Alternote – Minimalist Evernote Editor

I’ve been using Evernote in my work for many years now, and I am just one of the many who have decided to use this brilliant tool to manage their documents. Thanks to my work with LifeNotes I keep discovering and presenting the strong points of Evernote, which works best when collaborating with a group of people. Not everyone appreciates it, though. I perfectly understand the frustration of those who install Evernote with the intention of mere note keeping, and then with one look at its feature-filled interface come to find it overwhelming. Nevertheless, those of us who have worked with Evernote since its very beginning aren’t usually concerned with this. And as for the rest, they can opt for the rather recent OS X app, Alternote – a minimalist alternative integrated with your Evernote.

Alternote - Evernote editor

Striking Minimalism

Evernote is the only service supported by this app. There have been many questions whether its portfolio will be extended to other products as well – and the answer is no, as Alternote is designed to work solely with information you put into Evernote. You can now install the app to your OS X device, but there should be one for iOS ready by the end of this year, too.

It took me some time to find an apt comparison to Alternote and I ended up going for, as it happens, Evernote – namely its version for the Web. Oh yes, Alternote is a splendid app, so clean and transparent with a minimum number of icons and buttons and no colourful combinations evoking cheerful mood. One is strongly reminded of the new Evernote web interface (still a beta version) – except there is no colour green to be found.

Inspired by Evernote, Alternote has a three-pane layout: sidebar, note list and selected note that you can edit.

Alternote - rozložení okna

The sidebar on the left works with stacks, notebooks, tags and notes. And of course, it allows you to have the most frequently used notes at hand – they are marked with a star and you’ll find them among Starred. I must point out, though, that Alternote doesn’t sync with the Evernote shortcuts. They are not available here because Evernote doesn’t allow developers to access them. However, this should change in autumn of 2015 and we are also promised an immediate support and synchronisation.

The middle pane of Alternote comprises the note list. You can choose a preferred design and switch between “full” and “compact” modes. Apart from the titles of your notes, you can also see there the date when you created them, the first lines of notes or whether they belong to Starred or not.

Excellent Note Editor

Not to worry, I haven’t forgotten the third pane – editing notes deserves a special chapter. And that’s because Alternote offers something Evernote doesn’t, something that I still have to supplement with other tools, such as Marxico. Yes, I’m talking about using Markdown – a feature already included in the app, though it lacks certain parts of syntax, which should be rectified in one of the following versions. Unfortunately, Alternote doesn’t allow you to switch comfortably between the source text and its overview, but I believe its authors will improve upon it and it will be added to the basic operating features soon enough.

You’ll find 4 icons available in the upper-right corner of the note. The first one assigns your note a star, which puts it among Starred as one of your favourites, allowing you to open it in a flash whenever you need it.  The second one is the easily recognisable icon for sharing the note, which creates a link for the note and saves it to the clipboard for later use. Then there is the “A” icon for simple text formatting (the size and font – not many options there, though I gladly accept that) and switching between day/night modes – a brilliant and highly useful feature, especially for night owls. The last icon switches to the distraction-free mode, which does exactly what one would expect. It hides those parts of the app that are not absolutely necessary for your writing, and thus helps you focus on your work even better.

Alternote - denní a noční režim

At the bottom, you’ll find the word count and tags. And not only can you add more tags in Alternote, you can also assign them different colours, which can make the whole system even more transparent.

Get A Handle On It

If handling shortcuts is second nature to you, you’ll just love Alternote. The whole app is practically manageable from the keyboard (not that it has to be, but it speeds things up sufficiently). Alternote won’t snow you under with too many features or tools, and you’ll quickly get used to its straightforwardness.

Alternote - editor písma

I highly recommend learning the keyboard shortcuts here as well as in Evernote – both for text editing and view options. It’ll save you a lot of useless clicking here and there, and you’ll be able to focus on the actual work instead.

Working with the editor itself is a rather brisk affair – in a couple of minutes you’ll feel how different it is from Evernote. One can tell its developers wanted it to be lightweight, smooth and comfortable to use.

Perfection Itself

Those of you who are looking for the simplest text editor integrated with  Evernote, look no further. However, for us who use Evernote as a digital archive also for our business affairs, it isn’t enough. Alternote is not going to support some of the features, such as Presentation Mode, reminders or sharing notes via Work Chat, we’ve all grown so used to in Evernote. Business notebooks aren’t supported just yet either, but it is due out in the summer of 2015.

Alternote - přehled funkcí

I do consider it to be an excellent editor for notes, articles, books and other things, which on top of that integrates with Evernote. If I worked with texts on a daily basis, I think I could make the most of it. All the same, Evernote still remains my archive of choice and I can’t really see anything making me change my mind. But I can’t say that I won’t use Alternote for my next article instead of Marxico. I can’t wait to see the next unique features we’ve been promised. If the Alternote team keeps their promises to regularly expand its features, it might very well be Evernote’s future replacement.

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Daniel is a lecturer, trainer and consultant for self-organisation. Also a globetrotter, sportsman, and lover of people, coffee and nature. He is the founder of LifeNotes which brings Evernote users from the Czech Republic and Slovakia together. As a freelance entrepreneur, Daniel holds training sessions on self-organisation, GTD and mind maps. In his training, he focuses on the progress his trainees make, not just handing on information. More than 1000 participants took part in his training – CEOs, managers, businessmen, consultants, assistants and entrepreneurs. Daniel comes from Ostrava, but most of the time he’s on the move across his homeland or abroad. When he’s not in charge of some educational or development project, he writes articles and books, or just wanders around the globe.
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