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Since Evernote's recent pricing changes, I don't want to trust important personal data to their company any more, and I've been hunting for an alternative. Unfortunately there're not a whole lot of note-taking apps that'll fit the bill. Here're my major requirements:

  1. I'm definitely not trusting my notes to another proprietary app or format. An open source application would be preferred, but I'm willing to pay for a commercial app - more importantly, my actual data must be stored in an open format. Individual plain-text files with Markdown formatting would be ideal, but anything that'll keep working if the particular app goes under will be enough. (However I am willing to trust my notes to Dropbox for sync, since any files I sync through Dropbox stay accessible as normal files and will stick around locally if Dropbox dies.)
  2. I use Evernote's tags incessantly, so any replacement will need to support tagging. Ideally, tags would just appear in the notes' bodies as #hashtags since that arrangement will be the easiest to access across various platforms and apps. Letterspace handles tags this way, but it doesn't do a whole lot else (very few configurable options, available on Apple platforms only, etc.)
  3. I should be able to access my notes on mobile and on desktop. As I run macOS and Android primarily, this is a little tricky, since nice Mac apps usually end up only on iOS and not on Android. (For instance, Letterspace!) If notes are stored as plain Markdown then the app isn't necessarily required on all platforms since generic Markdown apps are not hard to come by, but it'd still be better to have the actual app work across platforms.
  4. The actual note editor should be decent. Evernote's is completely awful, so it isn't actually hard to do better. Most importantly, in Evernote you end up with hidden HTML lying around that make all your notes look slightly different from each other, so I want to be able to see and fix the formatting instructions rather than be stuck with invisible junk making all my notes look weird. The best editor I've seen with this in mind is Bear's, which uses Markdown and basically renders it inline so you don't need a separate preview. That'd be ideal. An editor with less fancy rendering, like StackEdit's, would also be okay.

I think that covers it. Thoughts?

Update: StackExchange just pointed out that this question is a possible duplicate. That question's top answer is Google Keep, which doesn't even have an API (seriously, Google?). To make this question obviously different, I'll re-emphasise that the most important thing for me is to keep my data open, ideally in the form of plain Markdown files.

  • Not tried myself, but Paperwork might be what you're looking for. It's definitely open source, and describes itself as OpenSource note-taking & archiving alternative to Evernote, Microsoft OneNote & Google Keep. – Izzy Aug 11 '16 at 6:07
  • @Izzy Hmm. I'll give Paperwork a try, but looking at the install instructions I'm wary, because it seems Paperwork stores note data in a MySQL database. This is technically an open format since MySQL (or more likely in my case, MariaDB!) is open, but notes stored under Paperwork's own database schema won't be especially amenable to access from software other than Paperwork itself, and SQL database files aren't particularly easy to sync or backup. – 00dani Aug 11 '16 at 21:57
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    Not easy to backup? mysqldump with locking all tables (for a consistent dump) is quite easy IMHO. As for sync, I've never tried to sync two MySQL databases. If you rather meant apps: there are clients for different OSes which directly talk to the server. – Izzy Aug 12 '16 at 6:43
  • mysqldump is reasonably straightforward, yes, but it's necessary to perform an explicit data dump to produce a backup-able file rather than the default storage being in a backup-able format. Could be set up as a cron job, I suppose. – 00dani Aug 15 '16 at 1:40
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Laverna can be a good free alternative to Evernote in all respects.

Laverna's features:

  • Opensource (the app and the saved (exported) files too) and free
  • No registration required
  • Editing modes: distraction free, preview, normal mode
  • Web/Online/Offline note management
  • Secure client-side encryption Synchronizes with cloud storage services (currently only with Dropbox and RemoteStorage)
  • Markdown editor
  • Syntax highlighting (great for source codes)
  • Web based Keybindings
  • Import/Export only Settings or Everything* (all the files stored in .json format)
  • Multiplatform (Self-hosted, Windows x84/x64, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS and Android client is coming soon**)

You can find more on Laverna's GitHub page.

*: configs, notebooks, tags

**: Android pre-release builds available here.

I thinks Laverna meets the requirements quite well.

  • And now I have found this: Dropbox Paper but it is still in beta. – Bálint Babics Aug 11 '16 at 12:51
  • Dropbox Paper looks very cool as essentially a prettier, more modern Google Docs. However it appears documents made in Paper are stored only in Paper - they don't live in your Dropbox proper and they aren't synced locally, so Paper is at least currently a closed platform. This may change, we'll see. – 00dani Aug 15 '16 at 1:36
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    Laverna sounds great but doesn't actually seem to work properly. On opening it asks to auth with Dropbox, but after doing so I just get a blank white window, and the next time I start it it asks to auth again. Hmm. – 00dani Aug 15 '16 at 1:38
  • You have right, currently I have the same issue. But I've got a bit further in it with this article but I see now this Error 400 screen. Not even better, but I am trying to fix or find a solution. – Bálint Babics Aug 15 '16 at 8:53
  • I tried setting it up without synchronizing anywhere, and got it working. – CPerkins Aug 15 '16 at 23:35
1

Another open-source Evernote alternative is Turtl, currently in beta -- but more than simply being an alternative, it bills itself as being a secure alternative:

Think of Turtl as Evernote with ultimate privacy.

I learned about it from a recent post on WebUpd8 which included this screenshot:

turtl @ webupd8

While in beta, it is "free" to use the Turtl servers, although there is a planned premium upgrade in the works. But it is open source, the project hosted on Github, and so you can run your own server as well.

In terms of features, it meets these requirements from OP:

  • tagging on notes
  • Markdown editor for notes
  • cross-platform apps (specifically OSX and Android already avaialble)
  • (were there more?)

Well worth a look, since it looks like it could meet OP's needs nicely.

  • This app looks really promising, just tried it with the android and the windows client. It's not (yet) very feature rich, but I'm curious what future versions will bring. – martinstoeckli Aug 18 '16 at 20:33
  • Hmm. Turtl is an excellent concept, but the UI is currently a tiny bit disastrous. First up it uses vaguely-Material design on all platforms, without keyboard shortcuts etc., making it inconvenient on desktop. Note content is written in Markdown but the editor doesn't actually understand Markdown: There's no highlighting or inline formatting. Tags and boards work okay, but whether a given item has a particular tag or board is only visible by opening it into edit mode (two clicks on that specific note), and so on. I'm sure it'll be great eventually but right now it's just confusing. – 00dani Aug 18 '16 at 23:13
  • While I appreciate privacy and Turtl is clearly entirely secure, ease of access and interop are higher priorities for me. It's impossible to open Turtl notes in a more powerful editor or to pipe 'em through grep and the like. It's easy to create new files on Dropbox, even through an IFTTT recipe if that works best, but you can't make Turtl notes that way. And so on. Locking my notes inside Turtl is certainly better than locking them inside Evernote but less than ideal. – 00dani Aug 18 '16 at 23:17
  • @00Dani - It does indeed look early days, so thanks for posting your review. Will be interesting to keep an eye on development for this one. – Dɑvïd Aug 19 '16 at 8:08
-1

There is NeverNote

This is an open source clone of Evernote.

This program has been run on Linux, Windows, and OS-X, but the primary goal is to proved a Linux client. While this is designed to work with Evernote, it is in no way connected with or supported by Evernote. Any problems you encounter will not be corrected by them and, since this is GPL software, you are using this software at your own risk.

People have used this with both 64 & 32 bit versions of Linux as well as OpenJDK & Sun's Java and (so far) have not encountered any problems with these different environments.

All the installation information as well as known problems and currently supported features are located within this public notebook.

  • Hmm. NeverNote/NixNote (the name varies throughout the site and docs?) would be perfect if I were looking for an open Evernote client that runs on Linux. It's built to interop with Evernote proper, syncing to Evernote's servers and thus communicating with the official apps. However I don't want to keep syncing to Evernote's servers, since as explained the important thing for me is getting my data out of their ecosystem. I suppose I could use NixNote locally with no sync but that's working against its purpose and since I do want sync (just not Evernote's sync!) it's not the right fit. – 00dani Aug 17 '16 at 22:16
  • It can not sync without the Evernote server. – Nicolas Raoul Feb 28 '17 at 10:18

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