Recently I noticed a colleague using TextEdit on her Mac as her primary method of taking notes. I asked her why she doesn’t use something more modern like Apple Notes, Evernote or any from the ever growing pool of specific note taking apps available. She replied a beautifully simplistic answer:
“I’ve been taking notes like this since I started using a computer”.
Her reply made me realise that at the time I was very caught up in finding the perfect notes app/tool. I’d spend an unhealthy amount of time researching about privacy, cloud syncing, subscriptions, markdown vs no markdown, is it exportable etc etc..
Most of the stuff I was researching didn’t really matter to me. The main reasons I take notes is mainly about jotting down and idea or drafting something very roughly.
When I looked at my Apple Notes, Evernote and Bear I realised that I wasn’t using anything fancy they provide out of necessity and when I looked past the crafted UI and marketing material I realised I didn’t really need theses extra tools.
Why plain text?
I decided that I wanted to go with something hassle free, minimal options for styling, tiny interoperable files and that I can organise and store wherever and however I wanted. Plain text files combined with some minimal amounts of markdown seemed to fit the bill.
Where do I host my files?
This is what I love, I can through them anywhere and pick them up anywhere. I use Apple hardware for my personal and professional life so naturally my notes live in a folder on iCloud Drive. I love knowing that I can just lift that folder and drop it into Dropbox, Google Drive or a self-hosted solution whenever I like.
What text editor do I use?
This is something I spent a bit of experimenting with. Although I currently use a commercial app down to preference I was pleasantly surprised at the open source options and the pre-installed solutions.
Plain Text editors for Mac
On my Mac I used iA Writer as my primary note taking tool. I love everything about this application. The UI is beautiful, it has a file explorer baked in, smart folders and hashtag organisation. The best part is that it’s purely a client sitting on top of my text files, it doesn’t try to take ownership of my files and wrap me into an ecosystem.
Nota - A fantastic open source app for Mac really clean and lightweight.
FSNotes - I really wanted to use this as my daily app but it’s just not as refined as iA, being open source though (with a paid option) it’s still a very nice txt editor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
iPhone & iPad On my iPhone
I use iA Writer again, for all the same reasons. It’s a beautiful experience but I’m in charge of my files.
PreText I was surprised at the lack of offerings on the App Store for a basic text editing application that didn’t want to control my files. Apple have yet to create a plain text editor for iOS (no idea why) but PreText has been created to be just that. It’s nothing fancy but pulls together a few native iOS components to basically bring TextEdit to iOS.
Ultimately I bought iA for both iOS and Mac because I love the UI and the company behind the apps have a solid understanding of their product, their customers and their business model.