Joplin Reviews

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I think I have found my OneNote replacement. After Microsoft announced that OneNote is being deprecated, and its replacement is probably never going to support offline notebooks, I was looking for something new, mostly a tool that would still let me decide where I store my own data (the fact that it's 2018 and Microsoft still doesn't understand this need, or has forgotten about its importance, is baffling).

Joplin offers desktop clients as well as pretty full-featured mobile apps. This already disqualified most other alternatives. I occasionally want to check off a few items on my to-do lists while I'm out and about. There is also a sort-of folder structure using multiple notebook files. It's not as powerful as the very helpful hierarchies of OneNote, but it's a start. You can kind of fake a structure for your notes using tags, but I'm generally not a big fan of tags. For my current needs, it's enough, though. And maybe a more powerful organisation feature will be in Joplin's future.

Having Markdown syntax instead of some proprietary formatting is definitely a plus. Having all of my notes stored in plain-text on my hard drive makes me feel much more secure about not losing access to my data. Synchronisation integration is great, too. I had Dropbox sync set up within minutes, and working on both a Windows desktop and an Android app.

There certainly are more downsides. The application is developed in a modern fashion, which includes some trends that are definitely regressions. For example, the desktop apps are based on Electron, which makes them comparatively slow, sluggish, heavyweight and memory-hungry. Working with an Electron app is simply no comparison to a proper, natively compiled application. (I sometimes wonder if young people today even have a concept of how quick and snappy working on a desktop computer used to be back in the day, before broken-loose web technologies and managed code ruined the day =D). That Joplin for Windows is an 80+ MB download, and installs as close to 200 MB, is just ridiculous; the application feels like it should weigh in the region of 1-3 MB tops. But I also understand that an open-source project doesn't have unlimited resources, and I'd rather have a managed-code application that is available across this many platforms, than native apps that take much longer to reach the same level of functionality. And also, OneNote wasn't exactly a light-weight application either, even though of course that came with the benefit of a massive feature set.

Joplin remains my note-taking app of choice for now. The only alternative that seems like it might be as good, is TagSpaces. I also looked into Knowte, MyTetra, Elephant, KeepNote, KeyNote NF, and Wikidpad, but all of those were ruled out already because they lack a suitable mobile solution.

[Edited by Anamon, May 14]

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I was looking for something new, mostly a tool that would still let me decide where I store my own data (the fact that it's 2018 and Microsoft still doesn't understand this need, or has forgotten about its importance, is baffling).

I think:

  • they understand it
  • they haven't forgoten it
    but...
  • it's more lucrative for them not to offer it. If they store your data, they are in control of it. For example, without telling you, then can index it, parse it, feed it into AI. That can be used in multiple ways for profit. For example, to understand who uses their systems and why. Or they can sell it to advertisers... now or at a later date. It also will help them to submit data to three-letter agencies. Controlling the data on their side will mean it's easier for them to profile you. It's also unlikely that you will find any concrete commitments from MS about how your data is treated if you close your MS account. When is it deleted? From all servers? How quickly? How irrecoverably? But yeah, I don't think they have forgotten or don't understand.

Yes, I also don't honestly think that they have forgotten :) but I also think that it's a very short-sighted business decision. Sensibility about these issues is rising. And I don't even primarily mean the security and privacy issues – since I have set up Dropbox sync for Joplin, that's obviously not a major concern for me, hehe. But I'm thinking about the increased reliance on cloud service availability, and people starting to notice the dangers of not having local control over their data.

The strategy seems especially short-sighted concerning business users, which are a big deal for Microsoft. Even their own OneNote FAQ states that they understand that the cloud-only solution will disqualify the application for many business users.

The GDPR might even give me some guarantees in terms of the deletion and retention questions you mention, at least as a European customer. But that's just the one side of the equation that is about, what if they store my data and I don't want them to. Personally, I'm usually more concerned about the opposite question: what if I rely on them storing my data, and they do a poor job of it or decide they don't feel like offering that service anymore. The GDPR has some rules about that, too – keyword data portability – but I'd rather not get myself into that situation in the first place.

about Joplin · · Helpful Not helpful 6 Helpful Report as spam

This is an absolute gem. Replacing Evernote is a holy grail of privacy-oriented people who want to stay productive. Joplin does this better and more simply than any other program I've found to date. It's genuinely difficult to describe how relieved I am to have found it and given it a chance.

It's biggest advantages are:

  • it's cross platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android and iPhone). Evernote has for a long time treated Linux users as second-class citizens.
  • unlike in Endnote, you can enrypt your notes and transfer them encrypted. Excellent!
  • it's not tied to any specific syncing service/cloud, which means you can just get it to save in the folder of your choice and sync that however you like.
  • it's open source!
  • it has a simple but capable search and a tagging system (admittedly not as sophisticated as Evernote's but I'm sure it will be good enough for 90% of users)
  • unlike other open-source programs aiming to replace Evernote, Joplin allows you to:
  • attach (not just link to) any kind of file type to a note. And multiple files (your move, Turtl). This includes embedding images. Eat your heart, Laverna.
  • import notes from Evernote
  • work on mobile
  • Set reminders and todo lists!
  • it's free!

Disadvantages:

  • To get formatting in your notes, you'll need to learn markdown. This is a simple set of symbol sequences to get bold, italics, bullet points and titles, subtitles, etc. It sound inconvenient, but after about 30 minutes of practice, you'll have it licked. I promise. It's really a very small thing to learn.
  • At the time of writing, images embedded in the note cannot be resized.
  • pdf files are not previewed
  • no links between notes (cannot share/cross link between notes)
  • can't narrow searches by multiple tags

Note that Joplin is new. Its stated intention is to replace Evernote. It's likely some of its shortcomings are going to be addressed in the future.

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about Joplin · · Helpful Not helpful 5 Helpful Report as spam

A truly cross-platform, free, open source Evernote alternative that supports encryption, any syncing service you like, tagging, todos, time-based reminders, and has no privacy-violating aspects. You can import from Evernote. Only disadvantage: you have to learn markdown. (This takes 30 minutes and is a trivial inconvenience, when you consider the advantages of Joplin.)

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about Joplin · · Helpful Not helpful 1 Helpful Report as spam

It is new
It is open source
It can take notes
It does the encryption
It is local and works with cloud drives

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about Joplin · · Helpful Not helpful Report as spam

Functional open-source alternative to EverNote

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about Joplin · · Helpful Not helpful -2 Helpful Report as spam

I'm going to highlight the negative aspects first because they are the main cause for me not to use Joplin.

NEGATIVES

  • Markdown only
    I simply hate markdown. I'm a writer and I write tons of dialogues, but in my mother tongue, dialogues are displayed with a - (hyphen) symbol, which turns every line into a bullet point for lists, with markdown. Amongst other annoying things. (same problem with Turtle)

  • Doesn't import from plain text or doc/docx (Nimbus Note imports from plain text and open document)
    I want to save all my 3000 doc files to a noteapp that uses encryption, but I don't want to open EACH ONE OF THE 3000 FILES, copy and paste them on the app. I want to be able to import them all. But it's not possible (same problem with Turtl).

  • Export only to JEX (its own format for files), RAW (its own format for directory), PDF file.
    I like to know that I can migrate to other software if I feel like doing it. But Joplin prevents me of doing that by only exporting to pdf (argh) or its own file/directory formats.

POSITIVES

  • End-to-end encryption
  • ALMOST tree-file organization (not only tags)
  • Sync to any cloud service

[Edited by marriemuller, April 13]

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I have some negative points to add:

  • as far as I understood, synchronization works only one way - from app to cloud/filesystem. So, if there are some notes in the cloud but not in the app, you can't get them back to the app. Import just can't do this properly.
  • If you import .jex file with the notes that already exist, these notes won't be overridden, Joplin creates duplicated files that will stay forever in storage as garbage even if you delete all notes and re-sync everything again.

Thanks marriemuller, helpful comments. So what is your choice instead?

So I've had a think about this:

  • Markdown only / no plain text: That's certainly a massive missing feature. It would also be nice to have support for other markup formats such as reStructuredText.
  • doc/docx: I'm curious if there are any other note taking apps that support this format (Microsoft OneNote?) I think this is a very big ask, and not something I'd expect. I'd probably suggest Google Drive/Docs or NextCloud for this kind of thing
  • Export to JEX, RAW, and PDF: I think this is at least as good as every other notetaking app. The important thing is that it's got "lossless" exporting (i.e. including all metadata), and that it's in an easily accessible format. This ticks the box for me. What other export format would you like?
  • .jex importing: I tested this and I did find it created duplicates. I think it's probably worth filing a bug.
  • Synchronisation: I tested this and it was working fine, download and upload. Although there could be a problem related to this issue: https://github.com/laurent22/joplin/issues/536

@Natterjack565 Yes, synchronisation now seems to work perfectly, on desktop and on phone, so I think @Gold 's first point is not correct.

@techincalguy just checked the synchronization, and import/export. Everything works fine. So, actually, both of my points are no longer relevant. And that's great!