The Perfect Platform Agnostic Digital Notebook

Part 1

EverNote, a product regarded as the one of the most controversial productivity services of 2016 due to pricing scheme upgrade, feature restrictions on lower offerings, and a privacy policy update -which allowed developers decrypted access to the average user’s notes, have made many turn away in uproar, and even fewer advocate the upgrades. The later being updated as an ‘opt-in’ setting to alleviate much of the backlash response from the community. Before such times of outrage and a rising need for alternatives, I advocated EverNote for many solutions. Utilizing it for research, micromanagement, note taking and even wallpaper storing when I wanted to have a unified scheme among various devices. Taylor Martin’s video on EverNote provided many useful tips, some of which I regarded to others as the best solution to their needs.

Many of my technological issues all gravitate around a central theme, that being platform agnostic services which would allow me to utilize the software on Windows, Linux, and MacOS without jumping through hoops. Though this is an ever shrinking complaint with increasing support for native and web applications on the power user’s OS, many platforms are still stagnant to support the penguin. EverNote was an interesting case, because though no official client was developed, popular applications such as NixNote provided a native third party experience that could still access all of EverNote’s features and databases securely.

With the recent debacle related to the privacy policy, and also the limitations set on the different tiered plans, it was time to find an alternative note storage service which could be utilized from any platform, and provide me with the following featureset:

  • Markdown / Rich Text Support: So that I may integrate Code, Images and annotations into my notes. As a programmer, I rely on snippets quite a bit in my common projects to increase productivity.
  • Cloud Synchronization: I have no issues paying for the storage / synchronization, as long as it is a seamless experience.
  • Mobile Applications: While travelling, I often rely on mobile applications to interact with my notes, be-it for studious purposes, article reading and saving newly found content into. The platform must offer the following for a truly cross-platform experience.
  • Dark Mode: Because some cliches are really life changing.
  • Tag / Organizational Archiving: I like to create an unnecessary amount of notes on the same topic, or research a topic until I’ve hit the 10th page of a Google search. This implies that, I need a sane way of keeping everything organized so that the database does not look like my Pocket list which has articles sprawling between different topics without warning.

Doing research led me to the a few promising applications, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The contenders which I will highlight my experiences with in the next instalment include:

  • Google Drive: Google’s storage and office suite, which is accessible through web applications, Windows and MacOS synchronizing applications, and Nautilus on Gnome 3.2. That last fact being both a godsend for Linux users (utilizing a network-mount filesystem), but also a frustration for the lack of other options.
  • Google Keep: Another offering from Google, this time focusing more on the stickynote, basic layout without the clutter of notebooks. Instead, relying solely on coloured ‘pages’ and tags, Keep allows for basic lists, Rich text notes and a useful web clipper. Though solely restricted to Web Applications and Mobile Applications, many third party applications allow for integration with the basic browser on any system.
  • SimpleNote: Created by Automattic, creators of WordPress. SimpleNote has supported Windows and Linux (utilizing Electron), MacOS, iOS, and Android, all of which being open sourced on August 16, 2016. With the open sourcing of each client, developer contributions have helped to shape the path of SimpleNote, including Markdown support for mobile applications and desktop clients. Though not citing the application as the most secure medium for note storage, SimpleNote does encrypt notes to the server, and are decrypted locally.  
  • OneNote: Created by Microsoft, and offered to all platforms except Linux, which may still utilize the program by using a windows binary emulator or the web client. The free-form canvas is quite the interesting take on notetaking, and has been cited by many as the goto alternative to EverNote. I’d happily choose this construct, had they provided a better web client or native Linux application. One caveat, is the dependant storage of the ‘notebooks’ in OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud offerings.

The second instalment can be found here, which covers Google’s offerings. Granted that it will be revolving around my experiences, thoughts, and any notes or opinions I’ve gathered during that time.

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