I sync many, many plain text notes between my phone and various computers I use during the day. Some of these are little reminders, like what I need to buy for dinner, some of these are freeform narrative ideas about a story, and some of these are links of stuff to read. I’m looking for something simple are barebones, but have been having trouble finding something. I use Trello for managing projects, and Wunderlist for items that either have a deadline or a “checklist” property to them. I need a system that catches everything else.
I’ve used SimpleNote for a while, but its Android app seems to be behaving poorly, and its missing a few features I need, such as non-destructive merging. I tried Evernote, but its Cloud-y-ness makes it unworkable for me.
Minimum Feature Set
I own the data
There is no sync to the cloud every time I want to load something, there is local search, and I can export data out of the app just as simply as dragging it from one folder to another on my computer. Copying-and-pasting, or emailing to myself, is not good enough.
When I edit a note from one computer, then as I’m heading out the door and want to edit to it from my phone before it has synced, this should not erase any edit history of the note, or it should at least warn me. I’ve had this happen multiple times with SimpleNote. Dropbox has a best-of-the-worst solutions by making a conflicted copy, which does not prevent working with an open file. Something like a line-by-line merge resolution that I can do at my leisure would be amazing, but possibly difficult to design.
Usable from multiple computers, and a single mobile device
I just need access from multiple platforms.
Unified editing and reading mode on mobile
“Editing” mode and “Reading” mode should not be different. I should not have to go into a separate mode to correct a spelling mistake or fix an error. The experience of tapping on a word I want to edit, then realizing I’m in read mode, then going to click on the edit button, then going back to the word, is very frustrating. I’m looking at you, Evernote.
Unified inter- and intra-document search
When I search for a string, it should be able to tell me if there is multiple instances of a word within a doc, and be able to iterate through them. Notational Velocity (which wraps SimpleNote) does not support this. Ideally, if there are many instances of a string within a doc, search should be able to display that without overwhelming results from other docs.
Things I don’t need
The app to hang while it is syncing
When I open the app to write a note, I should be able to write a note. If I’m waiting for an update on a note to check it, that can easily be indicated.
Rich text, attachments, etc
Another cloud service to depend on
Ideally it works with Dropbox.
If I have a good search function, this is not necessary.
If I need this, I’ll use Google Docs.
Features that would be nice
Automatic hyperlinking of URLs and phone numbers
Don’t make me use copy-and-paste when there is something quicker.
A way to view edit history
Mostly this helps diagnose when merging breaks. But the dates of certain edits are useful when tracking ideas change.
Does this exist, pretty please?
And yes, I know:
I can’t believe none of you have written a notes app to my arbitrary, imprecise, and unproven specifications yet.
— Steven Frank (@stevenf) March 19, 2014