Standard Notes - A tidy little note-taking program

Updated: February 2, 2022

Note taking. This is one of those things that everyone does, and often, in a rather unique, individual way. Some people leave themselves reminders using physical sticky notes glued to the door of their fridge. Others have reminders in their calendar. Others yet keep information in text files on their desktop. Or you hire a person whose job is to do it for you. Many ways indeed. How about a dedicated tool?

With the philosophical debate of the subtle differences between notes applications and text editors aside, I want to focus on Standard Notes. This program grabbed my attention a while back, and I sort of tested and tried it on and off recently, trying to figure out if indeed I need a piece of software like this. My method of in-yer-face desktop files has worked well for me for the past two decades, so I'm wondering if a standalone tool can create the same sense of order and urgency. To wit, we explore more.


Commence to test

The program comes loaded with options. Encryption, online backup, tagging, advanced search, and more. But let's proceed slowly. I tried Standard Notes in Linux. Okay. Launch. The interface is simple, perhaps too simple. You get three columns of information. On the far left, the list of views, for different types of notes, plus tags. Then, you get the list of your notes in the second column, plus search. Finally, on the right, the actual contents of selected notes (one at a time).

First note

For any selected note, you have a bunch of options available. You can make the note read-only, or protect it, which essentially puts a pin code or a passcode on the note, and it cannot be opened and viewed until you punch in the right combination. I tried the different "remember" options for the passcode, and the thing works well.



I played around for a while, and things worked as expected. Nothing too fancy, then again, we're talking note taking. The whole thing is meant to be simple, straightforward and inobtrusive. Notes are practically reminders, so simplicity is the key here.


And then, a little snag

I wanted to try some of the advanced features, but they require an account. Technically, online backup plus encryption, as well as the use of extensions, are part of the extra set. I didn't continue down this route. If you're okay with a local-only free and unregistered version, then you don't need much else.


'Tis a short review, I admit. But then, Standard Notes delivered on its promise. It's a program that helps you keep a bunch of notes sorted and organized, you can tag your notes, protect them in case they contain sensitive information, and if you go for a full account, you can then also back them up online. Quite handy.

Now, does that mean my days of desktop files are over? Well, no. There's one more thing that notes are supposed to do - constantly remind you of what you should be doing. Hence the desktopness of the whole idea, in me book. But then, you can also have calendar reminders, alerts and alarms, and you could just keep notes of practical things worth remembering, in which case, notes become bookmarks, citations, or diaries. I don't think I can solve the bigger philosophical problem of how people are meant to work with notes. If you like it tidy, Standard Notes does a pretty decent job. And we're done.