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Joplin vs others

I posted a thread a while back, Future of Joplin and a lot of great conversation happened there. Rather than posting more to that thread, I believe this deserves another.

I wanted to start a conversation on how Joplin compares to other softwares. Not in the "this is better than that" sense, but more in depth. Let me explain in hopes that this can turn into a productive sharing of thoughts...

I use Markdown for many things, both personal and business. I find Joplin to be a great tool, especially since the comments from other users outlining how they use it. That said, I still use other Markdown softwares. On my system I have Typora, Mark Text, Ghostwriter, VNote, Obsidian, PanWriter, and of course Atom and VSCode. I have used and removed many others in my quest.

If you all here do not mind, I will be frank...

  1. I like Typora, but they are not open source and intend on charging once out of beta. Given this and they still have functional issues, like not being able to change and save spell check options, that software is not an option moving forward.
  2. Mark Text is a great software with a good amount of features, but it is lacking in basic things, like the ability to right click on the folder listing area and similar things which a user would expect. Otherwise, a good writing software, but a bit out of the norm for me.
  3. Ghostwriter is a unique software in that it is friendly to customization, but at the same time, lacks feature. The new V2 (in pre-release0 is a major improvement, but still not quite right.
  4. VNote is another great software, but is awkwardly designed for me. Additionally, it uses its own folder system vs a common folder of md files that any software can use.
  5. Obsidian is the newest install for me. So far, it uses its own vault to store items. Otherwise, needs more testing.
  6. PanWriter is a very simplistic piece and not suited for a all encompassing solution. But, a nice product.
  7. Atom and VSCode are out of scope for a word processor type application.

[edited to be more clear] I wonder what others here think? For a person looking for a universal markdown editor, where do they look? What editors are strong in specific ares vs others? What editors have good support for advanced features like footnotes and tables, etc?

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I think the thrust of your query doesn't line up with the thread title, "Joplin vs others".

Joplin is a note taking app that uses a markdown editor. It's not trying to be a markdown editor in and of itself. I can't imagine there are many users who are using Joplin just to create markdown files that they could equally have created in Typora, Atom, etc.

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My question is more hypothetical. I am looking to see how people view Joplin and the alternative softwares, and how they can be used. I stated that poorly.

You seem to think the alternatives to Joplin are a bunch of markdown editors. That's the confusing part. Joplin is not primarily a markdown editor, it's a note app. The alternatives to Joplin are, for most people IMHO, Evernote, OneNote, Notion, Nimbus, Bear, Standard Note, Obsidian, etc., not Typora, Atom, MarkText, VSCode, etc.

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Any reason why you don't use the built-in editors? Personally I use the rich text editor and that's good enough for almost all my use. The built-in Markdown editor is even better, if you like writing raw markdown, because of all the built-in features and plugins.

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And I agree that the title is not great, sounds a bit adversarial, even though that's not what your post is about.

Question wasn't directed to me, but I'll share my thoughts. For just quick notes, I'll use the markdown editor. For longer notes where I'll be writing more than a few sentences, I use Typora as the external editor. Why? Writing and looking over markdown notes is a hassle, IMHO, because of all the markdown syntax and even more importantly, the awful monospace font (great for coding, terrible for reading - try reading a long note in any monospace font and compare that to reading same note in Typora's default font). And to me, the editor/viewer dual panes is clunky. In-line markdown editors (if that's the correct term?) like Typora are great - I can write in markdown but what I see is the rendered view (and it's not monospace font!). Best of both worlds.

As for the rich text editor, IIRC, there are some incompatibilities when editing notes with both markdown and rich text editors. Plus as you note, not all the plugins work with rich text editor. I need to figure out if the ones I care about work w/ rich text editor - and then perhaps I could use this as my default editor in Joplin. It's not as if I had a problem with the editor in Evernote, other than all the funky ENML formatting (which isn't an issue with Joplin's rich text editor) and lack of outline mode.

Last time I checked neither of these had mobile apps. For me this is the most important feature of Joplin. (Less so now that I'm staying at home all the time)

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I amended the last statement to be more clear. My intent is to look at Joplin compared to others, which is better at what, etc.

I added a statistic, most users do use Joplin's default editor

I think Joplin could definitely use more functional theme support like some others, and it would be great if the support goes on the built-in rich text editor.

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Wow! Thank you for the overview.

Yes, Typora is excellent. In my case Typora is 6-7 times less RAM consuming than Joplin, which might explain the speed. And you can pair it with Markor on Android.

As for VNote, Joplin also uses its own system. It only offers to export to MD folders.

On a desktop / laptop you can also check out Vim + Goyo + Limelight + some nice color scheme.

Also, if you don't care about Live conversion to HTML, Focus Writer, and even FeatherPad can be interesting options.

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Thank you for the thread.

I compare Joplin to Obsidian, Drafts, and Ulysses. All markdown editors and they all control the notes within the application, not as separate files. I am currently leaning towards Drafts because of good applications across my Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and standard scripts across the platforms.

With the addition of plugins, Joplin is giving Drafts for the Mac a run for its money. I know plugins would be nice on my iPhone, but what I would really like to see there is shortcuts for markdown formatting. Have you ever tried to get to a "#" on your phone!

As for Obsidian, there is no mobile apps yet. So, I do not use it as much. I do like that I can open a notebook and close it, which is great for grouping notes together.

Ulysses is a nice editor and good way to keep notes organized, but the script support in Drafts is too hard to let go of.

Anyway, my two cents.

I tried out many note apps myself. So far electron apps are the most RAM-consuming and are often laggy and require GPU for graphics. If you use a laptop, possible battery drain.

  • Joplin
  • Simplenote (requires login)
  • Standard Notes
  • Typora (just a text editor without tabs)
  • MarkText (just a text editor without tabs)
  • Trilium (like a calendar app, lots of tagging features, but it's just too much, UI is messy)

Non-electron apps which I liked and they consume just as much as Notepad++ were:

  • CherryTree
  • QOwnNotes
  • Obsidian
  • Zim

All these 4 used between 25-50 MB of ram, but they don't have some nice features like support for encrypted cloud storage (wherever you want) which Joplin has and good UI or search in all notebooks&notes.
Even OneNote was 50 MB, but it lacks many features that opensource free software has.

Atom and VSCode are out of scope for a word processor type application

Well, you jumped through quite some areas there - from a note-taking app, through markdown editors, to "a word processor type application".

Quite the contrary to that last conclusion, I tend to use exactly these on desktop - Sublime Text 3 and Visual Studio Code. Lately it's almost exclusively vscode. It has pretty-much all the features I'm looking for:

  • uses plain folders and .md files. Can open folders (as root) and therefore narrow the focus and search outreach as desired.
  • has a (html) preview
  • supports extensions, which provide wiki-link navigation and tons of other features
  • has inline formatting (i.e. titles, bold, etc.)

If I could find a similar app for the mobile, it would be paradise. Markor comes close but not close enough, though. Search is the main pain point. Since I'm using Markdown for several different purposes (think Org Mode), search is crucial for knowledge bases. There's no point storing all this information if I have to remember WHERE I stored it.
I've experimented with Org Mode ecosystem. It seems quite handy but unfortunately, the cult following did not bring enough people to implement features on the mobile platforms over the years, which is a shame.

To come back to Joplin, one thing I really dislike is that it uses a linear structure for the storage and practically ruins my note organization. I'd prefer to have a data structure that's completely independent from the software that uses it. That's the whole point of using Plain Text and not proprietary binary formats. And no, I don't want to import and export all the time.
Since I've had various issues synchronizing notes (sometimes updates are just not recognized and the notes get overwritten), I tend to leave that area to specialized applications, as well (read rclone).
That's my $0.02.

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You can take a look at this vscode plugin:

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:+1:t2:

I think this thread, and the earlier Future of Joplin thread, are very interesting.

I used Evernote for many years. Then about 4 years ago I bought a Synology NAS, so I've been using Synology Note Station ever since then. Recently I watched a YouTube video about must-have open source apps, which talked about Joplin, and that's how I ended up here.

Getting notes out of Synology Note Station and into Joplin was a challenge and this made me think that having open data (e.g. markdown files) is more important than the application itself because ideally I could simply change to a different app without any export and import steps.

This is what I personally make use of:

  • Simple formatting, certainly within the limits of what markdown offers.
  • Ideally a WYSIWYG editor, or at least images should be shown in markdown.
  • Organize notes into folders.
  • Synchronize across my 3 Linux computers and one Android phone.
  • Search for text.
  • I have about 1000 notes.

Functionality I don't use:

  • Tags. I use folders for organization and I search for keywords. Tags only work if you have the foresight to tag things in the way you will want to access them in the future. I guess I don't have that skill.
  • Web clipper. Instead, I use the Copy Title and Url as Markdown Style Chrome extension, plus copy-paste of text, plus area screenshots.
  • Links to other notes. In the 1000 or so notes I have, I think I've used links maybe twice, and only because it was a facility I wanted to try out.
  • TODO lists, although I sometimes use checkboxes within notes.
  • Sharing a link to a note with someone else.
  • History (back-verions).

From my requirements, I think an app that works with folders of markdown files and their embedded resources (e.g. images) would be sufficient. The app can provide a side panel of folder structure and notes, and search would use brute force search because there is no database. Synchronization just means synchronizing folders, so I can use Dropbox, Synology Drive, or whatever. The note taking app doesn't need to be concerned with that.

So which applications should I consider? Joplin? Typora? Mark Text? VSCode (I'm a software developer) with markdown extensions, a combination? I'm thinking that if need be, in theory at least, I could use a different app on my Android phone from what I use on my Linux computers.

Can Joplin be used in the way I describe? Am I overlooking some functionality I would miss out on?

Short reply, others will have more to say: I use Joplin in a very similar way. I'd say it can do what you want in terms of features (not sure about the WYSIWYG with images, I am not using images in notes).

One thing to be aware of: Joplin does not use named, plain files in a folder-structure as its backend. Rather, there is a DB (sqlite?) within the application. Syncing via Webdav is file-based, but with hashed file-names.

However, there is an "Export all" option that allows to dump all notes as .md files in a folder structure (or as .html, or as .pdf, ...). Iirc, this can also be triggered via CLI if you want to automate it (would need to search the forum for this).

Personally, I'm a big fan of open and interoperable storage for the reasons you describe, but I'm totally content with letting Joplin internally manage its content in the best technical way, as I know that I can export my notes at any time with one click.

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