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Notetaking Tools

I'm always looking for a cross platform good value note taking solution. I work with the Apple ecosystem with a fallback Linux laptop.

Current Contender - iA Writer

September 2020: I currently use Apple Notes with Workflowy, but switching to iA Writer.

iA Writer: Always thought this was a creative writing tool but it also shines as a markdown based notetaker. The default storage location is iCloud but it's easily changed to any location. Notes are just plain text but you can drag images into it which are then inserted using markdown. It allows you to tag and search is instant. Ideally it will have a Linux version in the future.


I have the following requirements:

  • Strong Privacy.
  • Minimal effect required to input, grouping and search notes.
  • Cross platform native client (macOS and iOS, Linux and web optional)
  • Supports images (copy paste and by upload).
  • Capture webpages or supports pasting in part of webpages, that can be updated (not just a study tool)
  • Export option that retains text formatting.
  • Linking between notes (optional)
  • Fast full-text search.
  • Some form of organisation / tagging.

So far I have used and dismissed:

  1. Apple Notes: export options are shit (tip: use AppleScript) no Linux client. However due to the number of people using it there are ways. Code has no syntax highlighting. Linking between notes isn't possible. I'm now happy to use my phone to look up notes when using Linux. Input and search is ideal, grouping is ok (subfolders, manual tagging)
  2. OneNote: No cross platform native clients, don't like the free form placement on mobile.
  3. Zim: sorry it just doesn't look nice!
  4. Google Docs: I avoid the Google ecosystem for privacy reasons, plus compared to Dropbox Paper the experience is worse.
  5. Anything based on and markdown files: My notes require illustrations and these tools cannot add inline images / paste a - screenshot into the editor.
  6. EverNote: no official linux client, £5 a month
  7. Dropbox Paper: lack of import options and export is single pdfs only. There's an API that I haven't explored. Love the look of the notes, and input is great. Not sure about its future. Exporting made all the images available online without login!
  8. Workflowy: still use it as an outliner (for rationalising thoughts), it doesn't support inline images but with some help images can be attached to the description.
  9. Google Keep: See Google Docs.
  10. Joplin: don't like the preview pane being split from the input. Too much effort required to enter/search notes, due the interface not being native and off in multiple ways.
  11. Day One: Grandfathered into syncing on mobile, but on desktop a subscription is required, so the sync doesn't do anything. Feel locked in unless I pay. Good for date based notes, such as journals.
  12. Notion: Initial impressions looked good. So flexible it's hard to know how to use. Custom queries means powerful but also harder to support specific use cases. Input not as easy as Dropbox Paper.

To Checkout

  1. Turtl: