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Great Apps to Take Notes

by Frazer Kline

It has often been said that information confers power, and that the most important currency in our culture today is information. Keeping track of my bits and pieces of information has unfortunately been an issue for some years. In part, this is because of my passable short term memory, coupled with what can only be described as 'brain fog'. To combat this, I arm myself with open source software that helps me efficiently capture a lot of information. I generally prefer to keep my information local and cloud-free, primarily for security reasons.

There is a wide range of competent note taking software for Linux, and it is difficult for a single article to provide coverage to them all. Instead, I have compiled this roundup of my pick of 5 excellent note applications for organizing, sharing, and taking notes. Besides the basic note-taking functionality, the software featured here provides a good array of advanced features. I am a strong advocate of open source software; all of the titles here are released under a freely distributable license.

An application that I admire a lot is NoteCase Pro. The only real downside is that the software is not released under an open source license, and the free version offers only limited functionality. It misses out for inclusion. CherryTree is an open source note taking tool that is also worthy of a mention. It probably merits inclusion in this article, but it is not an application that I have spent any significant time using yet.


MyNotex in action

MyNotex is open source software useful to take and to manage textual notes and activity management. It offers several features for redaction, classification and search according to certain criteria. Its interface resembles a text editor and has several panes that give an overview of how content is organized.

Notes are gathered under different subjects and are made by a title, a date, a tags (keywords) list and a free-length text. This may be formatted: it is possible to change the font name, size and color of a selected text and of its background, and also to set bold, italic, underline and strike-through; the text may have pictures within it. The software can manage paragraph alignment, bullets, numbered and alphabetic lists with automatic indentation. Each note has also a spreadsheet-like grid to manage a list of activities which is quite similar to the one used in many softwares of project management. A single file of MyNotex contains various subjects and notes.

MyNotex has been developed with Lazarus and the components TDBZVDateTimePicker, a modified version of TRichMemo and Dcpcrypt.

Features include:

  • Various attachments (files of every kind) for each note, zipped and stored in a directory with the same name and path of the MyNotex file in use and automatically managed by the software; the number of attachments is limited only by the available disk space;
  • Encryption of the text of the selected notes with AES algorithm; search for subjects, notes (also in the text), attachments, dates and tags (keywords)
  • Search for more than one tag at a time (in OR condition) and for a range of dates; list of tags used in the current file, to insert them in a new note or in the search fields with double click
  • Moving a note with possible related attachments from a subject to another
  • Import and export of single subjects with the related notes and attachments from and to another file of MyNotex
  • Import files from Writer and LibreOffice Writer files
  • Import Tomboy and Gnote notes
  • Open text of the current note in Writer or LibreOffice Writer (useful also to print the note)
  • Export data in HTML format, which can be easily opened with a word processor like Writer or LibreOffice Writer
  • Paragraph alignment and indentation of lists
  • Link a note to another note
  • Add attachments with drag and drop
  • Insert pictures in the text of a note (jpg and png formats), also resizing them
  • Zoom text of the notes
  • Icons and popup menu for cut, copy, copy as html and paste
  • Show the current note in the default browser to print it
  • Copy the text of a note in LaTeX format to paste it in a LaTeX editor
  • Send the text of a note as email through the default mail software
  • Export the dates of the notes in the HTML export file
  • Move up and down a paragraph within the text of a note
  • Spreadsheet-like grid available for each note, in which it is possible to create and manage list of activities and sub-activities with state, dates, resources and cost specifications
  • Encrypt and decrypt a file of MyNotex, or any other file, with GNU Privacy Guard (GPG). When the text of a note is encrypted, it is saved in the file in use (a database of SQLite)
  • Print a note, without opening it in the word processor or in the browser


BasKet in action

BasKet Note Pads is an open source KDE program for organizing, sharing, and taking notes. It can manage various types of information such as to-do lists, links, pictures, and other types, similar to a scrapbook. Objects can be edited, copied, dragged so they can be arranged according to users' taste. Moreover, Basket allows you to keep all objects you want in one place, keep data on hand, take notes.

It has evolved from a simple sticky-note-type application into a powerful program used to collect data of many types, and it neatly organizes the whole thing.

Features include:

  • Colour support
  • Integrated search displaying the number of results found and highlights the results on the page
  • Easily take all sort of notes
  • Collect research results and share them
  • Organize your notes in a hierarchy of baskets, by topic or project. Group notes together, collapse non-important groups
  • Attach tags to any note you take: "Important", "Information", "Idea", "Work", "Personnal"...
  • Instantly find your notes by word or by tag, as you type
  • Centralize your project data and reuse it
  • Quickly organize your thoughts in idea boxes
  • Keep track of your information in a smart way
  • Make intelligent To Do lists
  • Notes are automatically saved as soon as you modify them
  • Password Protection
  • Embeddable into Kontact
  • Import from other applications e.g. KNotes, KJots, Knowit, TuxCards, Sticky Notes, Tomboy or simple text files
  • Export to HTML and Basket Archive
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Website:
  • Developer: Michael R Elkins and others
  • License: GNU GPL v2
  • Version Number: 1.81


Tomboy in action

Tomboy is an open source GNOME desktop note-taking application using Wiki style links. It is designed to be simple and easy to use, but at the same time help the user organize his or her ideas and information.

The key to Tomboy's usefulness lies in the ability to relate notes and ideas together. Using a WikiWiki-like linking system, organizing ideas is as simple as typing a name.

New features can be added to Tomboy by using plugins. Official plugins include: Backlinks (see the notes link to the one you are currently viewing), Bugzilla (drag a Bugzilla URL from your web browser to a tomboy note), Evolution (drag an email from Evolution into a tomboy note), Export to HTML, Fixed Width, Note of the Day, SSH Sync Service, and a Sticky Notes importer.

Features include:

  • Accessing your notes is usually a quick mouse-flick away
  • Highlighting text
  • Inline spell checking using GtkSpell
  • Auto-linking of web and email addresses
  • Undo/redo
  • Font styling and sizing
  • Bulleted lists
  • Advanced editing features
  • Plugin support
  • Internationalization support
  • Website:
  • Developer: Alex Graveley, Boyd Timothy, Chris Scobell, David Trowbridge, Ryan Lortie, Sandy Armstrong, Sebastian Rittau, Kevin Kubasik, Stefan Schweizer
  • License: GNU GPL v2
  • Version Number: 1.15.4


GloboNote in action

GloboNote is a simple and easy to use open source note taking application. This software lets you create sticky notes, to-do lists, reminders, personal journals, and things you need to remember.

It is mature software, with a good feature set, yet remains lightweight.

There are no limits to the number of sticky notes you can create. Notes can be organize by groups and search using the search tool. GloboNote is multi-platform software, requiring Java 6 or higher to be installed.

  • Create Reminders. Remind yourself of important events. Set recurring alarm, play custom sound (wav, aiff, au and mp3 formats), snooze timeout
  • Built-in calculator - evaluate mathematical expressions in a note. The allowable operations are +, -, * (multiply), / (divide) and ^ (power). It supports constants Pi and E. It also supports functions Sin[x], Cos[x], Tan[x], Log[x] or Log[x,y], Exp[x] and Sqrt[x]
  • Organize notes in group. Display/Hide notes according to group
  • Customize notes. Change color, font, transparency, and behavior of your note such as protect and lock
  • Create Checklist/ToDo list. Insert checkboxes to your note
  • Create note templates and load it using hotkeys
  • Search Notes. Locate your notes using the search tool. Search while you are typing
  • Attach files on note then double click to launch it
  • Attach images from different sources (file, http, ftp, clipboard) to note
  • Paste image from clipboard to note
  • Open or resize attached images
  • Detect content's URLs
  • Find/Replace the content of the note
  • Make note to always stay on top of other window
  • Roll up/Roll down note by clicking note's title or make it auto roll up when not used
  • Support for rich text editing with bold, italic, colour etc
  • Restore deleted notes
  • Lock note to prevent unintended editing or deletion of note
  • Export note as plain text (*.txt)
  • Save note
  • Print note
  • 3 states for your notes: notes are shown, notes are hidden, and notes are parked
  • Create Bullet or Numbered list
  • Protect Note or Group with a password
  • Website:
  • Developer: William Chan
  • License: GNU GPL v2
  • Version Number: 1.4.1


Laverna in action

Laverna is a simple to use, open source JavaScript note-taking web application with a Markdown editor and encryption support. It's built to be an open source alternative to Evernote, a suite of software and services, designed for notetaking and archiving.

The application stores all your notes in your browser local storage spaces such as indexedDB or localStorage, which is good for security reasons, because all of your information is stored only client-side.

Laverna can be used locally or hosted online without any other server-side JavaScript technology. The source code is available on GitHub.

Features include:

  • Markdown editor based on Pagedown
  • Manage your notes, even when you are offline
  • Secure - client side encryption with SJCL library and AES algorithm
  • Synchronizes with cloud storage services. Dropbox and RemoteStorage are supported
  • Three editing modes: distraction free, preview, and normal mode
  • WYSIWYG control buttons
  • MathJax support
  • Syntax highlighting
  • No registration required
  • Web based - no installation required
  • Profiles
  • Support for tasks
  • Export (to JSON) / Import options
  • Search notes
  • Configurable keyboard shortcuts for navigation, jump, actions, and app
  • Support for mobile devices out of the box
  • Internationalization support: English, Russian, Dutch, French, Brazilian Portuguese
  • Website:
  • Developer: Laverna Project
  • License: GNU GPL v3
  • Version Number: 0.6.2

Last Updated Sunday, April 19 2015 @ 05:40 AM EDT

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