I'm an OS X user with an annoying problem. Whenever I need to quickly jot something down, I reflexively tab into TextEdit, hit option-N and start typing. This is great for almost instantly being able to make a note, but it's really terrible for finding it again later, because I just end up with a huge stack of windows with titles like "Untitled 83", and no way to search for the one I want. It also makes it extremely inconvenient to reboot my machine.

So I'm looking for a (preferably free) note-taking app that enables me to :

  • Quickly make a new note and start typing with a single key-press.
  • Easily find notes later, by giving me a list of all notes.
  • Sort by date and/or filter by typing into a search box.
  • It should save everything automatically, so that all the notes come back with no fuss after a reboot.
  • My notes are often confidential, so a web-based or cloud storage solution would not work for me.

  • I don't need any fancy features (hence I'd prefer a free app)

  • Plain text notes are fine
  • Again, the requirement that I can create a new note with a single keypress is vitally important.

I've tried Notational Velocity, which is almost perfect but it requires me to give a new note a title before I can start typing. Because of this, if I'm in a meeting and need to make a note right now, I still end up reaching for TextEdit instead.

Is there a simple free app that gives me what I want?

If not, there is one (and only one) extra feature that I would pay for :

  • The ability to enter equations into notes using MathJax (which should be possible in any app with Markdown support). Since I'm a scientist that would be a killer feature for me.

2 Answers 2



  • supports markdown and plain text
  • can search for text within notes
  • free (ad-supported: £7.99 to remove ads)
  • the 'title' is simply the first line of text in the note
  • can sync with Evernote/Simplenote - but not necessary - just don't login!
  • can 'lock' note to prevent accidental editing
  • can create folders to help manage notes
  • can favourite notes that are important/favvourites (they can be set to show at the top of the list in settings)
  • can sort by created/modified date or title

To create a note, you can simply tab to MetaNota, and press cmd+n

Settings: enter image description here Main window: enter image description here

  • Thanks, +1. My thoughts so far: it seems a little buggy (the cursor jiggles up and down in a weird way when I enter newlines) and Markdown support is limited to syntax highlighting, so no MathJax. The user interface is a bit cluttered (the panes shown in your screenshot cannot be hidden AFAICT), and the fact that it's ad-supported makes me uneasy. (Currently the only ad seems to be the unobtrusive grey one in the screenshot, but if it turns into an animated jumping monkey I'll have to pay £7.99, which is a bit steep.) Still, it's simple and free and does what I want, so I might use it.
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 8, 2015 at 11:17

For a completely free, advert-less, general notebook try rednotebook.

Major features:

  • #Hashtags
  • Format your text bold, italic or underlined
  • Insert Images, files and links to websites
  • Links and mail addresses are recognized automatically
  • Spell Check
  • Live-Search
  • Automatic saving
  • Backup to zip archive
  • Word Clouds with most often used words and tags
  • Templates
  • Export the journal to PDF, HTML, Latex or plain text
  • The data is stored in plain text files, no database is needed
  • Translated into more than 30 languages
  • Cross platform OS-X, Win & Linux.
  • You can also format, tag and search your entries.
  • RedNotebook is Free Software under the GPL.
  • Since a bug raised here - Support for formulas was added and working back in April 2012.

Just for fun I fired it up on my Linux system and added some MathML then toggled to preview: MathML demo


  • Ah, it seems like it's probably perfect on other platforms, so +1, but the OS X version seems to be a Windows app bundled with Wine (hence a 280MB download) and the text rendering is fairly illegible. (I also couldn't get MathJax to work out of the box, but I guess that's something I could play around with.)
    – N. Virgo
    Mar 9, 2015 at 6:21
  • Nathaniel, I don't have access to an OS-X system to try it but I would suggest trying a download of the source and dependencies then running from source - it is python so should be OK that way. Mar 9, 2015 at 14:23

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