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Suggestions for improvement

Hi! Firstly, thank you for creating Joplin. It’s a great tool, well designed, and must have involved countless hours of your time to create and develop.

Joplin is outstanding amongst open-source note-taking PIM software. It is by far the best primarily because of its incredibly useful web-clipping tool. I’d looked for a tool like this for at least 8 years, writing to developers of open source note projects to implement a webclipper. Now that I found Joplin, I use it all the time.
However, the interface for organizing notes/data could use improvement. Every user will have their own opinion about this and I’m sure many users will like Joplin just the way it is.

I’ve used a number of note-taking PIM software since 2008 and, based my usage of these programs, developed a wish-list of features. The very best of the PIMs arguably, are Ultra Recall, MyInfo, MyBase, RightNote, and several others which share, by and large, the same interface layout. They tend to use three panes: Left Pane- a hierarchical tree file structure that the user can click on to show notes in the centre document viewing pane; Centre Pane where documents can be viewed; Right Pane- where search results appear or other meta-data that can be selected by the user.

My suggestions for improving Joplin:

1. Restructure as a 3 pane outliner.

The problem I see with Joplin is that the current structure uses screen space very inefficiently. While ‘notebooks’ are nestable, their location in a vertical menu on the left takes up a great deal of screen space. The major PIM applications use a horizontal menu across the top of the screen. This uses far less screen space. In Joplin, the notes pane is fine the way it is. It would be very useful if users could change the colour/highlighting of the note title. Joplin’s inefficient use of screen space is not a problem on a 27 inch monitor, but on a small notebook, it becomes awkward.

2. Improve the tag/keyword function

The tagging/keywording in Joplin is quite good, but could be greatly improved by adopting some of the innovations that other applications have implemented.
There is no need to speculate and “reinvent the wheel” as several applications have outstanding keyword capabilities. Please do check out Imatch 5. The Imatch 5 developer carefully studied other application’s tagging systems and arrived at quite a brilliant implementation. The key-wording features of IMatch 5 are probably the best-in-class. IMatch’s keywording system is specifically designed to be used for adding keywords to images, PDF, MP3s and a host of other document formats. Its easy to search by keyword, my multiple keyword, has autocomplete, recently used keywords, and a host of other brilliant functions.

The only thing thing that I believe could possibly improve this type of system it is to allow they keywording of sections of text. This would allow Joplin to function as a simple QDA (Qualitative data analysis software). Affordable QDA software essentially does not exist, and the open source initiatives underway are extraordinarily weak and years behind Joplin. I have little doubt there is a big demand from graduate students all over the world who would currently benefit from a simple open-source QDA, but cannot afford one of the “big names”.

3. Implement a ‘categories’ feature perhaps.

But perhaps equally important for consideration in your software is the “category” system of Imatch 5. The “Categories” option allows users to create move photos/documents (for Joplin, this would be moving of notes) into hierarchical categories (a type of folder) that are easily reorganized. The categories feature also allows for the creation of clones that IMatch refers to as “category reference” files. This is a useful method in that notes can exist in in a fixed tree/hierarchical format, but at the same time, the ‘tag categories’ offer other options for organization. Each note/document could be placed in multiple categories.

Hierarchical Tree Structure:

My city
– museum
– art gallery
– historical stories
– cultural heritage
– modern house architecture examples
– heritage houses
– industrial heritage sites

These could be regrouped into various “categories” without affecting the Hierarchical Tree Structure.
ie)
Category “nice building”
– museum
– heritage houses
– industrial heritage sites

Category “sightseeing”
– museum
– art gallery
– heritage houses

Each tagged item can appear in multiple ‘categories’.

#4. Implement a QDA (Qualitative Data Analysis) feature- User can select portions sections of text and apply a keyword to that entire section.
To achieve functionality as a QDA, in Joplin, a user would be able to select portions sections of text and apply a keyword to that entire section. Ideally, each keyword/tag would appear in a margin and indicate with highlighting or coloured bars each section of text that is coded with a particular keyword. By performing a search/analysis, all sections of text coded with particular keywords can be brought together in summary reports.
This would allow Joplin to function as a QDA (Qualitative Data Analysis) application. Low cost QDA tools do not exist (other than SilvaElm’s amazing SENSE program).
This would strengthen Joplin’s use as a data-sorting, cataloging and analysis tool, and should attract researchers and students.

#5. Offer an option to format text and documents without using Markup.
Perhaps its just me- when I began using computers, the eventual introduction of WYSIWYG was a tremendous breakthrough in that users no longer had to remember codes to format documents, but could use menu-driven selections to format text and see the changes immediately. I have trouble understanding the attraction of having to remember a slew of markup codes when I create documents. I would prefer to be able to format documents with full menu bars with standard formatting options.

#6. Ability to write a text box anywhere on the page like the outstanding KDE software BasketNotes which never really developed into anything.
Have any of you tried BasketNotes for Linux? It was utterly brilliant and one of the best note-taking systems. It allowed users to place a text box anywhere on a page, paste in photos or images and write beneath them. I’ve always thought this was an outstanding feature that allows users to arrange notes and research materials in an organic fashion. If Basket had remained under development improved several features slightly, had a webclipper, and was cross-platform, I don’t think anything today could compare.

The above represent several suggestions that I feel would greatly improve Joplin. I hope this may be of use.

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+1 for a different layout with less whitespaces. I think more people had said that before.

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I hope the developers take note. Joplin has potential to be the best outliner/PIM out there. I believe an interface similar to the ‘big players’ is the way to go. There’s a reason why the PIMs I mentioned are regarded so highly and why they function in very similar ways.

Yes, there already were multiple suggestions for tagging or UX improvements.

But I mostly wanted to say I really dislike this specific idea. I’ve used it a lot in OneNote, and while it can be really nice, it makes the note format itself a lot more complex.
(It’s also the main reason why, unlike my Evernote notes, I still don’t have my OneNote notes moved to Joplin.)

I’ve been looking for an EN replacement for a long time and tried a lot of things until I found Joplin; among my main criteria was that I want my notes to be in a portable and open format, preferably Markdown.
(Even the rich text formatting in EN, while occasionally quite useful especially for web scrapes, ended up causing harm more often than helping.)

_(Side note: I sometimes do wish there was an easy way to do two-column stuff in Markdown, e.g. for side-by-side comparisons and things like that, but that’s a different problem entirely.)

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@Zblesk, you can open the note in say npp+ or sublime-text and copy paste text in another instance. Compare and edit with the opened note, the save would reflect in Joplin.

And I do agree, OneNote is awesome but very hard to manage. Especially if you have OCD. Aligning stuff is a pain. Plus the open canvas doesn’t play nice with mobile.

Markdown is best. Small & simple. Use it in the most benign of text editors i.e. notepad.

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With regard to #6, I see what you mean now in retrospect. Its not very easy to export. But I really did like that feature in OneNote and in BasketNotes. I guess its doomed to die out.

I made the switch from OneNote when I switched to Linux in 2007. OneNote would not run in Linux, and I didn’t like Evernote’s cloud system and list-style manager. I began using MyInfo (which is brilliant and ran perfectly in WINE), but now am trying to switch entirely to an open-source workflow.

I’m no fan of Markdown as of yet, but perhaps I can keep trying it and see if it grows on me.

But Joplin would benefit greatly from an improved interface. A number of other note-applications have made the same mistake to adopt a non-standard interface that wastes a lot of screen space and makes it difficult to sort through a large database.

things change with time :slight_smile: I’ve waited 8 months before seeing the rest api :slight_smile:

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Joplin is a very good tool that will be improved dramatically by adopting a slightly modified interface more in line with that of MyInfo, MyBase, or Ultra Recall. One of my favorite open source programs was KeepNote which was developing an excellent interface. Sadly, the application was abandoned some years ago.

I recently saw several other calls for changes to the layout. Joplin is an outstanding tool, but its current interface uses a great deal of screen space. The current UI does not allow a user to see the notes within each notebook- very awkward for finding information quickly.

The very best note-taking software, MyInfo, MyBase, RightNote, Ultra Recall, all share very similar interfaces. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel- the developers of these well-designed applications spent decades designing their applications and interfaces. If Joplin were to adopt a similar interface, it would be the best open-source note-taking application without question.

Joplin continues to improve! Impressive work.

For my usage, the issues I mentioned in my original post remain unaddressed. The user interface is inefficient and non-standard compared to the well-established standard interfaces developed by the best note-taking applications.

If Joplin adopts a new efficient interface where users can easily see my note tree and subnodes, it will be a very serious contender indeed.

I also think that the UI needs improvement.

However, please note that Joplin is available on a basically all platforms and is using react-native. Joplin is mostly developed by one person and you can’t expect one person to maintain different UIs for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and terminal. Even if you used something like QT or some other cross platform code, it wouldn’t work with js. (react-native is already the common denominator)
This would then mean 5 or 6 projects, instead of one.

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Thanks for raising the QDA topic. Just a wild idea. I would love to use an open source tool that was capable of extracting annotated text with notes from pdfs, kept those annotations as part of the pdf file and allowed tagging both annotations and extractions at once, too. Better still, I could rename tags at will and modifications would be visible in both pdf file annotations and extractions as notes.

An improved version of Zotero (open source, javascript, SQLite backend) + Zotfile add-on + extracted annotations as rich text notes in Zotero.

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Yes, I am quite appreciative of the efforts of the single developer. He’s done amazing work and to get Joplin working on numerous platforms is, to me, an incredible feat.

I had no idea however about the coding etc that requires tweaking the interface for different platforms. I had assumed (naively) that the code was simply ported to different platforms directly and worked.

Though the UI does not really work for me, this does not detract from the developer’s astounding efforts. None of the other open-source note-apps that I’ve used yet can surpass Joplin.

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For years, I’ve written to developers of open-source and proprietary note-taking apps to encourage them to include QDA functionality if possible. Currently, none of the open-source QDA apps are very user friendly or very well developed. I believe the number of potential users of an open-source app with QDA functions would be very large indeed.
Glad to see you also like the QDA idea.

Currently the UI code is different for desktop, mobile, and terminal (CLI), so at least there are only 3 different code bases for the UI. (It is still a lot of work.)

But we all agree that the UI needs improvement. On Desktop the UI has improved a lot since the beginning, but it hasn’t on mobile much. And as far as I know, Laurent wants to improve the UI, so we just have to wait…

…or help with coding the changes.

Regarding QDA, can’t you simply use HTML to mark certain parts of the text? If not, can you show an example, with screenshots, of how it would look and work? I assume it’s out of scope for this project, but maybe not, depending on the complexity.

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Is this process possible to implement with HTML in Joplin?

  • Attach one or several tags/marks to some specific text/content in a note.
  • Keep a list of these tags.
  • Search for all texts marked with a tag/ a combination of tags.
  • Present a report in a note (or in some other way) of all the text snippets found.
    (- Plus feature :slight_smile:: Report the frequency of different combinations of tags i.e. how often two or more tags have been attached to the same snippet of text.)