Recommended: Joplin – Open Source Multi Platform Note Taker

I’ve been trying to find a good note-taking application for a while. There’s a few criteria that I have:

  • It’s multi-platform (at least Linux and Windows, and preferably including OSX, Android, and iOS as well.)
  • It is easy to synchronize
  • Does not store information in proprietary formats
  • Has a portable (e.g. USB key) version

While Zim came close, there was still no real way for me to access my notes on any portable device and the UI was really different on different platforms. Joplin finally fits the bill (with one peculiarity and one caveat).

Yes, that’s right, this thing is available on Windows (including a portable version), Mac OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, AND THE FREAKING COMMAND LINE.

To be clear, I’ve completely moved almost all of my notes to Joplin, synchronized through a Nextcloud instance (though you can use Dropbox or WebDAV equally well). The few notes I’ve not moved are things that I explicitly want separate from my main notebook. With the introduction of a dark mode for the desktop client, I’m totally happy with this product, and happily recommend it as an Evernote /Zim/Tomboy/etc alternative.

Joplin is a free, open source note taking and to-do application, which can handle a large number of notes organised into notebooks. The notes are searchable, can be copied, tagged and modified either from the applications directly or from your own text editor. The notes are in Markdown format.
Notes exported from Evernote via .enex files can be imported into Joplin, including the formatted content (which is converted to Markdown), resources (images, attachments, etc.) and complete metadata (geolocation, updated time, created time, etc.). Plain Markdown files can also be imported.
The notes can be synchronised with various cloud services including Nextcloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, WebDAV or the file system (for example with a network directory). When synchronising the notes, notebooks, tags and other metadata are saved to plain text files which can be easily inspected, backed up and moved around.
The application is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android and iOS. A Web Clipper, to save web pages and screenshots from your browser, is also available for Firefox and Chrome.

So the peculiarity is only in contrast to other systems – the leftmost column (notebooks) do not list the notes underneath – they’re in the next column to the right. So your full-text search and notebook organization is a little more important. However, this also means you don’t have notes serving as little more than placeholders.

The one caveat? The markdown files that Joplin creates are completely portable – but the filenames are not.

As with any Markdown file, you can easily read the files with any text editor (including notepad), but finding the right file might be a bit of a bear. Again, a full-text search would fix this, and it’s possible to script up something easily to rename all of these if you decide to use a different program.

Still, this program completely scratches my itch to have “notes” for everything from an adventure log in our D&D game to “things to talk to the doctor about” to girlfriends’ ring sizes. Well worth trying out and seeing if it makes your life easier.

And if you somehow still need a Dropbox account, click here and we’ll both get some extra free space:

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