I’ve been a long time Evernote user. With few exceptions, I dump everything that I think or discover into my Evernote database. I’ve even been a premium member until recently.

And yet, I’ve never loved Evernote. I feel like we have always been at odds. Things never work quite how I want them to and a lot of minor details leave me frustrated. I’ll save that rant for another post but the bottom line is this: I’ve been looking for a new note taking system for a long time and I’ve always been forced come back to Evernote because it is the lesser of many evils.

With all of the discussion about the “open web” lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of building my own system, using existing technologies and supplementing with my own open-sourced utilities. This post won’t go into the nitty-gritty details and is more of an outline of what features I think this system should have in order to meet my needs. So let’s begin.

Wish List

This list is not all encompassing, nor are all items required. These are just things I want (and use in my current system).

  1. Powered by plain text files. Whether you prefer to take notes in Markdown, HTML, plain text, or LaTex, this system should take any and all text files without regard for the contents.
  2. Preview/rendering options. This system should easily allow the user to preview their marked-up plain-text content. Preferably with a live preview option. Also, presentation mode!
  3. Varied storage options. A user should not have their thoughts and ideas locked into a third party’s cloud. They should be able to pick and choose and easily relocate their data at anytime. Ideally, the user can even host their own data.
  4. Supports multi-media. As much as the developer in me wishes that everything existed in text, even I have to add images & videos to my notes every now and again. This should be easy & intuitive.
  5. Hand writing support. Some people just prefer to take notes the old fashioned way or have sketches interspersed throughout.
  6. Customizable organization. If the user wants to file things away in folders by month or year, great. If the user wants to file everything away in one large, hot-mess of a folder, also great.
  7. Search. It should be easy to find what you’re looking for.
  8. Text transcription. This is one feature that Evernote really nailed and probably the hardest to replicate. Ideally, this would tie in with search as well.
  9. Mobile friendly (first?). We live in a progressively mobile first world whether we like it or not. This system should function equally well on phones, tablets, computers, and the web.
  10. Web Service. This system should be able to live on the web, including self-hosted.
  11. Affordable but viable. Fairly priced for consumers and the developer(s).
  12. Customizable templates. Whether you’re bookmarking sites or journalling, a good template can save you time.
  13. Extensible. Feature missing? Easily add it in yourself.

Basically what I want is a fast, simple, powerful note taking platform that is also useful for bookmarking, planning, todo-list managing, and cross-platforming utility. Not much… just everything.

This will probably (read: definitely) be on long, drawn out process as I piecemeal this all together (or give up and move on to something else, as I’m want to do on projects like these).

If you have suggestions or thoughts, feel free to contact me on Twitter.