Taking Notes

Phone Computer

Everyone needs to take notes at some time or another: to-do and shopping lists, travel plans, meeting notes, quotations, book lists, inventories, reminders, study notes, million-dollar ideas, and much more.

I prefer solutions that offer:

  • Ease of use: no significant training required to get started and easy to find notes that you need
  • Accessibility: able to create, read, edit, delete notes from wherever you are via desktop, mobile, and web
  • Organization: able to easily categorize notes
  • Encryption: protection for your data
  • Open Source: the source code of the application is available to be security audited, bugs can be fixed, and new features can be added as needed

Since June of 2017, my app of choice has been Standard Notes. It has a desktop client that can be downloaded for Mac, Windows, and Linux. It has mobile apps for iOS, and Android and it has a web app that you can access from any browser. Regardless of which one you use, your notes are encrypted, then synced to the server and immediately available from any of the other apps and devices.

Security is provided through AES-256 encryption. Only you have key and therefore the power to decrypt the messages so all of the data on the server is protected. With great power comes great responsibility: You must be sure to not lose your key (you should have a good Password Manager, such as KeePassXC) or you can lose access to all your notes and no one can get them back for you.

The company also has a publishing platform called Listed, which you are looking at now. This is integrated with Standard Notes and allows you to "publish" notes as a blog. You can write your notes in plain text but to make them look nicer, you might want to use Markdown which is a very simple format that Listed will automatically convert to HTML. If you don't know what HTML is or how to use it, that is okay, because you do not need to. Just learn a little Markdown formatting and let the app do the work for you. This means you can get nice formatting for your posts, without needing to learn how to code.

You can download a backup of your notes at any time. You get to choose whether you want it as an encrypted file, or as plain text. This allows you to keep another copy of your notes in another place, just in case something happens.

The basic functionality is free and you have full access to all of the things I already mentioned. It is not a trial. It does not time out. However they also offer subscriptions at a reasonable price that allow you access to different types of Extensions which provide editors, themes, and the ability to use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). A subscription is not ever required but in addition to giving you more features, it also supports the developer which helps to ensure that Standard Notes will be around for a long time.

There are many other applications out there, but not many of them offer encryption and some of those that do are not open source, so there is not a large number of people that can look at the code and audit it to help ensure it is good. I have been using it for two years now and am very happy with it. I highly recommend this app for you too. Keep your data safe!