February 20th, 2021 | Published in Software
There is no shortage of note taking applications in the mobile world: Evernote, OneNote, Apple Note, Google Keep — you name it. I personally am a big fan of Evernote and have been using it for years for most everything note taking. Yet there is one area where a seemingly unsophisticated app called Simplenote outshines many others, and in this post I am going to introduce you to this gem of simplicity and show how to put it to some interesting uses.
What’s important about Simplenote is that it is a cloud service in the first place, for which a number of clients for different platforms are available including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, or you can just run it in your browser. And what is even better, it is totally free and it contains no ads! Oh, and so you know, there is no limit as to the number of notes and the size of a note. Pretty cool, eh?
Seriously, that’s all there is to it. No re-enter your email, no password strength checker, no even confirm your password field! Just type in your email, make up a password and you’re done.
A Verify Your Email Address plain text message will show up in you inbox right away. Click the link and you are all set.
To add a new note, click the New Note button.
As you start typing, your first line becomes the title of the note.
From there, you just keep going adding more text and creating new notes. As you can see, in a few screenshots we have pretty much covered the basics of note taking with Simplenote. Now let’s talk about some of its features and potential uses.
I must admit it, being a simple plain text note taker makes Simplenote somewhat limited in its applications. But look, Simplenote is not trying to be everything for everyone. Like I said before, for my usual note taking needs I use Evernote (as a matter of fact, that is where I am drafting this very post right now). You might ask, why then even bother talking about this Simplenote thing? That’s a good question, and trust me, I will get to it in a bit. For now let me just tell you that as far as text formatting, all is not lost with Simplenote as it supports the Markdown syntax, so if you really, really need to have formatted elements in your Simplenote texts, you kind of can make it happen. In the two screenshots below you can see a note in its source Markdown form, and then its rendered view.
This is the source text of a marked down note.
This is how the marked down text is rendered. Notice the Preview button in the toolbar at the top which is used to toggle between the Edit and View modes.
And if you are wondering how to make a note Markdown-enabled, you go to the Note Info panel and turn on the Markdown selector — that will place the Preview toggle button on the toolbar for your note.
Alright, now that you know of Simplenote’s limitations, let’s talk about what it could be used for and why have it in your arsenal. As to why, I personally have two good reasons. First, its sync speed is phenomenal. Second, the app launches instantly and you have access to your notes right away. These two properties make Simplenote an ideal tool for me when it comes to the following tasks.
- Synching data between devices.
- Jotting down on the go.
- Sharing shopping lists.
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Synching Data Between Devices
Every now and then I need to exchange pieces of text between my computer and the cellphone. For example, if I find something on the internet and want to send the link to someone via a messaging app. Or when I have some reference number in a local document that I need to enter in a mobile application — or vice versa. For this purpose I have a pinned Sticker Note where I copy-paste such data on one device, and it instantly shows up on the other.
Jotting Down on the Go
When sitting on a bus or waiting for an appointment in a reception room, I almost always have some kind of write up to work on. Simplenote is the tool of my choice for that purpose because my drafts are always pinned to the top so I don’t have to go through a lot of navigation steps to locate the note I need. Tap the Simplenote icon on the smartphone, boom, and you are right where you wanted to be. As simple as that!
Sharing Shopping Lists
Simplenote makes it easy to create and maintain checklists of all kinds. You just click the Checklist button on the toolbar, and an empty checklist item appears in your note. From there you just keep adding items, and pressing the Enter key adds a new checklist on the next line.
For our grocery shopping, my wife and I keep an inventory of our regular items such as tomatoes, cheese, pasta, etc., and before heading out to the store we just copy-paste those that we currently need to the top of the list so we always know what to buy. What is even better, Simplenote allows you to share your note with other users, so I can add items to the list while my wife is shopping, or the other way around.
In the above screenshot I am showing my wife’s shopping list that she has shared with me. When I go to the groceries, the list is always with me on my cellphone.
Pretty slick, isn’t it? Anyway, these are the three main areas where I prefer Simplenote over any other note taking apps. If you can think of other good uses for it, let me know in the comments!