Commonplace/Zettelkasten app

Hey dudes,

Anyone maintaining a commonplace or zettelkasten on iOS? Been trying to decide on an app, and don’t want to be forced to open a Mac to make it work.

Ulysses. I have just shy of 1,000,000 words in it and it’s blazing fast on all devices. The only hassle is the hoops you need to jump through on iOS to get the URL of a sheet, but I do work on a Mac every now and then and do most of my linking there using an Alfred workflow I built ( ). This set-up replaced an attempt at a Zettelkasten in NVAlt and Editorial which wound up being too fiddly for me to want to use it. But the big advantage of Ulysses is the organizational flexibility and x-platform linking.

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Used to be Evernote, but since I stepped away from it, I’ve been using a mix of text files and Apple Notes… but not very happy with this system.

Recently I’ve read on blog post that notes get better embedded in your long term memory when they are handwritten (thus many people using index cards). However I also want them to be digital so I can better search for them.

Long story short I’m playing with Notability (since it now recognises your handwriting and can search & transform it into text). If this doesn’t work, I’m planning to also check OneNote. Obviously, the Apple Pencil plays a key part on this workflow.

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I use Day One, It works great on the iPad, syncs across iOS and Mac systems, allows photos and tagging. It is secure, well supported and a great app to use. Great place to store and organise your knowledge. Easy to retrieve.

Saw they the sweet setup recommended Day One. It makes sense, but st the same time it feels so wrong!

Are you using a similar setup to Shawn Blanc? Ulysses is one of my front runners. Not sure why I’m hesitating. Maybe because I dont quite understand how the search works well enough yet.

Wish they’d make the linking thing easier on iOS for sure.

Thanks for starting this thread @KevinR.

I used to keep a commonplace notebook using Moleskine type books, unfortunately a whole puddle incident when moving house meant most were lost. I still have a couple, but I lost my momentum with them.

I have just started looking at ways I could do a digital version of a commonplace, but have found nothing that really replicates the real experience.

However I was not familiar with the notion of Zettelkasten. Would it be possible for you to guide me to an article about the basics. I have found a couple of sites but they seem to assume quite a lot of knowledge, or they talk about the history.

Thank you


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@Nick Here are two links that talk about what it is and how it works. I’m not sure how different it is from a commonplace book. Maybe in the organization and interaction?


In Day One I have different journal, one for my journal, one for my commonplace stuff, and one for beers. The search is good. And the tagging helps find collections of stuff. Suppose it is the same as having different collection of notebooks or index cards, but they are all in the one app.

Ulysses performs a similar function, allowing you to put different stuff in the right places. Keep trying different things until you find the one that sticks and works for you.

This blogger is using Bear for his commonplace. I’ve been leaning towards Bear for the ease of capture, organization and linking. He uses Merlin Mann™ file naming for his notes, which seems like good discipline. Though the format of classifying things that way adds a little more friction than I’d like.

I am using The Archive as my main manager of my Zettelkasten system. It is in its infancy so I am not sure how well it will work once the files grow. I am using 1writer with some javascript to write and access the Zettelkasten on iOS. I like using this approach because it is platform agnostic. Each file is a text file and can be written by any text editor. I can also have the files indexed by Devonthink for additional magic.

For a better understanding of Zettelkasten vs a simple repository of information. this is a good start. For me a Zettelkasten system has:

  1. Notes with unique Ids (I use a YearDayMonthHourMinute generated at the time of file creation)

  2. Notes are linked via Id. Not perhaps elegant, but linking should be portable.

  3. Notes are processed thinking, they are not the raw source.

  4. Notes are always linked. You can have content pages with links. This allows for fortuitous discovery.

  5. Having categories of notes slows down creation, because you have to decide where things go.

I am using the Zettelkasten system for processed thoughts on things I want to ponder. Given the small size of my Zettelkasten system I am apparently not such a deep thinker. However the concept is that ideas should spawn more ideas. Tagging is not essential, but The Archive and 1writer can use hashtags to separate notes.

In contrast I used Devonthink as my repository for all things I want reference to but have not processed deeply.


Could you go iOS only with 1Writer or do you need the archive to make it all work?

I’m still a little confused on what Zettelkasten is but reviewing some of the links in this thread has made me finally able to figure out what the heck tags are good for. They’re for finding related content. Duh!

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The system is tool and platform independent. It is just a bunch of text files with explicitly stated file IDs in the title. ‘Links’ are just file IDs in the text. It could be run from 1Writer or any text editor. The Archive just makes things a little easier.

Curious if DPTO/DTTG2 would be viable, given the former’s ability to use automatic wikilinks in text notes?

Having put a few hundred notes into an NVAlt/Editorial setup, this gets really cluttered really fast. I don’t want to look at 16 digit IDs in my notes, I want my computer to take care of that stuff while I get on with writing. Much easier having moved it all into Ulysses.

DEVONthink linking is robust, but I wanted a system that was platform agnostic. I found with my wikis (VoodooPad ) my structure would dissolve if not vigorously maintained. The trick with a zettlekasten system is that (for me) is that the notes I place in it have a defined purpose (stuff I want to think about). Further, judicious tagging can group content. Creating content pages - pages for links I want together creates a loose structure and create an entry point. Notes should always have a link to another note, so they are not “lost”.

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Check out

I’ve set up a solution in iOS using Drafts & Workflow - not as slick as a script filter in Alfred (especially if called by a snippet trigger) - but good enough for my purposes.