Why I'm leaving Joplin (for now)

Well I'm a borderline tinkerer and I understand what Sophia was referring to. I didn't take offence because I am sure none was intended. I didn't spot any lack of respect either.

In this particular discussion I personally think there is a lot to be said for the arguments on both sides. It is a geeky discussion though, and there's nothing wrong with that :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Spot on, @MisterKelly . For a more eloquent explanation I couldn't say it better than @skim1124 before my post. I'm fine with whatever feature gets added to Joplin, as long as the core remains stable and usable. That's all really.


Thank you for this post. Going through this discussion made me realize a couple things, including that I'm not really a great fit for Joplin! Don't get me wrong, it's a great piece of software; but I've been trying to get a nice workflow with my dream joplin + nvim + vimwiki- style shared knowledge database + jupyter notebooks setup for so long now that, reading this, I finally realized that hey, I can just do that without Joplin. I've switched to deploying on gitlab pages using Sphinx and MyST-NB.

@StanczakDominik and the rest: have you taken a look at https://obsidian.md/ ? (It was already mentioned in this thread, yes.) Has anyone tried it?

I've never tried it. It does look cool, but I'm not particularly thrilled at the idea of having a filesystem full of MD files. (Joplin's approach suits me perfectly.)
But I'd be interested in the perspective of someone who has used both and can compare/contrast.

What a coincidence, the key features thread was just been bumped :stuck_out_tongue:

For me Joplin's multi-platform app, sync feature and the web clipper extensions are "the three killer features" no other (markdown-based, open source) note taking app has covered.

I tried Standard Notes, Boostnote, Obsidian, Zettlr, VNote and Tiddlywiki, they all have their pros and cons, but none has all those three features.

And now Joplin supports linking between notes, Zettelkasten or wiki-like organization is achievable in Joplin. Like earlier discussed in thread, linking with note IDs allow us to rename note after creation at will and won't need to worry dead links in other files (which would be a problem if using other file-based markdown apps).

But choosing a good name still worth it since when creating a link it'll use the title of the note as link text, and the link text won't be updated if you rename the note later (but the link won't fail).


If anyone is keeping count, let me register my support for the database. Using a database is much faster on a corpus of many, many small notes than a filesystem will be. I don't want to have to wait for Joplin to re-index the filesystem every time I open it, or to watch the filesystem for changes I make while it is running. I don't want to be fiddling around with files on my filesystem. I want the app to abstract that for me. Joplin does a great job, especially with pictures. Further, using a database, note titles are freed from the restrictions of filenames.

I argue that users who want all their notes as separate files in directories that they can muck with outside of the note-taking app just don't get it. Let go of hierarchy and embrace search. If you're old enough to remember, this is exactly the difference between Yahoo and Google, and the reason why Google won.


I actually have, in my quest to find a perfect note app. The key features that I looked at were web clipping, syncing between devices, ease of use, searchability, stability, portability and a little bit of eye candy.

Unfortunately Obsidian doesn't offer web clipping, so that disqualifies it right away, but I decided to give it a try anyway because I hoped it would tick all the other boxes. It didn't take long for me to realize why Laurent went for the database approach.

For starters, the folder based note system quickly becomes a mess especially when you have images or attachments in your notes. The problem is that all those get added to the main folder, and each of those files gets added to the note list as a note.

So you decide (too late) to go into the app setup and add all your NEW images to their own folder. That only shifts the issue a little, because now you have this folder "attachments" with 600 images in it. Plus the 200 original images still in the root of your folder because the app is not going to change those for you.

If you delete a note, you have to manually delete the 30 images, pdf files or other attachments, because the app won't do it for you so before you delete your note, you need to manually check what images/attachments it contains and delete those first. Note history? No such thing.

Moving a note (file) from one folder to another is possible, but... the attachments won't follow. So now you have a note in your new folder "Archived notes" but the attachments are still in the folder "WIP". And your folder structure is an even bigger mess, because soon you have 200 attachments in the root, 600 attachments in root/archive, 300 attachments in /workingfolder/attachments, of which 150 actually belong in /archive/attachments because you moved the note but the attachments didn't follow.

Oh and forget about renaming your attachments outside of the app (or at all, from what I can tell), because you will lose your link and good luck trying to find out that you renamed that file from xowjdjkw.gif to smileyface.gif but it is still the same name in your note file.

It might work for people who have nothing but text notes, but... for me it was a huge headache before I even got properly started.

Compare that with Joplin. I have used Joplin for almost 18 months now after leaving Evernote and never, ever looked at another editor since. Joplin actually looks after all these things (attachments, deletions, etc) so that I don't have to. I don't think I'll EVER go to another editor again so I tend to be protective of how the core features of Joplin function :slight_smile:


As an academic non-programmer, emigrating from Evernote on Mac/iOS, I have also been going through various note focused apps (Obsididan, Bear) as well as various "shoebox" file focused apps, such as Devonthink and Keepit. While I am not sure about most of Sophie's arguments against file system based organization hold up on closer inspection for all these apps, I still think the database approach of Evernote and Joplin is powerful, as has already been argued very convincingly by Laurent and others. What kept me on Evernote for years was exactly its versatilty, data integrity and crossplatform nature – just like Joplin.

However, the old version of Evernote (before 10) was also the best of both worlds, as it allowed for a larger integration with the native OS, as well as with a host of online services. On Mac it supported Applescript, it exposed each note to the OS search function (Spotlight), and it supported system wide Services, which also allows some degree of integration with other apps and the OS. Sadly, the new Evernote 10 is a large regression in this respect, as it basically has removed all those features moving to Electron.

For myself, I have decided that Joplin offers a very good replication of the Evernote experience, so this is what I am going to use for now. One can discuss the merits of Markdown as a user friendly note experience, but I think the advantages outweight the problems – I like that I can open a note with any Markdown editor if I choose so. And I like the plugin system very much, as it allows users to customize the app experience to a large degree. Finally, the choice of file sync and being open source are both essential for privacy concerns. I can certainly live without support for integration with all those web services out there.

I still wish that stuff like Spotlight search and Services was supported, as they would make Joplin a better Mac app citizen, without sacrificing the basic approach. A synced folder plugin would certainly also be nice for some purposes.


Thank you, @Sophia, that's exactly what I'd hoped for. Obsidian's screenshots looked enticing, so I kept wanting to try it, even though I knew I wouldn't switch. Now I don't have to.

Ah, glad I'm not alone with that weird tendency. :joy:


Haha yes I was infatuated with the app as well, but what is the use of a folder based app if those folders are a mess... Or can't be maintained outside of the app without breaking stuff. I'm not saying it will never work, but it needs a lot of polishing to become a viable alternative (for me).

It's actually very easy to test, thanks to Joplin's excellent export feature. Select all notes in Joplin at the top, then Ctrl-A to select all. Export to a new folder in your documents.

Then point Obsidian to your folder you just exported. All your notes will be there in their proper folders, with all images/attachments in a separate folder named _resouces.

Happy testing! :smile:


While some users are either ambivalent or without opinion about certain matters, for some, they can be the outset of their choice to use an app.

For example, in the following case: (1) Open Source, (2) Proprietary, or (3) no opinion; Joplin is certainly compatible with (1) and (3). For some people, choosing (1) is a matter of principle, while others merely don't see any objections.

Similarly, on the question if your app should be: (1) custodial (i.e. notes locked in-app), (2) non-custodial (i.e. editor agnostic notes), or (3) no opinion; some people previously without opinion are discovering the value of (2) because it allows them to be completely free in their decision to sync a subset of their notes to a subset of devices (with limited space), share subsets in collaboration with users that prefer to use other apps (e.g. Zettlr, Obsidian, Dendron, Typora, Mark Text or any of the simpler markdown editors), integrate externally with clouds and other external tools that are specialized for such tasks, and collaborate on projects, for example built with the likes of Jekyll, Hugo or Grav.

The use cases increasingly exist. The benefits are considerable. Static site generators are gaining popularity because it allows a collaboration of non-technical people to create a professional looking website for their business without having to hire experts. Framing genuine interest in compatibility with such collaborative approaches as "some unstable geeky mess" seems a bit disingenuous to me.

I've said it before, but the argument it refutes is still repeated so I'll say it again: The speed of search that comes with a database approach is not an argument against a file-based approach. A database index that refreshes in the background will yield the same performance.

To be fair, let me also re-iterate the main arguments against such a feature:

  1. It's a lot of work to implement (objective, irrefutable)
  2. Using the widely adopted front matter format for metadata is not acceptable (subjective, agree to disagree)

Just to clear up confusion for people who stumble on this thread.

No part of Joplin is proprietary. I understand that it's frustrating for users that Joplin stores data in non-transparent way (database vs. flat files). But proprietary has a specific and legal definition that does not apply to any part of Joplin.

In Joplin you (the user) have complete ownership of your data, but the application is the sole manager of that data (with the exception of technical users who understand the risks of messing with the database).

This is not the same as being proprietary because the format Joplin uses is open, it's an SQLite (open source) database, with a published schema. Any user is free to open and explore the database with their favorite database tool. Another notes project could even copy the database schema and use it for themselves, which would actually be really cool.

That said I understand the desire to have the option for full user control and I am sympathetic. My only intention in writing this is to clear up that misunderstanding and prevent the inevitable criticisms about Joplin being proprietary that use your post as evidence.

Edit: You might be interested in this static site generator export plugin .


Hahaha, going full circle eh? I remember when in the early 2000s our company finally decided to go to a database filled CMS, so that basically everyone in the company could add/change product listings, information etc without having to get experts in to make every little change on one of the thousands static pages. I no longer work for them but I can't imagine that they recently decided to go back to static pages after all, but eh, weirder things have happened.

I see I struck a nerve with some by using the term unstable geeky mess... I didn't think I had to point out I was speaking metaphorically and trying to inject some humor into the topic. But here we are - by all means continue to treat the topic like we're discussing some end of the world scenario :smiley:

I guess so. A CMS was never the holy grail, it was merely a workaround for the repetitive and error prone work of updating actual code pages. In the last 8 years or so, automation became mainstream. Keeping a professional looking site uptodate is now as simple as editing a few notes. Static sites have no security implications where CMS'es have caused many many data leaks.

Of course there are many reasons to go dynamic still. But I'm sure you understand the difference between a company that grew large enough to warrant a CMS with a database and either has the expertise to set it up in-house or has the means (money) to outsource such a thing on the one hand, and a student project or startup or choir or band or wedding or party on the other hand. Never before have small business, hobbyist and amateur websites looked so professional.

It's dangerous to inject your sense of "humor" in a serious topic as a means of showing your disagreement to the sentiments discussed by others. Because - as Psychology Today puts it -

Sarcasm is actually hostility disguised as humor. People who receive sarcastic comments feel put down and often think the sarcastic person is a jerk. Indeed, it’s not surprising that the origin of the word sarcasm derives from the Greek word sarkazein which means "to rip ones flesh off."

I wasn't being sarcastic, I was being funny. You don't seem to get me, but that's okay because I don't get you either. Peace out my friend, enjoy trying to convince Laurent to implement your insights :joy:


Or, learn JavaScript/TypeScript and implement your idea, contribute a plugin or patch :wink:

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I'm more of an observer in threads like these, but I must admit I learn a lot. I consider myself a semi-techie, non-coder tho.

But I was wondering if txt files can contain metadata in the 'file-properties'.
Always a bit jealous of the flexible XMP metadata standard of Adobe/PDF to store whatever metadata-scheme in a file.

Turns out there isnt for txt files and sometimes metadata isnt stored in the file itself, but as NTFS properties (in Windows at least).

I guess creating an open standard for markdown files (text with file-based metadata) to avoid seperate YAML handling is bad for portability? When no other platforms adopt it etc.

Anyway, thanks everybody for sharing all these perspectives.

Instantly reminded me of xkcd: Standards


Btw, for those who are interested in QOwnNotes, it now supports import from Joplin JEX dumps in the latest releases:

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