Notes versus files

I just read @justindirose’s post on some Evernote alternatives. I used EN for a while before taking @Sparky’s lead and using Apple Notes.

My issue is less with notetaking per se though and more with managing both notes and files, mainly PDFs. In short, I hate the way both EN and AN show attached files; on the other hand, iCloud’s URL sharing is, well, just dumb (yes, I know I could use Dropbox or Google Drive; again, I’m trying to stick with Apple, which shouldn’t shock most people here). I guess there’s also the plain text file approach (see Merlin Mann’s post at 43Folders and @joebuhlig’s post).

I suppose this only gets to be an issue when there are both notes and files that relate to each other. Does anyone have a good recommendation/workflow for juggling related notes and files other than attaching?

I’m using Apple Notes as well, and truth is I don’t use it for this kind of reference. Most PDFs and other docs will live in my file system. From here, I’m relying on Alfred or Spotlight search to find these items.

If you do go the search route, you could use a tagging system, a la what people used to do with nvAlt (xWork, xProjectName, etc.). That’s not always ideal though.

Right, thanks @justindirose! So tagging is your glue to connect files and notes. This is when a paper-based system starts to look better because you can always stick a sheet of scrap paper or a post-it into a file folder, but digital doesn’t really have a good solution for that (at least that I’ve seen).

You could go all file system and use text files as notes, but there’s no quick editing the note short of opening your text editor, and then there’s no formatting. On the other hand, going all note system means attaching things, and then where does the actual file live? Of course, searching via tagging isn’t nearly as easy with paper.

It seems like I want a solution that makes managing files qua files and notes qua notes in a single repository possible.

Have you looked at DEVONthink? From your description of having both files (PDFs, Word/Pages, Excel/Numbers, etc.) and notes, either plain text, rich, or markdown DEVONthink gives you an easy way to manage every file type. It gives you the option of having tags and folders, of which you can choose to not use tags.

In DEVONthink you can copy an item link, for example to a PDF then paste that link into your note file and be able to quickly click on it and open the PDF file when you need it. So you wouldn’t be attaching, only linking the file and the note.

I use DEVONthink for projects at work which includes multiple versions of the same file, so in my note file (I use markdown, but you could use any type) I have the item links to the different versions of the document all within DEVONthink. In a meeting if I only have my iPad I can pull up the project file then if someone asks about a previous version of the file I can tap the link and immediate open and share it.


What about using Bear? I find the tagging system works well and it functions as a good note taking system for me. I believe the attachment limit for syncing is 250mb, so that might be a deal breaker, but fine for my needs.

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Thanks @JoshSullivan! It looks like DEVONthink comes close. Actually, it looks like a Finder window where you can actually edit the file in the preview window, which would be pretty cool if Apple allowed this along with markup.


DevonThink may not look pretty and modernized like Agenda and Bear but it gets the job done! I probably use just 10% of its power. But what I do use, I use it a lot! I an throw nearly anything at it and link to other related documents.

There is a book that will get you started on DevonThink here:

It’s well worth the price.

If you’re into automation, Hazel can help you manage folders and move them around with rules.

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I have the same issue. I am happy with my task manager system - but I can’t find too much info on how people manage their notes or KB articles.

I have it on my list to do some videos for the Pro side on note taking apps. That’s in the pipe!

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I used to put everything in Evernote, but when my uploads were only 2 a month, I asked about paying a small amount for fewer uploads and that did not exist. So I bought DevonThink and moved everything from Evernote to DevonThink. So DevonThink is my archive and Apple notes is my notes I need at my finger tips. Everything I want to save, therefore are in those two places

I have also bought the latest version of Agenda and am trying to use it in meetings. I do not have many meetings these days, so I am not sure how valuable Agenda will be