544: The Notes Roundup

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Thanks for the episode! Sadly not much discussion of Devonthink for Notes? It’s far more powerful than any of the alternatives talked about, and was a sponsor of the episode…


As the podcast episode said at the outset they wanted to look at the apps which are the best in their category. DevonThink is a good repository for saving, organizing, and recalling notes, but it’s lacking as a writing environment compared to the competition.


There’s another outline floating around for more hardcore research tools. DT falls into that category.


I’ve been on and off with Noteplan for almost a month. Currently on.


Totally agree. I am mainly using macOS and all my notes go into Devonthink.

In my humble opinion with the new menubar icon, and keyboard shortcut in Devonthink 3 it is one of the best in class on macOS for note taking.


Great episode. Sadly, I seem to change note apps almost as frequently as I change email apps :cry: Was with Evernote for a long time. Then went to OneNote when we moved to Office 365 at work (where I often use a Windows laptop). Have tried Bear, Apple Notes, plain markdown files. Currently pretty heavily invested in Agenda and enjoying it, although performance is not great on my 2016 MacBook. Have Drafts also for a particular part of my workflow and love it.

Thinking of shifting to Ulysses for everything (except Drafts stuff). But still haven’t made my mind up.

I feel like I could post here again in 12 months and still not be 100% happy with whatever I am using for notes at that time. A first world problem, I know. I just wish I could settle on something and stick with it!


Well, I think this should have been a two-parter as this note-taking app area is one of the few that are seeing so much innovation and app development. A lot of good note apps did not make the cut…

MarginNote 3

And of course
Obsidian… Roam Research’s competitor

Looks like there needs to be a sequel.


With David’s plain text past I was surprised that Obsidian wasn’t discussed as a plain text alternative to Roam…without the privacy issues, the price tag, or the demagogue.

It’s still in Beta but it’s already really great.


Same. I need a companion show to MPU called Mac Disciplined Users.


NotePlan 3, in beta, is looking great. NotePlan 2 can’t handle folders, but 3 will be able to.

But yes, like others here, I am sad that my current favourite (Obsidian) was missed. Part 2! Part 2! Part 2!


Awesome show!!
And agree with @KevinR that Obsidian might have been mentioned

I use DevonThink extensively but it is not an ideal note taking app on the iPad. It is adequate on the Mac but the iOS applications need a lot of work. Because I take most of my notes during meetings on the iPad, I need a note application that is optimized for iPad notetaking. I think in that regard, DT falls short.

@MacSparky mentioned using 1Password to generate unique tags for notes. I’ve long used a text snippet that runs the below command to generate a GUID by typing gguid. This would keep you from having to switch to another app.

uuidgen | tr -d '\n' | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]' | pbcopy && pbpaste && echo

I’ve made an alfred.app (my preferred text snippet provider) workflow available on github. The above command should be usable in any text snippet app.



I’ve been flailing around for a comprehensive notes workflow since way back in heyday of Lotus Notes. (Yes, I’m old.) The journey is the destination, as they say.

Since Devonthink is my repository for everything, I decided to try using it as the repository for my “knowledge work” notes, too. I’ve been working my way through Kourosh Dini’s Taking Smart Notes with Devonthink, and I’m glad I ponied up the $$$ because it’s really helped me exploit the notes tools DTP has to offer, which are many, and which I never would have gotten around to sorting out on my own. Yeah, the UI isn’t very pretty, but when you’ve spent your formative years working with enterprise software from the DOS prompt, DTP is like Versailles.

Our hosts are absolutely correct that there’s no need to try to shoehorn every note into one app, so I’m doing some experimenting with Drafts, Bear, and Notebooks. Notebooks checks a couple of boxes: it uses standard file formats; my files aren’t stored in a proprietary database on someone else’s server; and it has folders and tags. Bear is very pretty, but I want folders.


With world enough and time, I’d love to give Obsidian a test drive. Roam, not so much, for the privacy and price tag issues if not for the demagogue.

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There’s an old Merlin Mann trick for generating unique tags: Create a TextExpander snippet that generates a timestamp down to the second. YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM-SS.


Another voice here using DT for notes. The beauty of this app is that it can do anything, from lightweight text management to insane heavy lifting. And the fact that you can open files in the app of your choice make it possibly the most powerful writing environment for Markdown. You don’t have to choose one app, you can use them all – design tables in TableFlip, structure documents in IA Writer, import them in Ulysses, enjoy the calmness of Typora.

Yes, it’s also a heavy research tool, but it works great as a notes app, and I think it had its place in that episode.


I use keyboard maestro for something similar.

I have a macro that triggers an insert of the following text:


Which on July 14th 2020 ( :fr:!) at 11:55 would generate:



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@Kourosh’s recent book on “Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink” is an excellent in-depth case study of getting the most out of DEVONthink’s note taking ability.

Yes, Markdown, and RTF(D), and formatted notes, even HTML – all basic note types can be handled in a single application with DEVONthink. (Excluding weirdly proprietary formats such as Apple Notes, which is basically a fortified island of an app.)

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