(Bear app) Help me learn to love tags *please*!

Hi folks,
I have been using Bear app for a while for notes - mainly whilst researching and learning new things.

My head works 100% on the old school hierarchical folders and documents model.
(I used to actually use binders and sheets of punched A4 paper!)

I love how Bear app makes my notes look (it’s elegant, simple and with the right theme, just plain gorgeous). I love the way the code blocks work. All of that side of things is completely wonderful.

My problem is, that I came over from Ulysses, where documents and folders can just be pushed around and organised any way you like. Want to put a folder (sorry, “group”) higher up inside its containing group because lots of the other folders are old and not of much interest now? Simply drag it.

Job done.

As for organising the individul sheets - here’s the biggest deal for me: In Ulysses I can just put things into whatever order makes sense to my brain. In Bear, I’m limited to alphabetical organisation, which means the only way of organising is by the first letter of the page title - this drives me absolutely nuts!

I know you can do hacky tricks with numbers at the beginning, but not only does it look ugly and take up space, but when I want to quickly insert a page, the only way is by renumbering everything, or calling something “04a” etc

I get the impression that perhaps I’m just a dinosaur. Everyone seems to love tags. Am I just trying to force my toaster to work the same way as my frying pan and getting frustrated when it doesn’t?

Can someone help me understand how great tags are and the advantages they offer?
Can anyone share their organisational system to show me how great it works for them?

Or should I just go back to Ulysses and wish it looked as good as Bear?

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The advantage of tags over folders is that things can live in different places instead of being constrained in one. It provides multiple axes of access to your information: say you have several projects with different collaborators, you can enter your data through the project or the person angle - you are not limited to one.

You can find the setup I used with Bear in this post, making extensive use of tags:

However, Bear is definitely not designed for linear ordering of contents. It’s just not its goal, it’s a notes app, not an outliner. If you want to order things, you need to do it manually with a note linking to others in the order you like, what we often call a MOC (map of contents) in the PKM space.

Craft might be an app more to your liking since it’s more designed in a more linear way (even though tags are coming).


@anon85228692 already said everything I have to say. I just think of them as folders and I sort by new, so that the stuff I am actively using is on top.

That said, Craft finally clicked with me and I am currently using both Bear and Craft. Bear is cheap, and I like it for simpler stuff, but I am finding Craft much better for keeping things organized. With it’s cards, subpages, and back-linking, it has given me more control over where the info is. I have an ongoing project I am using it for, and it’s much better suited for it than Bear. Plus, you can make your pages look really nice.


I wish I could arrange my physical books by tags, that would help a lot. Maybe the analogy will be helpful.
I’ve got several books that kind of belong in multiple categories. For instance. Discovering Statistics Using R, Analyzing Neural Time-Series Data, Mathematical Statistics with Resampling and R, Linear Algebra, Hands-On Machine Learning, Practical Time-Series Analysis.

If these were, say, PDFs, I could tag them for the subjects (note plural) to which they apply. R, Matlab, Python, Statistics, Machine Learning, Time-Series Analysis, Mathematics.

If I want a book on time-series analysis, I could check that tag, and see there are two books (PDFs) there, Practical…, and Analyzing Neural…

You might even decide on some criteria for putting them on a shelf (in a folder), but with the added tags, this doesn’t seem like such a major commitment- you can always find them by tag.

Imagine a similar scenario for your notes. Imagine printing them out, putting them into piles based on their contents, then adding a sticky note to each note in the pile. When you’re finished, each note can have multiple stickies, depending on what they are related to.

I may be over-explaining and you already know all this, but I sometimes find analogies helpful.

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On first look, Craft seems to tick every box - it seems to be precisely the app I’m looking for!
I’m going to spend today following the quickstart and then importing my current project.

If all goes well, it may become my new home for knowledge! :slight_smile:


I definitely understand that benefit.
If I could have my ‘primary’ method of organisation be a hierarchical folder and ordered document model and then have ‘smart folders’ based on tags, then I’d be a happy boy.

The only other thing that puts me off tags, is that if you have an established set of tags and decide to add a new tag, you’d really have to go through every document to see whether that tag is applicable in order for the tag system to work as it should (although doing this would clearly be insanity).

Disclaimer: It has been suggested to me that I overthink things… :rofl:

Thanks for your insight though - appreciated.

I use Craft extensively and find it to be an outstanding application, which is under constant development.

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Many years ago when DEVONthink first introduced tagging (after a lot of requests from users), the developer consistently would mention that tags are groups. Sometimes that irritated users, for various reasons, but I think in reality “tags are groups” is the right perspective. Just another way of aggregating documents. Or, more accurately, another dimension.

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Awww man - Craft looks absolutely brilliant!

But horror of horrors…after spending the afternoon tinkering in it, I realised you can’t manually re-order documents inside folders.

Absolutely gutted.

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You could shoot an email to the developers. The one time I did they were quick to respond, and others have said they are very open to ideas. If nothing else, they may say if they plan to do that or not. I don’t think this is a common feature though. I can see why people would like that, but it seems every app outside of Finder, has some built in sort.

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Let us know how it works out for you.

That’s a frequent request and they are thinking about adding it.

Where are people reading about what the roadmap for Craft is? Do they have it listed somewhere? Do they have a forum?

There will be a new version of Bear notes that might just do what you need it to. Reach out to their support- or tweet them, they do reply :+1:t2:

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I’d stick with Ulysses based on your needs. I have a lot of keyword (tag) based smart groups in Ulysses and it provides the best of both organizational systems.

They have a Slack community you can join from their website.

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I love everything about Ulysses apart from how my notes actually look.

I work mostly in Markdown Bear shows you the formatting in the note, rather than having to go to a preview. This means my Ulysses notes are pretty ugly and in order to follow links, I have to copy and paste them into the browser.

As a tool for organising my learning materials and ‘acquired knowledge’, the organisation is fantastic, but actually referring to my notes is far less satisfying than in Bear (I just feel Bear’s organisation system is weak in comparison).

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Not a lover of tags especially. I use them in DevonThink to categorise the business receipts/invoices but I still use a folder system.

Bear seemed OK when I tried it but it never seemed to have a killer function which would push me to use it regularly. While I think looks (of an app) do play a part, I really need the functionality to suit what I want or like to do, why compromise function for looks?

If you want to stick with Bear can you nest tags? If so you can probably create a system akin to a standard filing system.

I also tend to have a definite naming system I use across all notes and files, for example date based ones start 202-04-11-NoteTitle, if your using code blocks a lot I guess the notes are code snippets, for this type I use for example CSS-NoteTitle or JS-NoteTitle. This also works for app based notes, VSCode-NoteTitle etc, you are actually tagging in the title.

It takes some discipline and time to develop but it does work easily once you are in the habit of doing this religiously.

Yes, join their Slack channel. They are very active and responsive to questions and requests.

You might want to test drive Notebooks. It’s not as pretty as Bear or Craft, but:

  • You can organize your documents via nested folders. (Notebooks calls them “Books.”)
  • You can have tags, too.
  • Your notes can be plain text, markdown, or html.
  • You can throw other document types into your folders if you wish.
  • You can order your notes alphabetically, by creation date, or manually—i.e, drag them into whatever order you wish.
  • Your documents live on one of your own drives.
  • It’s multi-platform.
  • It does backlinks and wikilinks if that’s your thing.

It’s a not-terribly-expensive one-time purchase.

I primarily use Devonthink and Obsidian as my document repository and linked-notes app, respectively, but Notebooks definitely has a place in my workflow for certain kinds of projects.

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