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Zettlr – FOSS markdown editor for personal knowledge management and publishing (zettlr.com)
675 points by DerWOK on July 3, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 261 comments

I'm really happy that the "knowledge base management" type of tools are getting a lot more attention these days. In my opinion, the more brains that look at this area, the better the whole ecosystem will get.

I'll have to download this and give it a try, and compare it to my current workflow.

(I use org-roam on Emacs. I'm not sure if people are sick of org-mode and Emacs being mentioned on HN? I worry about becoming the stereotype of "how do you tell if someone is a Vegan (or uses Emacs)?" "Don't worry, they'll tell you". I don't want to derail any discussion though!)

For those of you wondering about Zettelkasten and knowledge management, I suggest you start by reading "How to Take Smart Notes" by Sönke Ahrens: https://takesmartnotes.com/ and https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/34507927-how-to-take-...

I do think that the area of knowledge management is very interesting and worthy of discussion. When it comes to tooling though, I've tried out a couple and I don't find anything superior to a folder full of markdown files + your favorite text editor (I use VSCode, but I don't think that's especially important).

Systems like Zettelkasten are interesting to read about, but again, everyone's brain is different and for me a bunch of folder categories and one misc/daily folder is just as good.

On a purely personal level, any tooling or system more complex than what I already use is unnecessary.

I'm in the same camp, all my notes are in Markdown files, organized as a tree of folders. Some folders are prefixed with YYYY or YYYY-MM, when needed.

My text editor, also VS Code, has extensions for Markdown live preview, to-do lists, and other conveniences - everything I need to manage the "knowledge database".

In the terminal, `find` and `grep` are perfect for searching notes. I have a few aliases defined for quickly adding new single-line notes, current date/time, paste a link and title, etc.

As a higher-level interface, I wrote a little React app / Node.js server that renders the Markdown files, with hot reload on changes. Not necessary, but I like having a "personal dashboard" of sorts, with calendar and whatever feature/widgets I want to add.

I also join the chorus, that we ought to welcome more exploration in the area of knowledge management. I love seeing new systems, open-source projects, applications, SaaS (though not as much) taking on this problem space.

Since the days of index cards, through Vannevar Bush's Memex, Ted Nelson's Xanadu, Englebart's mother of all demos, HyperCard.. In some ways I think the past decade took a step forward and a couple steps back. The personal computer, as an augmentation of the human intellect, has creative potential yet to be explored.


Edit: A recent one I found delightful is the Johnny Decimal System.


Hey. Johnny-as-in-Decimal here. Thanks for the mention, I'm always happy to see someone making use of the system.

There's lots of work in progress on the site and the system, I just need to find more time. In the mean time, always happy to help. Contact details are on the site.

Honored to meet you, Johnny!

I recently learned about the Johnny Decimal System, while doing some "research" following links on Zettelkasten and other systems.

I found your system brilliant, how simple you kept it, with consistent, easy-to-remember rules. I like that it has no dependencies on service/platform or language, it's generic in the best sense of the term.

As I was reading, I immediately started creating a folder structure, and took notes (in area "00 System" :).

Interestingly, I felt that the system builds on how people already keep folders and notes in ad-hoc categories - and giving it a few organizational concepts to standardize the structure. Like, I have a big nested folder of notes spanning years, and migrating them to a newly started decimal system, it's giving all notes a canonical place, with a defined schema/model/taxonomy.

As I wrote in the parent comment, I have a few aliases for shell commands, like find by file/folder name, grep to search notes, a shortcut to add a note. I'm now thinking of adapting them to the decimal system, so I can, for example, list all categories in an area, or add note to a category. I live in the terminal (and code editor), so having such shortcuts, usually of 1~3 characters, makes note-taking a natural, effortless step. I like that you have a page for such workflows from the terminal:


For feedback, one thing comes to mind that could help beginners like me, would be examples on the site, like downloadable template(s) of common project organization. I had difficulty coming up with a sensible structure of categories - in fact, the "root" project where I'm moving my existing notes to, the foundation is still not stabilized, deciding where everything should go. It might help if there were some examples or ideas of categories, that could be copied and adapted.

I also rely on Markdown files and typically write very short content in each file, especially to help with my memory. I tried Google Keep, Evernote and at some point pain-stakingly migrated all the notes I had to Notion, but they are missing "something" I don't know yet so I regressed back to markdown files in a directory.

I created a tool to automatically structure files into a directory tree based on file dates because of this: github.com/zikani03/groupby

It is really great to see more attention given to this space. That and personal relationship management tools (e.g. Monica)

This is exactly me!

I think the something missing in Notion is keyboard shortcuts and overall feeling that it does not feel fast enough. For example navigating to a page and then jumping between pages requires more steps than I am comfortable.

Ctrl + P followed by first few letters of a page you're jumping to.

Nice! I could actually use something like this, for a subset of notes, or nested (and disorganized) folders of files, books, etc. Thanks for sharing.


Sounds like your writing style fits with how TiddlyWiki[0] works. I just started using it, but like it so far. Has a plug-in for editing in Markdown as well.

[0] https://tiddlywiki.com/


Very easy to write notes in VSCode and render them by native render.

I do think that Markdown hits the sweet spot between complexity and ease of use for quickly writing notes.

I do use an app called Joplin[1] because it can sync to some cloud services with End-to-End Encryption directly within the app, has a mobile app available for Android and iOS and because it includes some other features I find useful when I want to polish my notes and include some diagrams using MermaidJS[2].

[1]: https://joplinapp.org/

[2]: https://mermaid-js.github.io/mermaid/#/examples

I usually just use straight up HTML.

<b> and <i> and the syntax of <table> are a lot easier for me to remember than some weird funky *'s and |'s. <img src=""> is also plain obvious, compared to some weird []!@() BS that I can never remember.

Top it all off with a custom CSS file and I'm done.

I have just moved my personal website to WordPress because I got tired of fighting markdown and the SSG I was using. I share your sentiments on the syntax.

You'll now be fighting a plethora of other things.

I started using Joplin but found myself trying to use it like a personal wiki, when it really isn't meant for that. I want a fast way to link my notes together. Zettlr looks like it has exactly that in mind, so I'll probbaly switch to Zettlr, and push for cloud sync/encryption to be added.

> I do think that the area of knowledge management is very interesting and worthy of discussion. When it comes to tooling though, I've tried out a couple and I don't find anything superior to a folder full of markdown files + your favorite text editor (I use VSCode, but I don't think that's especially important).

I'd say the most valuable thing these tools provide is a way to link notes. That's the part that was missing from most of my attempts to build my own knowledge base, creating connections between the things I find and store in a way that's personal to how I think.

In the end, my ZK is nothing but a folder filled with md files that are all linked with each other in some way. It's synced to my phone and my tablets, so I always have them with me and I can always amend or work on them.

How do you sync them to your phone?

I'm not the poster you're asking, but I've been using Syncthing [0] for anything I need to share with my phone (or any other device for that matter). Very simple and fast to get using.

[0] https://syncthing.net/

That's on my list to checkout. Will have to get to that soon.

I don't especially feel the need to access them on my phone. I'm generally looking for ways to use my phone less, not more. When I'm out and about and need to save some info, I put it on Google keep then transfer whatever I've accumulated once a week or so.

Systems like Zettelkasten are interesting to read about, but again, everyone's brain is different and for me a bunch of folder categories and one misc/daily folder is just as good.

I find that folders/tags inevitably just run into the issue of notes not fitting into any particular schema. So often time I just use the search function, or use a particular note that consist mostly of only organized links. This way I can have multiple schema of organization even if they overlap. Or rather, overlap is a good thing. It means you have multiple ways to find a given subject.

The schemas are not that important though, I just use search 90% of the time anyway.

Since realizing this about 5 years ago, I‘ve actually started optimizing for it. Whenever I hit cmd+s, I make sure to enter a search mindset and make the file name as keyword heavy and stemming friendly as possible. For smaller notes, I just have Sublime Text open with iCloud sync and operate freely with hundreds of tabs. Since then, any thought has never been more than a Spotlight search or a „find in files“ away.

Same here. I've tried many different Markdown tools along the way. However, keeping everything in Sublime (files in Dropbox) is specially nice because I'm always one `cmd ~` away from having my notes, and one `CMD SHIFT F` from finding exactly what I need.

Stemming and keyword enrichment is something I've never seen done really good so I'm not sure you can build a tool that is good for it.

What do you do about images in this setup?

But tags are very valuable when you can filter them, sometimes if you don't remember what to search for but know what it was tagged as you can find it fast. This only is an issue when you have a lot of notes otherwise I agree that search can be almost as good.

One thing this ecosystem is missing is a measure of how effective people are after switching from one tool or another.

E.g. our company implemented the use of Zettelkasten in a randomized trial and engineering efficiency improved by x% in the experimental group compared with y% in the control group.

It seems like much of the ecosystem is like some areas of the Linux ecosystem, where the goal is more to focus on getting the tools and process just so than on the impact the tooling has on actual productivity.

I can't imagine any really defensible way to measure this quantitatively.

Research outcomes are almost impossible to measure in the first place (see debates about citation metrics).

Qualitative research would be somewhat useful, but there's issues with that approach too.

Re: research on engineering efficiency, there needs to be a baseline to compare with, and a way to make the studies reproducible.

Yes, I agree. That's why my example was a randomized trial. But you could also compare with a baseline from results in the previous year or whatever.

How do you quantify “efficiency“?

However you like. Presumably people invest in these tools for some reason.

Maybe "developer ergonomics survey results" is one definition of the goal is just for people to feel more in command of their area of work.

<s>Lines of code / time</s>

A Zettelkasten-style system is just a bunch of files in a single folder, with lots of links between them.

What makes these kinds of notes work is the purpose they are written for, and the links. Two people can have the exact same notes, but link and tag them completely differently, because each of them will have different goals and purposes.

So basically a personal Wiki for generation Z.

If you consider people born in 1927 (the inventor of the system) to be generation Z, then yes.

Hegel (b. 1770) is purported to have used a version of Zettelkasten, as described by Hegel's sister: "He approached his reading as follows: Everything that seemed remarkable to him he wrote on a separate sheet of paper, which he identified at the top by a general label under which the particular content had to be subsumed. In the center of the upper edge he then wrote in large letters—not infrequently using Fraktur letters—the keyword of the article. These pages he ordered alphabetically ... and thus could by means of this simple method use his excerpts at any moment. "

In a tech sense, yes, it's nothing more than a wiki. The difference lies in the usage: wikis tend to organize their content using encyclopedic categories and hierarchies. A Zettelkasten is supposed to be much more goal-oriented, so that the right notes are found and interacted with depending on our work.

Why is it for generation Z?

Cuz as a millenial I've been using tomboy / gnote as a personal wiki long before 'zettlekassen' showed up on HN, and I know a few others who run more online wikis.

...but zettelkasten is a concept that's hundreds of years old, so it seems strange to assign it to a young generation. I think it would be more accurate to say that personal wikis are the millenials' zettelkasten.

I'm doing so because the trend of calling your notes by a old german word seems to be the new innovation here.

Sounds like this system would work really well for you. All it adds to "a folder full of markdown files + text editor" are a way of putting identifiers into those notes that lets you link them.

I wrote a tool for myself that will just open up your default editor and create a new markdown file for every note you want to take, saving them in a git repo that you can sync to some remote. Has the simplicity of a directory full of markdown files, but also provided a system to tag the different notes, search for a particular note to view or modify, and view a subset of them in an HTML document. All of that can be done with different command line tools of course but it is nice to have it all bundled into a single program.

Do you have the tool somewhere to share?

I was looking into writing a simple tool, preferably a bash script I can use cross-platform, which creates a new markdown file with named with today’s date and opens it with $EDITOR.

This way I can also hook it to other tools, such as alfred pr albert.

Not as simple as a bash script, but Obsidian (https://obsidian.md/) has this as a plugin.

Basically a button in the interface. You click on it and it creates a markdown file with today's date (example: YYYY-MM-DD). If one already exists, it just uses that one. You can also have a template that will be used when a new note is generated.

It would be awesome to see these kind of tools taken to the next level. So far we are "just" doing Zettelkasten in computers.

What I mean by the next level is something like:

- when I pick up a new e-book, show me the chapters that have new ideas that I'm not familiar with yet, so I can skip the things I already know

- let me see how my ideas/opinions on a given topic were evolving through time, which encounters have influenced them

- let me publish a slice of personal knowledge base for others to explore, let me see what my friends published (better social media?)

As a vegan Emacs + org-mode user, I found your comment hilariously spot-on!

Only a vegetarian, but I do crossfit (lower case very intentional).

> I'm really happy that the "knowledge base management" type of tools are getting a lot more attention these days...

I share this happiness...It often feels like so many people assume this is a solved sort of area; But i believe it is not.

I think the main unsolved problem is that we need our notes organized both based on subject matter, as well as based on importance, with a high level of granularity on both dimensions (i.e. sentence level granularity)

It's very hard to come up with a good, simple mechanism that lets you look at notes from both of those perspectives and to mix those two levels (i.e. "show me the high importance notes organized by subject")

One associated challenge is that we don't really have a good way of knowing importance of information ahead of time, so an additional problem is to come up with good heuristics for estimating importance based on other factors.

It's a tough problem to solve.

My co-founder and I worked on our product in this space for two years before we released it, and we still have a huge list of features and ideas that we'd like to integrate.

The problem is that everyone's brains work differently / everyone has a different workflow, which is I think why we're seeing such an explosion of tools in the space. We've tried to address that with our app in a variety of ways, but it is very much an uphill battle.

I've just been using Google Docs. It's simple, searchable, and I can read/edit my notes while sitting on the can.

The only markup I use are: links, lists, bold/underline/strikeout, embedded images?

What am I missing?

My experience with Google Docs makes me want to strangle it. It's slow, unresponsive, uses a ton of memory, and I can't shake the constant nagging weight of surveillance being done against me.

EDIT: Oh, and just this last week, I found it couldn't understand that I wanted to use "set up" as a verb, instead of "setup", the noun. Constant underlining when underlining was neither necessary nor desired. Apparently when I told Docs a month ago to avoid critiquing my grammar (via its Settings), it took my mandate as merely an ephemeral suggestion.

My daily journal is up to 110 pages long. I haven't noticed any performance issues (though it does take 5-6 seconds to load on mobile).

As for autocorrect - you can turn that off in Tools->Spelling and Grammar.

In my experience input lag in Google Docs is very small but noticeable compared to local writing.

You can get used to it, but I prefer more snappy experience.

Do tell if you find this has any advantage over Org mode.

Do you also use GNU/Hurd?


I think this trend of better knowledge tools is missing two very important pieces of human nature

1. If we have time to enter something into a knowledge base of any kind - then we have time to just jot it on a piece of paper.

2. If we dont have time (or think it is important at that moment) then what solves the problem for us is not a knowledge base, but search.

You see the thing about Google and Facebook etc, is that if they were collecting all this information about me, and it was treated like medical information about me it would be far more useful to me (and far less useful to Advertisers).

I want a web browser that remembers every single page I have visited (#) and then lets me search them. Then someone could write a spaced reminder thingy for me - spent more than 5 minutes on a web page did he - he will want to refresh that page in 2 weeks and then 4 months.

Yes, knowledge bases are excellent for clearly defined study efforts - like y'know, university, but for the rest of life, explicit note taking is a cost that we need some activation energy barrier for.

Put it this way, once upon a time I had a study book for a new programming language, and i took notes of interesting examples on a ring binder. But the last time I learnt a new language I just relied on Google finding me the relevant StackOverflow pages - my cost/benefit line had changed.

(And notes just got dumped into a text file.)

(#) Ok maybe not those pages

> what solves the problem for us is not a knowledge base, but search

There are problems with search: you have to know to search for something, and you have to know how to search for it. In some cases this is an issue, in some it isn't. I have had many times over the years where I reviewed my notes and reminded myself of things I had completely forgotten. Search is useless in that case.

But in any event, there's no conflict between a knowledge base and search. They are different things and you can search a knowledge base.

Search can not be avoided. The alternative to search is to go through everything that has been read which is not feasible. Tagging is the only solution. The user has to remember the tags which is referred to as context in zettlekeaten method. I could not see any workaround to this problem

I ran a private system for a while that proxied all my browser traffic and indexed it into Lucene/Solr. This was cute at the time but with the rise of javascript apps it became increasingly useless. There wasn't anything worth indexing in the responses. These days something like Zotero Connector is probably what you want.

That’s a really cool approach though! Maybe an updated version would be to have a headless browser shadowing your browsing and indexing the rendered HTML - there would still be some gaps though.

Maybe a browser plugin?

> 1. If we have time to enter something into a knowledge base of any kind - then we have time to just jot it on a piece of paper.

There is a kind of generation gap here I think.

I have 3 devices at arms reach while writing this, but it would take me 5 min to find a working pen and a blank piece of paper.

If I used it pen and paper more it would be closer to me now, but it would be the same wherever I go. Then I’d need to capture that paper or bring it with me until it has no value anymore, which is a PITA.

Our current society is tending to a paperless state, writing stuff on paper is just not fast, natural or reliable act anymore.

Eh, not so much generation as different way people think. I'm not old, have multiple laptops, desktops and smart phones. More often than not, when I need to seriously think about a paper I print it out and annotate the margins, underline, highlight, etc. I have a notebook (and fountain pens!) that I use to write out plans or projects or sketch designs. I have pads of flip paper for short-term (weekly) TODOs, and bullet-journal longer term life planning.

It's just a different way of organizing one's life. I spend enough time in front of the computer, sitting at the kitchen table to jot down notes or sketch out a project idea works better for me than trying to try the latest XYZ digital notebook app.

Good points, especially point 1. About the second part here - I remember seeing a (rather creative) guy post a personal project based on that, on here, a few days ago. He wrote a comprehensive post about his addon which aims to remembers exactly in which context has a user encountered said article/author/keyword in the past. I'll see if I can link it.


quick update, found it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23668507

> 1. If we have time to enter something into a knowledge base of any kind - then we have time to just jot it on a piece of paper.

Great point. I often see people sharing strategies for organizing notes but I rarely see people discussing how they get stuff down in the first place. And there's a lot of improvement we can make here.

I wanted to add more modularity to my jot-downs so that it would be easier to organize them later, one small step at a time. I found that I can get this modularity by writing my notes as if I'm texting myself.

(Working on a tool [1] that has this sms-style interface with keyboard shortcuts for purging my notes and organizing. would love your feedback).

[1] https://bytebase.io

My system lately has been to write every note as a raw text file that I save to a git repository on the fly. Later I process these notes and give them Zettlekasten style IDs. This step forces me to organize the knowledge: either everything gets a fresh ID (e.g. "25"), or it gets a derived ID that relates it to whatever subject or task it's related to (e.g. "44a3b9"). But it also means I can stream thoughts into a lightweight inbox without having to do the organizing upfront.

I then have derived categories from the main stream of thoughts. If the thought is a task, I further process these into categories. I have recurring tasks and events that I handle on a "Time" page that is effectively a calendar, and I have one-off tasks that go into a Kanban style backlog.

What I really got from Zettlekasten is that trying to establish your system upfront is a mistake. Things inevitably leak through your categories and then you lose faith in your system. By just having a running stream of thoughts and then relating them after the fact and deriving categories afterward, you get the benefits of organization without a lot of its failure modes.

Awesome. Glad to see that separating the "getting stuff down" from organizing has worked for you too.

Do you create a new raw text file for each note? How long does it typically take you to do the organizing process?

> trying to establish your system upfront is a mistake. Things inevitably leak through your categories and then you lose faith in your system.

I don't know if it's a mistake. I think you need to embrace the fact that your current system won't be perfect, and you'll need to adjust as you go. It doesn't mean you shouldn't start with something.

I do create a new text file each time, although it's sort of arbitrary what I group. Sometimes I will put my entire day's notes for a given book in one file. Other times I'll have atomic notes for each thought.

The organization process is wholly dependent on how much I come up with in a day/week. I mostly read for fun now, so I don't have to rigorously organize lecture notes or anything like that for later use. On the other hand I'm pretty rigorous with how I process tasks. As a ballpark figure I'd say 30-60 minutes per week, or 5-10 minutes per night.

To your latter point, I think that's fair. The main idea is to be flexible and recognize when you need new categories or whatever (and when you can dump unhelpful ones).

Thanks for explaining! It sounds like you have a strong process going.

> I do create a new text file each time, although it's sort of arbitrary what I group. It's great that you do what works for you without obsessing. Too often people chase after a rigid/"perfect" system and that's just not realistic.

In my experience, the more modular you can go (without it stopping your flow), the better. Because it'll be easier in that organize step.

I've found that by thinking about my raw notes as a chat with myself, I'm able to increase the modularity without hurting my flow.

> I want a web browser that remembers every single page I have visited (#) and then lets me search them.

Did you check out WorldBrain's Memex <http://worldbrain.io/> browser extension yet?

omg, somebody built it! Will immediately try that.

I find it hard to get people to write down anything. And if they do, they often times don't put enough effort into it, like writing down some bullet points without context or screenshots without adding text. This is a personal and cultural problem at companies and in teams. A lot of people don't know how to generate value from taking notes/documentation and aren't good writers in general. I'm still thinking about how you can teach people what's important when it comes to writing and when to take notes.

I couldn't agree more with your second point. Search is probably even more important than taking notes in the first place. I find myself searching through my notes multiple times a day, even if it's something you can find at Google at the same speed. But my notes are mine, meaning I know what I can't remember or in which form I need some piece of information. Sometimes, I write a long article about something and other times some bullet points are good enough. When I share my notes on a team/organization I try to make sure the context is clear. It's a bit like code: it's read by an order of magnitude more often than written/changed.

We built Emvi [1] to make note taking more collaborative and with focus on searchability and ease of use. I hope I can write more about this topic on our blog. In case you have ideas on how to solve these cultural problems, please let me know.

[1] https://emvi.com/

I agree that search is a key direction for growth in this tooling ecosystem. I don't think a tool should index every visited webpage though. I think knowledge base construction should be intentional and methodology, as the process provides its own value.

I’ve begun building a knowledge base that is built around a Google-search interface but with closed-world assumptions, such that it can only answer questions and provide results that I should know myself.

In this sense it’s another take on “second brain” tools, but to me it’s potentially a novel angle, using search with closed-world restrictions (ie. much fewer documents, personally stored and indexed) and a question-answering focused interface.

Most other tools focus on the authoring side of things, but I want something that will superpower my memory.

It’s all closed source until I get it going well, but I’ve set up http://rememex.org.

I agree, the most useful thing these tools can provide is fast data entry and robust search for most users. That’s the focus of the tool I’m building, https://NoteBrook.com . Reach out if you want to be in on the beta, it has been delayed a bit as I’ve been refining the search and editor experience of the alpha version and building super fast apps on every platform, but it should be launching in the next week or two!

I have a suspicion that fast data entry and automated search might be a red herring for this sort of tool. I believe that the real utility of my notes comes from actively engaging with them, and automation runs the risk of damaging that.

My own system (which is an entirely physical one) is designed around this principle; each step is designed to make me engage with my own recorded thoughts in a different way:

- Every note gets written on an A5 sheet of cardstock, with a unique slug written in large print at the top of the card. The bottom ~(1/3) of the card is reserved for cross-references.

- After writing a note, I look through the file box of existing notes for 2-3 related ones; these become the initial cross-references and are notated on both cards.

- The new card gets photocopied, and the original placed in the file box, ordered alphabetically by the slug/title.

- The copy gets turned into a flashcard by blacking out the title and put in a Leitner box (a physical spaced-repetition system)

Thanks for your insight. I agree for a knowledge base, where you don’t want to persist all information, and precision is important. Most of my note generation tends toward writing down historical updates (project a is at stage b on date c) or recording minutes of a conversation (x person said y was ok to implement). Or perhaps I have this task to do and once it’s done I only need to know when it started and completed. There is no inherent ordering or importance to this note data until I need to recall it. That is the type of note I typically take, and many others too. It’s a different use case.

If we write it down on a piece of paper and there is a fire or natural disaster it easily lost or destroyed. If you factor in writing it down on a piece of paper, scanning and making it searchable then it is easier just to input it on an electronic device.

Indirectly related - you can try https://web.hypothes.is. You can annotate web pages (public, private, group) and have page notes.

If anybody is sad about Zettlr not having the graph view of like the one in Obsidian or RoamResearch, please be patient. A PR is already open for it. -> https://github.com/Zettlr/Zettlr/pull/921

OpenSource powaaaaa! :)

Does anybody find that graph view (like in Obsidian) useful? I play around with it for a while, but I don't really find it useful for any particular thing. Also overtime that graph grows too big to be visually easy to see patterns etc.

Sometimes it's an alternative to search. If you don't know exactly what to search for but remember generally what it's related to, you can zoom in to nodes you know are somewhat related and find something you're looking for that way. I can't say it's something I do every day but it's come in handy.

Yes, I do. As a very visual person, I love the graph view. It helps me visualise what I can only have an idea about in my head. And more often than not you forget a note ever existed. So when you see the graph view, you see what exactly is connected with it and helps you remember it better.

> Also overtime that graph grows too big to be visually easy to see patterns etc.

That is kind of the point with Zettelkasten (the method on top of which Obsidian and RoamResearch is built up on.). You have a huge repo where you see connections you didn't before.

I do! I've mainly found it to be inspirational when working creatively, especially when I'm writing a 'dirty first draft' of something, e.g. a research embryo, collecting interviews about a subject, doing brainstorming sessions, even book reviews. I've still got to come to grips with segmenting Obsidian vaults so that the cloud doesn't grow too far...

The graph view in Obsidian would become particularly powerful if you could progressively filter brightness of items based on a search term. Or, for example, if you could make matching items brighter based on clicking / typing a tag name.

Soon we'll be able to define the graph to only display per folder; this is on the Obsidian roaemap.

Note-taking seems to be a hot topic lately. I used Apple Notes for a long time because it was very lightweight and minimalist, but recent releases of macOS have been very buggy, so I decided to review all the options. I wrote this up at https://davidmytton.blog/the-best-note-taking-apps-for-mac-m... which has become one of the most trafficked post on my blog in the last few months!

The key for me is a) plain text files I can manage myself i.e. no database or mandatory custom sync; b) markdown.

Apps will come and go. You might decide to switch platforms and maybe a new editor will come along sometime. This means you want a format that can be opened by anything (plain text) but with lightweight markup that the editor can parse to make it look nice, but you can also parse with your eyes and get a reasonable sense of the document structure (markdown).

Then it's all about search. There's no point making notes if you can't find them. This is where something more than Markdown - that allows you to link notes - is handy. It's what is appearing more and more in the likes of Roam, Obsidian, etc.

I ultimately chose iA Writer on macOS because it is lightweight and really nicely designed, plus has good native support for Markdown. I sync using OneDrive but you can use anything because they're all individual files. iA Writer is also native, and I find most Electron apps to be slow and/or buggy. There are exceptions e.g. VS Code, but I prefer native where possible.

Seeing as your list is pretty comprehensive, it might be worth having a look at Writemonkey. It's been in development since 2006 - so long before the markdown editor trend in recent years, and probably even pre-dating the distraction-free trend about a decade ago.

The most recent incarnation (v3) fits your two criteria well and its plugin system is very versatile. Sadly cross platform supports only came with version 3 and that means saying goodbye to the small Windows native downloads, but it's not an Electron monstrosity.

Just a long time fan and always feel a bit disappointed that it never comes up in these kind of discussions :)


(And in a pinch, away from my own machine, StackEdit is great.)

> Sadly cross platform supports only came with version 3 and that means saying goodbye to the small Windows native downloads, but it's not an Electron monstrosity.

Yes, it's NW.js instead of Electron, but that's still an almost 100MB framework (and the >50MB sounds directory doesn't help much either). It's also closed source, though the documentation is hosted at GitHub: https://github.com/writemonkey/wm3/wiki/Documentation .

I wish it was native too, but I just meant it's not as bad as it could be on that front - 200ish MB RAM compared to some of the famous Electron examples.

The sounds are from the zen/focus software trend days, when you have minimal distractions from the interface and background noise loops built in.

Wow, indeed weird I never heard of it. Looks pretty great! Multiplatform, text files as base. Gonna give it a spin.

I had a lot of weird issues with Notes. Notably folders wouldn't delete and would randomly come back after deletion.

Just strange stuff like that.

I ended up switching to Bear for notes.

I use iA Writer for writing longer form stuff like documentation and where I need to work with files directly. It's a great app.

I use typora to write markdown on macos and am very happy.

To sync, I use a git repository (you can set a watchpoint on macos and linux to any directory to invoke a command on changes, so I just invoke git and commit).

It would be great to have a tool to backup all the data from Apple Notes to a collection of markdown files or SQLite db.

I haven't touched it in a while, but I wrote some code to extract data from apple notes and export to html, quiver, or bear formats. (bear is markdown-like, it looks like I targeted HTML for quiver.) It could be adapted to your needs if you know a little python:

It might need updating for features added in the last few years, but the cron job I have it running in is still working. (The html version dumps the drawings as svg, but png versions are available too.)

I can recommend Zim wiki which is a GTK+ desktop app that works as a personal wiki / notebook. Has a WYSIWYG editor and can export to different formats, it can even render the wiki as html and serve it. Also supports plugins for extra things like tables and charts if you wish. You can have separate notebooks for each project like home/work/etc. You can commit to git from the UI, have git hooks set to automatically push to a remote on every commit. Not fancy but very functional and pleasant to use. https://zim-wiki.org/

Really love Zim wiki and have been using it for over a decade. Sadly, the move to py3 and gtk3 broke it for non-linux platforms. macOS how has a huge wealth of [reported] bugs that break common keyboard shortcuts at the OS level and introduced a lot of performance problems. This isn't the fault of Zim as these are all bugs from gtk3 where it seems like the priority for non-linux bugs is 0. Meanwhile, Windows no longer has a prepackaged installer as the maintainer stopped doing that post transition.

I've tried hacking my way around this but to no avail. It's gotten to the point that I've finally started seriously looking and testing alternatives. Nothing has come close to replicating the feature set and UI workflow.

There is a new installer for windows for the latest Zim version, it was announced last Tuesday, you can get it on the Zim wiki download page: https://zim-wiki.org/downloads/

That is awesome! Glad to see that this was finally addressed. That still leaves the macOS issues which I'll keep my fingers crossed for.

(I do realize that I'm an odd niche use case where I use all 3 platforms regularly (Linux, Apple, Windows) and it why it's been difficult to find a suitable replacement.)

Did the notes format change though? (Can one still use the old Windows package while syncthing notes with a Linux machine running newer ones?)

I like Zim Wiki but haven't used much though. Can you suggest a way to embed images with sync? I mean if you want add images to the text notes, how does it work?

My use case - I want to add images to the text and then export it in some kind of everyday format like html and send it to my friends. I sent it to my friend one of such but he was not able to see any images.

I've been using Zim for daily notes stashed to a Dropbox folder for many years.

Two words, Org mode:


Add Magit and you're good to go:


Emacs is a quirky beast, but these two packages alone make it worth the effort to learn.

Switched to emacs(spacemacs) from vim last year, because I wanted to know what the craze with org-mode is all about. Am using mu4e, elfeed, rcirc, magit, org-mode and started using org-roam this week. I still suck at elisp, but emacs with org-mode really is a blast. I love my agenda: whenever I get confused what I was about to do, it is only some keystrokes away. I feel insanely organized while forgetting everything all the time.

Wait until you start doing email ... oh wait, mu4e ... never mind.

Wait until you start reading news ... oh wait, elfeed ... never mind.

Well, you get the point ;-)

Just don't install a kernel - emacs already comes with an OS :P

Did you find mu4e difficult to set up? That's something I started investigating lately but the things I've seen all feel somewhat more involved than anything else I've done with emacs.

That one is a bit confusing, yes. I had to read some manuals and exaaples, but now it is working fine with mbsync. The arch linux wiki was helpful i think.

But it is worth the struggle. I can now create links to emails inside of my todos, or even better: capture mails with org-capture into todos.

Don't forget org-roam!!

I swear all these other folks trying tool x, y, z are only doing so because they haven't found org. It's a bit cryptic to get started but totally worth the effort.

I've been using Obsidian (https://obsidian.md/) for the past few weeks and it has been really great.

Yes, I also looked into Obsidian. And I really liked it. But their license scheme would have forced me to buy a subscription to also use it in work environment.

So I switched to Zettlr and never looked back.

Would they have allowed the personal one-time bought license to use in professional working, I would have sticked.

They've changed their licensing since it was first announced on HN. They're still pretty murky. For instance, the personal license excludes certain types of work (but the phrasing is unclear); but the commercial license states it's only required for businesses of two or more people.

The personal license is no longer a subscription (if it was ever, I don't really remember), but the commercial license still is, even for non-Enterprise.

I'm very happy with Obsidian's pricing. Basically if you're getting paid in relation to some of the notes that you take then you should be using the commercial version. Much better model than the advertising and data-vacuuming models that are the flavor of the day. I'm glad to pay for software that I use, that means the software can be sustainable and continue to exist.

By the creator of DynaList as well... Another worthy competitor that outshines workflowy in my opinion.

I need something like this for Android, that's where I got down most of my ideas. For a while I was using Google keep and transferring my notes to scrivener occasionally but that is just time consuming.

Not a popular opinion I'm sure, but I'm all-in on OneNote. Works everywhere (at least basically) and it is just so rich. Full pen support for drawing (vital for me), tables, equations (sort of), multiple text blocks on a page (also key!), internal & external links, fast search (as of last year). Search is good enough that I rarely use tags anymore.

Yes, it's totally vendor locked in and I do hate that. And no syntax highlighting for code is annoying. Lack of markdown is a pain. And it's bug-ridden and closed source.

But I've been using it for my work daily journal and knowledge capture for a few years now, and it's so fluid and easy to jot down or scribble a quick note and find it later that it's hard for me to imagine going back to a basic Markdown editor. It's the closest thing I've found to a searchable paper lab notebook.

And btw I'm a hardcore Emacs user for the last 40 years. Org mode is great, but for me, OneNote kills it in expressiveness and fluidity of idea capture and recall.

If someone makes a Markdown editor that supports pen/tablet ink drawing and multiple text blocks on a page, I'd be interested.

Long-time OneNote user chiming in. I've briefly switched to Evernote but due to their frequent screw-ups I switched back to OneNote. Stylus input is a big part for my dev logs, and one good thing about OneNote is that it accepts both handwriting and text without prejudice.

Also, pages in OneNote are allowed to have 2 levels of indent. More than that you can organize with traditional folder structures. The difference is that a less indented "parent" page can still have content; a folder does not contain content on its own.

I would strongly recommend OneTastic as it adds quite a few missing features from stock OneNote (crop image, calendar view, etc.)

Regarding drawing: have you seen org-krita? https://github.com/lepisma/org-krita

I can't believe nobody bothered to link TiddlyWiki [1] here... Especially since this crowd here should be able to run it directly from npm, which makes it much easier (conceptually, for me) than "a self-modifying html file". :P

For Zettelkasten (and research more generally) Stroll [2] is a flavour of TiddlyWiki that has many of the features you'd like, including (most crucially for me) backlinks.

Edit: the reason I brought up TiddlyWiki here is because I tried Zettlr and while I see how some people would like it, I certainly didn't.

[1]: https://tiddlywiki.com/

[2]: https://giffmex.org/stroll/stroll.html

I switched to TW for journalling, but it's still not perfect. Before that I had just a text file I could press a button to insert a date and add some text in at the end.

I switched to monthly journals rather than daily as with daily there were just too many small tiddlers. I think you need a lot of discipline to categorize every thought you get in a nice hierarchy, and that takes time. I've started using the "Excise" command for that in TW, that lets you pick some existing text and move it to another tiddler, maybe adding a link (here the backlinks would help, so I might upgrade to Stroll, if possible)

I spent about an hour trying to set up a TiddlyWiki for a Zettelkasten, but couldn't get it working. I was overwhelmed by the number of editors available. I now use Zettlr.

Is there a tutorial you used to help your set up?

All you need to do is to drag the orange “pill” found under “Updating Stroll” on https://giffmex.org/stroll/stroll.html onto a tiddlywiki instance, then click the “import” and “reload” buttons and you're all set.

I picked https://nesslabs.com/tiddlywiki-beginner-tutorial which uses https://noteself.org/. NoteSelf has autosync which is helpful.

I would recommend reading How To Take Smart Notes and really internalizing the information there, I started off way too fast and ended up with too many tiny notes. It takes practice but its definitely worth it.

There is nothing that compares to using your preferred text editor to write personal knowledge documents like this. I swapped over to [Foam](https://foambubble.github.io/foam/) in VSCode recently when it was released, and it's like a breath of fresh air. I can use my keyboard shortcuts, extensions, and snippets. Nothing else can compare.

In the last week, I've started using Foam too.

It hits the sweet spot for me:

- Plain Markdown files stored in git; exactly what I am used to for code.

- Editor is VisualStudioCode, which I always have open, and can configure however I like.

- No vendor lock-in.

You have to do the sync via GitHub, which is in and of itself a vendor lock-in in my opinion.

I really don't get why I can't just point to any Git repo for syncing purposes.

I only started using it today so may be missing something, but how/why is it locked into GitHub? I can’t see anything specific to GitHub (and I used the full recommended extension set).

Not only that but I can’t see anything to stop you setting it up in a more typical cloud file syncing service (e.g. Dropbox) directory and having everything happen effortlessly in the background?

There's nothing requiring the use of GitHub, you can 100% use your own Git repo for syncing purposes. Definitely a big plus of Foam and similar approaches of assembling open primitives into a useful package =)

Would you say it's an editor lock-in?

I can make pretty much the same argument for say, vim or emacs, and say that plain markdown + fugitive/magit hits the sweet spot.

I am just trying to understand where's the vendor lock-in thing coming into the picture here.

Ultimately, it's just Markdown files. There isn't any data stored in addition to your Markdown files. So if you want to change "vendors," you are free to do so without penalty.

How do you organize your notes? Do you have one big file for everything, one file for one note, one file for argument, or something else? Do you keep a date on your notes?

Maybe you can share a bit about how you organize your written down knowledge?

I use a flat folder structure. All my markdown files are in a single folder.

I use metadata sections in the header of each document to organize and configure it.

The documents themselves are structured differently depending on their topic. My journal document is a long running single document with timestamps. Other documents are structured in paragraphs, others are simply bulleted lists. Of course, everything is linked by tags, which are the core organizational mechanism.

I've found that rigid organizational structures don't lead to better outcomes. It's best to let the structure develop naturally through tagging.

100% in the same boat. I have historically used notes products for hours and then quit; I am days into Foam and I love it more all the time.

I’m hoping this will include inline text transclusion soon. I’m sure there are other solutions for viewing images too.

You can use markdown to link to images and use a markdown preview extension to view the image inline.

I've been a heavy Standard Notes user for a couple years now, and the added function of Zettlr looks extremely appealing to me (images, linking, much nicer rendering, etc.). However, to really give this a test drive to see if it's a suitable replacement, I downloaded all my Standard Notes as plain text and tried importing them. This caused a ton of bugs/errors when trying to navigate and use the results. First, it complained about not being able to detect the file type -- again, these are all plain text that end in .txt... Second, it seems to have a ton of trouble with renaming folders: it works the first time, renames it on the filesystem, but then doesn't keep the change in the app? Then I try to reload and rename the folder back and now it throws null variable errors left and right? Then, I try to create sub-folders to start organizing the mess of notes I just imported and... big choke, can't create the folder, sometimes it gives an error and other times it just does nothing. The performance (speed opening tabs, scrolling notes) seems to degrade quite a bit with the number of notes I have.

So... this looks like something that could be really great! But there's a lot of friction still to having it get out of the way and let me be organized.

I am also a long-time SN user but I've never really liked the editor. So, I used a bit of free time to turn a C GTK SN client PoC into a somewhat proper Rust app (https://github.com/matze/iridium) and hope to put in more effort the next few weeks. You might like it if Linux is your platform.

Whoa, this is very cool! I will definitely give it a spin on the desktop. Does it support any of the extensions like tags/folders?

No unfortunately not yet but of course I need that myself sooner or later. All my notes are tagged.

Zettlr uses virtual folders basically so that your physical organization might not reflect how it's organized in Zettlr. Also, Zettlr is for markdown so you basically have to rename your files as plaintext files are not supported.

For the last half a year or so I've been using VNote: https://github.com/tamlok/vnote

I was really surprised when I discovered it, as I've been looking for the "perfect" note-taking system for a while and VNote was never mentioned. It checks all my boxes: in-place preview of markdown, is open source, automatically copies images to your notes directory, has ability to add file attachments, is customizable with different themes, is programmer-friendly (has VIM-mode), and it's native (no Electron!) And it looks great with the dark theme. It doesn't lock you in to its software as in the end, it's just markdown files and media files.

It doesn't have Zettelkasten support, but it does do tagging and its search capabilities are comprehensive (includes regex search.)

I am not affiliated with the project -- just a happy user :)

Neuron is a new Zettelkasten project that shows a lot of promise. The developer is very active and responsive. I like that it is an editor-independent cli tool, with plugins currently for Vim and Emacs.



Thanks for sharing this, I've been thinking about building something like it, now I may not need to.

Do you know if neuron will ever supports mobile?


Could someone enlighten me what is the biggest advantage or this and similar tools over libreoffice writer? I've been using it extensively for years for technical documentation, have hundreds of bitrot-free documents, and am extensively using:

* tables (2 or 3 columns depending on type, often using sort by column 1 or column 1+2 to keep relevant information grouped);

* preset formatting for different styles (snippets, commands);

* navigation using ToC (on a sideway navigation pane which is always visible);

* auto-generating anki flashcards from the content with no modifications;

* inserting external media;

I've used different methods to keep a single synchronized copy depending on work tech restrictions, i.e. nfs over ssh, sshfs, vpn via vm. Nowadays working from home I just keep everything locally.

What are the selling points to drop all that and move to something else?

I wasn't aware you could create links from one libreoffice writer document to another?

I meant navigating quickly within headers of the same document. Certainly you can insert links to external documents, but it feels more useful theoretically than practically, as you'd seldom open a document looking for a specific thing, and decide to read the general supporting articles too.

How do you generate flashcards from LibreOffice and what do you mean with “no modification”?

headless export to html (on a dir), then parse each file to split per heading (1 heading 1 card). Back side contains the whole heading content, front side contains rule based text to guide what the question is looking for, so may contain

* bold words, indicating you should recall info within;

* command explanations from tables, indicating you must think of the correct command;

* other text prepended a specific word of style;

it's really up to you to make rules. Once a split is done, dump the parsed html into txt and load from anki and you get 1 anki file per directory, with cards split by heading, but grouped by file name, i.e. https://imgur.com/a/NgBzI15

I've tried a lot of note-taking apps, I've settled on Simplenote. It's lightweight, syncs, and searchable. It's text-only. I find linking media and other stuff is just cumbersome, and takes a lot of effort to organize when all I want is a quick way to jot down notes. https://simplenote.com/

I preferred InkDrop on my laptop, but I had to switch back to SimpleNote because SimpleNote does both sync and mobile extremely well. Doing mobile well just requires it to never take time to load. InkDrop would usually have to refresh its contents when switching to it.

Folks who are familiar with Zettelkasten:

Would it be correct to say that most of these tools are identical to Wiki software with one exception: the ability to see "what linked to this"?

Hm yes and no. They are quite similar, but I would say a Zettelkasten is focused on connections rather than the "articles" itself. Cards probably won't contain as much information as a fully fledged article. I wrote about it here: https://emvi.com/blog/luhmanns-zettelkasten-a-productivity-t...

It's not that. Wikipedia, for example, has a separate "pages that link to this" view.

What makes Roam Research different is "block addressing", i.e. you can get a reference to a single paragraph and use it in other docs (either referencing it or embedding it).

(and of course a nice UX for editing)

I see. What else separates it from Wikis? (genuine question)

Side: I've read books and articles in an attempt to understand what sets it apart from other techniques.

I know Niklas Luhmann used it to write tons of books and articles, while others claim to have been able to use it as a "second brain".

But I'm still having trouble understanding how to deploy the Zettelkasten technique effectively -- a lot has been written about the technique, but not much has been written about actual use cases where someone has used it to accomplish something useful, which they couldn't have as easily or at all without Zettelkasten. Due to the lack of examples, I'm trying understand by analogy, by comparing Zettelkästen to something familiar like Wikis.

A nice UX? Personally I've found Roam to be flaky as hell. (Perhaps it just doesn't like Firefox very much.)

> Would it be correct to say that most of these tools are identical to Wiki software...

It would be correct to say that a personal Wiki is a modern way to implement a Zettelkasten system [1]. Zettelkasten (Slip-Box is the literal translation from the German) is a paper-and-pen system where personal notes are written on index cards and stored in a box (like the library card catalogs of yesteryear). The trick to building the knowledge graph is giving each card a unique identifier and having a convention for referencing other cards.

Apple Notes and other similar products are simply missing the ability make links to other notes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettelkasten

So Zim-Wiki with the Backlinks plugin, then. Notes (wikipages) are stored as ordinary text files in a directory structure that is whatever hierarchy you've used in the notes. (I tend not to use hierarchy much for my every-day notes.)

Zim doesn't use Markdown as it's native or input syntax, but can copy text as md if you so wish.

Honestly one of the most underrated, understated tools I've ever come across, and one I would hate to have to live without.

I really struggle with the UI on this one. Some notes:

- No title bar makes using the window harder than it needs to be.

- Huge symbols I have to hover over to see what they do + a hamburger menu. A traditional menu would be easier to use for me at least.

- Speaking of hover, whats with the weird, animated back-button for folders that when it appears overlaps other elements?

- Font sizes. Really, they seem to big even for me as a visually impaired person

- General non-nativeness. That Options dialog as a website modal is just weird and jumps around when switching categories.

I don't mean to be to negative here, maybe I am just getting old, but this really seems not to be my cup of tea, though apart from the UI, I really like the idea and the use of pandoc/latex, YAML Frontmatter, saving as just files etc.

If this had a more traditional UI and would use less ressources it would come pretty close to a note taking app I often thought about but was to lazy to try my hand at myself.

Some admin removed the "version 1.7" from the post headline? Why that? The news is that the version 1.7 - after 4 month of work - was just released a few hours ago... ️

I imagine it's because the link points to Zettlr's home page and so the discussion ended up being about Zettlr in general rather than the 1.7 release.

YAZN (Yet Another Zettelkasten Notes) system. This one is Markdown with YAML Front Matter for metadata and an Electron based editor. Roam, Foam, Zettlr. All of these start with the powerful principle that every document/note should be addressable with its title-slug (wiki like linking). Good stuff.

Joplin and Standard notes are great as well. I lost one week of data due to some synchronization issue with Joplin though - but the markdown editor is great (they even have a new WYSIWYG editor). Standard notes is good but it's missing good file/image support which is really annoying.

I'm using Joplin but looking to change. Issues I have with Joplin:

  - when I type towards the end of a document, the page jumps out of focus, very annoying. The rest I can kind of live with.  
  - I'm not loving there's no G Drive sync  
  - the local disk sync are not original MD files plus a temp file but a bunch of files.  
  - I can't resize the mid partition in order to see more original md  
  - Can't type on right view panel  
  - panels not sync'd horizontally at the line we are at (this may not be possible)

What happened with your Joplin sync issue?

I am interested in using Joplin exclusively and use both apps currently. The Standard Notes development team is nice but refactors happen too frequently and estimates are rarely (never) produced, even though the product is paid Open Source.

It's a pity because Joplin has pretty much the perfect feature set for me. I can't tell you much about the sync issue I had as I didn't find a solution (I also didn't spend too much time on it). Btw. I initially migrated from zim and the migration was super easy!!! What I can tell you is that Joplin suddenly didn't show any notes anymore because of a sync issue. In the source folder I saw some files still there but the notes of the previous week were all gone. I would have appreciated to have the option to tell Joplin that I don't care about sync and want my local Joplin files to be the primary ones - or something like that.

I then bought a 5 year plan of Standard notes which is not as user friendly as Joplin (in my opinion) but has some cool features (like the spreadsheet extension which is awesome). However, as mentioned, without being able to just paste images it's more or less useless for preparing blog posts or something like that. You need to use "fileSafe" I guess but for this you need Dropbox etc.. Other features missing in Standard Notes are simple drag & drop of folders and context menu...

Honestly, it's good to hear I'm not alone.

Synchronization in Joplin concerned me too. E2EE is non-trivial to setup and Joplin will upload decrypted files if E2EE is misconfigured on a device. Encryption appears to be an afterthought in Joplin.

Standard Notes looks snazzy but too many features fail to work. I cannot get paste to work consistently on my mobile devices, and you're right - the editors are a an absolute mess. File Safe is only supported in unsupported editors and the supported editors lack basic features. FYI, the spreadsheet editor unsupported and exporting sheet data is...difficult.

I do not recommend Standard Notes anymore. Thanks for pointing out a need for external backups in Joplin though!

The drawback to working directly on Markdown files is that it's hard to synchronize your notes from/to mobile.

If I didn't care about sync, I would use org-roam or some Vim plugin, personally.

I've recently started using GitJournal [1] to access my notes on Android, but I haven't used it enough to be able to say whether it's worthwhile. One annoying drawback is that it requires a monthly subscription to get access to all of the (convenience) features.

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.gitjournal....

@vhanda (unable to reply directly for some reason)

First of all, congratulations on shipping a decent, polished Android app! These increasingly seem to be a rarity these days.

Regarding the subscription model, the monthly price quickly adds up, especially for users outside the US. For example, one of the most common apps in my country offers a pro subscription for a yearly price of $3, compared to a minimum of $24 ($2 * 12) in GitJournal (and this would be on top of whatever I'm paying for my desktop note-keeping app...). I would suggest that you review the pricing for low income countries (especially since the regionalized "go pro" slider UI seems glitchy, eg. I can't reselect the default price, can't select values to the right). A lower yearly subscription or a single purchase option would go a long way towards convincing me to upgrade.

I think not including ads was an excellent choice and I probably wouldn't have continued using the app with them. I was going to suggest hiding the locked pro features to make them less annoying, but upon review it's not that bad.

I'll keep using the app and leave a review on the store later when I gather more thoughts.

Hey Resident Sleeper

Thanks a lot for the feedback. Could you let me know what Country you are in? I've changed the pricing of the Indian market as I understand it better, I'll be happy to dramatically reduce the pricing for other countries where the US/EU pricing does not work.

Hi. I'm the author of GitJournal - do you have any suggestions on a different monetization model? I'm not too keen on ads.

Maybe a yearly or 3 years subscription?

I use resilio sync for this. https://www.resilio.com/individuals/ The iOS (and I assume android) syncing is fine, and it hooks in with the files API so I use pretext/ whatever markdown editor to edit / look things up on the go. For some reason resilio isn’t talked about highly on HN though, not entirely sure why.

For syncing I'm using a private github repo, then syncing is easy and on iOS / Android I use GitJournal or WorkingCopy (iOS only IMHO).

Syncthing ought to be an answer to this, given the right editor.


Looks cumbersome to set up for iOS, tho: https://www.reddit.com/r/Syncthing/comments/ese82l/ios_users...

The lack of a proper syncing solution is why I've moved off of iOS. The ability to sync everything I'm working on to an arbitrary folder on my phone/tablet and always have access to them with whatever program I need (without pushing them back and forth) and all my changes are immediately visible to every other program and device, that's something I can't get with iOS and it always annoyed me.

One feature I have yet to find in any Markdown editor is a simple "block" mover, which I describe here: https://twitter.com/jgthms/status/1225513837379641350

Underneath, the data structure would remain straightforward Markdown. So the data wouldn't be stored as separate blocks; the moving would act similarly to Sublime Text's "Swap Line Up/Down".

I added your tweet to Panicz's excellent twitter thread of structured editors, cheers! https://twitter.com/cellularmitosis/status/12791132604076851...

In VSCode anytime you have text selected you can alt+up/down to move the whole selection (or current line if no selection) up/down one line. I assume STs "swap line up/down" works the same.

Is that different from your "block mover" idea? I mean, if I select the paragrap I want to move and use it it sounds similar, thought it'd happen one line at a time, and I understand you'd mean to move it "whole blocks" at a time.

But probably a plugin can be made to achieve that behavior.

Yes, ST works like VSCode in that regard.

It works well with paragraphs and headings because they fit on one line (so 1 line = 1 block), but I'd like to be able to move whole multiline blocks, like lists, code blocks, and paragraphs that have line breaks.

Also, for the empty lines that separate blocks, I need to move them as well (or select them as part of the block).

But yes, the current feature is very close to what I'd like.

The other part of my tweet though (about being able to move between 2 columns or files) is trickier.

I kinda hate to be that guy, but one of the many reasons I love Vim keybindings is that they have support for working in blocks like built in.

"dap" deletes the entire paragraph my cursor is in, then I type "/" to search for where I want to move it to, and paste.

And this also works for sentences, and lines, and words. And more.

In every file type I edit.

(Emacs with Evil is a better vim than vim, in a lot of ways. )

This (and showing/hiding blocks) is the one feature I miss from org-mode.

I wouldn't call notion.so a markdown editor, but it's very similar to one (understands the syntax) and the "block mover" concept is inherent in their UI.

Maybe I'm missing something, but what's wrong with cutting and pasting blocks of markdown up/down?

If you use Zettlr, or any other editor to create a linked graph of text files, you might be interesting in vizel[0]:

It visualizes the graph and calculates some stats. I find it useful to track the growth of my Zettelkasten, but also to find notes and components that are unconnected to the rest of the graph.

I built it to scratch my own itch, but I'm always happy to get feedback.

[0]: https://github.com/BasilPH/vizel

> macOS: "Your system has run out of application memory"

I just looked at the apps I currently have open and it appears that I have the following running: VSCode, Docker, Slack, Notion, WhatsApp, Discord, Riot, Chrome (70+ Tabs), Skype, and Figma.

I wondered if my Macbook could tolerate another electron app being installed or if I can open another one without grinding my Macbook to a halt. But again I don't think such apps can even scale with other apps running in the background.

I find vimwiki to be quite useful. I like that it uses plain files. It lacks a fancy GUI interface, but I prefer a hands-on-the-keyboard approach, anyway.

zettlr does not seem to be able to import markdown files, which is a problem for people like me who have lots of such files. Maybe there is a way around that, but I am not motivated to spend much time seeking it, since I find vimwiki to be sufficient for navigating through links in my files. (Also, vimwiki makes it easy to create links, with the strike of a key.)

My scheme does not offer me a nice GUI, but I prefer to see simple text anyway, and I like how vimwiki lets me navigate through my cross-linked notes without my fingers leaving the home keys. Markdown permits images, etc., and if I want to see them I can just open a terminal to a subdirectory and use pandoc.

I don't see a way in vimwiki to get a "what links to this page" item, which I imagine an application like zettlr would offer, but it be easy to write a python script to do that, and to add a a line to my crontab file to update things every so often.

The good thing about my setup is that the markdown format is not tied to any particular application. That's important, if you want your database of notes to last for a long time.

You can just dump the markdown files in whatever directory zettlr is using, and you're done. There's no magic required here, zettlr is just a markdown editor.

I recommend https://fsnot.es Native and blazing fast for iOS and macOS.

I have used it for a while and it's not very stable or rather say "finished" yet (neither Mac nor iOS). But it's open source, so I'd favour it over, Bear, given a chance, which it resembles the most. So I just keep it installed and keep checking it once in a while.

Though I'd just be happy with something like nv (+ Simple Note + Dropbox) which is actively developed (Simple Note just for the iOS).

Shameless plug: I've been building a similar tool for the past couple years, although it is not FOSS :(

The major differentiator is that content is based around notecards rather than documents/files, and there are multiple ways to structure these cards.

The most powerful way to organize things is with multi-parent nesting, where you put cards inside of other cards, and each card can have any number of parents. You can share these cards with others, and they can add their own parents to it that don't interfere with yours, allowing you to have shared cards that exist within entirely different hierarchies that are unique to each individual user.

That's a feature that I think is unique in the space, but we also have the links/backlinks and tags that you will see elsewhere (though tagging is similarly powerful in that shared cards can have tags that are public vs tags that are private to the user).

You can check it out here:


I love the metaphor of a massively hyperlinked card. It reminds me a little of https://mochi.cards, which I've enjoyed spending time with.

But these things can only ever remain idle curiosities to me when they're closed source. We're talking about a knowledge graph that only really flexes itself with years of dedicated entry, roaming and combing through its interlinks for that electric flash of idea-sex.

Why should I commit to a company's knowledge box when I can't trust your team's bus factor? You're one human being, any number of calamities could befall you -- I have to assume Supernotes isn't wired to an open-source dead man's switch.

You're also an engine of capital beholden to its single truth: print more money at all costs. We've already seen apps like Roam jack up their price. Is there a ceiling you can guarantee me?

Absolutely – it's definitely a tough balance to find. At some point in the future we'd like to have Supernotes be a federated solution with self-hosting available, but that goal is quite a bit out, if it can happen at all.

In the meantime, we already have the ability to export all your cards as markdown, and are currently trying to find ways to export your actual data graph in a format that could possibly be used elsewhere. Obviously the hard part with this is that, as I mentioned, our structuring options are somewhat unique, so there isn't really a way to export it in a way that could be readily consumed by other tools.

For the last point, this would be solved by federation / self-hosting. But again, in the meantime, we want to get closer to this goal by offering a lifetime subscription[1] (which is cheaper than Roam's offer which lasts 5 years).

[1] https://supernotes.app/pricing/

A couple of quick bits of feedback, from trying it out for the first time:

- The app locks itself to the browser's light/dark mode setting, with no way to change it. This is a huge pain for people like me who prefer a dark UI but light page content.

- "where you put cards inside of other cards" - how to do this was totally unintuitive until random clicking around revealed that the edit button turned into a plus button, and under that was "add parent" (but not "add child"). The total lack of drag-and-drop functionality with the card focus seems really weird.

- The site advertises the ability to share cards, but the UI gives me zero idea how to do that, and the site seems to imply I can only share with logged-in users, which eliminates most of the reason I'd want to be easily share things in the first place.

Thanks for the feedback!

- You can actually change this in the user menu. Default is set to your system settings, but you can choose either light or dark as well. Plan to introduce different themes for light vs. dark in the near future as well.

- Drag-and-drop is coming in the next update (due to be released in a week or so).

- More sharing features methods are coming soon!

> You can actually change this in the user menu.

Now that I went looking for this, I saw it - but before that, I just thought it was weird menu decoration. It should just be an actual menu item with a label (and preferably some kind of text selection rather than ambiguous icons).

> More sharing features methods are coming soon!

But I don't even know how to share anything in the first place. That's part of the problem.

Please try my https://histre.com/ if you don't want to manually organize everything. Histre automatically creates a knowledge base out of your bookmarks, notes, highlights, and optionally, your web browsing history. It makes it trivially easy to collaborate and publish.

What are the open source options for storing PDF annotations? These are just as important as free-form notes for me.

Have a look at Zotero ?

Interesting. This also led me to Zotfile.

How do folks incorporate drawings and images into their notes? At least when I used a wiki, I could upload photos as cumbersome as it was, as it is now, I rarely use visual media.

I found notes on the iphone to be excellent, but the content appears to be locked up inside of apple's swamp. The pdf exports were horrid.

This page loads one CPU to 100% in Firefox

Its the constellations on the top.

Announcement with a brief overview of some of the changes in 1.7 here:


Mirror here:


I like the general look and feel but it still feels clunky to switch between the markdown and presentation view, copy-pasting markdown (tables, etc) doesn't work right, and more importantly, Latex is clunky.

Still waiting for something to best VSC. What do people working with a combination of code and Latex use?

another Electron app, no thanks

I started keeping a hosted tiddlywiki since this new round of zettelkasten rebirth (also, digital garden).

Additionally I started taking notes on Left https://100r.co/site/left.html

Ultimately as an engineer, what I want to capture are things like schematics, vector diagrams, equations and mechanical drawings of things I have found interesting over my career.

When I solve a problem I want to have an open source format and viewer(s) for whatever problem domain it's in. So for things like software, that's easy, it's just text. For things like electrical schematics and physics calculations, it's not so easy.

So then I go down the path of how do I get X to show Y? Like how do I get github to show me a gerber plot from kicad? That's what's really keeping me from using tools like this, native format viewers for the tools we're using.

My cross-platform, time-proof, open source 'personal knowledge management' system:

1. A folder of markdown and org files

2. Emacs, gEdit

3. A notebook

I get the urge to 'optimize' this sort of thing, but the results seem to be nothing more than visual presentation tweaks.

I'm using Inkdrop [1] and works really great for me. Knowledge + task management without forcing you any workflow.

[1]: https://www.inkdrop.app/

Interesting to see this kinds of tools get so much attention in the past couple of months!

I have seen a lot of buzz around Roam (which is interesting given how outright terrible the initial user experience and conversion funnel is - I did not have the patience and unsub'd immediately..)

I ended up buying https://zettelkasten.de/the-archive/ Super straightforward Zettelkasten system, and most importantly utilizing plain txt and not some weird proprietary format.

It’s great to see such an explosion in tooling here. It also seems really hard to write comparisons since there’s so much development going on. I haven’t tried Zettlr yet, but it’s on my list...

I've tried it. I do like the built-in features, but the design makes me despise it.

It doesn't follow any system preferences, even replacing the standard minimize/maximize/close buttons (seriously, why?). Some of the stuff should definitely be a plugin instead of a core feature. Don't need a pomodoro timer / readability feature? Tough luck, you can't even remove it from the interface, let alone remove it completely.

There's also no plugin support, so you can't extend the features in any way.

I'm using Obsidian[0] instead. A little rough around the edges, but it doesn't have these issues.

[0] https://obsidian.md/

I was using Zettlr for couple months, but some things were a bit clunky and it was missing better key-bindings, etc. Most of what I need is just "show me my folder with .md files and let me edit them nicely".

For now I ended up with Mark Text (https://marktext.app/), which is open source, cross platform, works nicely and the migration time was zero (folder with .md files ftw).

I really wish these knowledge base-type apps that have been popping up, like this and Obsidians would use preexisting Markdown and Multimarkdown syntax for links and link references rather than inventing and leaning on their own bits of syntax that aren't usable with other tooling. The whole [[double bracket link]] thing in particular is a pain when none of the cross-referencing supports standard Markdown links between files.

Is it the generally-accepted practice to run an app like this in a network namespace or sandbox? How do I know it's not pilfering my research? I'd like to use a system like this for my work but I don't see how it can be trusted. I don't have the time to read the source. To be honest, I prefer a hosted solution because then I get a written contract about the privacy of my data.

Not getting your data stolen vs. being able to sue after the fact are two different concerns which are somewhat in conflict.

If you want to be able to sue, then yes go with a hosted solution with a written contract.

But if the priority is to not have your data stolen, handing your data over to a third party is a non-starter.

I don't necessarily agree. I feel like hosted solutions may have better security than I personally have. Plus, companies like Roam are staking their entire business on honoring their agreements.

Okay, I learned a new thing, the Zettelkasten. I've done half of this in my notebooks for a long time (where each page or set of pages that are about a particular topic are linked to the other pages in the notebook also on that topic with a doubly linked list) but the simplicity here is pretty cool.

I read some blog post within the past year are so, written by some young engineer for shopify or spotify. They detailed the way they built their zettelkasten. It was well-written and more detailed than most blog posts in that genre. I can’t find it on HN or Google. Anybody know what I’m talking about?

Yep. Wasn't as thorough as I thought. Thanks

Too bad it is electron.

Eats up my CPU. I haven't even done any editing, just reading the tutorial and CPU is and 120%

I want all of the backend features as a standalone system; I just don't feel comfortable being tied to a single editor, though this one does look pretty great. Are there systems out there with comparable features but which are editor-agnostic?

I find this amazing for my schoolwork. Being able to write papers with images in a sensible manner using Markdown syntax, all the while citing effortlessly using Zotero, is such a game changer. Huge props.

It's really hard to beat speed, robustness and flexibility of general purpose editors like Vim and Sublime Text, that's why I don't see myself using something like this for markdown notes.

I’m a fan of Typora [1] which also combines the simplicity of Markdown syntax with a WYSIWYG editor.

[1]: https://typora.io/

I use a combination of foam, GitJournal, VSCode. Works well for me.

We're a couple years away from merging latex and wordperfect.

Outside of looking pretty, how is this better than say, Zim? Not that being pretty doesn't have its own merit, but I just want to know what other advantages this has :)

How does Zettlr compare to https://roamresearch.com/ ?

Markdown and AsciiDoc would do well to embrace (1) hashtag syntax and (2) modification times.

For me, that’s the key to discoverability and categorization.

So, is this like a Scrivener clone? Scrivener is awesome and one of the things I miss when I dumped MacOS altogether.

Scrivener is not Mac-only anymore! https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/download

Version 3 for windows will release one day.

(Really though, it's stable enough for daily use)

Is there support for diagrams, like Mermaid? That's something I use with Joplin for my personal knowledgebase.

Yes mermaid is built in. Just start a tripple apostrophe codeblock with code style mermaid and it will render the graphics when your cursor leaves the code block.

I'm just going to create a repo with a symlink to notepad.exe as Roam alternative and call it a day.

What triggered the sudden surge of interest in these knowledge management platforms in your opinion?

HackerNews, obviously

This will fall on deaf ears, but if you have to title a note, it's not a Zettelkasten.

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