Simplenote – By Automattic

I have been using Notational Velocity (nVALT) for a couple of years. It’s a note-taking app (Mac only), built by Brett Terpstra that describes itself as:

… a way to take notes quickly and effortlessly using just your keyboard. You press a shortcut to bring up the window and just start typing. It will begin searching existing notes, filtering them as you type.

A couple of things I like about it are that it saves work automatically, and any URLs that I type in are kept as live links. There’s more, including the ability to type using Markdown markup language.

I could use nVLT to format drafts of blog posts – but the Markdown keystrokes are not second nature to me, so I don’t use them. *

MacUser – my favourite Mac magazine – has a feature this month on note-taking apps, including nVALT and a similar app named Nottingham.

If you are a Windows user, there are a couple of options, which I haven’t tried. They are ResophNotes and Cintanotes. From the screenshots, Resophnotes looks pretty much like nVALT.

Enter Simplenote

I’ve had a Simplenote account for a while (probably a couple of years or more) but just don’t use it. It’s web-based and there are also iPhone and iPad app versions.

Simplenote can be used as a standalone web-based note-taking service.

Here’s the thing though. It can also be used to backup or sync your other note-taking apps.

In other words, if you want to back up the stuff on the note-taking app on your computer, you can back it by syncing to Simplenote.

And/or if you have a home machine and a travel machine – you can sync your note-taking app on both machines via Simplenote.

Enter Automattic – The Makers Of WordPress

What I didn’t know until I took another look at Simplenote today is that it is now owned by Automattic – the makers of WordPress.

Here’s an extract from the Simplenote blog post of Jan 24th this year:

Simplenote has a new home! Our company, Simperium, has been acquired by Automattic, makers of We think this’ll be great for everyone, especially you, our beloved fans

So there you have it: Use Simplenote as a web-based note-taking app, or use it to sync or backup your machine-based note-taking app.

Syncing nVALT With Simplenote
Syncing nVALT With Simplenote

* If You Are Interested In Knowing A Bit More About Markdown

Markdown is both ‘plain text markup syntax’ and a software tool that converts plain text markup to HTML.

In plain English, it is a simple way of writing an article that contains the code to make text that displays with formatting and that can also be displayed as a web page.

For example, it can make bold text and italic text, as well as headings and links. It was invented by Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball fame and you can read about it on Daring Fireball.

There is more than one flavour of version of Markdown, and the one we use on Quillcards is slightly different from Jon Gruber’s original version. The reason is that when people are writing text in ecards, they expect that the return key will start a new paragraph – except that in the original Markdown it doesn’t. With Jon’s version, it requires two returns keystrokes to start a new paragraph – one keystroke just makes a line break.

So the version we use is the Github-Flavored Markdown.

I am slowly learning the Markdown keystrokes almost by default because, as I say, our own site at Quillcards uses Markdown markup language.

The MadMimi email service that I use also uses Markdown, and as does Google+, and as does Marsedit, which I do use for writing blog posts.

Here are a few examples Of Markdown Syntax

## Put two hash marks at the beginning of a line to make larger size text.

*Put an asterisk either side of the text to make italics.* ( works with underscores as well _ )

**Put double asterisks either side of the text to make bold text.**


  1. Maria says:

    I had no idea. Now I’m looking at them all and can tell nothing else will get done today as I explore and play with options. Thanks… I think 🙂


    1. Ah yes, these are not called labour-saving devices for nothing. They save us from doing anything… 😉


  2. rebekah says:

    Nice to come across this post now — just last night, I tried to read up a little on ‘markdown’.

    Sadly, I don’t have a Mac computer. Next time! I use Write app for notes, on my iPhone/iPad. I tried so many — they all had different advantages, but this one works for me. It has one, extremely cool, feature … I can’t really imagine when I would need it, but it’s cool 🙂 You can use the iPad as a keyboard and what you type appears on the iPhone! At the same time!

    I didn’t know that Automattic acquired Simplenote. I signed up for Simplenote when it was first released and then forgot all about it.

    This was very interesting! I really want a Mac computer.


    1. Hey, thanks for telling me about Writeapp. I just looked at the website and I see that it links with nVALT via Dropbox.

      I use Wunderlist for lists that sync between my iPhone and Mac, but I don’t use that syncs notes. I must compare Writeapp with Simplenote.


      1. rebekah says:

        In Write app, there’s also some way to install a whole slough of other services to post to … don’t remember all, but Day One and something called Omnifocus comes to mind… it’s all in the settings.


  3. quackofdawn says:

    Now, that I do have a Mac computer and nVALT …can I somehow use TextEdit with nVALT?


    1. I use nvALT because it lets me write as much as I like in each section; links are preserved as hyperlinks; there’s a search field that will pick up any word I have used – and it’s simple.

      But nvALT is all one document with separate ‘pages’.

      So for things I want to keep separate from one another, I use TextEdit and store the texts in folders on my hard drive.

      You ‘could’ past text from TextEdit into nvALT if you wanted. Or vice versa.


      1. quackofdawn says:

        Okay! I see.
        it was just something I saw during the setup process, about TextEdit, that I didn’t catch..


        1. Ask anytime – anything 🙂


        2. quackofdawn says:

          😀 you’re very kind … and patient.
          So far, I’ve been amazed how easy I’ve found answers to all my questions! I’ve typed in my question … just as I formulated it in my head … in Google. Each time, I’ve found that someone before me, had the very same question! The solutions are easy … it’s just that I have to find out … how.


        3. Are this ‘Mac’ questions? Macs are well thought out – that’s what makes them Macs 😉


  4. quackofdawn says:

    Yes, Mac. [I wrote an earlier comment, but I’m not sure whether it flew]
    This is all so new to me. I didn’t know what an Alias was, some symbols for the keyboard shortcuts, I didn’t know what they were either … many things, but all is being revealed, slowly but surely. Love the 


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