How do you manage your digital notes?
I am actually an Org Mode user, but I want something with great mobile support (Android) as well as desktop/web. None of the Org apps is good enough for me, and that may never happens. I don't even use my computer as much these days. I've been looking into Dynalist but the free version is bit too limited, the paid version is a bit much for me. Evernote is kinda the same. I could try Joplin+Dropbox? Obsidian? IDK. Any suggestions?
I've been very happy with Standard Notes. It's similar to Joplin but you don't have to manage the hosting, and it has mobile and desktop apps (including Linux support).
The killer feature for me is its spreadsheets extension. I love being able to have spreadsheets in with my notes. I keep my weight and exercise log there, for example, which lets me have private data about my health that I manage instead of using a data-hungry app for that. I also keep lists of books/movies/games I'm interested in, and I have a spreadsheet that chooses random ones from those lists for me, which helps with the "what do I want to read/watch/play next?" "problem" of modern life.
This is fantastic and it's given me the best reason to ditch Evernote on my work PC and Tusk on my home PC. It's so clunky but it was the best option I'd found at the time. And after browsing their extensions I found that this is well worth the cost for Extended.
Does it have categories or subtags? That's kinda of a deal-breaker.
It has tags, and there's a folders extension which looks like it supports hierarchical subtags, though I haven't used it so I can't speak to it.
I suppose this wouldn't work for free or on mobile?
The base tier of Standard Notes is free, but the extensions you have to pay for, so that Folders add-on requires a subscription.
The extensions are, as far as I know, platform-agnostic. Every one I’ve used works across mobile and PC just fine.
Disroot.org gives you email, notes, cloud, calendars, contactos and more. Check it out.
This looks very intriguing. I've been playing with Zoho for the past few months, but if that goes sideways for any reason, I'll certainly check these folks out!
I use Joplin on Windows, Linux and android, and it works the same on all three. You edit in a markdown flavor, with katex support for math print, and it syncs with every major service. It even supports vim and emacs style key modes.
What do you use to sync between devices?
Onedrive, via Joplin's sync configuration. You tell it what to sync with, it logs you in to give the app access to your account, and syncs to a subfolder in your cloud storage.
I should mention, and I missed this, that it doesn't support syncing to Google Drive.
I've been using Obsidian + Syncthing, and it's been pretty good. It has a decent Vim mode which is nice, and the plugin + theming system is extensive. I basically keep all my notes as top level files, and link between them, so I don't have to worry too much about organization (but you can organize however you want, i.e. standard directories, tags, etc.).
The Obsidian mobile app is basically just the desktop app crammed into a mobile UI. It's not terrible and it'll probably give you more power, but it will also probably be less streamlined then other solutions.
I use Google Keep, because for the most part I just have short notes. It's nice for shopping lists, checklists (what to remember to pack), and remembering account numbers you might need for travel.
I used Keep for a while. It's indeed very nice for short notes.
My current phone is degoogled, and so I switched to using tasks on a self-hosted CalDAV server (which also hosts a personal calendar). On my phone I use tasks.org as a client; on my computers, Thunderbird. The interface isn't as shiny for either as Keep, but the functionality is basically the same.
+1 for Google Keep. It's pretty much the ideal UI for how I take notes on lots of random topics, and it's perfectly auto-synced on my computer and phone.
For my more mundane notes (and textbooks), I self-host an instance of Wiki.js. When I compared self-hosted note solutions, Wiki.js pretty much met all of my most desired features.
What I don't like:
I prefer loose files for convenience, but this complaint is mostly ameliorated by using git as backup (the dumped database is version controlled, not the database directly).
For my research notes, I use LaTeX (my preferred editor is LaTeX workshop for VS Code) + GitLab + GitLab CI to automatically build the document on push, which allows me to access my notes without having to version control the compiled pdf.
I use OneNote.... ducks
Notion for most of my stuff. GoodNotes on the iPad if I’m actually trying to pay attention to what I’m taking notes on, since handwritten keeps me more focused.
I currently use Zoho Notebook for my personal stuff, and shared notes with my partner (shopping list, house projects and such). It's my main dumping ground for getting ideas and stuff out of my brain and into a place to be sorted later.
For "serious note taking" (ie. university) I use Obsidian, because I really like the linking, and the fact that it's just plain markdown. Syncthing keeps it consistent across my desktop and laptop, but I do want to be able to make it work on my iPad as well. Mobius Sync works well enough for the actual file transfer, but iOS' siloed storage approach means that I can't use Mobius' files as an Obsidian vault. I'm sure there will be a shortcut I can put together that will copy one to the other, but that feels like a level of complexity I don't want in my life (reminds me of the time I tried to make my own syncing tool using bash and rsync!).
On the whole I think it's an ok system. Notebook is very much a quick jotter, mostly used on mobile, whereas Obsidian is my "I'm sitting down to take some notes," kind of place. I spent a long time searching for the One App To Rule Them All, but was never satisfied. Nothing had the flexibility and power of using two applications, even if there is an overhead to managing it.
Obsidian with Obsidian Sync. For reference, I mainly use it for keeping a daily journal. I also use it for saving code snippets, documentation for my own workflows, list of books I want to read and have read with highlights, a few recipes, and some general notes if I'm in the process of learning something.
Obsidian itself is free both on desktop and mobile, but the sync service is $4 a month if you purchase it annually. It's incredibly convenient and it offers true E2EE so I think it's worth it. (Heads up: If you want to legacy into that price tier, sign up for the service until the end of the month. The prices will double after that.) There are other options to sync between devices but they're less convenient than the first party sync service. This isn't because developers (total of two person, believe it or not) intentionally limited 3rd party plugins' ability to sync properly, but because of the limitations of the operating system the app runs on. I believe there's virtually no difference between different sync services both on desktop and Android.
I tried Roam and Logseq before deciding on Obsidian, but neither of them really worked for me. Obsidian is simple, intuitive, future proof, and it has an incredibly vibrant community. New plugins are being developed almost every day and already there are incredibly useful ones used by thousands of people. You can install these plugins by two, three clicks within the app's plugin browser. It's not an arduous process where you download a .zip file from Github and have to extract its contents to some folder. Themes work the same way. If you pay for the sync service, all of your plugins, themes, custom code snippets, even your attachments sync across all your devices.
I also had to deal with their support once and they were incredibly nice and helpful -- so much so that they directed me to a solution that didn't fill their pockets, but fit my workflow better.
Since you mentioned you rely on your mobile device more than your desktop computer, I am hesitant to recommend you Obsidian though. For one thing, I have never tried its app on Android, but since it's a universal app, I doubt the experience is much different from than of iOS. As for the experience itself though, it's a bit... janky. The app definitely doesn't have that native feel on mobile and in some cases it refuses to play nice (especially when it comes to scrolling in context menus). These issues haven't been that bad for me, since I've been using the app just fine on my now 6 years old 4-inch iPhone SE, but on the rarest of occasions they get in the way. On a phone with a bigger screen and a more modern processor, I'm sure you'd have fewer issues, if any at all, but just be wary that it's not a native app.
If you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.
Plain text + git, and a github wiki
I'm an org-mode user myself and I've found that the best way to use org-mode on my phone was to... use Emacs!
On my Android device, I've downloaded Termux, ran
pkg install emacson it, used
stowto set up the same config I have on my desktop and voilà!
I use git (via Magit) as a syncing solution between my devices.
It works great! Emacs is surprisingly usable on mobile!
Oh and for the web part, I host my
gitrepo on GitHub and they can render
.orgfiles the same way they render Markdown so that's sufficient for me.
You probably already know since you are using org-mode, but for other people, I am using orgzly. It syncs org-mode files using webdav, I then use davfs to mount a it on my laptop and edit it with emacs. I find orgzly quite good. I host a dir with webdav using nginx on my server.
I tried it with Dropbox. Lots of conflicted file versions.
I've been using Workflowy (similar to Dynalist) for ages. On the whole, it's pretty good for me. I really like that it puts as much information in front of me at once as I want (vs file-based note systems, where you kinda only look at one "thing" at a time). I can see what I'm thinking about, but also all of the info that's "nearby" what I'm thinking about. Thinking in lists works really well for me, too.
Work notes are in Word/ Excel or Moleskin or Confluence.
Home notes are in Evernote transitioning to Apple notes.
The market is so incredibly fragmented, no two people are going to use the same solution.
I think it's a classic case of PEBKAC. The issue isn't which tool. The issue is what are you going to do with the tool.
I use VS Code with the Foam plugin and a few others to maintain my notes as Markdown files. I link them together with
[[wikilinks]]which, with the plugins, I can follow with Ctrl+click and see a graph visualisation of. I commit everything to Git and sync to GitHub as a primary backup. Then I also have Syncthing to pull everything over to my phone as a secondary backup. And of course I take regular full disk backups as well, to external media.
I use Bundled, it's a great Android app and there is a web version available for a low subscription fee (~10 USD/year).
Feel free to tag this as noise, but I just wanna say how much I love this community, that after 45 minutes of a post about taking notes being up, it's already at 12 (highly thoughtful) comments.
I learned from an amazing user here that putting one’s love out into a community isn’t noise. It’s instead a pulse — indicative of a heartbeat — bringing some much needed oxygen to those that are often silently suffering, and in ways that more topical conversation often doesn’t.
Your post made me smile and gave me some much needed oxygen today, and that’s about as far away as you can get from noise in my eyes. :)
Yeah, I guess this website is really passionate about note taking lol.