Sunday Review: Simplenote

I’ve been looking for an efficient, elegant note-taking solution on my computer for some time now. In the process of writing my novel, I’ll often be struck by little thoughts about how a future scene should go or what a character should do next. I started by saving text files on my computer, but these rapidly accumulated as one-line files in my novel folder. I wanted to be able to see them when I was away from my computer. I started using Apple’s default notes app on the iphone, but I didn’t like how they appeared in my email inbox (why would I want them there?) and, for some reason, duplicated themselves (possible because I use POP email, I’ve got two copies of every note I made). Then I heard about Simplenote, and I haven’t looked back since.

Simplenote has a truly elegant interface that I believe was designed to work best on the iPad. Online, the format is a clean empty sheet of paper with all of your notes in a column at left. You can tag notes and then search later through all your notes. You can view only the notes you want with a certain tag. You can view these notes with various desktop apps, online, or synced immediately and flawlessly with your iphone (or iPad, though I haven’t tested the iPad version). I was able to tag all my novel notes as “novel” and then dash off quick thoughts to myself about future scenes that I could view on the go. Everything about Simplenote has been, well, simple — and that’s just the way I want it.

Simplenote handles all the little notes we make flawlessly. In addition to keeping novel notes, I use simplenote for grocery lists and a list of items to buy for a new apartment so that my boyfriend can access the list and update it as well. When I’m about to go for a job interview or other important meeting, I throw the info into simplenote so I can easily check addresses and phone numbers on the go without digging through email archives. Simplenote is in that group of the best kind of writerly technology — the kind that gets out of the way and lets you think about other things.

My only request is a simpler way to export individual notes as text files; this feature would be helpful for sending editable information to people I don’t want to have full access to my account. Otherwise, Simplenote is the perfect modern note-taking solution.


  1. mary brady says:

    “Simplenote handles all the little notes we make flawlessly.” Speak for yourself. Personally, I make very flawed notes, most of them unintelligible just minutes after I write them. If this program requires ‘flawless’ little notes to begin with, it is not for me.

    Also, I would never let my boyfriend update the grocery list, much less ‘items needed’ for our home. You must have a much higher grade boyfriend than I do. Mine would just bring home a bunch of junk if I let him in on the decision-making process for these lists.

    We’d eat no vegetables, and all of our furniture & household items would be covered in cooties because they were purchased at yard sales.

    For story notes, though, this program sounds really good. I checked their site and you can go “premier” for $20 and see NO ads! As they thoughtfully point out, “that is less than $2 a month.” Yes. It surely is.

    You’re concerned about sending ‘edible information’ without giving someone (like a low-grade boyfriend…) access to the account.

    I have never been able to send anyone edible information. Can this really be done, access or no access? (I’m always the last to know…).

    L&K, MaryB

  2. Birgit says:

    OK, you are probably working only on a Mac, however, if you have a windows machine try to use ResophNotes which offers to keep your notes not only in a database but in single txt-files, too. Works great for me!

  3. Dan B says:

    I’ve been using Simplenote for over a year now, first on my iPhone and now on my iPad. It’s fantastic for keeping ideas that pop into my head. The sync function and history of changes works perfectly.
    A must have app for any writer.


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