2016 Archive

Plain Text Notes

Update July 2017

A year and a half later, I published a follow-up on my plain text notes system, where I describe how I tried another dedicated app but ultimately settled back on plain text and why. The following article is still relevant, and if you enjoy it, be sure to read the follow-up afterwards.

After bouncing between various note-keeping apps, I finally settled on a very simple solution that is flexible, cross-platform, freely available, and will surely stand the test of time: plain text.

Journal entries. Recipes. Work log. Grocery lists. Things I need to quickly pull up on my phone when I’m on the go. Ideas for gifts I want to buy my wife and kids. Anything, and everything. Digital notes have been an absolutely essential part of my personal and professional life. What I use to manage the notes essentially serves as my secondary brain.

Without putting a lot of thought into it initially, I started out using the stock Notes app on iOS and the OS X, which worked until I took a detour into the land of Linux and it suddenly became annoyingly painful to access my notes. In my frustration, I began thinking about my mobile needs. If I were to move away from iOS in the future, even if temporarily (be it Android or something else), what would I do then? I often need to access my notes when I’m on the go, so this was a big concern.

It was clear that I needed a cross-platform solution that could withstand my (admittedly erratic) computing habits over time. I don’t think vendor lock-in is an acceptable option for me.

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Ignore the Noise

Whether you’re new to the JavaScript ecosystem or have some experience, unless you’re super-human, you’ll inevitably become overwhelmed at the sheer number of frameworks, libraries, build systems, preprocessors, template engines (the list goes on and on) that are available.

What’s worse, as you put a significant chunk of time into a certain stack, there will inevitably be other libraries, frameworks, and tools that gain more popularity than the ones you chose, and likely brand new projects that became the shiny new thing while you were busy getting things done. Before long, you start to feel like you’re suddenly becoming irrelevant.

Joe Gregorio argued in 2014 that we should abandon all frameworks in favor of plain HTML+CSS+JS in his zero framework manifesto:

I think it’s time to rethink the model of JS frameworks. There’s no need to invent yet another way to do something, just use HTML+CSS+JS.

The landscape has only gotten more cluttered since then, so I don’t think the web development community as a whole agrees, probably because that approach may not be practical for everyone and for every project. Still, I think it’s a good starting point. More on that later.

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