I am looking for a note taking application. The primary features I am looking for are:

  1. Freeform canvas. I just want to click somewhere and paste whatever is on my clipboard - Images and Text. Imagine a sheet of paper 100 feet by 100 feet. I can take a pen and start writing anywhere on that sheet - that is a freeform canvas.

  2. Multi-user support. This basically comes down to OneNote acting as a client and sync'ing notes with a server which other users can then sync with and make their own changes. This server would need to be able to run locally.

  3. Support for Windows & OS X clients

  4. The notes need to remain on the local network. Cloud based solutions where the notes are stored offsite will not work.

  5. Sync Frequency is less important then making sure there was solid support for two users either trying to edit the same note (i.e. establishing a lock before edit) or editing the same note at the same time. OneNote handles this well. However, if there was at least a method to manually initiate a sync, that would be sufficient.


  • Evernote, for example, does not offer a freeform canvas because it requires that I start writing in the upper left corner of the sheet.
  • Outline, for example, does offer a freeform canvas, but the multiuser support does not work very well after trying it out for a couple of weeks.
  • OneNote lacks support for running the server locally with a OS X client.
  • 1
    Can you explain a bit what do you mean by "freeform canvas"? As far as I know, Evernote seems to be offering what you are looking for.
    – DimP
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:25
  • Imagine a sheet of paper 100 feet by 100 feet. I can take a pen and start writing anywhere on that sheet - that is a freeform canvas. Evernote requires that I start in the upper left corner of that sheet.
    – ericg
    Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:36
  • I'm pretty sure Evernote does do that, you simply expand in any direction as you go.
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 15:57
  • Evernote does not. I cannot simply click anywhere and start typing at that exact location.
    – ericg
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:51
  • What sync frequency do you need? Manual? Every hour? Every minute? Every second or so?
    – Nicolas Raoul
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 8:00

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure what exactly you mean by free form canvas, or what kind of multi user support you're looking for, so I'm going to recommend you use a combination of two programs.

You could combo up two programs to serve the same function:
Adobe illustrator and Git Scm. Further alternatively, you could replace AI with GIMP. Adobe illustrator and gimp both have the capabilities to expand the canvas at any time, effectively rendering the draw space infinite. Both AI and GIMP also support Text, and drawing on lined paper, which seem to be primer functions of 'note-taking apps'. If I Remember correctly, Adobe also has a program that translates handwriting into LaTEx based equations. The main means of use is that every unique user would have their own 'canvas' (AI file) which they could pull and push from a repository with ease every so often. This would allow synchronous editing of everyone's canvas, and allow for each user to edit their own canvas while someone else manages theirs. Then when the user is done editing, the user would then push their new file to the repository and allow others to see the new version.

I would like to take a moment to criticize your request. While you state that you want something 'Exactly like one note, but for macOS' you seem to also point out that you want something that isn't cloud based. This seemed funny at first, and so I investigated, and found that One note has a Cloud sign-in wall. One cannot use OneNote without signing into the cloud-based hosting of notes. enter image description here

I'm not sure in this case which you value more, but I'm certain that only one of those is possible with your current constraints..

  • Close. I should have mentioned that it needs to be locally hosted, not cloud based.
    – ericg
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:54
  • @ericgorr what about adobe illustrator and Git?
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:58
  • A graphics application is not a note taking application and will be missing common features found in note taking applications.
    – ericg
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:59
  • @ericgorr you're hardly ever going to find many things that are locally hosted AND have synchronous editing possible, that's just not how conventional software is built. Especially with crossplatform support. You could try network notepad, It's more user intensive, but it acheives your goal. networknotepad.com/Pro1.1/EN/help.html
    – tuskiomi
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 17:03
  • 1
    It is perhaps a wild goose chase, which is why I asked the question. Both OneNote and Outline are close, but both are lacking one or more key features. Again, OneNote does support hosting a server on the local network, but the macOS client cannot communicate with it. The macOS client will only communicate with a cloud based server. If macOS wasn't important, I would have my solution.
    – ericg
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 19:47

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