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If you want an uncomplicated note-taking app, Simplenote is not the only noteworthy (excuse the pun) option available to you.
Keeping your ideas and projects organized would be tough if you didn’t have a sturdy note-taking app to turn to. While biggies like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote are among the most popular tools for taking notes, their complex feature set may not be to everyone’s liking.
If you have been looking for a simpler note-taking app yourself, chances are that you have come across many recommendations for the multi-platform app Simplenote. That app definitely does its job well, but before you sign up for it, do explore a few other interesting options like the three listed below.
The following apps have quite a few things in common. For starters, all of them are open source. A couple of them support Markdown, the smart way to write digitally. You don’t have to go through a sign up process to use any of them. Best of all, thanks to their local/remote storage options, you stay in control of your data. You can also choose to sync to third-party services like Dropbox. Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these note-taking tools.
1. Litewrite [Web, Chrome]
This open source app is minimal as they come. It was partially inspired by iA Writer, a popular text editor for Mac and iOS. When you open the Litewrite website, you’ll be greeted by a default introductory note. Click on the tiny plus (+) icon at the top left and you can start taking notes right away.
All your notes appear as a list tucked away in a discrete sidebar. When you scale down the browser window, the app hides the sidebar options within a clickable list icon. Also, there a handful of shortcuts to create and switch between notes.
Your notes are backed up to your browser and are accessible offline. If you’re brave and geeky enough to deal with terms like open remoteStorage standard, go ahead and click on the widget at the top right. Through this widget, you can sync your notes to various devices using your own storage provider. If you’re a Chrome user, install Litewrite’s Chrome app for easy access.
2. Laverna [Web]
Markdown-based Laverna has a slightly more advanced setup than Litewrite and Springseed (listed below). But that hasn’t made its UI too complex or difficult to navigate. If you have used Evernote, you’ll find Laverna’s approach similar.
With the app’s user-friendly UI to guide you, you should have no trouble creating notebooks and notes. The main screen of the app provides a list of all your notes in a sidebar on the left. When you select a note, its contents appear in the display area on the right, as shown below. In the Normal mode, you can edit the note right from this screen. Access your notebooks, app settings, starred items, and the trash can via the dropdown at the top left.
The image below shows a preview of the note editing process in the Preview mode. Fullscreen is the third mode that you can switch to. With Laverna, it’s possible to insert tags and tasks in your notes. For tags, prefix the tag label with @. For tasks, prefix the item with [ ] or [x] to mark it as incomplete or complete, respectively.
The Settings section comes with options to add remote storage or link to Dropbox, enable/disable encryption, import/export settings, switch between modes, etc. You can navigate the UI using keyboard shortcuts, which are also listed in the settings.
Laverna is still in beta, so you might come across the odd feature that doesn’t work or doesn’t work as you’d expect it to. For example, I found that I could star a note only from within its content section and not from its sidebar listing.
3. Springseed [Linux]
Springseed’s UI is pleasing and easy to find your way around. Your notebooks are listed in the first column on the left, notes occupy the second column, and the note contents are displayed in the last one. Creating, editing, and deleting notes is straightforward, and is guided by helpful universal icons that we’re all accustomed to. Springseed comes with Markdown support.
Notes are stored locally, and there’s not much in the way of app settings. Syncing your notes with your Dropbox account is the only additional tweak that’s possible in Springseed. The only-what-you-need approach is a great way to make note-taking quick and efficient, and Springseed seems to have adopted it effortlessly.
Note-taking at Its Effective Best
Note-taking apps like Evernote are great. But if you need only the most basic features to work with, all the bells and whistles of feature-rich apps can be distracting. In that case, it’s best to opt for unobtrusive apps like Simplenote or its offline alternatives listed here.
Which note-taking app do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comments.