21 Mar 2020
For years I've used a notes system as a kind of exobrain. Just as GTD moves tasks aside into a trusted external system, making more space for thought, my notes system does the same with other data.
It's taken a variety of forms. I used Evernote for years, and I loved it. But it developed three problems:
It's buggy. Random deletions or rollbacks in my notes system are basically brain damage. I end up gaslighting myself. It's disproportionately distressing.
It's slow. Maybe it's a side effect of our modern, distraction-heavy times, and maybe it's something I should work on, but the fact remains that, if I have to wait for more than approximately one second, I'll context-switch. I access my notes so frequently and so intensively that, whatever system I use, it must be fast.
It's kind of creepy. Evernote stores notes in the clear and has had privacy scandals in the past. In practice this likely makes no difference for my use cases, but it doesn't feel great.
I replaced it with nvAlt, a reimplementation of Notational Velocity. I gave up a lot of useful features in the changeover, but nvAlt has one glorious thing going for it: it is ridiculously, blazingly, inspiringly fast. It's great.
But getting access to my notes on a mobile device turned out to be a bit of a hack - I had to sync to SimpleNote and run that client on Android - and nvAlt itself can be a bit crashy. I couldn't - entirely - trust it.
I've just switched to my own fork of Standard Notes. It's multiplatform, encrypted, bloat-free and appears (so far) to be reliable. Standard Notes is a solid foundation to build from. My fork - which I've been calling Standard Velocity - adds keyboard shortcuts, rapid note creation, and a more compact, distraction-free display.
It's not quite as fast as I'd like, but it's fast enough, for now. Everything is a tradeoff. And I can run it on my Likebook Mars e-ink tablet, giving me an e-ink writing machine that's slightly less of a hack than my Paperwrite.
You can get the code here: https://github.com/gwynm/web .