Simplenote: An Even Better Notes App?

Simplenote. It’s exactly what the name suggests, and not a whole lot more.

simplenote web interface

Where Evernote brings massive amounts of features (capture anything, in any format, on any device), Simplenote revels in doing the exact opposite. It’s plain-text only, meaning no formatting. Its organization is based entirely on tagging. And, in all fairness, it doesn’t do very much.

But here’s what it does do:

Simplenote succeeds in keeping your immense set of notes neatly arranged, fully accessible, and perfectly synchronized.

It does this with unimaginable speed, and it costs nothing.

It stores all your notes on the devices themselves: if you’re away from Wi-Fi, or on the NY subway, you can still read all your notes. Sounding pretty good so far, huh?

versioning in simplenote

Simplenote also has built-in versioning, so you never need to worry about making a change to your note and having the original disappear forever. And its format is relatively open and supported by multiple third-party apps.

That means that if you hate the Simplenote app, you can probably find another to take its place.

Screen shot 2011 04 01 at 11 24 30 PM

Compare this to Evernote, which is a great deal slower no matter what platform you’re on, and lacks versioning or offline storage unless you pay for it. And remember: Evernote‘s design (which captures everything, of course) means it demands excessive amounts of storage space to give you either feature.

After all, do you really need every single one of your business PDFs on your phone RIGHT NOW?…


notational velocity

On the platform end, Simplenote comes as a Web app (and a pretty one, at that), along with a client for iOS. Simperium claims that other mobile OS support is arriving “soon”. There is no official client for Mac OS or Windows, but there are several third-party apps that are recommended.

One of these is Simplenote’s other distinct advantage: the Mac-only app Notational Velocity.

Notational Velocity: Notetaking’s Killer App

It’s hard to really describe how blissful Notational Velocity is to use. Essentially, the search field is also the New Title field: type a phrase and you see its search results instantly, but push Return at any point and the text you’ve typed becomes the title of a new note. It’s so speedy and powerful that I often wonder why iOS (or the Mac OS) doesn’t just adopt this technique for making folders, playlists, etc. Oh, and as you’d expect– there’s no save. Everything is saved automatically, all the time.

Merging & Syncing


Notational’s merge feature is as well-designed as they come: instead of relying on the cloud to manage note storage, Notational Velocity insists on accurate local storage at all times. If there are massive discrepancies between the local notes and the copies on the server, it’s smart enough to merge them (and tell you exactly what it’s doing).

What does it feel like?

If the subjective “feel” of an app matters to you, know this: I trust Notational Velocity more than just about any other piece of software I own (except maybe TextEdit, in which I’ve been known to keep unsaved snippets of text for over 30 days).

Give Simplenote a test drive and you’ll probably love it.

The best way to give Simplenote a whirl is to head over to the website (or to the App Store) and try it out. But don’t say I didn’t warn you– you might be in for a very long night once you start inputting all those tiny scraps of text you have lying around…


  1. well if it’s that easy, maybe i’ll have to give it a shot.

  2. I like how the author organized his ideas in addition to the visual part.
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  3. What a terrific post!
    Stahl recently posted StahlMy Profile

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