RemNote – great note-taking app nobody is talking about

I have been using Evernote for quite some years now as my go-to application for notes, bookmarks, sketches, etc. Indeed, it is not a bad choice: clients for all platforms you can imagine, synchronization between devices, good enough editor with formatting, typical hierarchical notes organization into notebooks and sub-notebooks, tags, sharing options, etc. I even had a paid version in order to have synchronization on more than two devices. And still, I have never felt that I have been using all its potential.

Evernote for macOS
Evernote for macOS

Eventually, I realized that my notes were lying “dead“ there. Like a pile of useless crap. Basically, once something got into Evernote, I just forgot about it. And, probably, never open this note again, except for some edge cases. These notes were not helping me.

Then I stumbled upon Roam Research – the app on hype now. It had invitation system, so I could only check out the demo page. But it was not the tool itself that made me switch from Evernote. By watching tutorials, and reading articles about Roam I grasped the idea of a second brain, a personal knowledge base. This is where it all clicked – my Evernote notes are junk, because they are not connected to each other. Yes, I have a notebook “Programming“, but notes inside this notebook are just separate pieces with no relation to each other whatsoever. These relations exist only in my head. And my head has only so much free space to hold all this stuff.

Roam Research
Roam Research

The essential part that is missing in Evernote in comparison to, let’s say the same Roam Research, is linking of the notes. One can argue, that Evernote has notes links. But functionality- and comfort-wise they are a joke. Imagine, you are writing a note about new sorting algorithm, and now you want to link some phrase to the big-O notation note. You have to: 1. Find big-O note (potentially in another notebook). 2. Then right click and find an option to copy the note link. 3. Then go back to the place where you want to place the link and 4. Finally, paste it. I almost died from boredom by just explaining this procedure. By the time you finish it, you have already lost any thought train you had.

Just to have a link inside a note to another note is not enough, though. Another powerful concept is back linking. Imagine, you are looking at a note, and you can immediately see if any other note refers to it. You might have linked it from another place without putting too much thought, but in the end you created a new association that can create a new idea. Pretty cool. Some apps go further and even provide so called “non-referenced“ links, i.e. they show other notes that reference just the title of the current note as a text.

I was hooked and decided to switch. But first, I needed to find the perfect application, of course. Roam Research is too expensive. I mean, I am glad to spend $15/month for an app, if I know that this is a game changer. But not from the day one. So I started my research. Oh boy, just look at this huge list of 85 note-taking applications! I think I have looked almost through all of them, and fooled around with at least 15 or so.

The most worthy of mention are Obsidian, Foam, Notion, and my favorite so far – RemNote.

Obsidian. Stores notes in Markdown locally.
Obsidian. Stores notes in Markdown locally.

RemNote is great. It is free. It is packed with features. It is ugly. Well, to be fair it was ugly until the recent upgrade a few days ago. Now it is a bit better. But I like the spirit. Started to use it on a daily basis. Cancelled my Evernote subscription. It is a long way for RemNote to become great, though. What they currently lack is media promotion. This is a great application nobody is talking about! Everybody talks only about Roam Research.

RemNote tutorial page
RemNote tutorial page

So did I just find a perfect tool for me? I am not sure, to be honest. RemNote has a bunch of downsides. For example, lack of a desktop application that is huge minus for me, since I hate doing serious work in a browser window. I also have some concerns about the future of the app: there is no business behind, and I cannot tell for sure how serious the authors are about continuing working on it. I definitely don’t want to lose all my notes in two years or so.

And let’s not forget, that there are other players on the market. There are so many options! Having so much variety might seem like a good thing in the first place, but it leads to decision fatigue. I really just want to have the work done, to have my brain organized and get the most out of my notes. I don’t want to spend endless hours on choosing the right tool.

Maybe I should just switch to one text file or Org mode?