Monthly Archives: January 2020

Standard notes – simple, yet effective note taking app

He listens well who takes notes.

Dante Alighieri

My favorite note taking app is OneNote. Besides rich features for content organization, amazing search (it searches through text on pictures as well), tag support, it is free and cross-platform. For Windows you can get it directly from Windows Store. For Mac, Android, IPhone there is an official way to get it – described here. But, no Linux support. Sure, you can use it via browser, but I am kinda sucker for native apps (offline support, …).

OneNote

On Linux we already have 2 native apps – Microsoft Teams / Microsoft SQL Server. You can even run MS SQL as a container. Very useful, especially for development scenarios. I will do a blog post on how to do that in the near future.

Maybe (in the future) we will get OneNote for Linux as native app as well. Time will tell 🐱‍👤

Built-in note taking apps

If you search through your favorite package manager, you will find a lot of different apps for taking notes. Very popular one (based on reviews) is Libre Office. Having powerful writing software to do simple notes feels a little bit too heavy. Even though start time is only few seconds, this app was not designed for simple note taking. It can do much much more. Nevertheless, it is a word processor. Don’t get me wrong, you can use it for note taking, though. For me, it was too much bloated. I decided to try out a few more to find the best match for my needs (sync across devices, cross-platform gui, speed, search, …. – more detailed requirement list below).

Package manager with apps for taking notes

Different distros have a good enough note taking built-in apps. Even terminal has some tools for you to edit inside the terminal (or you can add new ones as well) – I mostly use nano 👌 or the simple trick with cat > filename.filextension whatever from input streams.

Those apps are really simple – you can write text, bold it, search through it. They bring different challenges to the game – lack of sync between devices, search only through one document – no multiple documents support, no built-in encryption for notes, recover options, etc.

TextEditor in Linux Mint

At least, it should work on all of my machines/devices equally.

Works on all machines/devices

To answer the question why, I have a few requirements:

  • To be able to use the same tools/user interface on whatever platform I am on. It should sync between machines with low latency.
  • Notes should be encrypted and access secure.
  • Fast (and meaningful) search
  • Option to use tags to organize my notes

After a while of exploring different apps, I stumble upon Standard Notes via Twitter. After going through description on their website (and the fact, they have simple way to install the application, either via AppImage or snap package 👌), I decided to try it out.

Installation

You can follow instructions on their website to install AppImage, but I wanted to try out the snap package ( https://snapcraft.io/standard-notes ).

Installation via snap is easy. Some people don’t like it for different reasons. If you never worked with snap and you are coming from Windows, imagine it as chocholatey for Windows. It installs all the neccessary dependencies and you can easily refresh the package with latest version via terminal (whenever you want) with sudo snap refresh.

Let’s install the package from snap with the following command:

sudo snap install standard-notes

If you don’t have snap installed, you will see following error in your terminal.

Snap is not installed

To fix that, you’ll need to install snapd deamon. Instructions are easy to follow. For Linux Mint, you need to install snap package via apt manager.

sudo apt install snapd

After the installation is finished, use above command to install standard notes. It will install all the prerequisites and the app itself.

Snap installation

Now you are ready to run and use the application on your system.

Snap list

If you want to run the app, just write name of the application in the terminal.

standard-notes

If you don’t have snap in your path, you will get an error:

Not in path

You can add it to your path easily with export command (just keep in mind, you’ll need to update .bashrc file).

export PATH=$PATH:/dir
add path

You can now run app simply entering standard-notes.

Standard notes user interface

First impressions

Based on the information from standard notes web page, you get for free:

  • End to end private encryption
  • Sync all your devices
  • Unlimited notes
  • Web and offline notes options
  • Unlimited devices
  • The ability to pin, lock, protect, and move notes to trash, which allows you to recover deleted notes until the trash is emptied
  • Passcode lock protection

Let’s try some of those features out.

Search

Search is impressive and fast. It starts searching as you type and with almost no lag. It also search on the dialog and colors results different (tag, text,…).

Search

Note options

With number of notes growing, having an option to “define” additional actions on “frequent” notes, can increase productivity.

In Standard Notes you have an ability to define the note more specifically. You can pin the note to have it accessible all the time, put it away (archive), protect it, or (with extensions) to add additional functionality like editor, tasks, etc.

Note options

When you need to store your credentials or some personal information to have it accessible on all machine, protect does his job quite well. It encrypts the message and you need to unlock it with your password.

Protect option

Conclusion

The app is fast and easy to use. Search is impressive, tag usage very useful and sync works great. I am using it on my IPhone, Linux and Windows machine. Whatever I use at the moment, it sync automatically to other devices with no challenges what so ever.

It does the job of taking notes an easy task, which is what I wanted to have. I tested out the extensions as well and it is quite impressive, what you get additionally for few bucks per month. Try out the extensions on this webpage before you decide to pay subscription.

I will for sure add it to my toolbox going forward.