Too many writing/notes apps?

Hi everyone :blush:

I have been meaning to post about this for a while and have touched on it in other posts.

I use a lot of so-called writing/note apps on Mac and iPhone (I don’t own an iPad). Here is the list of the apps I use and for what I use them for:

Microsoft Word (Mostly MacOS): For work documents and for sharing in collaboration with others. I very rarely actually type in Word. But I use it to send out documents that others need to do someting with. If they just need to read it, I usually send a PDF document (MacOS and iOS): I use the stock Notes app on Mac and iOS to simply store notes, lists etc. I have two folders: a personal and a work folder. So anything I actually type that I need to save for later goes into the

Ulysses (MacOS and iOS): Ulysses on Mac and iOS is for writing longer documents like papers for school, articles, blog posts, personal documents and just anything that’s longer for which I need a nice environment.

Drafts (iOS): I use Drafts on my iPhone to capture text. I also use it to compile for longer documents that I’m working on and will later send to Ulysses. So it’s like an outlining app for me and a way to just quickly capture text that I either delete immediately after, copy to the clipboard or send to another app like my shopping list in Reminders to Day One.

Evernote (MacOS and iOS): Evernote is my filing cabinet. I keep all documents in there that I might need later. So all receipts on bigger purchases goes in there. Health documents, pay checks etc. It’s just a massive filing cabinet. I never actually type in Evernote or use it to do anything else. If I need to store a note that I have typed myself then I keep it in the

Day One (MacOS and iOS): I use Day One as my diary. I go in there to write personal stuff about my life and how my day went etc.

So these are all the writing/notes apps that I use. I think that it is a lot. I also pay for Ulysses and Evernote. Not a significant amount. But still.

With Drafts coming to the Mac soon, I’m considering if I can do everything a bit better and maybe cut down on an app or two. I just don’t see how it is possible.

I don’t have the intention of adding a subscription of Drafts to the list of fees. For what I use it for, as quick capture, it doesn’t need to be on my Mac. Although it would be nice.

But I’m thinking that maybe Drafts can replace Ulysses and for me, considering the way I use those two apps. Then Drafts would become my primary app for writing and note-taking.

This is something that I’m considering. I would lose the ability to share notes, which I think works well in the and the ability to add images and create tables.

But I don’t know yet. Any thoughts out there on how I can improve this?

Thanks :blush:


Why try to replace Notes, since it’s free and ubiquitous?

I use Ulysses as a note taking repository for research material and it would be practically impossible for me to replace it with Drafts. Ulysses’ organisational model of groups with manual sorting when needed plus filters, and the speed of search and retrieval on all devices (with 900,000+ words) are unmatched IMHO.


I’m in a somewhat similar situation to you. My text entry apps include:

Bear (Mac and iOS) – My most common writing environment. Bear handles my typewritten notes and short-form writing (standard blog posts, forum posts, short reports, etc.).

Ulysses (Mac and iOS) – Long form writing, like longer blog posts, fiction, etc.

Drafts (iOS) – Basically a quick-entry tool for OmniFocus on iOS. I occasionally use it to send myself an email, but OmniFocus is by far the most common destination for things that I enter in Drafts. I’m actually still on version 4, since it does what I need.

Apple Notes (iOS and Mac) – For a long time my only use for Apple Notes was as a packing list app (using the checkbox feature). Since I got the new iPad Pro I’ve been trying out handwritten notes using the Apple Pencil. I also intend to try out Goodnotes, Notabilty, and Nebo before deciding which one of them I want to make my main handwritten notes app (or just go back to paper and pen).

Microsoft Word (mostly Mac, occasionally iOS) – This isn’t really a text entry app for me. It’s a formatting app, where I turn text that I’ve generated into a format suitable for printing or sharing with folks at work who are firmly in the Microsoft Office ecosystem. It’s also a review and editing app, using track changes and comments to mark up documents that other people have sent me or reviewing my documents that other people have marked up. I very rarely create a document in Word. The text almost always originates somewhere else (usually Bear, occasionally Ulysses) and I either export it as a Word document or paste it into an existing document.

As you may gather from this array of apps, I don’t think that having multiple writing apps is necesarily a problem. I think the key is for each app to have a clear role so you’re not left wondering “where should I write this?”


@ChrisUpchurch Thanks. Very similar to mine actually but with less apps. I guess my issue here is that I’m not really utilizing Drafts completely and I think it could actually replace some of the other apps. I think Drafts easily could be long-form writing environment and my scratchpad at the same time and then I could do away with Ulysses. But I see your point there @dfay. I will have to try out Drafts for the Mac when it comes out and see what’s it like.

@dfay I don’t really want to make away with Apple Notes. I just think that time goes by we want see it change that much. So eventually it will feel old and outdated sooner than 3rd party apps. But I like Apple Notes and I generally like to stick with the stock Apple apps if they fulfill my need and look the part (few of them do IMHO).

I’d add that Notes is almost exclusively for personal use for me, in part bc of the ease of sharing with family members who are also on iOS devices. If I’m doing something work-related, it’ll start in my Ulysses inbox and / or a Dropbox folder. If I’m planning a weekend trip, it’ll all go in Notes. I like keeping these domains separate, and putting it all in one app or system would just create a need to separate it internally.

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Ok, Word is mostly work stuff, it cannot be replaced in this position, on the other side, nobody is using it with pleasure. So I would not count it.

DayOne is also a very specific app - I would not count it as a writing app.

I am not a big fan of Ulysses - don’t see such a big difference to, let’s say, Bear and I honestly think it offers not enough for it’s money. Scrivener is a better, cheaper and more feature-full choice for complex documents and research projects.

Bear - a beautiful app, but I’ve canceled my subscription. I tried to use it as a general knowledge storage, but found the search being poor and markdown too limited. Replaced it with DEVONthink and never looked back.

For simple short notes I use Typora, which is (still) free.

Notes… well, it is a difficult one. Theoretically it should be a first option - costs nothing, can do a lot, is well integrated into the system. But something about the workflow with notes just feels clumsy and slow. It barely has shortcuts, too. However, the apple script hooks are good. I guess, you could extend it a lot. And sharing works well.

Drafts - I use it, I pay for it. But I see it mostly as a JS engine which happened to have a text editor. In most cases, if I get text in Drafts, I want to get it out in another app. As a notes app it is very minimalistic. No support for headers or formatting, no attachments. The mac (beta) version does not have a JS engine as of now, so I see it only as a minor addition.

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the question for me really at this point is, can Drafts for Mac and iOS replace Ulysses for Mac and iOS and thus be used both as a long-form writing tool and a scratchpad. It all depends on how the writing environment is on Drafts for Mac.

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It heavily depends on how you use Ulysses, but in general I would say “no”. Drafts is a very minimalistic writing app. Of course you can write everything everywhere (people have written huge and complex books without computers at all) but it is not the point. There are people who do it but honestly, I can’t see any advantage. Maybe GTD is a good example - you can do it on a piece of paper, you can do it in a text file but I prefer OmniFocus. Some people enjoy twitching and other just want to do their tasks asap.


Really good point. I haven’t really dug into Ulysses that much yet. I have put all their courses on how to use the app and other material for Ulysses in OmniFocus and I will get around to look at it at some point. I really like the folder structure in Ulysses and it mirrors my personal and work life. I don’t think Drafts does that. I will at some point be working on hundreds of documents and I think Ulysses is the best writing environment for such a project. But I will try out Drafts for Mac when it is fully baked. It is also about the appearance for me.
I use solariazed themes for all apps that have it or can use it, but Drafts5 for iOS has removed the ability to activate the solariazed theme without a subscription… which really bugs me. It makes for such a nicer writing and reading experience. We will see how it all works out when Drafts for Mac is finished

Drafts is more about actions, automation and starting something with short texts. If you look for a good notes app and a descent writing environment I would recommend to take a closer look at Bear.


I looked closely at Bear for a writing app. But I decided on Ulysses instead, so much nicer. Bear is clearly more of a replacement.

Is Drafts for Mac also about actions? That’s not initial expectations

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Not right now, since it is still in beta - but it is expected to add the JS engine afterwards.

The initial release of Drafts for Mac is focused on capture, editing and sync. It will not support actions initially. We do plan full action support for the app in the future – but many can benefit from the ability to create, edit and access all their drafts on both platforms in the meantime while we work to complete the somewhat more complex implementation of cross-platform action support.

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Hard one I also struggle with as well.

Word/Pages (macOS) - only used when someone sends me a document in this format, or if I am writing up an essay, or something in academic nature.

Evernote (macOS and iOS) (discontinued) - this was my digital filing cabinet, I have switched to DTPO. I used to type in Evernote for any speaking engagements.

DevonThinkPro (macOS and iOS) - It’s not as convenient to type in here, so I usually type in here after I have gathered resources. But it’s becoming less frequent, just a research and storage location

Day One (macOS and iOS) - The only writing in here is strictly journaling. Personal items, diary format, etc

Drafts (macOS and iOS) - on iOS, all thoughts start in Drafts before being sent anywhere. I recently just subscribed for the sole purpose of testing out Drafts (Beta) on the mac to see if this is something I can get used to. It’s still a work in progress because I don’t see a way to open an individual draft so it takes up my whole window, or to compare 2 drafts together side by side.

Byword (macOS and iOS) - Before I had Drafts on Mac, I would send all my iOS Drafts to Byword to finish up writing my thoughts.

Apple Notes (macOS and iOS) - I don’t like using it. The only reason I do use is for a specific group project. The other members voted to use it, so I am stuck using it with this particular team until I can convince them to re-vote.

Scrivener (macOS) - It was on a sale, I picked it up. I was overly ambitious in my writing and thought I would do amazing things with it. It’s been a year, I think I opened it 2x.

As @ChrisUpchurch mentioned, I think once you know the role that each app will do, it becomes easier. This was and sometimes continues to be a struggle for me. I have tried reducing the number of apps to minimize the struggle.

Example of a struggle - You start writing something small say a short blog post, but then the topic gets more passionate as you write, so it turns into a longer blog post, but then this topic can now help out for a lecture.
Option 1 - Just finish writing in whatever you started in until completion and save to DTPO.
Option 2 - Copy/paste/exporting to the “next level” of writing app per the levels you set (so a paragraph Draft would then get sent to Byword, and then sent to where ever as you increase in writing)
Option 3 - Insert a special character at each section, so you know where to file it afterwards. (Ex. 1 paragraph mark gets saved as ShortPost. 1 Page mark gets saved as LongPost)

I ended up just going with Option 1 and sometimes struggle should I keep my docs saved under Byword or in DTPO.


I find myself right now for a research paper using Scrievener. I find Ulysses to be great though not as easy to break larger projects into smaller pieces.

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I don’t have many

LibreOffice for all Word processing type stuff and letters on letterhead, Also spreadsheets and presentations

Scrivener for long form writing and also short form for things that I have a schedule for like the editorial calendar for blog posts

DEVONThink for all shorter form notes.

Paper and Pen
A Moleskine notebook that is my log of books I’ve read with my notes on them
A Moleskin notebook with my irregularly updated journal
A moleskin blank notebooks I use for drawings also very irregularly
A pad and pen in my wallet is what I use for all small form notes that will end up in DEVONThink or in Omnifocus as projects.

Never saw any real need to taking much in the way of small notes on the phone or iPad. I prefer paper for quick note capture.

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Too many.

Pages - love it, wrote my dissertation in it, sadly don’t use it very much because work in my field is overwhelmingly shared in Word or Google Docs

Word - use daily. Do not love. Write most of my research in it anyway.

Google Docs - do not love. Use when required to by collaborative projects.

Scrivener - used to use often, but have moved away from it, not quite sure why except that everything always has to end up in Word.

Evernote - use a lot, for notes on my Macs.

Apple Notes - use for notes on my phone (why rather than Evernote, not sure except it feels like it opens faster). But I don’t take a lot of notes on my phone.

TextWrangler - Use mostly for stripping out strange stuck formatting from Word. However, sometimes when I can’t write anywhere else, the very simple format of TW gets me writing. No idea why.

Bear - still have it, don’t use it.

Orange Leuchturm 1917 - use daily for my everything bullet journal.

Teal Leuchturm 1917 - use daily as my research notebook

I’m a fountain pen writer and the two Leuchturm notebooks are my favorites because my inks never bleed through. They (both notebooks and pens) bring me nothing but joy.

My partner has tried to convince me to try Ulysses, which he loves, but I can’t bring myself to add yet another bit of writing software.

Reading this over, I think it’s ridiculous that I’m using all these different writing platforms. Clearly I need to simplify.


Thanks, resembles a lot of my use cases, although I have a little less apps

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Since the keyboard is the primary input device on a Mac, I do not think of any of the mentioned apps as writing apps. I am going to be typing or editing text in ALL the applications I run. Each of the apps is geared either toward a different kind of end product or a different workflow.

Use what works best for you. I think the only way you can have too many apps is if you need to save money or drive space.

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I agree in part, but I do think there’s a reason to simplify as much as possible, and that’s thinking to using documents 10+ years in the future. It’s likely I’m going to need parts of research I’m writing now in 10+ years time. This means I need to be sure I can into these various formats in a technologically distant future. I mention this because I have a box of useless old disks in MacWrite, Clarisworks, and the earlier version of Pages. I did get everything out of early Pages a few years back and turned it into PDFs, but if I, for some bizarre reason, needed an undergraduate paper off a MacWrite disk, it’d be a lot of work to get it.

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I am either happy or really embarrassed to report that I have all my undergraduate papers (in WordPerfect 4.1, 4.2 and 5.1) on my Mac, and a Win98 VM to open them natively if needed. (In reality I never touch them, but I was still using WP when I did my PhD research in 1998, and that stuff I do still need…).

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