Have you used apps like Byword or WriteRoom? They are simple text editors, and the reason they are so popular is that they embrace minimalism and provide a distraction-free environment for getting your writing done.
As a big fan of apps like Evernote that allow you to store and organize notes, I’ve always wished for a note-taking app that took a hint from those kinds of apps. I recently came across such an app, and it’s called Lenote. It’s almost just what I was wanting from a notes app.
A quick glimpse at Lenote’s interface is enough to reveal all there is to know about it. And that’s exactly what the developer claims he wanted to go for with this app: he says that most note-taking apps are unnecessarily complicated, which makes it hard to concentrate while working in them. Lenote parts with that premise and tries to provide a solution to it. The tough thing, though, is delivering simplicity while retaining enough power to be actually useful.
Lenote’s interface is very simply defined and easy to understand: a sidebar on the right provides the navigation between different notes and the big blank space to the right is where the writing gets done. Like most minimalistic writing apps, the backdrop is a light grey/tan, and it works great in full-screen mode.
On the sidebar you can find a couple other elements other than the notes list; underneath it there’s a search bar and above it there’s a drop-down menu which works for choosing and editing notebooks, as well as creating new notes.
Notes and Notebooks
The notes system Lenote implements is pretty traditional. Notebooks work for classifying content, and notes need to be placed under a certain notebook, otherwise they’ll go directly to the navigation category of “All Notes”, which works as another notebook as well as a quick go-to for checking all your content. The “Trash” category works similarly. Think of them as smart notebooks: you can save notes in them, but they’ll also automatically be updated with all the corresponding notes that should also be there.
If you ever get lost and don’t know where you’ve saved a note, a small button on the corner of the corresponding note can give you all the details about it. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to switch the notebook of a note once it has been created, other than creating the note again under the right notebook, copy-pasting the content and deleting the old note.
Likewise, there’s not much else to edit in your notes other than the title and content. There are no tags, attachments or any other fancy stuff that you might be used to with other note-taking apps. But that’s the gimmick of Lenote, isn’t it?
What Else Can It Do?
To keep your notes safe, there’s an option that quickly backs up your entire notes library so that it can later be restored with the app if it were necessary. In similar fashion, you can export individual notes as PDF or plain text files, and share them through the usual Mac OS system commands (including iMessage, Mail, Twitter, Facebook, and such).
What Else Can’t It Do?
First off, Lenote needs proper Markdown support. It has partial support, but it’s confusing and not very useful. Let me explain: Using hashes and stars will style your text as bold headers and lists, but there’s no way to then export your content to HTML, or even to PDF with your rich formatting. It only works as a quick way to style your text within the app, and it doesn’t even work with most Markdown commands.
Then, there are a few bugs with the app. Ocassionally my notes get lost momentarily until I restarted Lenote, and I’ve gotten stuck on menus like “Quick Open” with no other choice than to force quit the app. Aside from that, there are a few details that need improvement, such as a better search and a bit more customization, but those will surely come naturally as the app gets updated. The app’s already improved since its initial release, but more work is needed before it’s the Markdown notes app to beat.
When I first heard about Lenote the first thing that came to mind was that it was trying to be a crossover between Evernote and Byword. That’s an interesting concept, although there are a few things to be said about it.
Lenote is not up to the standard of Evernote or even Apple’s own Notes when it comes to platform support. Those services stay in sync over multiple devices, which I imagine most people would think is a necessity for any note-taking app. I don’t see myself switching Evernote for Lenote as of yet, but maybe in the future if it gets a proper web service and an iOS app, I might consider making the switch.
On the other hand, even though I’m a hardcore Evernote user, I continuously find it a bit too complex to use at times. Lenote removes all that intricacy and provides a clean environment for getting your notes down, thus achieving that “Byword with note organization” thing that jumps to mind when you first see the app.
For the price of free, Lenote is a pretty good deal. If I didn’t own Byword yet, I might instead use this to write up my articles and keep them all in one place. Although it lacks a few things in the execution, the concept behind the app is pretty good, and I look forward to watching Lenote grow and improve over time. Give it a try, and let us know what you think of it.