Just Text: Simplenote, Notational Velocity is winning team

Posted on by Mike Evans


Above: Simplenote on the iPhone. Notational Velocity, Mac version, is immediately to the right of the iphone. There are three other compatible synchronising options for the Mac - Dash Note, Nottingham and JustNotes - but we like the simplicity of Notational Velocity

Author: David Sparks of MacSparky

I write, a lot. I write for the day job (lawyer). I write for the night job (blogger). I’ve now even added a weekend writing gig. Needless to say, I’m always looking for a way to write better and faster. I’ve been aware of Notational Velocity for some time but wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it. Notational Velocity is an open-source project for text junkies. It just holds text but it does it with panache.

There is no interface to speak of, just a search bar and a list of text files. To make a new entry, you type a unique name in the search bar and press enter. Nothing more. You then have a text field and nothing but your own willingness to procrastinate to hold you back.

After you collect a few (or a lot of) notes you can find them just as easily as you make them. Type a few keywords in the search bar, tab to the one that matches your search, and press return. For years I’ve kept folders full of small text files. Notational Velocity allows me to keep them all in one place and makes them searchable. It is simple, obvious, and mind bending all at once.

Anyway, a few months ago two people from Notational Velocity and the iPhone Simplenote App talked and had one of those “your chocolate in my peanut butter” moments. Put simply, Notational Velocity syncs flawlessly with Simplenote on your phone. This changed everything.

Now I can not only have this unified list of text files, they are in my pocket and editable at any time. Since the syncing function was turned on, I’ve been moving nearly all of my data over to Notational Velocity for this Simplenote sync. I’ve moved data out of Yojimbo and Bento where possible. As just a small taste, Notational Velocity has:

  • My list of notes about judges I appear before;

  • All of the essential data for any active cases I’m working on;

  • A list of trial dates and commitments out through the next two years;

  • Contract form text I may want to re-use;

  • Information concerning my childrens’ schools and activities;

  • Ideas for future blog posts;

  • Half written blog posts;

  • A list of seeds for a garden I am planting with my daughter;

  • A list of dumb mistakes I have made which I will never again repeat;

  • A list of useful Mac terminal commands …

The list goes on.

Earlier this week, this got even better.

Simplenote released its iPad version. So now I can hack at this stuff on my precious iPad and leave the Mac at home a lot more often. I’ve been playing with the iPad version. Indeed I am tapping this post out over my tortilla soup on my iPad.

My biggest gripe with the iPad is file management. Simplenote fixes this problem for text today. All of my text is always in sync over all of my devices. If you work in text, learn the Simplenote - Notational Velocity tango.

David Sparks is editor of and, together with Katie Floyd, producer of the popular Mac Power Users podcasts (find in iTunes). He lives in Orange County, California.

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