Seeking developer advice (another note taking thread)


As developers, which note taking app do you use?
Is syncing and availability across devices important to you?

I have been playing around with OneNote (work uses Office365) but miss the markdown a great deal.
For those of you that just use plain text, what is the structure behind the notes?

Any thoughts?

The never ending search for the best Note taking app continues.


For me, your two questions are interrelated. For notes that I want “close at hand” (and synced) I use Apple Notes (1-I’ve never gotten aboard the Markdown bandwagon, and 2-I don’t use Notes for taking notes, just for storing them; actually I don’t really take notes these days, in the sense of meeting notes etc). Other material lives in files & folders on my dev machine (an iMac Pro).

I seem to be in a minority now as I have used EverNote since it came out. I don’t have any issue with it. I’m a developer and it is my external brain. I used it all the time, everyday. After using it for so many years for free I used to worry about them going out of business and loosing my go to tool. I pay for their entry level pay plan and definitely get my moneys worth in the value it provides to me. I don’t store a ton of attachments in there but tons of notes, screenshots, etc. The web clipper is excellent.

Syncing is important to me as I work as a Windows developer by day, have an iMac, MacBook Pro, and iPhone. Its syncs across all of those platforms with no issues for me.

There are so many choices today, I’m not sure I would start there, I would have to do some testing. I don’t know if a plain text solution would work for me, it would have to have good image support as as I have a very large volume of notes with screenshots. I also have a large number of web pages saved for reference.

If you are looking at storing code snippets, I wouldn’t recommend Evernote. If you don’t need Windows support I would look at SnippetsLab or Quiver. I also need Windows support, I tried Boost Note for a while but I didn’t like it.

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I just started playing around with vim + vimwiki for notetaking. It’s highly customizable, and if you live more of your day in a terminal like I’m starting to, it makes sense to stay there. Not to mention you don’t have to worry about lock-in or the software going out of business. Vim’s been around for ages and text files will (hopefully) work forever.

As far as structure, I haven’t delved too far into it yet as I’m of the persuasion that structure should follow content, not the other way around. The more content you add, the more the structure’s needs will become evident.

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Assuming you meant “software developer”. I rarely take notes for software dev purposes. I do copy texts and source snippets sometimes and keep those in apple notes. I use omnigraffle for architecture design and affinity design for UX and graphics in general.

Most hardware design (datasheets, appnotes, guides, standards etc) support files go into devonthink for me where i can annotate them also.

Customer facing note taking is a bit of paper and pencil as well as Notability, sometimes omnifocus (for todos)

Ideas go in my little black book i.e. paper and pencil :wink:

Tried them all, evernote, bear, drafts, even tried storing snippets in the code editor itself and a couple of code centric note apps like quiver and linking to github gists.

Currently just standardising everything in DevonThink, which i think I will stick with, I have a “code and design” database for stored snippets, articles and notes. For current code projects I keep a workbook in the root folder in orgmode format which I edit through a sublime text plugin.

Orgmode gives me most of the flexibility (I need) of taskpaper plus a much better inline note system.

Thanks for the replies.

I did try BoostNote, I will look into SnippetsLab.

Yes sorry I should have been more specific.

Never heard of orgmode format. I will have a look.

What helped me a lot with the never-ending notes problem was: What are the notes actually good for?

As in, what do you want to do with the notes? How long do you keep them around? Is it just a random collection of random things? Do you just want a clear sheet to type something in?

For me personally: Notes are a temporary thing to either quickly scrible something down, take meeting notes, quickly plan an idea or jot something so I don’t forget it.
This means that I treat notes as completely temporary. I write something down, then when I have time I go over it, aggregate whatever it is and move it to the next place like an archive.

  • Like, when it’s a meeting note I usually go over it at some point later and see what was actually important in that note and extract that, then move it to specific 1on1 or project documents, and create todo items in Things.

  • If it’s just something so I don’t forget it, I archive the note right after the information isn’t needed anymore

  • If it’s something I want later again, I move it into a proper knowledge app like DEVONthink so I have peace of mind that I’ll always be able to find it again

My candidates for that are:

  • Drafts because it’s just the fastest/snappiest app to type stuff in, then export if needed. I just open the app, dump my brain content, then when it’s done either export or archive. There barely any structure and it’s fast, I don’t want more.
  • Agenda for meeting notes. The killer feature for me is that all new notes are linked to meetings and are on the agenda by default. So on a hectic day I just rush from meeting to meeting, take notes, then when I’m free go over my On The Agenda one by one and move key points to their projects, then remove the item From The Agenda and mark it as done (similar to archiving). Because everything is on the agenda by default I can’t ever forget to go over the emeeting notes. It’s like a todolist for meetings

(Both apps have a todo list style management going on. In drafts all notes are in the inbox and I have to get them out of there. In Agenda they are On The Agenda.)

If I do longer writing in markdown I just use iA Writer. If I scribble random thoughts or write down what I did during the day I usually use GoodNotes with the Pencil on my iPad because it just feels nice. :slight_smile: (Then specific tools for mindmapping and so on).

Changing it to this style helped me a lot with stop stressing about finding a good notes app because I’d waste so much time messing with app settings and folder structures and and and

(That being said, Noto is a app I’m very excited about. Like a native mini Notion, but still has too many bugs to recommend it at this time)

Since you highlighted that you’re a developer, as @riamarch noted Quiver was designed specifically as a programmer’s notebook, includes a code editor, and the Mac app is excellent. Unfortunately the free iOS companion app is not well regarded. SnippetsLab is similar, but Mac-only.

Otherwise, for cross-platform Markdown you’re just looking at the much and constantly (re)discussed list of cross-platform Markdown apps, ranging from Ulysses (available on SetApp) to MWeb/MWeb Pro (bought it, like it, use Ulysses instead), FSNotes (bought it, like it, don’t use it either), Notebooks (does Markdown, can be 90% of a DevonThink replacement too), IA Writer, etc etc.

I use a combination of Drafts and Dropbox for notes about development projects. I start everything in Drafts and tag it, then when I’m finished with something I file it in a Dropbox folder for that project. I use Dropbox because it has the best search for work-related files that I’ve come across, especially on iOS.

Vim? Flagged and reported. :smiley:

Haha! I was going to say earlier that it’s NOT GOOD that all this org-mode talk is turning this into an emacs forum. :stuck_out_tongue:

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I just want to use a decent editor!


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Thanks again for all the replies. Something interesting out of this thread was the question about what are the notes for. A good portion of the notes are simple how-to documents, if I need to share with my tram they go into a wiki. I am going to revisit this and try identify the what better. Thanks for all the suggestions.

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