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Note-taking applications

Free or buy-once, local-first apps for managing notes of all sorts.

To-do lists

You can generally manage your to-dos just fine in any note-taking app, but it was only after switching to a dedicated tool that the process started to feel effortless.

My personal pick is Things 3 for its pared down vibe and great ergonomics.

Omni Focus has been recommended as an alternative for more complex workflows. On macOS and iOS, the built-in Reminders app may also work.

Note-taking, writing

For general-purpose notes, I strongly prefer plain text as a storage format. That usually entails some sort of Markdown formatting.

Right now I’m enjoying using Obsidian. It’s a bit rough around the edges: the Markdown editing can feel a bit jarring, and being an Electron-based app the interactions don’t feel entirely native. But its hyperlinking features are super useful for organizing pieces of writing, and the roadmap looks promising.

Before that, I relied on iA Writer. It still offers a more refined editing experience. If you configure iA Writer to use the .md extension for notes, the two apps can share the same notes folder.

(Further back, the original one-thing-well note-taking app was Notational Velocity, later forked into nvAlt.)


Some authors swear by Scrivener for long-form writing (I haven’t tried it).

Tropy looks interesting for annotating images and doing archival research.