storing everything in plain text files is wonderfully liberating. Any app can read them. There's zero lock in. I can build my own super client or just use notepad

I do the same and keep it in gitlab private repo. On my android phone I have GIT client because I mostly write my notes on the phone.

I just don't feel like using some stupid apps for notes. I understand that someone not technical would like to use app for that.

How about trying https://hackmd.io ? I started HackMD few years ago with similar reasons (but for hackpad), hope you enjoy and feel free to tell me more about your opinion!

Add nextcloud for sync. There's a nextcloud notes app on f-droid.

I was about to comment that the problem with DIY is it only works on desktop, because for mobile you need some sort of app to interface.

But then I saw your screenshot. Nevermind.

How are you using vim on iPhone? What terminal app is that?

Looks like Blink. It’s pretty awesome. The layout is relatively simple for using special keys and it works great with a keyboard on larger iOS screens. The UI is also almost entirely text based for workflows once you have servers setup. That was always the most annoying thing about using Prompt and other SSH clients on iPad. Pecking around on the screen to get to a shell before you can start typing away. Blink supports Mosh as well.

Sorry, what is the editor on the screenshots? Or what the keyboard?

I have found org mode to be really useful for free form note taking. Granted, the emacs factor may scare away some users, but I think org mode is worth it even if you are using emacs solely because of it.

Org mode has configurable todos(todo, next, scheduled, deadline). You can attach tags to notes, have nested todos with percentage completion tracking, can write code snippets in any language with full syntax completion, log time for different tasks, and this is just all I can think on the top of my head.

And to top it all, it is just plain text. You can store org documents in dropbox and access them just like your other dropbox documents.

As a vim user, I too only use plain-text. My general writtings are organized in folders, within a single git repo. Project specific writtings are within one file within that project's repo. I always call it notes.txt, and then when I'm within a project, to open notes it's always the same operation (`:e notes.txt` or equivalent). I also have a notes.txt in my general writtings repo. It's by far the biggest file in the repo, where I keep information that can be useful in the future. In most files, especially the bigger ones, I keep to the structure of date stamping a day's entries. For that I use a vim abbreviation. That's 1 line of code and that's the only custom code that my "system" needs.

I have found it immensely advantageous to use monospace for writting and note keeping, because I can structure the writting with indentation. So my writtings are trees, I branch them similarly to how you punctuate text in English. That's very efficient for technical writting and notes, but also for ponderings and essays. It let's you drop many non-content words, because the indentation provides for sentence-glue with visual punctuation and walks you through the "thought tree". With prose it's not easy to see the structure from a glance, you only see it's biggest features. With lists, you are constrained to the point where the medium is not expressive enough for anything beyond a grocery list. With loose-form trees, you get the benefit of visual structure, text-efficiency and expressiveness. Code editors, like vim, are good for this, because they know how to wrap indented text.

Example of such notes. They're not in English, but you can see the structure. It's a week of entries on a project: https://hastebin.com/raw/gurexecubi

Standard Notes: https://standardnotes.org/ for plain text, encrypted notes. Everything is easily importable or exportable in .txt format.

MS OneNote is great however they have stopped updating their desktop application (which allows offline notes) in favor of putting everything in the cloud (which will require a subscription to yet another cloud service if you exceed the OneDrive limits.)

Thank you, have searched for things like Standard Notes before but without success. That is why I participate in HN, many times it works better than a search engine, you just need to wait for the right topic to appear in the first page.

Indeed, one of the most important points is the Q&A in the FAQ: "Has Standard Notes completed a third-party security audit?" (Spoiler: yes, it did).

I like standard notes but having only plain text with no ability to attach images makes it unsuitable for me. I often take screen shots or photos as a note.

This is why I use markdown. If I need an image, I can add a quick <img> tag with a base64 encoded image.

To keep legibility, I always add the images at the bottom and reference them from the text.

I don't understand how that works. Can you give some more details?

All these people using markdown with images are self hosting the images.

Another vote for Standard Notes. By far the best for my use case.

I take all my notes with Sublime Text 3. After having bought it and VS Code being more suitable for my programming needs I just use it as a snappy notes taking application. I can close it and everything I leave will be restored as is in a snap when I come back. Not sure if there's a way to sync this but if there is, that would defeat any other "note taking app" for me.

Eventually I want to try using Microsoft Whiteboard but I'm waiting to buy the Surface Pen before I try it out.

I've found myself doing this as well. I really appreciate the way Sublime Text persists unsaved files without having to give it any thought. I've kept a "scratch.txt" doc open with various notes and hints forever.

same, and also PlainTasks, which is the only tofo list working for me:


+1 for PlainTasks. I use it exclusively to maintain my TODO lists now.

This is really great! Definitely giving this a try now.

Best part is I can save them all to a 'notes' folder / directory (I get yelled about calling it folders apparently) and oh look I can open them anywhere else, and archive them and take them with me anywhere and even put them in 'the cloud' for super cheap storage.

If on the Mac ecosystem, Bear is Apple notes but with fewer sync bugs and more useful features (like a close cousin of markdown and amazing tagging). I've switched to that for notes that might stick around for a while (from Evernote and Apple notes, though I still forward emails into the former as a convenient archive). For transient notes (like shopping lists etc.) I just use drafts on iOS. Seems to work for me after years of frustration with Evernote and Apple notes.

I'm not sure how long ago you tried Apple Notes but I've use it all the time now after trying many apps. I don't have any sync problems and it has good support for images, pen input, tables, styles etc.

For anything more technical I use Quiver which supports MarkDown, code with pretty printing, LaTex and diagram markup, but it doesn't have an iPad editor (just reader).

I switched to Bear after having significant sync problems with apple notes (it was fine in iOS 10 but never ever worked properly in iOS 11). It was always OK on my Mac.

From various Apple support forum requests it seems that a lot of people were having similar - but also a number were totally unaffected.

My biggest gripe with Apple Notes is if I throw some snippet of code in there it mutates the quotes to "smart quotes" and thus the code produces syntax errors if I try and use it again :(

Btw you can disable smart quotes system wide on macOS, it's in keyboard settings.

I started to switch to Apple Notes a year ago, loved it, then discovered there is no good way to export all notes as text for backup.

Any suggestions?

Open up Script Editor and paste in:

    tell application "Notes" to get body of every note
You might of course want to build a little around this — save the results, etc.

Bear lacks folders. Sure, it has tagging, but it's really a poor man's organization tool; for example, you can't create a new folder and then drag and drop a bunch of notes into it. Changing the "location" of multiple notes requires search and replace, something I don't think Bear even does (at least not the iOS version). Tags also clutter notes visually. Do you put them at the beginning? At the end? Either way you will see the tags. Very strange for an app which boasts about providing "beautiful" notes. There are ergonomic issues; copying a note into another app includes the tags, for example. Selecting a whole note and clicking the "italics" shortcuts will make the tags italics, too. And so on.

Same goes for the Markdown. Maybe some people find Markdown codes scattered all over the place "beautiful", but I don't.

Bear also doesn't handle images very well, at least on iOS (I don't remember how it behaves on the Mac). Images are rendered full width. You can't create nice grids of images like you can with Evernote.

You can actually drag and drop multiple notes into a tag, no find and replace necessary. Minor point though.

Bear is awesome. I like it enough that the thought of finding an alternative hasn’t occurred to me in a long time.

As others have mentioned, organization can feel like a bit of a pain sometimes with how you have to organize with tags, but it hasn’t really hindered me as much as I thought it would.

It is literally markdown if you turn on the markdown compatibility mode.

I like Bear's more polished look but as far as I can find through a dozen apps I tried, only Apple Note allows documents to be encrypted. It's sad no app cares about it.

Does it support saving to sync.com?

Workflowy is great for quick, structured, hierarchical note taking. It is basically a text only bulleted list of lists. Navigable by keyboard or mouse and syncs to whatever phone / desktop etc you have.

Too expensive by half, and I don't think it is client side encrypted which is a deal breaker for anything sensitive. I really enjoy the simplicity though, great for checklists, writing papers, and all those little rare but important non-calendar based lists, ie. books to read, music to buy, etc.

My ideal note-app would be like workflowy, but allow de-hierarch-ising the list mentality. I mean, workflowy is basically a database back end and I can link tags between lists. But why not just have all the tags separate in the first place? You could have the constructed hierarchy tree to the left (ie bullet list), and the links tree to the right so you can see how the entries both compose and decompose.

That used to be me. Can I suggest you check out Dynalist? It's actually maintained and updated (unlike Workflowy at this point), with more useful features. I've been finding the colouring, headers and bookmarks very useful.


Love Dynalist for notes and todos.

Two things I dislike though, 1) as far as I can tell the dates/times can't trigger notifications. 2) the paid plan is expensive.. they give so much away for free, but then charge a lot for seemingly little. A $3/m tier is a good price point imo for a todo app. Right now it costs basically the same as Netflix..

Can you please expand a bit more on your ideal note app? Results sound intriguing, but I can't imagine what it would look like from this short description.


The idea is that the issue with tags is they can be difficult to trace to all their referenced locations. I find myself not using them because they are difficult to keep track of.. you can't 'see' them at a glance.

But we don't need to see all the referenced locations, just the tree which leads away from the item you are looking at. So you get strict split between, and easy to understand, [left / right], [hierarchy / reference] organisation. Would make it easy to position and re-reference information. And would let you see referencing visually. Below for a really rough idea of what I am talking about.

  - list 1 - sub-list 1 - item A  |  - sub-list 1 - list 1
                        - item B  | 
                        - item C  |  - sub-list 1
                                  |  \ sub-list 3 - list 2
           - sub-list 2 - item D  |  - sub-list 2 - list 1
                                  |  \ sub-list 3 - list 2
                        - item E  |  
                        - item F  |  - sub-list 4 - list 2
  - list 2 - sub-list 3 - item G  |  - sub-list 3 - list 2
                        - item C  |  - sub-list 1 - list 1
                                  |  \ sub-list 3 - list 2
                        - item D  |  - sub-list 2 - list 1
                                  |  \ sub-list 3 - list 2

Oh, I see what you mean now. Left side shows which branches you used to get to leaf, and right sides show other paths to root. It might be very useful occasionally, but would probably have to stay hidden most of time because it would clutter UI with redundant information.

What you're describing sounds a lot like Gingko: https://gingkoapp.com/

I've tried several different, SimpleNote, KeepNote, EverNote... and so on. I have come to a conclusion, that using the default iOS note app is enough for me. Using paper notes while @lectures and rewriting them sometimes to Notes.

I'm also using another method of note taking, which I prefer more, but which is not always accessible on the go. I stumbled upon a script here and modified it a little. (changed vim to nano and added some other):

    #! /bin/bash

    if [ "$1" == "cat" ]; then
        cat "$fpath"
        exit 0
    elif [ "$1" == "rg" ]; then
        rg "$2" "$fpath"
    elif [ "$1" == "nano" ]; then
        nano "$fpath"
    elif [ "$1" == "--help" ]; then
        printf 'Commands: \n-----------------------------------------------\n
        $ notes \n
        $ notes --help\t\t--\tdisplay this help\n
        $ notes date\t\t--\tadd date row to notes\n
        $ notes <text>\t\t--\tadd new entry \n
        $ notes cat\t\t--\tprint notes using cat\n
        $ notes rg <pattern>\t--\tripgrep notes\n
        Remember to use #tags (for easier grepping)!\n\n'
    elif [ "$1" == "date" ]; then
        echo ''
        echo '# '"$(date +"%m-%d-%Y-%T")"
        echo '-'
        } >> "$fpath"
    elif [ "$1" == "" ]; then
        less +G "$fpath"
            echo ''
            echo "$@"
            echo ''
        } >>"$fpath"

In short, writing $ notes prints out displays the notes and writing $ notes <text> appends a new line. This is extremely powerful because of it's simplicity and easy accessibility in terminal (where I spend most of the time anyway)

edit:: formatting edit2::

I very often keep this (with extended bash history) to keep notes about long commands I need to use later in the future, but not often. One had to do with imagemagick and resizing/compressing bunch of images in a directory. Added tags #imagemagick #command and in split of second I can get the command again whenever needed ;)

This remind me of this microblogging for hackers script: https://github.com/buckket/twtxt/blob/master/README.rst

Not able to edit this anymore, but here's the original (&thread) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16357917

Typora! I just found it recently, but maan, I was searching for something like this for a long time! It is basically a Markdown editor but with an unique touch and extra features like outline, sidebar browser, built-in image viewer and stuff. It's very beautiful.


Typora also handles copy-pasting of images really well. It essentially copies the files to an assets folder next to your md document. If you paste image data from the clipboard it will create the file too.

This is extremely handy!

It does look like a very polished Markdown editor and is available for Mac, Win and Linux. Unfortunately it is neither open source, nor will it be free after the Beta.

... paid software certainly has its place, but with no clear pricing info, nor any concrete info about who's behind it, it makes me hesitate to jump on board. It does look really good though.

I think the sole developer is https://abnerlee.github.io.

windows installation is 42mb. i better stick to notepad.exe(245kb)

They are not comparable. Typora can handle images, render graphs, render markdown and show outlines and is cross platform. It also let's you edit markdown in a WYSIWYG-format.

Notepad can't do any of that.

Do you also complain about the size of blue-ray movies, when .txt documents are so much smaller?

Are you memory conscious because you're downloading this to some embedded device? Serious question.

The idea that i am using inefficient software boggles my mind. My laptop SSD is 128gb. Unpacked version of this software would be 100MB+ installation. It will also take a lot of my RAM during usage. So for a "truly minimal markdown editor" i get such a monster in my system.

Lets take another monster, Visual Studio Code. Its installation is 72mb, but i get so much more installing it including markdown editor.

To each their own. I far prefer my UX at the cost of RAM. I agree, there are a lot of abstractions in languages which leads to this bloat, but do I think we'd have better user experiences if everyone write perfectly efficient assembly? I don't, fwiw. Do you?

I know you're not suggesting everything needs to be perfect. We just have different lines we draw where our UX outweighs things like RAM or disk space. For me, if it gives a great UX, 75MB is a tiny fraction of my RAM, I'd gladly pay it.

Besides, I'm only going to have one copy of this thing running. If it was 75MBx25 or something then I'd be concerned, but 75x1? meh.

>The idea that i am using inefficient software boggles my mind.

Then why are you using Windows (dozens of Gb) and not Ubuntu (<5 Gb) or Debian (<1 Gb)?

For my use case (.net development, visual studio) windows used to be superior, more efficient choice. Now, after the release of .NET Core and Visual Studio Code i might re-evaluate it.

And yet it's apparently completely foreign to you that others may make that exact same choice regarding other software?

(And this is coming from a guy that used to program entirely on text editors, because I didn't like how bloaty Eclipse was... I'm not deaf to your plight. I'm just curious that the idea of others making trade offs is so foreign to you.)

You are taking a very narrow look at these software.

Why not be conscious about these things? I have a lot more than 128GB on my system, but I still don't want to install dozens of 100+MB apps to solve just one problem each. Eventually you will run out of disk space with that approach.

Why install a single-purpose Markdown editor when you already have VSCode installed that is an excellent Markdown editor plus a lightweight IDE for nearly every language ever?

One tool, one job is fine for things that actually stick to the Unix principle and keep it lightweight and minimal. Single-purpose apps should be aiming at the 10MB mark, not 100MB. At 100MB+, you can probably find a multipurpose app to do the same job just as well if not better.

- Why not be conscious about these things?

Because life is short.

Yes, sure - We should. But Dolores12 was claiming notepad's superiority over a feature rich editor using only one parameter.

I've found that actual paper works best for me -- I tend to jump around a lot, use special symbols, occasionally draw diagram fragments. Then when I'm done dumping core it gets transferred into emacs/org-mode, where it may get an editing pass to make it more coherent to future-me.

Termux on Android with emacs/org mode and a ton of custom capture templates is awesome. Capturing eg. workouts and expenses to org tables and then processing them with python to get summaries.. quick restaurant or sento reviews in my journal .. whatever you want to capture quickly, you can tailor it to serve you. And, at the end of the day, it's all plain text synced by git.

I’ve recently started using TiddlyWiki for my work and personal notes. It really excels at modeling complex, real world data through its tagging system. Also, it is open source and locally hosted so it is safe for work or other sensitive information.

I tried to give TiddlyWiki a serious try but eventually had to leave the boat. On multiple occasions, I lost drafted notes-- I had a couple of notes opened in the unsaved state, I was thinking I would save all of them together but lost them because of some reason.

I understand when it started but why now it has to be a single page JS powered app which comes with so many restrictions.

Which distribution do you use? It's been...10+ years for me? But I recall that there were various versions available.

Google Docs for long-form notes (meetings, classes), Google Keep for short-form (grocery list, to-do, etc.).

Nothing beats the fact I can use it instantly across all devices (not Apple-only) and it's free.

Can access iOS Notes from iCloud on any device. I’d argue the web UI is just as easy to use as the native Keep UI.

My issue with Keep is that in my experience, if you aren’t religious with organization, it gets out of hand and unuseable fast.

Can access iOS Notes from iCloud on any device.

iCloud's website does not work on Android devices. You can't even use "Find My iPhone" on a friend's device if you lose yours.

And everything is searchable...

One thing that bothers me is the time for starting a new note in Google Docs - quite a few seconds. But there's probably a VSCode extension for that.

How do you organize the Google Docs? We use a lot of Google docs where I work and I've found looking for documents to be a struggle.

I'm done giving Google anymore information for them to analyze out of my account. Never going to use Google's product that requires logging in.

It's been mentioned already but allow me to repeat it: plain text is your friend. Use some markdown if you like. Store everything in folders, using a complex or simple hierarchy, depending on your style. Backup and sync your files using one of the many providers, have it all encrypted (or not if you don't care).

This is your core note-taking system that will last longer than you.

On top of that use any app or editor you fancy. I'm on a Mac, I use iaWriter as my markdown editor (I love that you can drag and drop images into the files), houdahspot to search, Monosnap to take screenshots. And a few OSX tags. But I expect all this to change anytime.

I have around 15 years worth of notes and journalling entries and this setup has emerged as the clear winner. If you care at all about long-levity, I highly advise against proprietary data formats.

I have been using Notion.so for a few months now.

I especially like being able to add any type of element (code, image, video, todo) to any page, the drag-and-drop reordering, and that I can export everything to Markdown if they ever go under because they (inexplicably) decided to remove limits on mobile users.

I also use Notion and find it great so far! What do you mean by "they (inexplicably) decided to remove limits on mobile users"?

plain text files and your favorite editor, whatever that is.

things that should be encrypted are either gpg encrytped or put in my password manager.

Bonus if you format your plain text with markdown or asciidoc or whatever your fav. plain text markup language is.

Don't make it more complicated than it needs to be.

Put it in a VCS for super double bonus points :)

me personally: Vim, asciidoc and in a fossil repo.

> plain text files and your favorite editor

I tried this solution as well, but I missed one core feature of Evernote, that you can search by tags or keywords, and it instantly list all related notes.

... grep?

That is possible, but more impractical. In Evernote, I just click Win-Shift-F within any application, and then directly type the search keyword, and then get the list of notes, which I can preview in another window. It's just not the same experience.

Grep works fine on a desktop OS but not so well on a smartphone or tablet.

It works, but it doesn't sync to mobile devices

You could save them to a directory that NextCloud is watching.

Interestingly, Nextcloud/Owncloud has its own note taking app [1]. Android versions on F-Droid [2] [3]. Its also available in Play Store.

[1] https://apps.nextcloud.com/apps/notes

[2] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/it.niedermann.owncloud.notes...

[3] https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.aykit.MyOwnNotes/

Actually, I don't even understand why anyone would think that you need a dedicated app for note taking.

- Markdown rendering can be done with pandoc

- Structure and search can be done with a solid file structure and grep

- Sync can be done with git or any other syncing solution out there.

- Encryption can be done with gpg (vim-gnupg)

Serious question: What feature is missing from this workflow (assuming the audience are developers)?

The ability to take notes from a phone, render math, search by tags and in line images.

Oh and forwarding emails, adding todos and have them show up as due today, sorted, etc.

The last part could be scripted somewhat easily.

Mobile access, I often needs to jot down or read a note on my phone

> I don't even understand why anyone would think that you need a dedicated app for note taking.

You're missing a big part: user experience.

Everything you said, sure, that's great. But the majority of developers (or really just people in general) don't want to spend their time learning each one of those things and trying to piece something together when a single app can do it good enough for them.

I too stopped using a dedicated note taking app but I already understand how to use markdown, git, etc. But for the average user or the user who just wants something to work without trying to look up multiple things or, hell, even the user who wants access on all of their devices like a phone, this solution make absolutely no sense.

I wonder if there's a vim plugin to automatically call gpg to decrypt a file, NOT put it in swp, and re-encrypt it with gpg when writing it to disk...

Edit: and there is![1] I'm definitely using this.


Same here. Vim, Markdown, and GitHub. I can easily sync between my laptop, work computer, and desktop via git.

Emacs, Markdown, and self-hosted Git. I love when things are too simple to break.

Heavy note taker here. If I'm on my Mac, I use the Notes app. My favorite things about the app are real time sync between the desktop and phone app, easy checklists, text format options and the ability to inline embed images.

When I'm on my phone I use Google Keep. What I love about it are the colored background, tile view and checklists. I wish Keep allowed inline embedding of images.

We use Google Keep for syncing our grocery shopping. It works very well, even offline (sometimes stores don't have strength for mobile data and allow you to use their WiFi but I prefer not). However, Google Keep has no API. You're forced to use the Google apps or use a browser. I also cannot get it work on my smartwatch.

MS OneNote as it features a nice integration with MS Outlook. You can create tasks directly in OneNote and have them automatically show up in Outlook. As my employer uses the enterprise version, I am not worried about the Cloud.

Google Docs for long form stuff.

Apple Notes for the rest.

I honestly didn't realize how much I was using Apple Notes on iOS and Mac, until recently. The ability to create folders, and iCloud sync (after it became useful enough) are amazing.

I only wish Apple Notes would get a lot more features similar to Google Doc, but at that point it'd be an another replacement for Apple Pages.

I was never hooked to Evernote, despite the amount of traction it got. So I'm not sure if Notes on iOS and mac will be a good replacement for Evernote users though.

I also find myself using Apple Notes for a lot of short list-type stuff, from to-do lists to my daily cardio log. Somehow the simplicity and prevalence -- all my local machines are the spawn of Cupertino -- make the default just good enough I don't want to invest mental energy in a more featureful alternative.

Unless I write it myself, but I'm trying hard to avoid that temptation, as are probably half the people commenting here.

For longer-form stuff (brainstorms mostly) I switch to Markdown in whichever text editor I'm using that day, and... ooh I'm setting myself up here... Dropbox.

It really depends on how you do note-taking. In my case, I take notes related to my research projects, meetings and things I find useful, which require me to find a software with Latex, MathJax support. I don't like latex code inside my note, I like the rendered view. Second requirement is that this software should be mobile support. On the bus, on waiting line etc, I should be able to edit/add notes.

Outliners are good for noting ideas. It makes you think more structural and organized. The less bullet you spend, the simple the idea becomes, that way reading it requires less energy.

I use Dynalist because of the reasons above and its mobile app is 10/10.

Uniquely, AFAIK, the Dynalist team make their Trello kanban available for us all to see. We can also subscribe to and vote for our wished-for developments.

I like tree sheets: http://strlen.com/treesheets/

Had not heard of this but it looks interesting. Thanks for mentioning it!

Though, I guess I'll run into an issue if I need to edit this on mobile at some point.

It's been tough to find the exact right note tool for myself. Might end up going with synced .txt files instead, who knows.

Still like the look of this for more detailed "overview" type of notes or brainstorming

Personally I've not found a suitable mobile note taking app. I tend to use old paper and pencil for that, with a cross between bullet journal and a Japanese method of organisation (visual index) for them. If I feel I need to keep the notes as they might change, etc, I'll type them up.

I'm in the process of teaching myself Emacs because I like the idea of simple txt notes (org-mode) but I'm visual in my learning so treesheets works for me.

I use a combination of iThoughtsX and Evernote.

I find myself in a lot of situations where information isn't coming to me in a particularly organised fashion - interviews, presentations with several presenters, being on the receiving end of braindumps, etc. For those situations, I really need a mindmap app to be able to reorganise information with minimal effort into a structure that makes sense to me. It's a not-cheap, Apple-only app, but it can output into a variety of formats if I want to consume it on some other platform.

It also works well as a presentation tool if I don't know the audience's knowledge level. Rather than be tied into e.g a sequence of slides, using a mindmap tool I can skip over stuff the audience already knows, while still having the content there (just not visible) if I need to drill down deeply. I can go from receiving an unstructured braindump to presenting that same info in an organised fashion within a few minutes

I used to use Freemind and Freeplane, but the lack of an iOS option was a killer.

For most other situations, I find Evernote is great

I also find myself much more productive when I use mind mapping software, e.g. XMind, on large/complicated projects.

I see lots of people's answers include markdown or another plain text format. I have long held the opinion that note taking is the single most applicable situation for a WYSIWYG experience. On top of that, I find the ability to draw in my notes essential. For these reasons, my favorite software would be MS OneNote. However I run Linux and don't always have pen input available so I go with pen and paper instead.

So, how do you all deal with plain text notes? If you had a good WYSIWYG editor that fits in your workflow, would you switch?

Give me Emacs that handles inline images in buffers better, and I'll switch :).

Before going full Org Mode, I used MS OneNote, and liked it very much. My notes from that period has tons of images and annotated screenshots dumped into them. I miss that in my Emacs workflow nowadays. My dream software would be pieces of Org Mode on a OneNote-like canvas, with support for easily pasting images and drawing on them (especially using a graphics tablet, or at least a touchscreen). And of course with plaintext format (though the attachments could go into directories, automatically managed by the notetaking software).

I feel like I've used them all. OneNote, Notion.so, NotePlan, Outliner, Mac Notes, Scrivner, Evernote.

I personally seem to gravitate towards OneNote for pure note taking. I personally like Notion.so more for notes that refer to tasks, using Notionas more of a task management and organization app vs pure note taking.

Outliner is a great app for quick note taking in nested format.

I'm a huge fan of Notion.so. They offer personal plans, and a free plan to students.

They've helped me organise my life - I've built a small personal "wiki" of study notes, WIP writing, calendar plans & email drafts.

I recently persuaded a friend to get it (so we can collaboratively work on a startup idea) and it's worked really smoothly. We both love it. Can't recommend enough.

Notion would be awesome if they had a self-hosted product (I don't even mean open-source. Something like Confluence would be okay).

Fan of Notion as well, great product.

I can't find a free plan for students option anywhere. Can you please explain how that works?

I messaged them one day asking about their price, and they put me on a "student plan". Not sure how it works outside of that, sorry.

They have fantastic customer support -- try emailing them?

Here it is the compiled list with all apps mentioned on this thread https://www.saashub.com/reviews/post-news-ycombinator-2018-0...

Apple Notes is great. The only feature I wish it had is markdown or an easy way to make code blocks, but all of its other features make up for missing it.

I have used many other options, but Notes works best.

I like Apple Notes too. I wish table editing was a bit better, but the only thing that really annoys me is that the color scheme is not editable. Orange for hyperlinks sucks.

I used to use OneNote and quite enjoyed it but always felt it was slightly heavy weight.

As I’m fully in the Apple ecosystem I now just use Apple Notes and in all honesty am totally happy with it. It’s fairly simple but does everything I need for free.

I also use Notability on the iPad for when I want to scribble something with the Apple Pencil and am also quite happy with that!

I’m paper and pen - so recently was introduced to Goodnotes on iPad with a pencil. I found a used eBay iPad and can rapidly take notes, draw diagrams and flowcharts. Full search with online recognition, too.

Honestly it’s pretty good. I am much more productive than on paper.

On laptop or desktop I stick with vim and copy to Word if required. I use Inkscape for diagrams.

Second the notion of goodnotes and the pen. The one feature that really is quite significant is being able to move hand written text around using the lasso tool.

So you write something, circle it and move it to the right spot.

If your brain works in chaotic ways at times it is such a cool feature to just write/dump everything and then order it later.

Also excellent for drawing diagrams and mockups and all kinds of other flows that require expansion or significant change later on.

Using the pen/ipad combo feels quite natural to write so this has been my solution for a while and has stuck more than any solution I have tried over the past 20 years aside from regular pen/paper.

Does this need a special pen/pencil/stylus? Apple Pencil?

Lots of support for non-apple styluses on Goodnotes. I can only vouch for the Apple Pencil which works well.


I am using an Apple Pencil. Not sure if 3rd party pencils work.

I’ve given up on absolutely everything; As of now, I just keep .txt files in my Dropbox, accessed via any app on the market.

Me too, but I'm still missing a good markdown editor on Android, since Draft went out of action..

It would also be nice with a good editor that was somewhat Dropbox aware, so I had fewer edit conflicts between my laptop and phone..

I use Jotterpad on Android to edit markdown and text files. It syncs well with Dropbox (it feels just like a frontend for a dropbox folder) and supports .txt, .md, .markdown, and .fountain files.

I use Brackets and Typora to edit .md files on pc/mac/linux. I find image handling in .md files fairly simple as long as you maintain an appropriate folder structure on the backend. Typora makes this especially easy.

I would like to build a better self-hosted tagging/viewing program for my huge cache of notes - something like Google Keep without being, well, Google. Turtl comes closest to my needs, but the lack of import/export at this point is a problem. I do not wish to be tied to a particular format or storage space.

Hey, Turtl creator here. Import/export is launching with v0.7.0 very soon. I've been working really hard on the upcoming release, and self hosting should be easier since we're moving to Nodejs for the server (saying goodbye to lisp).

This is excellent news for anyone nervous about vendor lock-in, which is a big problem in the notes space.

Possibly answering my own question, I just discovered tagspaces (https://www.tagspaces.org/) for tagging files across a filesystem.

What about WriterPlus? I've been using it for years to edit my Markdown files on Android. (I was about to say that it's also open source but that seems to have changed recently.)

Also, what do you mean by "Dropbox-aware"? It's all just files after all.

How is this 'giving up'? Sounds like a good solution without being locked in to me.

Exactly- it is the best I have found so far. However, the main problem hides in everything to do with images, as they cannot be appended to a text document. Because of that, I am using this naming scheme: example.txt needs an appended image. In the doc, I write “[0]”, and create an image named example-0.jpg.

> .txt files ... accessed via any app on the market.

Except, annoyingly, Google Docs.

Emacs org-mode

This, plus Orgzly on my phone, because I don't always have a computer on me.

Came here to say the same thing. I used OneNote for a while and then SublimeText + PlainTasks which was actually great but I couldn't find a good mobile client for PlainTasks. And every single time in between I would go back to org-mode so eventually I just stopped searching. It has everything I need.

Is there a way to sync orgzly to Google drive? Not natively, sadly, only Dropbox supported.

Too invested in the Google ecosystem to also depend on Dropbox.

I have tried some folder sync apps, but I prefer not to depend on those either.

No but you can have all your org notes sync with whatever devices and whatever cloud thingy with nuage (https://github.com/mickael-kerjean/nuage/wiki/Release-0.1:-O...) disclaimer: Im the main contributor

I remember there being an IFTTT recipe for syncing DB and Google Drive, but I never gave it a try. I was using DB before I used Drive so I'm fine with Orgzly's reliance on it, but there are options.

I use syncthing to sync Org content between android and linux for orgzly consumption. I don't see any reason why I couldn't add a syncthing that copied into a mounted Google Drive if I wanted my info up on that cloud.

I dropped a few bucks on Quiver for a more developer friendly Evernote, and I've been relatively happy with it.

I second Quiver. Great little note app with fairly good markup support. Biggest problem is it is Mac only last I looked

There's a bare bones, read-only client for iOS :(

How do you utilize Quiver? Just making notes of programming concepts with code snippets?

That's what I use it for. I've found the "One column of concepts, with one column of articles in each concept" to be a really useful formalism. I found, when using wikis (even just my own) that it wound up being an unorganized mess.

I wound up writing a Quiver-alike for the windows/linux world at work.

I like Quiver too, but hate the fact that‘s only on Mac. If your open sourcing your project, i would love to help. Just let us know.

No, alas, I did it at work. Should have done it at home :-(

Is the one you wrote public? I'd like to try it if so.



* open source

* stored as a bunch of linked text files

* can version control with git

* wysiwyg markdown(media-wiki syntax) editor


Zim is great. It has grown to be a part of my working process.

My TODO lists with tickboxes are in Zim. (use [] to make a box). This way I can check what tasks are left and which are done. When the list of "done"-tasks grows, I move those to an own page to declutter and have a searchable history.

When I read an interesting paper or book, I add summaries to be reviewed later. When I develop, I build "case files" of things I am doing (e.g. set of commands, replies from a device, mini-HOWTOs, observations). Often these can be communicated to other people after a little polish.

One problem is that some notes tend to become spread out and somewhat chaotic, especially when having to multitask under time pressure. Many notes taken have little if any value after some weeks or months so I don't pay much attention to strict discipline there. Zim is essentially a somewhat messy lab journal intended for myself.

I think you described my workflow exactly.

Yeah, mini-wiki in your file system is cool. Just started using it and have mixed feelings:

* The files can live anywhere (say, the Dropbox folder)

* The files are plain text

* The markup is minimal and there is UI for it

* The app is a bit old-school - none of the flat ui, panes, online-email-style stuff. No Electron.

All good so far. Yet the app forces the user to organize stuff into linked pages. Let's see whether I have the patience to stick with it.

I used it for about 5 years, and in the end I'm just more comfortable working directly with text files in my text editor. I do like that it has a nice export capability for e.g. quickly organizing and setting up an informational website.

all your '*' are good points, right ?

Other features I use often are:

* manage to-do-lists based on the page they occur, and/or their tags, deadlines and priority level.

* table of contents for a larger one page note

* auto git add/commit upon application start

What I would love to see is:

* automated and robust git push/pull with GUI based conflict resolvement so I could collaborate with colleagues who are not too comfi with git using zim

* organize pages using a nested tag structure (like gmail lables) instead of folder structure.

Great for storing files along with notes.

Saved me a couple times with re-occurring or forgettable issues.

Recently with Virtual Box I needed to install the Intel USB 3.0 driver when spinning up an old WES7 VM. Had the note and the executable right there.

Yup. I use zim for every longer term project. I do personal documentation in it, all of my notes for my pnp campaigns are done in it, ideas for games: zim.

Simple Note https://simplenote.com/ and MS OneNote.

I also like the simplicity of SimpleNote, but I'd like something more secure.

I really like Federated Wiki, which was created by Ward Cunningham. I run it both locally (for private notes) and on a VPS.

I find it is a computer tool that actually helps and encourages me to write and organize information and does not impede me in this activity. ("Clippings" together with a program called FinderNote on Mac OS Classic are another.)

Github repo with set-up instructions: https://github.com/fedwiki

Site with introductory information: http://fed.wiki.org/view/welcome-visitors

"Sandbox" to get a feel for how it works: http://sandbox.fed.wiki.org/view/welcome-visitors (NB: This is an older version of the software, but the core features are still pretty much the same.)

FinderNote for Mac OS Classic downloads:



Edit: Add FinderNote links.

Two favorites:

1. Google Keep: For light weight temporary note taking - grocery items, during travel - hotel addresses, rental details etc. Where lighting quick sync is needed between web and mobile interface, for transferring data between my laptop and mobile.

2. Microsoft OneNote: For heavy duty archival note taking, where font formatting, picture and document embedding is a necessity. Which should be also available on mobile, but quick sync is not necessary.

I started using onenote, and it still pleasantly surprises me from time to time. The last feature I stumbled upon was that it autocompletes simple calculations[1].

[1] https://support.office.com/en-ie/article/insert-and-calculat...

Supermemo, but it's not really a note taking program perse. Most people use it to learn languages or skill specific vocabulary. But, I throw my notes in there too.


Specifically, the incremental reading feature and annotated notes. Essentially you can add an article like it's a flashcard, and then it'll schedule it for reviews, and you can even review your notes. If you need something specific, you can search for the note itself.

I tried (in order): Evernote, OneNote, Simplenote

Although not ideal, I ended up with OneNote. Also for temporary notes, I use Trello (easily accessible from my mobile), but the notes don't live there for more than a week.

I like how many people advice to build your own system with git and markdown. Ideally, I want such a system to work quickly on non-cutting edge mobile and sync on the fly, so maybe that's an idea for a side project.

To all the lovers of OneNote: doesn't it bother you that printing the notes / pages (physically, or to PDF file) provides a sub-par experience? Writing notes in OneNote is great, including managing them... unless you want to print a page to share the notes to someone via another medium. Than it just annoys me, and I wished that I'd started in Dropbox Paper or Google Docs.

Notational Velocity (Mac only, open source) http://notational.net

It allows you to very quickly do a full text search, it saves the files as plain text, it supports external editors (I use MacVim) and it syncs with simplenote.com so I can see my notes on NV on my various macs and the simplenote app on my phone. It's very minimal and I like it a lot.

I love Notational Velocity, but didn't know that it supports external editors!

For linux users, there is nvPy: https://github.com/cpbotha/nvpy It's a pretty ugly skin, but it works.

I’m currently working on adopting The Archive (https://www.cultofmac.com/535825/the-archive-is-the-best-pla...) into my workflow.

It ticks a lot of the boxes other people mention in this thread: markdown for interoperability, filebased and quick searches.

I looked at the screenshot and said "wow that's ugly". Then I saw the caption: "Don’t worry: The icons on the left can be made much less ugly." Nicely done.

Good to see the best features of Notational Velocity being carried forward. I like the sound of iCloud syncing, too.

The location of the md files is configurable, so it can be synced with any platform. Personally, I’m using Dropbox.

I tried Evernote, One note and simple note, then settled on zim http://zim-wiki.org/ It even works on OSX but i had to build it via brew

Can you share the steps you took to build with brew?

Turtl: https://turtlapp.com/ Largely because it's open source and privacy oriented, encrypted client-side. It's not as convenient and feature-rich as OneNote, but entrusting Microsoft with all my notes seems crazy.

I love Turtl's interface, tagging system, hosting options, multi-OS setup, and privacy stance. Turtl would be my go-to solution if they supported .md import/export. I think they have .json export planned for the next release, which might be tractable with a bit of pandoc manipulation, but not ideal.

Yes, json export is planned, and should be launching in a few weeks (hopefully...I'm building on nights and weekends and I have a busy summer!)

Out of curiousity, is there a more ideal format for import/export?

I appreciate your excellent work. Google Keep, for example, exports both a .json and a folder of individual html files. I ended up piping the individual .html files through pandoc to .md files for idiosyncratic reasons. To be fair, I think turtl is so many leagues ahead of other solutions on the rest of its feature set that a .json export - which appears to be standard - is enough.

I suspect that turtl appeals to a lot of users with a large directory of plaintext notes who would be enticed to adopt the service if bulk textfile import were also streamlined. I hope the next release is a success!

Great input, I'll keep this in mind for future versions. And thanks for the kind words!

VimWiki, old version https://github.com/vimwiki/vimwiki/releases

mobile: termux + vim windows: cygwin vim chromeOS: crouton vim

Tried evil with OrgMode and deft but always come back to VimWiki

TiddlyWiki if only non-mobile

Yeah I use vimwiki too, it has a nice diary mode as well as working as a classic wiki.

I have it convert all to HTML into syncthing folder, so I can access it read-only on mobile.

I find a single pane outliner the best for me. You can nest, group and move ideas around quickly. For windows, the best still is Ecco Pro. It's a free software written back in the 90's that has an awesome outliner. I know there are many other windows based single pane outlines but I have not used windows for my desktop for several years.

On Linux, which is my primary desktop, I use Ecco Pro on Wine.

If using OSX / IOS, I would recommend Omni Outliner.

Regarding two pane outliners vs singleness pane, I simply don't find the fragmentation of information across two panes intuitive. This may be subjective though. To me, having all information in a single tree, flows much better when brainstorming.

For Android, I don't have many good options for Outlining and therefore a regular note taker for now that's Evernote.

I'm currently evaluating several different options, and I'm beginning to lean towards "One tool is probably not enough". Bigger tools such as Notion.so or a personal wiki are great as a repository of knowledge, you can easily browse and organize information. But writing a one-off quick note is not their forte. Lighter tools like markdown files in a text editor or a pure note app all handle the jot-down-a-note aspect very well, but they lack in organization and structure.

I prefer not having to use a bunch of tools for the same task, but here it seems like that's probably the best idea. Use a light note-taking app (or a physical notebook) to scribble things down, then enter it into a more repository-like software when I'm back at my computer.

(All of the following are macos only). I've used OmniOutliner, NoteBook (Circus Ponies, now defunct) and Growly Notes (www.growlybird.com). I've enjoyed using Growly Notes for many years, first as a free app and now as a nominal $4.99 on the App Store. It is closed source, but it's very versatile, flexible, and has a good scalable organization heirarchy (notebooks/sections/pages). It can import and export many different formats. It's also currently maintained and the support is good.

On Mac: vi

On Windows: Ubuntu environment and vi

On Linux and BSD: vi

On phones and tablets: email client

Alternate for all platforms: email client

E-Mail is actually a nice alternative of note-taking that I never really thought of.

Good: Endless Clients, Rich Text/HTML, Images, Open Format, Searchable, Selfhosted, Sync with Mobile, Tags ..

Not Good: Only partially editable (drafts), ..?

I write markdown in Visual Studio Code and just save it in a notes directory.

I can then grep across the directory, or use VSC in built search in folder tool. I also get the formatting of markdown. It is already on my machine and usually already open and running.

Sounds odd but: mindnode, devonthink and paper

No matter what I tried, a mind map app felt extremely natural. I just dump random bits of stuff into the map and it works.

If I’m not in my pc, always paper

Then bigger notes in devonthink because of its superb search and classification

I use Evernote Premium and I’m mostly content with it. It’s worth $95/year to me. There’s no device limit in the Premium edition. You also get full-text search in PDFs and other nice features.

So far I haven’t found any alternative that suits me better. I really like being able to use different notebooks for different purposes and being able to tag individual notes. (This is something that e.g. Apple’s Notes is missing.)

I won’t trust Evernote to stay around forever so my plan is to research alternatives in two years or so just to see if any good alternatives are available. (NTS: I should also make backups of my Evernote data...)

If you are using Apple devices, consider switching to Bear, it is $15 annually. Tagging is the main organizing method in the app, also much faster then Evernote.

Bear's tagging is objectively not as nice as true hierarchies. For example, you can't create a new folder and then drag and drop a bunch of notes into it. Changing the "location" of multiple notes requires search and replace, something I don't think Bear even does (at least not the iOS version).

Tags also clutter notes. Do you put them at the beginning? At the end? Either way you will see the tags. Very strange for an app which boasts about providing "beautiful" notes.

Same goes for the Markdown. Maybe some people find Markdown codes scattered all over the place "beautiful", but I don't.

Bear also doesn't handle images very well, at least on iOS (I don't remember how it behaves on the Mac). Images are rendered full width. You can't create nice grids of images like you can with Evernote.

It's sad that for something as simple as note taking app (though it seems it's hard to get it just right) to be subscription based and there aren't enough good single time pay app to take it down.

Thank you for the recommendation. Does Bear have a web version? For me, that’s one of Evernote’s killer features. It’s very convenient not having to install Evernote on my Windows computer at work.

They don't, since they use iCloud for data storage (so they do get privacy points!) That's why it's Apple only. I know they are working on some stuff for web/Android, but I have no idea how it will work. Maybe users will either be Apple hosted or Bear hosted.

>I really like being able to use different notebooks for different purposes and being able to tag individual notes.

If only we could tag a paragraph too.


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