As you all know, I am a big fan of the Notion application, but I hate using it for note-taking or as my To-Do List. The Meyer Family, who views my videos referred the Joplin app to me. (Thanks Meyer’s Family). So, I thought I would test drive this application and provide you with my thoughts on its usefulness.
What am I looking for?
I really had to sit down and think about what I wanted in a note-taking and to-do list application. Let’s face the fact that I normally would try an application, and if I liked it great, if not, then I would continue with my search. But to be honest, each of us has to figure out exactly what we are looking for in an application.
First and foremost, I want an application that does not cost me any money. You can call me cheap or frugal if you like, but I hate monthly or yearly subscriptions. The next requirement is that the application has to work across all my devices. I use Macs, iPad, iPhone, and Windows-based machines. It must work seamlessly across all these devices. Requirement number three is that it must be easy to use. If I have to watch a dozen YouTube videos on it, I will give up on the application. The fourth requirement is control over where the data is stored. I want to be able to have the data stored on my Google drive. The fifth requirement is that it needs to be secure. I really want End to end encryption if possible. Lastly, it has to be easier than what I am currently using.
What Is Joplin?
Joplin is a free, open-source application for handling your note-taking and to-do lists. The developer does not charge for using the application but does accept donations. The application helps you write and organize your notes and synchronize them between your devices. In fact, the notes are searchable, copied, tagged, and modified from within the application or using your own text editor. Joplin uses the Markdown format the same as Notion. The app works on a desktop, mobile and termination application.
There are three parts to the Joplin application.
The first is the Sidebar, which contains the list of your notebooks and tags. It also displays your synchronization status here too.
Note List contains the current list of notes. It will show you either the notes in the currently selected notebook, selected tag, or search results.
Note Editor is the place where you write your notes. This is a WYSIWYG editor and a Markdown editor. You can click on the Code view to switch between both. You also have the option of using an external editor to take notes.
What is Markdown?
Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. It is meant to be human readable, even without being rendered. In fact, Joplin has a link to the Markdown documentation if you any assistance.
So far, I have found the application easy to use. I was able to create a new Notebook and jot down some thoughts without any problems. In fact, I was researching items for upcoming videos and clipped the web pages to the application.
Organizing Your Notes
Joplin allows you to drag a notebook to either a root or to a sub-notebook. I really liked this feature. As I can create different notebooks for different things, then organize them after the fact. For example, I can have one notebook of Guitar information. Then I can have a subnotebook for my songbook, guitar chords, scales, and guitar tracks.
Joplin allows for tags that can identify a category. It is a great way to organize your notes. Even though the text in Joplin is searchable, it is often easier to identify something through a category than to search through years of daily notes.
You may not know that Joplin was originally designed as a replacement for Evernote. So, it can import complete Evernote notebooks and notes, tags, images, attached files, and note metadata. To import into Joplin, you need to export the data as an ENEX file from Evernote.
You can also import from many other applications as well as Markdown or text files. Unfortunately, I have not used any note-taking or to-do list application regularly to test the import functionality. I guess that is what I guess for handwriting everything in actual notebooks!
Synchronizing Your Notes
Joplin developers wanted to avoid being tied to any particular company or service when it came to data storage. You select the service that you prefer. Joplin allows you to connect to OneDrive, Nextcloud, WebDAV, Dropbox, AWS S3 (Beta), Joplin Server. Okay, where is Google Drive? I pay extra every year for Google drive as it is cheaper than Dropbox. I also want all my data to be stored in one location. I did a few Google searches to see if it was possible to save the data to Google Drive, and there are problems with that option. So, what alternatives do I have? Well, I could live the data on the Joplin server, but it is not ideal.
There are some people that have found ways to save the data to Google drive, but they are using Android devices. Since I don’t use Android devices this is not an option for me.
Exporting Options for Note-Taking App
It would be helpful to be able to export the data into something useable. Otherwise, you lose all that data. That is why I prefer to use applications that I know I will stick with for the long haul. After all, I don’t want to enter the data twice if I can help it. You can export your data from Joplin. However, this feature is designed for backup purposes and not a true export function. You can, however, save the files to PDF. That is better than nothing.
Note-Taking App Privacy
Joplin applications will not send any data to any service without your authorization. You can always save the data to your local device.
Now Joplin does offer End to End encryption (E2EE), which prevents potential eavesdroppers, including telecom providers, internet providers, and even developers, from accessing the data. This is a compelling feature if security is your top concern.
End to End Encryption
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a system where only the data owner can read it. It prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, internet providers, and even the developers of Joplin from being able to access the data.
The system is designed to defeat any surveillance or tampering attempts because no third party can decipher the data being communicated or stored.
There is a small overhead to using E2EE since data constantly has to be encrypted and decrypted, so consider whether you really need the feature. You will need to enable this feature.
Note-Taking App Summary
Overall, there is a lot to like about this application. However, for me, there is just one thing that I cannot get past, and that is the ability to store the data on my Google drive. Yes, it is a small thing but one that I am not willing to give up on.
However, this application is hands-down better than Evernote and Notion based upon the encryption function alone. As far as note-taking applications go, Evernote and OneNote are the top dogs. However, there is a ton of room for innovation and competition in this industry. If you are looking for the best pick for a free, open-source note-taking app, then look no further than Joplin. Joplin is very user friendly, unlike most open-source apps. However, it does not have as many features as Evernote or Microsoft OneNote, nor can you use it collaboratively, but’s it’s an excellent solution for anyone who wants a single user account.
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