For a long time I’ve been looking for a notes application for myself. The criteria for such an application are simple:
- It must be available on at least my laptop and phone
- It should support Markdown
- It should support plain text files
I’ve tried a few different notes applications in the past and a few wiki based solutions as well. The problem with most of the wiki based solutions is that they need a web server to run on which means a few bucks in hosting. Not a major problem but I’d prefer to not use a homegrown solution if it means needing a web server to run on.
I’ve also tried desktop based solutions like nvAlt but the lack of being able to view notes on my phone is a deal breaker so that didn’t meet my needs.
Finally I tried Apple’s own Notes app which recently received a minor upgrade and a number of useful features. The benefits of such an app are clear. Synchronised notes through iCloud, available on multiple devices and there’s little chance of Apple doing away with such an app. Drawbacks? I couldn’t think of any other than the lack of Markdown support but that’s me being picky if I’m being honest.
For a while I used Apple’s Notes app without fault but I missed the use of Markdown. Almost everything I write is in Markdown and not having the ability to take a note and copy and paste some if it’s contents to another Markdown supported application started to nag me.
It was back to the drawing board then. I looked online and after a few searches I came across Simplenote. To be honest I dismissed Simplenote in the past but for the life of me I can’t remember why.
I started by installing the Simplenote app on my phone and migrating a few of my notes over from Notes and Trello. I did have to do a few edits on the notes from the Notes app but the notes from Trello was a straight copy and paste.
Simplenote does support Markdown in it’s desktop based apps for Windows and Linux and also for the web client, but there’s no support (that I can see) on the OSX app and the iPhone app. It’s not a big problem though, as I suspect that this feature is coming soon for these platforms. I can wait.
Aside from the Markdown support in Simplenote there’s a number of other benefits that make keeping notes here easy.
Simplenote allows you to add tags to notes. This makes organising your notes much easier. Tags appear at the bottom of the note you can also filter your notes using these tags.
You can also pin notes so that they appear at the top of your notes list. This doesn’t make much of a difference in the apps that use larger screens, but on the iPhone app it makes navigating to these notes a lot easier. I have a number of notes that I use on a daily basis so it’s nice to be able to get to them quickly.
Finally there’s the ability to publish notes. It’s a feature I’ve been looking for in a number of wikis and note applications ever since I closed my Backpack account a number of years ago. Backpack was a great product and I regret closing my account there. It’s always been the best notes based application that I have used. The ability to publish pages from Backpack was a feature that I used so that I could bookmark a number of notes and have them readily available in my web browser. It’s nice to see a similar feature in Simplenote.
It’s early days with Simplenote but one thing that’s clear is that I like the minimal user interface and the small feature set. It does the job of keeping my notes accessible and in the one place and it does this job well. And that’s all I can ask for.