Tag-focused notes app

I’ve been a Day One user for ages. I’ve tried the fancy apps with backlinks, but it gets all messy. Day One gets many things right for me, but I just don’t like how difficult navigating tags is. One the mac, you can’t even find a full list of all your tags, on iOS you can, but it’s hidden behind search and a few clicks.

I recently tried out GoodLinks and I love the way tags are central to the design and showing a counter (screenshot below). I’d love to have a simple notes/journal app that works the same way. Any suggestions?

IIRC this is a selling point of Bear:


I used Bear for years before switching to Obsidian. It’s a good app that is completely tag-based, which is good and bad. There are no folders, everything is defined by its tags.

One problem, which I believe they are fixing (they may have already fixed it) is that Markdown formatting stays visible, so while the app is beautiful, it can be kind of distracting. Also, it’s a very cheap sub, but progress was slow. Their new editor was in testing for over a year when I was a user and I was a bit sick of waiting for it.

Notebooks.app makes it possible to organize notes by both tags and folders. (Note that Notebooks.app uses the term “context” rather than “tag,” but contexts function exactly like tags. Similarly, Notebooks.app’s “books” function exactly like “folders.”)

In Notebooks.app, your tags can be displayed in the leftmost sidebar, and they can be used to create smart books, too.

I tried using both Day One and Bear, and neither really stuck for what I was trying to do. I’ve been very happy using Notebooks.app as part of my knowledge and information management systems.

Every time someone mentions Notebooks.app I think “that looks great!”, and then I remember that it doesn’t have a daily note and I forget about it. I rely on the daily note in Obsidian so much, I couldn’t live without it.

I’d like Notebooks.app to have a daily note too. Since I’ve come to like Notebooks.app as a workspace more than my two other mainstays, Obsidian and Devonthink, I get around that by creating my daily note in Obsidian. Since I point DTP, Notebooks.app, and Obsidian at the same Dropbox folder, the note that I created in Obsidian is available in Notebooks.app and DPT as well. Since I actively use all three apps, it’s an OK workaround for me, but if you want or need to confine yourself to one app, it’s not a solution—and it would be much better if Notebooks.app had daily note functionality built in.

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In the “filter” menu choose “Tags” and then browse, search, and select the tags you want to filter by. The full list is there.

CleanShot 2022-10-12 at 10.28.13@2x


Cool, didn’t know that, thanks!

Thanks for the advice everyone! Currently retrying Bear, Notebooks and Obsidian. At the moment I’m especially impressed with the latter. I gave it up earlier, but their ‘1.0’ version feels a lot more native and less glitchy on both macOS and iOS. Also really looking forward to Bear 2.0, which apparently is currently in private beta


@Leeabe51 @krocnyc i’d like to hear more about how you are using daily notes. I use them, but I feel I am using them ineffectively.



How I use my Daily Note:

One thing I should note upfront is that I’m a retired person. I have a lot of commitments connected with the non-profit work I do, with the adult education I’m pursuing, and to my extended family, but I don’t have a jobby-job. I’ve found that I actually have to be more intentional now than I did when my paid work was organizing my time for me. I’m also the kind of person who will chase after any shiny object that wanders into my line of sight (Squirrel!), and who is prone to the sort of doomscrolling that’s deleterious to both mental and physcial health. My daily note is my tool for intention. It’s also mostly a tool for the day, and isn’t intended to be something I refer back to.

I open a new Daily Note in Obsidian shortly after I get up in the morning. It’s the first thing I do at my computer each day.

First, I list all of the appointments that are on my calendar for that day in a section labeled “Apppointments.” If I’ve teed up a museum visit or a performance from my syllabus it goes here along with the zoom calls and the dentists’ appointments. (When I was a child I didn’t need to commit to joy; sadly, as an adult, I do.) Fitness activities I’ve planned go here too.

Then I list the tasks, chores, and errands I plan to get done over the course of the day in a section I’ve labeled “Punch List.” These include items I’ve pulled from OmniFocus as well as the little tasks of daily living. (This is a checkbox list.)

The third section, labeled “Syllabus,” is where I then list the items I’ve pulled from my syllabus that I plan to work with that day. (It’s also a checkbox list.) I used to put these items in the Punch List, but I’ve decided “thinky” tasks need a separate section. I always try to include something done for love (photography or the performing arts), something done out of duty (e.g., researching any updated GAAP standards for non-profit accounting), and something done to keep up with current events. An aside: I’ve had mixed success managing “thinky” work in OmniFocus. It’s good for thinking and research I’m doing on a deadline in connection with a specific project, but fatal to serendipity, too.

A note re: the “Appointments,” “Punch List,” and “Syllabus” sections: I make it a point to update them throughout the course of the day with things I actually ended up doing that weren’t originally on the list. I put a little “plan forward” arrow next to something I put on the list that didn’t get done and needs to be put in another day’s Punch List.

The fourth section is where I list the books I’m currently reading, with a note about what I might have started or finished reading reading that day. I include a link to the “Cardfile” markdown note I made for each book. (That Cardfile note will itself have links to other things, like reviews, author interviews, bibiliographies, etc.)

The fifth section is where I list any exhibits I visited, performances I saw, videos I watched, podcasts I listened to, articles I read, etc. with links to any notes I might have made in connection with them. This section exists for one reason only: it’s kind of like a food diary that a dieter might keep—i.e., a way to catch myself consuming empty content calories.

The sixth section is where I put the citations I created for items I put in my Read-It-Later app. I’ve made this a checkbox list as a way of committing to processing my RIL queue.

The seventh section is my place for ubiquitous capture. Here’s where I’ll make a quick note about a book someone mentioned, or an idea that suddenly struck me, or commitment I made during a phone call, or whatever. I set some time aside at the end of the day to decide if any of these items need to become something else, e.g., a calendar entry, a task, an entry in the syllabus, a permanent note, a part of a project plan, etc.

In short, it’s a tool for intention.


An excellent write up – thank you. I’m going to reread it now.

Regarding retirement: having a job provides an external structure to life, and when that structure is removed person needs to build it for themselves.

Do you do a review of each day’s daily note when it’s done, and move content from that note to other places?

Yes. Typically, those items will be in the capture section, which is more or less an inbox.

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I believe I posted about in the other threads. I think my daily note would be superficial for most people. I just write down what I need to do and what ever happened that day. What I did, where I went, anything abnormal. Linking to more thorough notes when necessary. I have a template in Obsidian I use for it.

It’s mainly because I often wonder/need to know when I last did something, or how I did something the last time. For instance, I wanted to know what the antibiotic I was on last Spring. I found it in my daily note. Just little stuff usually, but it’s the hub for my day.

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You may want to consider having something more structured to track medical stuff. I bring a printed medical history when I have a doctor visit. This is especially useful when you go to a new doctor. I keep my medical history in a Numbers document but you could use anything you wanted for this. Just a thought. :grinning:

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