Devon de Numbre

Keeping it plain: Standard Notes

Scroll through the photo feed of an average smartphone user and you will find tons of screenshots. In other words: Images of text, stored in someone's Cloud storage1. Due to my almost 30 years of IT experience, I prefer native files on my own hard disk. I want all my stuff OFFLINE! I do not trust the Cloud in general – someone's else computer on the Internet – and keep my files synchronised between my many devices (BitTorrent Sync → Resilio Sync → SyncThing). Not trusting the Cloud means one thing, but for sure I or we cannot avoid it completely2.

In today's world we use JPG, MP4, PDF and PNG most of the day, plus some MS-Office formats. I download all images from my Apple smartphone and keep them as HEIC. In essence I store and use the following: HEIC, MP4, PDF and TXT. Each format has its specific use, like PDFs for books and manuals, HEIC for my photographs, MP4 for video clips, and most important TXT.

To store, retrieve and search plain unformatted text, I use Standard Notes:

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Technically Standard Notes has its own database, but you can export all your notes as plain text TXT files anytime, which I do on a regular basis:

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Voilà: My cold-storage of all my articles, notes, pastes, tweets, that I deemed worthy to keep. With the help of Name Mangler and a bit of grep, all filenames are compatible on Unix and Windows.

How does one collect over 4.500 notes? Very simple, but it takes years: Anything I read on the Internet (websites, pastes, social-media), my own notes, and (since iOS 15) also OCR-clippings, I copy and paste into Standard Notes.

Yes, this involves a bit of work. On average I need five minutes to copy and paste the bare essence of any newspaper article or a web page into Standard Notes. (I strip out image descriptions and advertising tags.) This sounds like lots of work, but in reality is quite fast. I have developed some tricks: I use SubEthaEdit 5 or EmEditor to strip down articles to the bare minimum. I also store Tweets the same way, with using the Twitter @username as headline. I use OCR on handwritten notes and images, to copy the text, mostly quotes or task lists, into Standard Notes. For the security-minded folks: I do not store personal or confidential information in Standard Notes but in a offline password manager.

The result is that I have full-text search on anything that interests me and on any modern device. In most cases, I am faster in Standard Notes, than researching the article or Tweet with DuckDuckGo or Google. Bonus: I can access all my notes in a web-browser, which is awesome in secure IT-environments that prohibit 3rd-party-apps.

Well, at the end I still use the Cloud with Standard Notes, but with lots of benefits – including "OFFLINE" whenever I want. If you wanted a pure offline version of this system, you could explore Auer Notes coming soon.

  1. See Wikipedia: Cloud storage is a model of computer data storage in which the digital data is stored in logical pools, said to be on "the cloud". 

  2. To be honest, if more people would use secure passwords and MFA, the "Cloud" in general would be more trustworthy… 

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