Other great note takers and points for improvement for Joplin

Ok, I played with Trilium for a few minutes because... why not :slight_smile:

First observation: from a non techie standpoint, it is virtually impossible to get started. You have to visit Github, read all the instructions on how to visit the release page, then fish out the correct version, then extract the ZIP, and then find out from a huge list what file to start to run Trilium. That is a far cry from the installations that user friendly apps offer. Take Joplin for example: you visit the website, click a huge "Download the app" button and 30 seconds later there is an icon on the desktop that allows you to get into the app.

So you finally manage to get Trilium going, and the next hurdle presents itself: choose a username and password. It turns out that this is not some online account as you would presume based on previous experiences with other apps, no, it's just to set you up on your own computer. Ok, fine. You enter your name and some password, and finally you're in the app.

Whoa! I think I accidentally opened someone's note app! What's all THIS cr@p???

Enough for now... I'll look at that later. Close the page, pfew, good. Let's try this again. Wait, how do I get into the app again? There isn't anything on my desktop, nothing in the Start menu either. Ahh I have to go back to my downloads folder, find where I unzipped the Trillium folder, Find that thingie again that starts the app, done.

Let's try a new note. Hello! Testing! That went well and I like the formatting options. Playing around with it a little things become clear(er) and I like some of the features a lot, but... it's definitely one of the more "geeky" solutions out there. No idea yet how syncing works and if there are any Android/iDevice apps out there, or web clipping, or plugins... but... I'm pretty sure it won't be intuitive either.

So all in all I can definitely see why it's attractive, and I do like their editor better than Joplin, but you'd have to be really invested to actually learn the ins and outs... while Joplin is as easy as "install, and use". Or, as someone pointed out in this thread, even granny can get the hang of it within minutes :slight_smile:

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Trillium seems to be quite an impressive project, but I would be concerned about the lack of test units and the use of JavaScript as opposed to TypeScript. I can't imagine how hard it must be to add any major new feature or refactor code in such a codebase.

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Impressive but not as impressive as Joplin :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: every time I open Joplin, I thank you and everyone involved in developing and making Joplin better or a daily basis.

Joplin is still my favourite doubt I'll ever find anything better but I still enjoy looking at other solutions and see what they are doing and some things in Trilium stuck me I think might they inspire some more technical people to develop similar plugins or functionality for Joplin.

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I did not have the same experience I just download .exe and ran trilium created an account and was good to go. After the first start up I realised Trilium had a server-side which I managed to loaded on a raspberry pi.

The rest I agree I was overwhelmed with all the notes and if you delete them you loose so of the fuctionality which left me wondering how to get functionality back that's when I had to go to githuband read further and realised what made Trilium "special" and I was impressed with some of the concepts hence why I posted here but Joplin is still the go to note taking app in my opinion

Yeah, but a non-technical user is not going to be able to go to GitHub and find the files there. Windows users also need to have a proper installer/uninstaller that is easy to find with clear instructions, and also adds all the necessary shortcuts to the Start Menu and such. Otherwise, the program will likely be limited to techies and power users :wink:.

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Despite you starting with "I did not have the same experience", funny enough you described exactly why the process is indeed user unfriendly - our records match in that regard :smiley:

That said I'm sure everyone is happy to read your extensive user experience. This community is not a group of fanbois like... some forum I won't mention, haha. I personally am always happy to try out new software with an open mind. Case in point: a friend and I tested Obsidian and Joplin. He chose Obsidian, I stayed with Joplin. It's all good!

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I tried Trillium. It seems good if you want to spend more time documenting your life than living it. And if you don't plan to ever have a smartphone.

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Good one but it works on smartphone if you implement the server cause they have a webapp that works well on phones/tablet, that's one of the things I wish Joplin had a webapp cause then all the plugins would work everywhere seamlessly.

So I was curious and wanted to have a look. This is only over the course of an hour or two of playing and I deliberately didn't read the user guide as these kinds of things really should be usable without one, the guide should only be required for reference of more advanced topics. I did not read the OneNote, Evernote or Joplin user guides for first use.

First impressions

UI

To me it is a bit of a confused mess between a clean minimalist UI and massive clutter/information overload. Why do I need to see the database note ID, link maps, revisions etc. on first use. I guess it is to show off all the capabilities with that demo folder but its a bit intimidating.
So many icons and buttons, most of which I simply don't need - why is there a dedicated "weight tracker" button (oi, Trilium, you calling me fat?).
I'm glad I know that my folder has 1 Owned attr of #viewType=grid and 0 Inherited atts. I have no idea what this means or why I need to know it but sure, thanks.

Notes, folders etc.

I want to make a new folder outside of "Trilium Demo". I press the little button next to 'root' (which seems to be immutable? - it seems somewhat redundant initially, no doubt it has some kind of special sauce behind it). I click the little + icon and now I get a new note. Ok fine but I didn't want a note, I wanted a folder but no amount of right clicking moving is unlocking its secrets - but I can happily "edit branch prefix". I did hit upon the solution of making a second new note and dragging my first new note over the second new note, now I have a folder called new note and a note called new note.
However it seems the folder isn't just a folder its a note and a folder? I can type into my folder like a note but then can also click inside my note within it. Fair enough, I do like this feature but the folder icon is somewhat misleading.

Writing a note

Start typing and it defaults to a richtext type editor, not really what I want to be using, for note taking I just find Markdown to be so much faster and more fluid than trying to use more of a word processor type system, I'm in love with the ability to format using characters and not shortcuts & buttons. So I look under "Type:Text" and find you can change to "Type:Markdown" - oh god, now I've got my note in html tags, a monospace terminal type font and line numbers.
We have some markdown highlighting going on but we don't have the nice hybrid markdown approach of showing the formatting tags but not some of the other features like dynamic sizing of header lines - this also means that apparently my note is now code and not a note.
I also can't see a way to preview it, I go to that dropdown again and click "render note" - the app says I shouldn't change a note type and now it is giving me some complicated reason as to why I did something wrong and that this is for some kind of HTML scripting. I just want to see my markdown. I assume Trilium just doesn't support Markdown (which is an instant reason for me to not use this application).

Conclusions

I can see why people like this app, despite my negative comments above, there is a lot to like here. For those who like richtext editors I think the experience is simply better than the Joplin editor. However that means nothing to somebody who wants to use Markdown almost exclusively as the support for Markdown seems to be minimal at best.
The organisational aspect is also nice, if you are into that kind of thing but I can see myself spending half my time perfectly organising the tree to be perfect rather than doing more important things.

The things I do like that I think I would like to see in Joplin one day as either a plugin or as a feature:

  • Being able to manually set note types - Joplin sort of has this already in that the "Markup" field can be either Markdown or HTML but it isn't something that can be set manually. I mostly would like to see it as a way to protect any HTML formatted notes from the markdown editor as well as being able to set entire "code" type notes that are excluded from formatting but can be distinguished at a glance.
  • The ability to type data into the folders - Although I don't think it needs to be taken as far as Trilium, I like the idea of being able to set some description data against the Notebook itself rather than it just being a static folder.
  • The "book" type - as somebody who tends to write a lot of small, self-contained notes, I really like the implementation of this where you can display all your sub-notes on a single viewer pane.

The negatives:

  • Poor Markdown support - what makes Joplin, Joplin for me is the heavy (almost sole) support of Markdown. At this point I've almost entirely converted to using Markdown for everything, it makes the note writing process so much faster and easier for me when I can format on the fly by typing and not by highlighting + shortcuts/buttons.
  • Overly complicated - whilst powerful, the sheer amount of stuff that is thrown at you by default is somewhat overwhelming - I decided against a bunch of other note apps such as QOwnNotes for the same reason - all these extra panes, panels and property fields makes it feel less like a note app and more of a knowledge database which really are two different (but overlapping) solutions. Even Sometimes less is more and I would just spend the rest of time organising the system.
  • "Cloned" notes - I do like the idea of this one, having a single "master" note which appears as a full note but within different notebooks - you can have the same data in more than one place but without having to rely on clicking internal links (which will switch notebooks) or having to maintain two notes at once
  • Tagging - I couldn't see an obvious way to have tags, I think this is accomplished using the attributes panel and adding labels but I couldn't immediately work out how to use them in the same way as Evernote or Joplin tags. Again, I can see how this system can be incredibly powerful but its just too much (although tag hierarchies is still something conspicuously absent from Joplin, I know there is work going on for this still but its probably one of the biggest issues for me at the moment).
  • Syncing - most people are absolutely not going to have the equipment or ability to set up a proprietary sync server. I struggled enough migrating to a personal NextCloud instance (which at least is multi use). The ability for Joplin to support so many different and common sync targets is definitely a win for your average user.

There is a hell of a lot to like here but ultimately they seem to serve two different purposes. I love Joplin because it is simple, I don't need about 80% of the Trilium features which unfortunately causes it to be less usable when you only need the simple features. There are a lot of things that I would personally like to see in Joplin and there is a wealth of ideas for future plugins here.
The lack of proper markdown support is the killer for me though, I can't (and won't) go back.

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Trillium seems to have a build in link map that shows notes linked with the current note. Whereas the way it works seems a bit cryptic to me, that would great to have this kind of thing joplin. Unfortunatly, I was not able to make the Link Graph UI plugin work. Here is a sreenshot of link map in the demo of trillium (it could be called local link map. It may only show notes "directly" link woth the current note which not the best option). It seems to show some notes inside a tree. I did not found though any way to copy a link to a note (a right click on a note would be the most obvious way to do so as it works in joplin)
image

Trilium obeys the parent folder's formatting. So if you set the parent to Markdown, the sub notes will start with Markdown. You can also arbitrarily change the type of the notes whether their parent is set to something else or not.

Tags are called attributes in Trilium. You can press Alt+a to jump to the attribute line to add tags.

I know this is Joplin forum and most people here like Markdown. I personally do not find Markdown note taking friendly at all because how limiting it is, the simplicity of Markdown comes at a cost especially in the fluid note taking area and the lack of creating hierarchies with indents. That is where Trilium is more powerful, I can just start typing free form notes without worring about Markdown and trying mentally to go around its limitations.

Markdown is great for documenting, but not so for note-taking. I think that there is a difference between those two.

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I would argue the exact opposite. Writing notes in markdown allows you to just keep writing without having to backtrack and highlight areas to apply certain formatting or pressing toolbar buttons.

I find the ability to type # Header 1 to get a title followed by ## Header 2 is so much faster and more fluid than toggling your desired format on and off or having to highlight your section and apply the format after.
Even Trilium seems to recognise this in that the majority of Markdown shortcuts seem to be supported. However the fact that the formatting tags aren't preserved makes it much more of a pain if you want to go back and edit your formatting. For example I have quite a few notes where I've written it in one format and want to apply a new one. I can simply do stuff like replace all instances of [**].* (bold opening tags) with ### and all instances of [*]*\n with \n which will remove all my bold tags and replace them as H3 lines. Or find all instances a given header line and increment it by one just by sticking an extra # in there.

And because of the pre-arranged formatting of Markdown in regards to the preview, you can view the same raw data in different way depending on what application you use to view your notes. It also allows far easier integration of stuff like static websites or blogs which allows you to render your notes differently depending on where you load them. Its just so much more flexible in that regard.

The point is that they aren't Markdown notes, they are "Code" type notes with Markdown syntax highlighting which is a huge difference. You can't write in Markdown and easily preview it, it lacks the "hybrid" formatting/highlighting that Joplin offers as well as a preview window.

I understand they work, I was giving my initial impressions as new user. I understand how much more potential they have compared to Joplin style tagging but they require significantly more setup and maintenance.
From a new user perspective I can add #tagname. I know I can then use that for searching but that is not as simple as looking down my list of tags and picking from the ones I want to look at - I might not necessarily remember the exact name for a tag but I can easily find it in a list. I can see how much extra functionality you could gain from it, you could set up a saved search "note" containing a complex set of combined tag search criteria to call upon but that is asking a bit much of the average user who just wants a note taking app and not a complex personal database - which is what the attributes essentially are; a key-value database with references to notes.

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Just tried Trilium. The UI feels unpolished and confusing compared Joplin. The one thing it has going for it that I would love to see with Joplin is a web implementation. It would be nice to be able to install Joplin as a web app with a user login system and simply access it via the browser. Also, time would be better spend getting the mobile apps, specifically iOS, up to par with the desktop app.

Why would I want to do that while taking notes?. That is the point, way too much mambo jambo while all I want is to be able to make hierarchy outlines and fluid note-taking experience.

I do not think that Markdown is the ultimate solution for note-taking. It works for some people, and it does not work for some others. To me the lack of proper tabbing or indent is a weakness in a note editor, and that is a matter of personal taste, not saying everyone should adhere to this method of note taking.

You wouldn't?? This is to do with being able to do a find and replace on formatting after you have written your note, often long after. I literally gave an example where I had note (from Evernote) where I was using bolded text as headers but when I migrated to Joplin I decided on a new, nicer format and very quickly reformatted over 150 notes just by doing a bunch of simple find & replaces. This is trivial when using markdown because you can literally search for the formatting tags as text because they are text. I'm not sure of a quick and easy way to do that with traditional richtext style notes.

Neither do I, but for me it is hands down the best option that I'm aware of so far. I find manually formatting text with shortcuts and formatting toolbars to be so much slower and more inefficient than simply tying a couple of extra characters.
The fact that it is so portable is another important factor for me, the way that it can be previewed in different ways just by changing the application you paste your MD into is a huge bonus part of the benefit. I've already mentioned above and before about how useful I find being able to use standard find & replace functions to quickly replace the entire format of a note.

On the other hand, something I've mentioned elsewhere is that Joplin isn't the only app I use. For work I still use OneNote because my workflow requirements are entirely different, the WYSIWYG editing and freeform layout is so much more important there because my focus is on storing data for later recall rather than writing notes. So if OneNote was no longer an option, something like Trilium would be something I would consider as a replacement over Joplin.

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Could you clarify what you mean by that? Because you can actually use indentation, and in fact I use that a lot to organise my notes (usually with indented lists) but maybe you have something else in mind.

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Indent using the tab key normally does unformatted text. If you do indent (you need to do double indents and have line spaces to make it work), the indent block is highlighted green in the regular markdown editor. However, it is treated as inline code in the visual editor. The biggest issue with all this is the inconsistency and indents's use of large spaces since it needs that double transform.

It would be very hard to have more than couple indent hierarchy in a page because one will run out of available space quickly. And wrapped indent blocks do not look nice geenrally, something Trilium sucks at ,it always wraps the blocks.

If you go back and forth between the regular editor and the visual editor (just make a very small change to test), you will see that the double indent block is converted to a code block.

The visual editor does not seem to support tabbing at all. The tab key does not do anything in the visual editor. It would be really great if the visual editor actually support indent with the tab without any workarounds or special codes than.

Here is a screenshot that shows the editor, rendered and how the same text looks in a notepad editor. I personally prefer the spacing in a regular notepad editor, better readable and space efficient.

Speaking of other projects deserving attention, our brothers and sisters from China made an impressive app called Siyuan.

It's a proprietary personal knowledge management system focused around Markdown instant rendering editor called Vditor (open source/MIT, Typescript, react support, depends on lute).

What's good about it?

  • Adoption of so called "content blocks" allowing to reference and view a specific part of a note
  • Hierarchical tags
  • Graph view, notes hierarchy, journal note, mermaid/plantuml/graphviz support, programmable templates, community themes/icons/templates, web clipper, tabs, search, all that jazz
  • Much more restrained approach to UI compared to trilium

What's bad?

  • No third party sync providers, i.e. sync works only via it's own service (not sure if it's open source), account is required
  • Documentation and developer communication is mostly in chinese
  • no IOS app yet (it's on the roadmap)
  • Registration is apparently works only with chinese phone numbers that makes sync unusable for the rest of the world at the moment
  • E2E encryption is a paid feature

P.S. I'm not sure if this post fits in this thread, if it doesn't, I leave to moderators to split it

Update: Siyuan is actually a proprietary software whereas vditor is open source, thanks to @hyfree for pointing it out. Sorry for misinformation!

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While on we are on additional notetakers, here is another one that can be self-hosted. There are both web app, desktop clients and mobile apps.

https://www.wiz.cn/

It is feature rich, supports users, has basic pen drawing input, offers very nice calendar support etc

Thanks for sharing! That editor is so cool, for anyone interested they have a demo available online. ε¦‚δ½•εœ¨ React 中使用 - Vditor

It should be possible to integrate this editor in to Joplin as well. From my testing it works really well.

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