some thoughts on notetaking tools

I’ve started running into the same problem as many of my friends and coworkers: my personal notes are all over the place. I’ve got scattered notes in Google Keep, reference documentation and general notes in Dynalist, spreadsheets in Google Sheets, a couple of kanban boards in Trello, and a brief flirtationship with Notion. There’s a list of tools that I have yet to try out: Roam, Todoist, Things, Evernote, Bear, Airtable.

I think my issue might be that my requirements are too broad - there’s nothing out there that does everything I want in one place satisfactorily. (Maybe I should be satisficing instead of aiming for perfection.)

My requirements (followed by their priority ranking on a sliding scale, where 1 is “nice to have” and 10 is “absolutely essential, I won’t use this tool unless it has this feature”):

  • native daily note-taking section, for todos (7)
  • checklists (10)
  • subnotes/pages or nested hierarchies (10)
  • table/spreadsheet functionality (? - I’ve debated the priority of this - Google Sheets works well, it just annoys me to have my notes in different places. There’s probably a reason why so few of the existing apps out there have this functionality.)
  • nice UI/UX - especially mobile experience (10 - It’s hard for me to describe why something “feels” nice - speed is definitely part of it, but besides that, using the tool needs to feel intuitive and easy, it should ideally “click”.)
    • fast, clean, easy to quickly take notes & make new notes (10)
  • “page lock” feature, preventing editing of locked notes/pages (1)
  • picture upload (2)
  • markdown support & formatting functionality (5)
  • organizational features (8)
    • search (10)
    • tagging (5)
  • allows sharing certain notes (1)
  • works well across different platforms (4)
  • encrypted/secure notes (2 - Nice to have, although anything that actually needs securing would be stored in my password management tool.)
  • calendar integration (1)
  • reminders (1)
  • kanban board integration (?)

How much am I willing to pay for a notetaking/personal organization app? I much prefer one time fees over subscription based pricing models, even though I understand why so many companies are switching over to the latter. For me it’s just a feeling of disliking those loose strings, although if I really think about it, subscription fees for software isn’t any different than the monthly fee I pay for water or internet and probably won’t be such a big deal to remember if I keep track of what I’m paying for. So I’ll leave pricing out of this comparison for now, since I’m fairly flexible with price.

At some point I’ll probably use a spreadsheet to track scores for the different requirements for all the notetaking apps I’m considering, and then weigh the options. What I’d really love is some combination of Google Keep and Dynalist/Notion, with nice/simple checklists but also the ability to make full fledged pages with adequate formatting. A daily notes/todo section would be a plus. But maybe such an app would be a mess, since it tries to do everything. That’d be a fun little design exercise.