It appears that Gabe over at MacDrifter was right (and to quote him, “this post is only going to be interesting to someone that lives in plain text“, so consider yourself warned). There comes a time when every edge case needs to leave Simplenote. If you’ve read this blog, you know I love the app, but I’m finding that my time to abandon it has come.
Good question… syncing has become a problem. I’m no longer 100% confident that something I write will stay there. I’m writing between three devices (two Macs using nvALT and an iPhone using Simplenote), occasionally four if you count my occasional iPad usage. You can’t force sync the app, so occasionally I accidentally overwrite data in one version (this is a particularly large issue in NYC where service is not always the best). Since there is no way to force sync on Simplenote for iOS and no way to confirm the latest sync times, I often don’t even realize the problem until it is too late.
The apps are also going crazy on me. When on 3G or WiFi, the iPad app crashes (disclaimer: I haven’t gone through the process of uninstalling and reinstalling and haven’t taken the time to reach out to Simplenote about this as I don’t really use it all that often). And the iPhone app is continually swallowing text. It’s usually only a little, but I’m not a fan of losing work. This seems especially bad when making the jump from having no service on the Subway to when I hit the street and the app begins fighting with AT&T’s crappy New York service.
I’ve reached a point when either the application or the sync service can no longer handle the volume of notes. Perhaps I’m testing both the capability of their sync server or their app with my 800 notes, but if they really want people to invest in this for extended periods of time, they have got to get their act together.
Why is leaving so hard?
The steps for leaving Simplenote are quite simple. All I had to do was copy the entire notes folder into Dropbox, turn off Simplenote sync in nvALT and point the storage field to the new folder in Dropbox. The thought of abandoning an app I’ve been using for nearly two years and am extremely comfortable with is far harder. While there are several impressive text editors for iOS , I love Simplenote for its simplicity. I use my iPhone to create words, not to format them, so the bells and whistles of several of Simplenote’s alternatives aren’t all that appealing. I need something that is as close as possible to the app I already know and love.
Over time and through tons of use, I’ve come to find that there are five additional features beyond stable synchronization that I depend on:
Fast and Global Search – When you open Simplenote, all you need to do is tap into the search field and start typing to narrow down your notes. TextExpander Support – This is pretty much a given at this point for any text editor. I primarily use TextExpander to name my files, but I’d be lost without it. An Informative Home Screen – Simplenote offers a note title, a two-line preview (with any tags in front of your text) and the date of the last modification for every note. These three points of data make it far easier to find the one I’m looking for. Quick Note Creation – All I need to do is hit the plus sign and I’m on my way. Unlike many apps, Simplenote automatically uses the first line of any note the title, making an additional title field unnecessary (more on this when we start talking potential replacements). Tagging and Sharing via Tags – While I’m not a massive user of tags, I use them to remind me if something is in the edit stage, working stage or posted stage. Simplenote’s sharing features also let me use a tag to send show notes for the Mikes on Mics podcast to my co-host, Mike Vardy.
While I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, I’m finding Notesy to be the best alternative for me. It has great search capabilities, exactly the info I want on the home screen and quick note creation. The two challenges are tags, which will now live on nvALT, but not in Notesy (and tags in nvALT will no longer allow me to seamlessly share notes). There is also a minor unresolvable issue with TextExpander1. Both of these, while annoying, are livable.
Bonus disappointment: While not critical, Notesy also doesn’t have a URL Scheme which means I’ve now lost the ability to create notes directly from Instapaper. This integration is possible in the future, but does not seem to be on their short term roadmap.
I also tried WriteRoom, Elements and WriteUp for size and they all had their own unique strengths and weaknesses. There are three features that put Notesy over the top for me: blatantly obviously sync, the note preview and simplicity. While WriteRoom and Elements allow users to force sync, Notesy’s sync button and confirmation could not be more obvious. It could just be that I’m hurting from Simplenote, but this really appealed. The notes preview also provides all three points of note data (title, multi-line preview and date modified), something that none of the other apps offer. Every app had great features that are not included in Notesy, but it is exactly that kind of pared down experience and similarity to Simplenote that has me thinking that it will be the next best thing to my once-beloved note-taking application. Goodbye old friend, you will be missed…
And now that that’s solved, back to work.
Speaking of work, I am off to Las Vegas for a trade show until next Tuesday. In my absence, I begged several of my amazing friends including Yuvi Zalkow, Aaron Mahnke, Todd Chandler, Gini Dietrich and Mike Vardy to fill in while I’m gone. I can’t wait for you to read their posts!. If you’re really going to miss me and aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself, you can get your fill on today’s Mikes on Mics podcast. See you next week!
- For the two of you who care, unlike Simplenote, the field Notesy uses to capture the note title will not allow you to place the cursor anywhere but at the end of the note when using TextExpander snippets. This is not a bug in Notesy or TextExpander, it is an iOS issue. You will have this same problem in apps like WriteRoom, Elements, Write Up and more. [↩]