Zettelkasten Forum

Taking notes on iOS devices?

A lot has been written about tools for note taking on desktop computers (Mac, Win, Linux). But what about smartphones and tables, i.e. iOS and Android devices?

As long as I'm using Bear Writer or Evernote for note taking the type of devices does make a difference. But since the "ideal note for a lifetime" is just a plain text file (possibly markdown formatted) in a plan file system (possibly backed by Dropbox or Google Drive), Bear Writer or Evernote don't seem the best choices for note taking.

So what are cross-device application options while staying true to the "ideal note" format?

I tried nvALT+Simplenote. That's working ok, but does not allow images[^1] in notes and does not support linking notes[^2].

Any other ideas/experiences?


[^1] Although including images to me is not the highest priority in note taking it is quite convenient. Sometimes a small drawing I do on the iPad Pro is worth more than 1000 words ;-) and I'd like to include it in an otherwise textual note.

[^2] Of course I can always look up some old note id and insert it into a new note. But that's cumbersome: I have to close the current (unfinished) note, search the Zettelkasten for the old note, remember the old note's id (maybe using the clipboard), go back to the current note, enter the remembered id.


  • An important distinction for my personal purposes (which I have yet to explore further before I can declare these as recommendations) is this:

    1. Note-taking: I use the app Drafts (iOS) because it offers me an always empty scratchpad to take note, and it has automation tools powerful enough to create a Zettel note with header and all from a template, saving the file to Dropbox. I treat this like web clippers on my computer: a way to quickly store a thought in an inbox that I can process later. Writing fully fleshed-out notes on a phone is impossible: it's just too cumbersome to come up with useful links.
    2. Zettelkasten note archive access: this is used to browse existing notes. I also edit notes here if needed. But as I said, neither on iPhone nor iPad does note creation and processing (verzetteln) work as flawless and smooth as on a Mac. On my iOS devices, I use 1Writer because its note index works great for 4000+ notes. It's not snappy enough for mundane non-Zettel notes, like grocery lists, for which you need even faster access, though.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Thx for the hints! I like the distinction between note taking, verzetteln, and revision.

    Even though the other day I told my fiancee how different note taking/markup of texts ist from verzetteln, I did not realize what this means for where/when you do it.

    I guess you're right: verzetteln does not work on a smartphone. Maybe on an iPad, but still it's much easier on a desktop computer with more space around on the real and virtual desktop and possibly several apps open at the same time with easier access.

    But if I take that to heart, then it becomes less important to create files as pre-zettel notes on an iOS device. Just about any notes app will do, because the note later has to be verzettelt. Maybe the best would even be to use a todo app because a note becomes a todo item. I could create a list in Todoist or Wunderlist for such kind of notes.

    Revising notes later is still different and easier. I'll check out 1Writer, if it can access my zettels stored in Dropbox.

  • I use Drafts, much as @ctietze described. For access to existing notes, I use a mix of systems, including Dropbox (you can set the notes folder as available offline), Editorial, and Working Copy (a git repository browser, which I use to keep a second offline copy).

    Working Copy actually seems to have a better / friendlier search than Dropbox does.

    Right now, I'm much more comfortable writing longer notes on the computer, but I think about this question a lot, because I don't want my computer to be a dependency.

  • If only Editorial allow you to access multiple directories, the way 1Writer does, it would be the ultimate text editor.

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