Why Bear instead of Apple Notes?

I’m curious about the choice that many are making to use Bear (or Drafts) instead of Apple Notes for quick notes and short bits of information, etc., that are not intended for long-term storage or writing. Apple Notes is free and deeply integrated into the OS. Again, my curiousity is limited to the use of Bear or Drafts for temporary storage of short bits of information, ideas, etc. Is there a “productivity” ROI for using Bear rather than Apple Notes for this purpose?

I use Bear a lot and my personal reasons are markdown, which makes it prett transferable to something like iA writer. It has a lot of export options straight from the editor.

More importantly I love the tagging organization. When I visit someone in the hospital I can tag it as people/name as well as hospital/surgery or hospital/sick.

It also uses text expander which is nice and holds code really well.


I have to agree, my favourite features are

  • Writing in Markdown, with Attachment support (unlike plain text files)
  • Exporting Markdown to a number of formats
  • Tagging
  • Copying URL links to Apps
  • Opening a window and leaving it floating on top
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I can’t tell you about Drafts, but by using Bear for quick notes you get:

  • Dark mode/themes (so you don’t wake up your partner if you just had a great idea; they even include a true black theme for the iPhoneX)
  • Quick tagging (do a #tag anywhere in the file and you’re done; it’ll even suggest existing tags as you type)
  • The ability to import stuff from other apps right through Share
  • Markdown (if you’re into that; it also adds a nice MarkDown shortcuts bar on top of your keyboard if you can’t remember the full .md syntax at 3AM)

I use Bear for the same reasons mentioned above: Markdown support, themes, and tagging. I also use it for long-form writing, not just short snippets. It lacks features such as focus mode and rearranging paragraphs, but I don’t mind because I like the editor a lot.

I use Ulysses for notes and more. Subscribe to Drafts and Bear but see no reason to use them instead of Ulysses. (Exception: Drafts on Apple Watch is a must).

The reason I’m not using Apple Notes is because it doesn’t store its notes in a folder and/or as plain text files (afaik). I need my notes to be in a folder so they can sync through WebDAV to my Android phone.
After using NVAlt for a long time I switched to Notebooks. Although a nice app it just didn’t click with me. Now I’m using FSNotes, yet another NVAlt clone.

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For long-form writing I use Ulysses, short notes that need to go somewhere (omnifocus/mail/devonthink) go in Drafts, everything else I put in apple notes.

Tim, I think that is where I’m landing. I have Ulysses and of course Apple Notes so I’m not sure I can justify Bear. I also have Drafts. I was curious more than anything because so many in the forum seem to subscribe to Bear even though they also have Drafts and Ulysses and Apple Notes, though at this time there is no Drafts app for Mac. I thought I must be missing something. :slight_smile:

Regarding drafts, it seems Bear play better in terms of callback URLs and what not. It also works well with workflow. I think if Bear went away I would switch to Apple notes because of the Apple Pencil support, which I envy. I use notability now for intentional handwritten notes, but sometimes it would be nice to be typing and quickly switch to pencil (possible in Bear), but then have it searchable (not possible in bear). Or to have a great scanner built into one app.

I don’t believe you’re missing anything. It’s a larger topic that may need exploring someday (and I risk threadjacking here for which I apologize), but I think that sometimes in our enthusiasm to give all the toys a try, we sacrifice simplicity, productivity and even a little sanity. Certainly, I can tell you that I’ve lost hours and hours of my life to trying things because x number of people did, or it’s the new hotness, or whatever, only to find that at the end of the day in a case Ike this, I’ve got notes all over the place and I can’t find anything easily.

When I was a kid, I remember I used to have these hand-held “computer” things that I knew how to use inside and out and I got a lot out of them. Now we have multiple hand-held cloud-connected devices that I only use a fraction of their capability, whose chameleon-like talents allow them to morph so fast you never get to actually really know anything anymore.

Anyway, FWIW, I have tried all kinds of note taking solutions. I’m settling more and more on Apple Notes, as its deep integration lets me find what I need easy and fast, and it’s everywhere on all devices and the cherry on top is that there’s no additional cost to use it. More and more, I find that Apple’s native offerings are usually up to the task and what they may lack in features, they make up for in simply giving me back my time.


In addition to many of the factors that others have mentioned (markdown, tagging, automation), I also think Bear has the edge over Notes when it comes to exporting in other formats. I work in an office of PC users that runs on Word documents. I often write something in Bear and export it to a shared Dropbox folder as a Word doc.

Having switched my note system from Bear to Ulysses, I think you’ll find the latter’s organizational features superior and necessary in the long run. (900k words and counting, blazing fast in all devices).

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I have switched from Notes to Bear because of Markdown, easy tagging (especially between notes, like a wiki!) and for me the price is right - $15/year sub for Pro level gives you all the apps, iPhone, iPad and Mac.

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I don’t have a clear preference yet.

I have downloaded but not yet checked out Bear. I opted for a year of Setapp based on a StackSocial (or similar) sale which included a subscription to Ulysses so I’m currently checking that out. If Markdown is the big reason (for me) to prefer Bear or Ulysses over Apple Notes, I’d currently stick with Ulysses since it’s included with Setapp.

I do have Drafts 5 on my devices but have not yet upgraded to the Pro subscription. A macOS version may tip the balance on that especially if I can get into setting up more actions that just filing in OmniFocus or mailing to myself. It is essential on the Apple Watch and I do like the quick entry on the phone so it’s hard to not use Drafts.

I also have some notes in Apple Notes but have not done extensive testing and don’t currently have a clear reason why text would go in Notes vs Ulysses at this time. I need to decide and just go with one then ignore the reviews of the next shiny note taking app when it comes out. :slight_smile:

Yes mostly agreed with your thoughts. I’ve simplified and am generally sticking with Apple’s stock apps if they get the work done.

That said a good bit of my work involves text so I do tend to tinker a little bit in that area. I have finally found a few uses for Drafts and it might prove to be important enough to keep the app around.

As has often been said the app is meant to be a starting point for text that gets sent elsewhere. When I finally started using it that way it became a little more useful. Now it’s in my dock and I tend to open it up split screen for forum posts such as this. It’s more comfortable to compose here then transfer to the browser when ready.

Also, I’ve found it a very nice blogging tool and general writing environment. And it’s proving nice as a way to start a group text or group email. Using actions I can send it along using a predetermined list (helpful for a little email list I have for local contacts that I don’t want to mix into my Contacts). And I often have a need to send an Apple Message to a varied and changing group. An action lets me quickly tick checkboxes from a pre-made list of friends and family. It’s faster than creating a new message and using autocomplete. Added bonus, I don’t forget anyone because the names are there in a list in front of me.

So, for the moment, it’s in my dock and I suspect it will stay. I do get a lot of use out of Apple Notes, especially if I have any intention of adding an attachment or table. Again, in those cases it might start in Drafts but get moved over to Notes.

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At risk of definitely repeating what others said, my reasons for using Bear over Apple Notes are:

– Themes (especially dark theme for night use);
– Tagging system works better for the way my brain organizes and for information retrieval;
– Markdown and great export support, which gives me peace of mind for the portability of all my writing, even little notes.

Those are the major ones, but there are several little things I like as well, like saving titled links, prepending and appending to notes, and so on. I also think there’s a little something to be said for supporting great developers.

There are two reasons why I use Bear Notes over Apple Notes.

Apple Notes has a maximum attachments for each note. I write long notes with many images and Apple Notes could not take it.

And Bear Notes allows for easy export of notes. I like to back up my journals and Bear Notes has an export to HTML which I know will be a format that is used for ages. To top it off the export to HMTL is the best I’ve seen. Evernote has the same export to HTML but has no formatting and looks awful if you try to recover it where bear keeps everything intact.

I use Evernote for storing records and notes I want to keep long term and Apple Notes for quick notes and short bits of information as you so succinctly put it.

I installed Bear when it was released as a lot of people seemed to like it a lot but never quite found much use for it. It was only recently that I discovered how great it is to compose forum posts given its Markdown support. I use it quite bit now, but solely for this purpose. As such I don’t have Bear installed on my iPhone or iPad and don’t need the additional perks that come with the Pro subscription.