I’m Still Looking for a Note-Taking App

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

The peril of choice is paralysis. The more options in front of you, the more factors you have to weigh.

(That might be too deep for a Thursday morning.)

Enter stage left: note-taking apps.

I’m developing a love-hate relationship with note-taking apps. There’s no shortage of amazing note-taking apps. Each have their own unique twist. Agenda made date-driven notes popular. Craft has moulded documents with Notion’s block-based structure. Roam Research revolutionized the backlink.

They all rock. Every note-taking app is simply the best.

Until they’re not. Until you look around when something doesn’t immediately click with a minimal amount of friction.

Perhaps that’s only me.

Lo and behold, I’m on the hunt for another note-taking app. Really, I’m on the hunt for a hoarding app — an app capable of saving, categorizing, resurfacing, connecting, and storing random internet junk I find interesting. The ability to create actual, you know, notes is mostly secondary. Though required.

I’ve tried so many at this point.

For the longest time, Bear was my note-taking app of choice. It so easily captures screenshots. It has the best tagging system on the planet (Apple stole the feature in the latest version of Notes in iOS 15). But the app hasn’t meaningfully changed in years.

Then it was Roam Research. The power of backlinking, in the palm of my hand! Roam’s power is/was unprecedented and I’m not sure I’ve yet found a larger “Oh my gosh!” reaction to any new note-taking app since. Alas, a combination of cost and tiredness had me looking elsewhere. Also, it may have been lucky timing.

Then it was NotePlan, a lightweight, Markdown-based app that seamlessly handles bullet journaling. I moulded my daily work tracking into NotePlan at the same time. Back then though, NotePlan didn’t handle attachments very well — read as “not at all” — and I was back on the trail.

Most recently, it’s been Craft. Craft is the closest I’ve come to sheer glee working on a Mac. Only Things 3 looks better. Only Notion stores better. Only Ulysses writes better. Only Roam connects better.

You get the drift.

Craft’s daily notes are a fantastic feature and have worked very well tracking my work over the last few months. Storing research, preparing procedure and workflow documents, and clipping webpages inside Craft has all been a breeze. There’s really very little left wanting.

But recently, I’ve come to feel a little inferior for Craft. It’s clear the app is designed for creating documents. Notes, while possible, are less clear. What’s the proper structure for capturing a one sentence tidbit? Should it be part of a different document? A page? A card? A document unto itself?

I tried writing in Craft for a little while, too. I’m back to Ulysses now. The ability to publish to this blog directly from Ulysses may be one of my favourite features of any third-party app.

So I’m back on the hunt. Again. Like always, it seems.

My current focus is on Notion. I’ve worked inside The Sweet Setup’s Notion now for a little while and have come away impressed with how mouldable the app can be. I’ve adopted a bunch of the workflows and ideas in a Notion I’m creating for our accounting office. And each step of the way, I come away more impressed with Notion’s power.

That said, I’m mostly lost in how I want to organize my own personal notes. I’ve collected under 1,000 notes over the last few years. Mostly screenshots, quips, tweets, URLs, articles — the usual. They’re all tagged five-ways-to-Sunday as they’ve made their way through four or more note-taking apps. Trying to organize them in databases in Notion has been tricky.

Another quick point or two: Notion has become increasingly integrative across a range of other apps and services. I have been reading a lot inside Matter and you can sync your Matter highlights directly to Notion. You can automate a variety of tasks in Notion. You can clip articles from anywhere on the web with Notion’s iOS web clipper.

We’ll see if Notion sticks. I’m pretty impressed. But I’m not in love with the design.

I’m not sure if that’s the dynamic duo for a long lasting note-taking relationship.

Supported By

Paris, France Now in the Photography Section

Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

I am continuing my build-out of The Newsprint’s Photography page. It’s rather simple. It also now takes advantage of Ghost’s cool bookmark embeds.

Up today is my Paris, France photoset. You’ve seen these before, to be sure. But everything is now in one nice, clean spot here on The Newsprint.

The Pro Default

Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

It's time to whip out the good old fashioned linkblog back-and-forth commentary made famous a decade ago. Here's Greg Morris yesterday on his fun blog:

These Pros are for those that need serious power on the go, yet I have a feeling I will see these all over the place in a few weeks. Apple devices have always been a status thing for some. Like designer clothing the enjoyment comes from brandishing something just for the cost – or so I am told. I can’t wait to be able to pick those notched screens out with not too much trouble and have a look at what tasks are being done on a machine that is at least a thousand pound more expensive than required.

I wear designer clothing quite regularly. I’m wearing a new swacket this morning, in fact. There is a very distinct line between enjoyment due to cost and enjoyment due to quality of materials. In fact, I think enjoyment greatly diminishes after a certain price. At this particular price, you know you can buy equal-quality garments but for less money.

Matt Birchler wrote up a bit of a response as well:

What's great is that the M1 processor is so impressive that it makes the consumer-grade devices some of the best money can buy period. If you buy a MacBook Air today, you're getting one of the fastest laptops on the market, and you're getting it in a thin, fan-less body. You're not getting some throwaway, slow machine, you're getting something awesome. Do you need the extra-awesome new Pros? Maybe, but I think the non-Pro Apple lineup will make more people very happy than ever before.

I think comparing the M1 MacBook Air to the incoming M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pro works very well in the MacBook Air’s favour. The MacBook Air may be the highest value notebook Apple has produced ever. It outpaces my 2019 six-core Intel iMac in every Geekbench test at less than half the purchase price. Checkmark in the MacBook Air box, to be sure.

But the M1 MacBook Pro is an entirely different story, if you ask me. There’s an $800 CAD difference between the M1 MacBook Pro and the baseline M1 Pro MacBook Pro. For that $800, here’s what you’re buying:

  • An inch of extra screen real estate
  • Liquid Retina XDR display
  • Six more GPU cores
  • An extra 8GB RAM
  • Faster RAM
  • An extra 256GB SSD storage
  • Faster SSD storage
  • ProMotion
  • A better 1080p camera
  • An improved sound system
  • A better headphone jack
  • Expanded I/O including an SD card slot
  • No Touch Bar

Really, the only thing you gain with the M1 MacBook Pro is the better battery life. The M1 MacBook Pro boasts up to 20 hours of battery life to the M1 Pro MacBook Pro’s boasting of 17 hours of battery life.

I think this might be some of the most consequential $800 you can spend on Apple’s entire store right now.

Of course, Morris’s original point is always going to be correct — you probably don’t need one of the shiny new MacBook Pros. The best value Apple laptop in the last decade is the M1 MacBook Air after all. Despite being a year old, I’d still recommend this laptop to any consumer looking for a laptop.

But the other question I think needs to be asked is whether it’s worth buying the shiny new MacBook Pro. If you’re earning dollars with your computer, then the extra investment is 30% cheaper because you can deduct the amount on your tax return and it buys you more of Apple’s best features than ever before.

So, no, if you aren’t a demanding user, you probably shouldn’t be looking at the M1 Pro MacBook Pro. This recommendation should continue to be the M1 MacBook Air.

If you’re a user who has eyed the M1 MacBook Pro for the last year though, you really should consider what that extra $800 is going to buy you.

In my mind, there should be just about nobody buying an M1 MacBook Pro at this point. Unless you absolutely, undoubtedly, unabashedly need an extra 3 hours of battery life beyond the 17-hour mark.