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I always have a small spiral-bound notepad beside my PC for ad-hoc notes. I'm interested in finding a PC-based replacement, especially for transient notes that may need to be copied and pasted around.

I don't think it's a new concept, so I'm sure other applications have addressed it in the past, but I can't seem to find any easily.

Desired features:

  • Simple: pretty much no toolbars, no menus, no configuration, no complexity, just a persistent free text entry area, like a blank notepad page
  • Edit-tracking: being able to go back in time somehow, but in a very basic fashion. Perhaps every time you clear the text area, it saves the old contents as read-only, stamped with date and time, and makes it easy to flip backwards (perhaps Alt+Left Arrow, or perhaps mouse wheel, or perhaps zoom out to a day / week / month view)
  • Ideally, cloud-enabled, synced with Google Docs or similar

The idea is to use it for transient notes, working state, small idea snippets. For this, it's vital that there is no management burden, so that the barrier to putting text in is minimal. If you have to think about configuration, metadata, which file, where, categorization etc., the chances are the idea will slip away. It needs to be as barrier-free to use as picking up a pen and putting it on paper.

Does this utility already exist? Or do I have to write it myself?

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This link might be of interest… – MrStatic Aug 22 '10 at 21:07
Something like MS One Note or Windows 7 Sticky Notes wouldn't work would they? – ubiquibacon Aug 22 '10 at 21:10
Apart from the physical notepad suggestions - which I'm already using - those apps (EverNote, OneNote, Google Notepad etc.) are way too complicated and heavy for what I have in mind. – Barry Kelly Aug 22 '10 at 21:13
basically, if it's more complicated than notepad.exe, it's probably too complicated; ideally it's less complicated than notepad.exe, because it wouldn't require you to choose the name of a storage file, for one – Barry Kelly Aug 22 '10 at 21:14
Why not just stick to handwritten notes? I've tried a number of apps over the years and nothing really seems to make me want to abandon my post-its and notepads. – Force Flow Aug 22 '10 at 21:49
up vote 4 down vote accepted

SimpleNote fills two of those 3 requirements: simple, and cloud-syncing (Lifehacker loved it). There are two listed Windows clients for it: ResophNotes and Notes. Try them both and see which one works for you.

As for revision history, a simple workaround is to set up some sort of versioning system like svn or mercurial or (if you don't mind having use Windows' built in Volume Shadow Copy to make backups because all these clients for Simplenote store the notes as text files. It's nigh diffucult to find a decently simple notetaking program with revision history, so this is already a pretty good setup.

I myself use my Remember the Milk todo list as a notetaker or Tomboy for lists.

Update: SimpleNote now has revision history so Simplenote should fit your purposes perfectly.

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I actually quickly wrote up a version-tracking note-taking app to solve this problem, but it looks like SimpleNote could be the ideal way to persist it / share it across platforms. The nice thing about writing it myself is that I have customizations, like extra-efficient copy and paste - just middle click, depending on whether text is selected or not. – Barry Kelly Aug 26 '10 at 4:40
@barry-kelly That sounds really interesting. Do you think you can post the program and/or its source? I'd love to see how you did it. – digitxp Aug 26 '10 at 13:22
In case you're still interested, I have it here - - I use it chiefly on Linux (GTK version) and Windows and use Dropbox to make the latest version of the text available on my phone. The UI is extremely minimal - Alt + Arrow Keys for navigation and F12 for search - but it's a single user application in the most literal sense! – Barry Kelly Dec 18 '15 at 0:53
It turns out dropbox integration is good enough for 95% of my use cases, and I don't switch machines often enough for the utility of a web page version to be outweighed by the fact that it needs to live in a browser frame. However the more time I spend in Emacs the more I miss the power of Emacs outside it. Simplenote has an emacs client; I may yet come around. – Barry Kelly Dec 18 '15 at 0:55

You should try slickrun, this is a small floating commandline box that you can use to run things from magicwords, another very very useful feature is the slick jot, you can bring this up and hide it via windowkey + J

it's persistent and has a find function, it only offers raw text entry, no rich text or images.

I find it very useful for taking notes on the phone as a hot key brings it up infront of all windows.

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I'd suggest OneNote 2010 with synchronization with Windows Live.

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ActionOutline - shortcut to call it, paste or write in it, shortcut to close it (saves automatically) ... it looks much simpler than in the picture most of the time (I guess they probably wanted to put everything onto one screenshot). Satisfies all your conditions (just remove the toolbars, and put it in one tab mode); the only thing I'm not sure is syncing with Google Docs, since I'm using the much older version. Maybe they added that too in the newer ones.

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