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The Best Syncing Note-Taker For Mac

When it comes to syncing note-takers, there just isn’t anything that gets the job done better than Notational Velocity. It’s remarkably simple, has only the features you need, and can even sync your notes with both Dropbox and Simplenote at the same time.

Notational Velocity

Platform: Mac OS X
Price: Free
Download Page

  • A simple omnibar for both creating new notes and searching for existing ones
  • Mouse-less interaction- it can be controlled entirely via the keyboard
  • Everything you do is instantly saved, so you never have to worry about losing changes
  • Transparent database encryption
  • Synchronises natively with Simplenote, but also works with Dropbox so you can easily open your notes in PlainText, Elements, iA Writer, or any other Dropbox-syncing notes app on iOS (or another platform).
  • Searches as you type
  • Supports basic text styles (like bold and italic)
  • Tags
  • Spell-checking as you type
  • Can save notes as a single, encrypted database, plain text, rich text or formatted HTML
  • Open source

Notational Velocity is a winning argument for minimalism. It’s fast, it’s simple to use, and there are no barriers to getting anything done. You can control the app entirely from the keyboard in a way that’s actually practical, but if you still prefer the mouse it’s not as though you can’t use it for many things. Search is fast, syncing is fast, notes are encrypted, and so you end up with your notes safely stored and everywhere you want them.

While it has an excellent balance of features, there are (perhaps) a few things it is missing. Pretty much all of these things are available in Notational Velocity Alt, which we’ll discuss in the next section, so it’s not like you can’t get them if you want them. That said, word count would be nice. Some people might prefer a widescreen mode on a widescreen display (although I don’t, even though I usually do). There are maybe a few other things, but it seems silly to complain. Notational Velocity is great and there is no point in using it when I feel like I wish there was something more. That’s not the case with everyone, evidenced by the existence of NV Alt, but that doesn’t mean Notational Velocity doesn’t serve its intended purpose exactly as intended.

Notational Velocity Alt is an obvious alternative thanks to its name. It’s basically everything you get in the regular version of Notational Velocity plus some additional features for those of you who don’t agree that the regular version has a perfect balance. This means things like widescreen mode, textile and markdown support, colour schemes, word count and more.

Evernote is another obvious competitor, and is the answer if plain text doesn’t cut it for you. Evernote’s notes are extremely rich, in that you can style them many different ways (even by creating checkable checklists) and add just about any kind of media. If you add pictures with text, Evernote will even use its own optical character recognition (OCR) to make those images searchable. While it doesn’t have the speed and simplicity advantages of Notational Velocity, it blows it away with tons of features. If want all of those features, you should go with Evernote.

If Notational Velocity is somehow too complex, Notefile might be what you’re looking for. It’s a dashboard widget that basically looks like a notecard. It lists your different notes (much like Notational Velocity), lets you edit them in plain text, and syncs with its $5.99 iPhone and iPad app counterpart. The advantage here? Your notes are in your Mac’s dashboard and the interface looks like a notecard, if those things matter to you.

Dropbox can turn pretty much any text editor into a syncing note-taker. Just store your text in a folder in your Dropbox and you’re good to go.

Lastly, Springpad is not a competitor here because there is no Mac OS X desktop app, but it’s still a great option and I think there’s a guarantee that a few readers would be unhappy if it weren’t mentioned. So here you go!

Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we’re focusing on syncing note-takers.


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