On Notes

Some people keep “notes”. In general, as I said before, I’m not a big fan of notes: as far as I’m concerned, notes are things that you have not figured the place for.

There are some people who need notes, some for reasons I’d disagree with and some for reasons I’d agree with. Instead of repeating myself, I want to clarify what my position on various platforms that keep notes is.

In this, I’m going to mostly ignore the use case of “shared notes”. I’m also going to ignore the case of “available on mobile”. This makes the discussion simpler.

Web platforms

Because this analysis takes the approach of “desktop first”, most SaaS products are mostly experienced as web platforms. This category includes Notion, Evernote, Trello, and more.

The overwhelming advantage that all of these platforms have is that backup is not an issue. All notes are automatically backed up in the cloud. The main problem all of these platforms have is that the tooling is limited to what the platform, and perhaps blessed plugins, allow for.

Local platforms

Local platforms include Obsidian, Emacs Org-mode, and other local editors. Most of these edit local text files.

All of these can be backed up using git. Git can upload them to a software forge (such as Gitlab or GitHub) or to a synchronized local directory (like Dropbox or Google Drive). The user experience is nearly identical, and these platforms run the entire trade-off gamut. Because of that, “backup” will be assumed to use something like git add . && git commit -m backup && git push to a main branch and no further distinction will be made.


This tool is growing in popularity. I can understand why! For the people who find web platforms unsuitable, it seems like an odd choice: presumably, they are already using some editor.

Org Mode

Org Mode refers to two things:

  • A file format

  • A set of editor macros to help manage this format

This exists for Emacs and VSCode. If you are already using Emacs and VSCode, this is probably a good idea.

Jupyter Notebooks

Jupyter notebooks can be stored in git, support Markdown in moveable cells. Notebooks support extensions for various ways of drawing diagrams like PlantUML and Graphviz.

They also support tagging individual cells with arbitrary tags. These tags can be used by, say, nbconvert to filter cells in and out. This allows searching by tags with a unix pipeline.


As always, the conclusion is that you should probably use Jupyter to edit your notes, unless you are an Emacs die-hard.