Where to Write What

I’m pondering a lot about the right bucket for every possible writing activity.

I’ve been using three ways for writing and storing written things for years: Day One, Evernote and plain Markdown files, the latter with a slew of different tools (lately I like Typora and mWeb, but I keep coming back to iA Writer).

From time to time I start asking myself whether it’s feasible to streamline some of these buckets, e.g. couldn’t I use Evernote for my Journal or write articles in Day One, etc. Yet I keep coming back to this group of three. Maybe the answer for me is: no, there’s a reason for each of them.

Day One

  • I like having private thoughts in a special bucket. While it’s tempting to have everything bundled up in Evernote it’s also scary. I don’t like the thought of having a private entry coming up in a search query done at the office with a coworker being at your desk.
  • Day One’s “On this Day” feature is something I use regularly and couldn’t replicate anywhere else so far.
  • As my kid grows I reach ever more often for Day One’s audio feature to record his new words and sentences, something that would be much more inconvenient to do in Evernote and completely impossible within plain text.

Evernote

  • From One Note to Devonthink to clever folder structures I’ve spent a lot of time finding the system to file and sort all kind of information from articles to paperwork to project-related references and personal memorabilia. I came back to Evernote. Every. Single. Time. So maybe, just maybe, it’s time to accept that.
  • While being my trunk to store and retrieve almost everything, Evernote is not that great a tool for writing. Which is a shame, really. Its tools for pasting and highlighting images are very convenient and the table editor is among the best of its kind. But I don’t like to write anything consisting of more than two paragraphs without being able to properly format the document. And let’s face it: Evernote’s formatting is a big mess, without any sort of block level formatting it’s also impossible to export anything with meaningful semantics.

Markdown

  • I love markdown and the whole world of apps and tools that have evolved around it. To me there’s no better writing experience. I can structure my text, add images, tables and code blocks and even have nice syntax highlighting for code.
  • There’s nothing more future-proof than plain-text. It can easily be versioned, back-up, ported and synced. It doesn’t depend on any entity. It allows meaningful markup and it can be exported in all kind of formats in any style you can imagine.
  • The one thing I don’t like is having to deal with files and structure, think about sorting, putting assets in a structure that makes sense etc. In part this could be remedied by going all in with a tool that provides a library for markdown documents, of which there are three I know of
    • Bear & Ulysses are both nice apps with a subscription model (which I’d be fine with if everything else would be cool). But both have serious limitations with their markdown implementation. Last time In checked neither supported tables. Also both rely on a database to store the actual content, thus I’d lose some benefits of plain old markdown on a disk (future-proof, versioning with git, using different editors)
    • mWeb takes a different approach: if you use its library (which is optional, it also supports custom directory structures) it manages files and assets for you. But it does so by putting them as real markdown files on a certain folder on the disk, thus keeping your some of the advantages you only have with text files on a disk. Two caveats: It almost impossible to make sense of the files it puts in place without using mWeb, as they are named with a unix timestamp or something. And while mWeb is available for Mac and iOS the iOS version does’t yet fully support working with the library.

Conclusion (for now)

Day One: Write personal stuff and be reminded of past events, take photos and audio of special moments

Evernote: Collect and find, write short notes

Markdown: Write with structure and semantic formatting

Leave a Reply