Review of Bear notes app

2 minute read

Update on Aug 2017 : I’m back to Org Mode. I realized that I spend 90% of my time at the computer, 10% of my time at the mobile phone. There was no point in optimizing for the 10% time. Given that basis, Emacs & OrgMode is infinitely better because it is open-ended, open source, customizable and a tinkerer’s toolbox.

This is a quick note on why I have started using Bear notes app:

Screenshot of Bear notes app

What I want

  • Notes app needed.
  • Must support images and attachments.
  • Mobile-first. Absolutely need a notes app that syncs across computer and phone. That’s just how I function.
  • Ideally, there should be a backup option that keeps my notes unlocked if when the app starts degrading a few years from now.
  • OrgMode is ideal, but images cause Emacs scrolling to be wonky on the desktop, and recreating agenda mode on the mobile would be a challenge. But glad to see apps like Orgzly take on it.
  • Since my blog and books are already in Markdown, it would make sense to just stick to Markdown for notes as well.

What I tried before

  • Evernote sync was so unreliable that I had stopped using it.
  • OneNote wouldn’t let me even create an account (would complain about password, regardless of how small or long, how simple or complicated a password I try)
  • Quiver seemed promising, but the iOS app is still in beta and currently only provides a read-only view to the notes. And it does not support iCloud sync, only third-party sync mechanisms, which is strange for a Mac+iOS app combination.
  • Currently using Apple Notes. The downside is that exporting notes for publishing / sharing is a pain. For example, I can’t copy a note for sharing as text on messaging platforms like Slack, because it loses all the links and formatting.

Why Bear app

Why not Bear app

  • No web version, esp. to access from my Linux laptop. They are working on it.
  • Long-term availability? I’m glad they have a subscription model, so that they are encouraged to maintain the app, instead of creating an upgrade treadmill (I’m looking at you, Alfred app [1]). Worst case, they have a really good backup feature, that also exports attachments.
    • Last time I checked, Evernote does a bad job at this. The “export” menu command only exports the text of the notes as an xml file. How can you not include attachments in the backup?
  • No Siri integration, not sure if Apple has provided a Siri “intent” for note-taking though.

[1] Alfred now has a Mega Supporter License with lifetime free upgrades.