Instead of relying on separate applications for managing your notes and tasks, and editing documents in markdown, you should check out QOwnNotes. A free, open-source, multi-platform, and feature-rich application, QOwnNotes allows you to do all of the above while keeping all your data in a format accessible even by a lowly notepad.
In Linux, you can find it in the Software Center or Package Manger.
If you’re using an Ubuntu-based distribution, you can also install with the command:
sudo apt install qownnotes
Qownnotes interface is as versatile as the application itself. There are four different interface styles to choose from:
- Single Column
- Full Vertical
Depending on the choice, the program can be as simple as a smartphone app or turn complicated by exposing all its functionality.
If you don’t like how any of those predefined setups looks and works, you’re free to tweak almost any aspect of QOwnNotes’ interface. The program allows you to change all of its shortcuts, rearrange its menus, and show, hide, or edit any panel and toolbar.
The interface in full form consists of a group of different panels. In the center, dominating the screen, is the main note-taking panel. Since QOwnNotes supports markdown, on the right is a preview panel, showing the final, formatted results of any markdown syntax.
On the left side there are four smaller panels arranged vertically. The first one gives you access to your notes through a hierarchical “tree mode” view, as made popular by file managers. The second one allows you to search your notes by using tags or creating new tags on the spot. In the third panel, you can see the contents of your selected notebook (folder/group of notes). Finally, the fourth one is useful with longer notes, presenting their headings as navigation points.
QOwnNotes in Action
The note-taking and editing experience in QOwnNotes is stellar, on par with much more popular solutions, like Evernote and OneNote.
Although it supports markdown – and offers a cheat sheet to quickly get you up to speed with it – if you aren’t interested in its arcane syntax, it provides buttons for styling any aspect of your notes.
Since they have become quite popular in modern text editors, QOwnNotes allows you to enable typewriter and distraction-free modes for editing your notes. The typewriter mode makes sure the emphasis is always at the spot you are editing, while the distraction-free mode hides every element of the application’s interface and leaves you alone with your note.
QOwnNotes supports spellchecking after installing separate dictionaries, as well as auto-completion.
All notes are saved as simple markdown files, organized in folders. You can also tag your notes for better organization – and it’s worth noting that the tags can also have a hierarchical structure, with tags-within-tags.
As we mentioned before, both of those ways to organize are directly accessible through the application’s default panels. But you can also use links between your notes, allowing you to form relations between them like you would in a wiki.
You can use the text field in each respective panel to search and filter your notes by name, date, or tag.
Although it’s only rudimentary, QOwnNotes offers support for basic task management. It does so in a somewhat clanky fashion, but since it also supports syncing with OwnCloud, Nextcloud, Calendar Plus, and CalDav, you can use it together with a dedicated app for managing your personal task list or larger projects.
By using plaintext markdown files in folders for storing your notes, QOwnNotes makes it easy to take them anywhere you want. Of course, you can keep them entirely offline.
If, though, you’d like some portability, but not the supported syncing solutions, you can store your notes folder in something like Dropbox or Google Drive. You can then use any markdown or plaintext editor on any other device, from your laptop to your tablet, to open and edit them.
That QOwnNotes is a full-fledged markdown editor means that you can use it to create such documents from scratch instead of using separate editors specializing in the format. Apart from saving in plaintext markdown, it can also export any formatted note as an HTML or PDF file.
Finally, if you don’t like how something works or think it’s missing a feature, you can select from dozens of scripts in its repository that can alter or expand its functionality.
Although it’s far from perfect, with room for improvement in both its interface and the way it incorporates task management features, QOwnNotes can be the single app that can help you organize your whole life. Especially if you are already using something like Evernote, OneNote, Joplin, or even Google Keep, but feel they’re somehow lacking.
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