Get started with Joplin, a note-taking app

Learn how open source tools can help you be more productive in 2019. First up, Joplin.
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WOCinTech Chat. Modified by CC BY-SA 4.0

There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year's resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an "out with the old, in with the new" attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn't have to be that way.

Here's the first of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.


In the realm of productivity tools, note-taking apps are VERY handy. Yes, you can use the open source NixNote to access Evernote notes, but it's still linked to the Evernote servers and still relies on a third party for security. And while you CAN export your Evernote notes from NixNote, the only format options are NixNote XML or PDF files.


Joplin graphical application

Enter Joplin. Joplin is a NodeJS application that runs and stores notes locally, allows you to encrypt your notes and supports multiple sync methods. Joplin can run as a console or graphical application on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Joplin also has mobile apps for Android and iOS, meaning you can take your notes with you without a major hassle. Joplin even allows you to format notes with Markdown, HTML, or plain text.


Joplin on Android

Joplin on Android.

One really nice thing about Joplin is it supports two kinds of notes: plain notes and to-do notes. Plain notes are what you expect—documents containing text. To-do notes, on the other hand, have a checkbox in the notes list that allows you to mark them "done." And since the to-do note is still a note, you can include lists, documentation, and additional to-do items in a to-do note.

When using the GUI, you can toggle editor views between plain text, WYSIWYG, and a split screen showing both the source text and the rendered view. You can also specify an external editor in the GUI, making it easy to update notes with Vim, Emacs, or any other editor capable of handling text documents.


Joplin console version

Joplin in the console.

The console interface is absolutely fantastic. While it lacks a WYSIWYG editor, it defaults to the text editor for your login. It also has a powerful command mode that allows you to do almost everything you can do in the GUI version. And it renders Markdown correctly in the viewer.

You can group notes in notebooks and tag notes for easy grouping across your notebooks. And it even has built-in search, so you can find things if you forget where you put them.

Overall, Joplin is a first-class note-taking app (and a great alternative to Evernote) that will help you be organized and more productive over the next year.

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Kevin Sonney is a technology professional, media producer, and podcaster. A Linux Sysadmin and Open Source advocate, Kevin has over 25 years in the IT industry, with over 15 years in Open Source. He currently works as an SRE at elastic.


Very highly recommended. I'm using Joplin everyday now. I set all the notes to put in my nextcloud folder, and sync between my laptop and Android. No difficulties at all, and everything is on my hand.

I'm using it with Nextcloud on my iPhone and's awesome. I've run into a couple bugs and the GUI could be a little nicer but Joplin honestly has all the features that I was looking for. If you take privacy seriously and want a full-featured, cross-platform notes app this is for you.

Feature Request: The web clipper extension is one of my favorite features on desktop and I would love to see it implemented on IOS. If I could save web pages to Joplin on my phone I wouldn't need Pocket anymore. You can get this app from Top Store.

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