Tag: Note Taking

My Note-Taking System with Craft

It’s rare to find a productivity app that does everything perfectly—no matter what kind of app. There will always be pros and cons to each. For example, I recently have been in the market for a notes app, and my journey involved 11 different apps and dozens of hours of seeing what worked best for me. I have finally found a system that allows me to write three issues of Clicked a week. So here is my workflow for capturing content, making notes on them, and using those notes to create original content for Clicked.

What I Need in My System

The first thing I did to find a notes app that works with me was figure out a system. I wanted a place to save links to read later, a place to save ideas and thoughts, and a way to make connections with the permanent notes I make.

Read Later

When it came to picking a place to save links for reading later, I decided to go with Pocket; it is a read later app I enjoy using, and it has never been an issue for me at any point. Instapaper and Matter are also good options, but Pocket has been my read later app of choice for years now, and I decided to stick with what I knew and focus on other things with this system. So any articles, media, or tweets I like, I send to Pocket either on my phone or my Mac. Thanks to the Share Sheet on iOS and Pocket’s web browser extensions, it’s super easy.

Anything I save in Pocket is not in my notes system, and for a good reason. Not everything I save deserves to be a permanent note in Craft. For me, notes are kept for only things written in my voice. I don’t want to copy and paste someone else’s words into my notes because it doesn’t allow me to comprehend the writing thoroughly.

Also, I only create notes when I feel they can be used for future ideas and projects. For example, a short article about a new Apple rumor will likely not make it into my notes system because it is an unfounded rumor and will be less relevant as time goes on. My goal when I create a new note is that it adds to my overall knowledge and insight into something rather than being just a timeline of things that happened.

Daily Note

I have also found a daily note to be critical to me. When I have a fleeting thought, task, or idea, I just put it in my daily note so that I have captured that thought in a trusted system to be later processed. Then, I try to process those ideas and fleeting notes made throughout the day to keep things organized and limit the backlog to a minimum.

Fleeting notes have proven to be the buffer I need between an idea and a full-fledged note. As David Allen, creator of the GTD system, says,

Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

David Allen

Making Connections

Finally, having everything in Craft allows me to make connections and link back to other notes or ideas as a way to have new ideas and things to write about possibly.

Thanks to backlinks, I can also see the links I have made to the note I am in. For instance, if I am looking at a note about podcasting, I can see all of the notes I have made linked to the podcasting note at the bottom. This allows me to see connections I might not have seen otherwise.

What I Learned

After trying numerous notes apps and tweaking my system, there are a few things that I have learned, and feel can be helpful for anyone getting started in content creation.

Just Pick a Notes App

I chose Craft as my notes app, but there are a ton of other options that I think can work for someone looking to make their own a system. Among the apps I tried, these are some of the ones I felt were great but not the best option for me.

If I am being honest, there are things that some of these apps do that are better than Craft; but as a whole, I chose Craft because it fits the most of my needs and wants in a notes app, and I let its shortcomings fall to the wayside. The same thing could be said about any of the note apps above because – like I said – there is no perfect app for storing and organizing notes.

Also, stick with your notes app because a note-taking app is only as valuable as what you put in it. If you don’t stick with a notes app for long and hop from one to another, you are losing the actual value of a notes app. The value isn’t the features or the bells and whistles it has; the important stuff is the content you bring to that app. That content and those connections you make with them are exponentially growing in importance every time you add to that notes system.

So once you pick an app, dedicate yourself to it for at least six months to a year. I put my money where my mouth was and paid for a year of Craft Pro. That $48 a year I spent locked me into this app because I invested my hard-earned money, and I want to get my money’s worth out of it.

Final Tips and Further Research

I hope this has helped you understand how I work on Clicked, and more importantly, I hope it has helped you know what a note-taking system can be.

If you want to learn more about the features a notes app has or compare different apps to choose what is best for you; I highly recommend going to NoteApps.info; it is a beautiful site to use to find and compare features in a notes app.

If you want to learn more about Craft you can read my article Why Craft is the Note Taking King.

Until then, I will see you Wednesday, June 8th, with links from the past week I found to be interesting, entertaining, weird, or all of the above.

Craft Notes 101 with James Eaton

Today I am happy to present a Craft 101 video with James Eaton where he walks me through how to set up my Craft notes system, what I can do to make it more useful, and how to get the most out of this app.

This was a lot of fun to make and I can’t wait to see how it helps anyone looking to set up a Crafts notes system.

Things included in this video:

  • How to organize your notes
  • How to make Craft a PKM system
  • The difference between notes, pages, cards, and blocks
  • How to make a wiki for a person/author
  • Many quick tips

I want to thank James for being a part of this and I hope to make a more advanced walkthrough with James in the near future as I get more time with Craft and look to take the next step with it.

How to Make Your Notes More Valuable

When I was in high school, I distinctly remember a moment where my social studies teacher was going through a lesson irregularly fast. It got to be so much of an issue that several students, myself included, begged him to slow down on his PowerPoint presentation so that we could write down what was on each slide.

“You know,” my teacher began to say, “your generation is great at writing out notes and dictations of what us teachers say, but you rarely take in the information we are giving you.” For years this sentiment lived under my skin rent free. I was personally offended by his tone and was adamant that this was just a microaggression towards millennials. I have come to learn that I begrudgingly have to agree with his original statement, at least partially.

Note taking for me was indeed transcribing what my teachers were saying. I would stress over whether or not I wrote everything down. There were multiple occasions in my high school tenure where I had to lean over to a nearby classmate to ask for their notes because I had missed what was shown in a previous slide. I wasn’t focused on what the actual teachings were. This eventually extended into college, and even into my career. For years I had a notebook with me frantically writing down everything that was said to me because I was terrified I would forget.

The problem with this was that it wasn’t helping me remember things, but rather allowing me to immediately forget what was said to me. So long as I wrote it down, my mind felt that it wasn’t worth my brain capacity to remember.

Now, this isn’t inherently a problem. So long as I had a trusted system that can take these notes it would have worked, but I didn’t have that. So, multiple times a day I would write down something that was said to me, a task I needed to do, or an idea. Those notes in my notebook were captured, but they fell through the cracks because I would often overlook them as I captured more and more in my notebooks throughout the day.

I knew this wasn’t a system that was going to help me in the long run because I used my notes as a crutch that and they weren’t holding me up properly. So I had to find a different way to take notes.

It all startsed with a book from Sönke Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Ahrens pulled me in immediately with the introduction.

Writing plays such a central role in learning, studying and research that it is surprising how little we think about it. If writing is discussed, the focus lies almost always on the few exceptional moments where we write a lengthy piece, a book, an article or, as students, the essays and theses we have to hand in. At first glance, that makes sense: these are the tasks that cause the most anxiety and with which we struggle the longest. Consequently, these ‘written pieces’ are also what most self-help books for academics or study guides focus on, but very few give guidance for the everyday note-taking that takes up the biggest chunk of our writing.

[…] What they all have in common, though, is that they start with a blank screen or sheet of paper. But by doing this, they ignore the main part, namely note-taking, failing to understand that improving the organisation of all writing makes a difference. They seem to forget that the process of writing starts much, much earlier than that blank screen and that the actual writing down of the argument is the smallest part of its development.

From there, I stumbled upon a TEDx talk from Hazel Wagner, author of Power Brainstorming: Great Ideas at Lightning Speed, where she spoke on mind mapping.

What particularly resonated with me in her talk was how using mind maps illustrated how we actually think about things.

[N]otice … you put down single words or short phrases. This isn’t whole sentences or paragraphs. Do you think you store in your brain paragraphs? How about sentences? What about those outlines you spent of time in school, Roman 1A, B, C, remember that stuff? Do you think that is what you store in your brain? I don’t think so. You store images, you store key ideas, you store the connections between the things you’re learning and things you already knew.

Mind mapping isn’t the only way to make notes, and it’s not my preferred way of taking notes. Still, the premise of reducing your thoughts down to something that is easier to recognize can help you understand things more. In fact, there’s a study that shows taking longhanded notes with a pen and paper might be more efficient than using a keyboard and computer.

In an interview with NPR Pam A. Meullar, author of The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking, expanded on their research article. She spoke about note taking on a computer compared to long-handed notes saying that typing up transcriptions is not only ineffective but being more selective is much more rewarding in the learning process.

When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can … The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective — because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.

Now, I am not here to say writing notes by hand is better. If you are one that enjoys writing out notes and systems with pen and paper, then this might be what you need to make the move to doing something like a Bullet Journal.

For me, this information has led me to the conclusion that we can’t simply copy and paste the things we see in front of us. Whether it’s a lecture, video, article, or something else you consume, you need to put them in your own words if you want to remember the lessons learned from it.

In my experience, if you don’t have a system like this in place my notes are merely being stored and collecting metaphorical dust.

How Casey Newton Helped me with Taking Notes

In an interview with Casey Newton, which will be on the next episode of A Slab of Glass, I was interested to hear about his note taking process.

For those of you who don’t know, Casey is a prolific writer for his Substack, Platformer, where he writes 5000-10,000 words an issue, four times a week. Needless to say, he has a ton of information, links, research, and sources that all need a place to be saved and further clarified. One intriguing thing I learned from him was that he has a database in Notion where he saves links to throughout the day. Every link is its own page, and all of those pages live in a database called “Platformer Links”.

Let me first explain that you can do something like this with practically any note taking app. From Apple Notes, Evernote, Craft, Notion, Bear, or something else, it is almost a given that you can share a link or document and put it in a notes app.

So, as Casey saves these links he uses them in his link roundup for Platformer, as well as a way to see trends or possible future story ideas. Once saved, he then adds tags to them. For example, he speaks a lot about Facebook and misinformation, and he uses both of those words as tags regarding any links he saves. Once he has his tags set up, he then has different “views”. One view will only show links added in the last 24 hours, another has a month’s worth of links being shown. These views allows Casey to see connections in his links he might have seen otherwise.

How I am Using These Lessons Learned

For me, I have taken Casey’s process a step further. Along with tags, I add comments to these links explaining my thoughts on the content, takeaways I got from them, and any criticism I might have on the premise of the article or video.

Adding my own words to the content I have saved allows me to make connections in my mind that I otherwise wouldn’t. This is where I change my notes from simple storage of links to actual notes I have written.

I am also using tags in the links and resources I am saving into Notion. Tags like iPad, iPhone, Apple are used regularly, but I also have tags like video, rumor, and touch bar that is more specific but can be used in more notes down the line. The reason for tags is because I want to use them as means of connecting notes together in new ways. I could use something like a backlink to do the same thing, but with tags you are able to sort them in more ways than the simple two-way connections backlinks offer.

Aside from links, I am also using my notes as a means to capture, organize, and elaborate on ideas I have for Tablet Habit. From article ideas, workflows, etc. I have a database set up that’s similar to my links to allow me to see what I can use for future issues of Tablet Habit.

My note taking journey is still going on, and I doubt it will ever  truly”end”. That said, I am happy with where I am right now and I hope this feeling continues as I push to improve and innovate my notes.

How to Make Apple Notes More Useful

This week I wanted to utilize the Apple Notes app, and how you can use the synergy with the Mac and your iPad or iPhone to up your note-taking game.

I made a quick video showing how you can use your Mac and iPhone or iPad to capture photos, documents, or sketches like magic. Let me know if you like these videos, if a lot of you do I might make some more down the line.

Have you ever been in a meeting or something and see a document, visual aid, or something else you want to capture in your notes? Well, thanks to the Notes app you can grab a quick photo, scan, or sketch out what you wanted to save. It all starts with a simple icon in the Mac Apple Notes app.

Once you click on this icon in the upper right-hand area of the Notes app, a world of options comes up. Depending on what devices you own, you may see multiple things show up. For me, it shows my iPhone and my iPad. Both of these devices have the same options available, here’s what each does.

Take Photo

This is pretty self-explanatory, under the device you wish to use, for me it is my iPhone, click on “Take Photo” and then your device opens up the camera for you to snap a photo. Take a photo, decide if it works for you and once done it will show up in your note on the Mac.

Scan Document

Like the photo option, once selected your device’s camera opens up but instead of it being a standard camera, it is now looking for documents to scan and once it finds one it will cover it with a blue UI and automatically scan it for you. You can scan multiple pages and edit the pages you want to keep by tapping the bottom left ahnd corner. When everything is the way you want it select Done and press Save. Once saved, the documents show up in the note on your Mac.

Sketch

Sketch is the most interesting one for me, as it is using PencilKit to allow you to draw, color, and sketch something on your iPad or iPhone. Just select “Sketch” in the options, draw out what you want on your iPhone or iPad. Once you’re all set tap “Done” and it will pop up in the note.

Conclusion

This is one feature I never knew about, but now that I do know about it Apple Notes seems like a killer app for when you want to take notes quick and want to capture reference material as well.

Finally, Obsidian for iOS is Here

Obsidian, the popular note taking app, came out for iOS and iPadOS recently. I have been playing with the beta for quite a while and Obsidian is becoming my favorite writing tool.

For those of you who don’t know what Obsidian is, you can think of it as a note-taking system that used plain text Markdown files. Unlike Craft or Evernote, you don’t need to rely on their services to sync and save your data, it is directly saved on your hard drive, and you can do with it as you see fit anytime. In other words, if Obsidian were to go away tomorrow and offer no chance for you to recover your files you would still have access to your notes because they are saved right on your computer. Also, don’t worry about Obsidian going away, this app isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

I enjoy Obsidian because it is a plain text editor, meaning it is just words on a screen instead of something like Craft or Notion where they are cards, blocks, or pages. It is a straightforward editor that works great on desktop, and is equally satisfying on the iPad and iPhone.

It is completely free to try, and if you do decide to give it a shot, I have a ton of articles and videos on how to get started below.

My Favorite Obsidian Plugins

If you aren’t familiar with the plugin system Obsidian has, it’s a neat concept. Obsidian is a text editor, but if you enable plugins either made by Obsidian or by other users you can make this text editor into something much more like a Swiss Army Knife instead of a One-Trick Pony.

Here are some plugins that have helped me make Obsidian into something I can use for all of my notes, writing, task management, and research.

Templater

Templater is a fantastic plugin that makes using templates in Obsidian significantly powerful.

Templater is becoming my one-stop shop for various templates I want to implement into my notes. So far I have made one for my Daily Notes, YAML markup, and Newsletter setup.

If you want to learn more Curtis McHale has a great starter video for Templater to show how he uses it and what you can do with it as well.

Kanban

I have been using the Kanban plugin for project management, and it has been very interesting. If you don’t know what Kanban is, think of it as cards being moved into different stages while you work on them.

This Kanban plugin allows you to make different cards in a Kanban board, add notes to those cards, and then move them around the board. It is a fantastic place for me to add writing ideas to and keep them all in one trusted system. Once I want to expand on that idea or link a different note to it I just open it up and put in what I want.

Vantage

Vantage is a tool that makes search more powerful and allows you to embed them into notes and templates. I have spoken about Vantage before and how I use it for my Daily Notes, and things haven’t changed for me on that front. I still use it to find notes and articles I have tagged #readlater and I also use it to find tasks due today.

That said, I did find Greg Morris’ setup and love how he uses the plugin Tasks, which is in a similar vain as Vantage.

Paste URL into Selection

Paste URL into Selection is a plugin that is pretty self explanatory. If you have a link in your clipboard, you can select text in Obsidian and paste it into selected text. It behaves similar to how Ghost, Notion, and Craft behave with links.

It seems small, but it makes things very conveinient when you are dealing with a lot of links at a time. Say for instance you are rounding up links for a newsletter, instead of having to format everything into a Markdown link you can just paste the link into the selected text that is the title of the article you want to save. It makes things easier to deal with than having to make you you format everything into the correct Markdown syntax.

How Daily Notes Changed Everything for Me

precarious. While I may not have finished this adventure yet, I have learned the value of daily notes.

This week, I want to share with you what they are, how I am using them, and how daily notes can be a benefit to you.

What Are Daily Notes?

Daily notes are pretty self-explanatory for the most part. They are notes you write in daily, with each note being the day’s date. It’s that simple, at least by definition. What you do with the daily notes can be very complex if you want it to be.

I learned about Daily Notes years back but it never quite “clicked” with me. There were apps like Agenda that were all about having daily notes and there were people using Drafts just for this purpose. Some used it to journal, others used it for task and project management, or a bit of both.

At the time, it seemed interesting but I had no interest in categorizing my notes by date. It stayed that way for me until I started to use Obsidian and enabled the Daily Notes core plugin.

Ever since then, daily notes has been my most frequented place in my notes. I rely on it to keep my tasks in check, capture everything I come across, and even as an agenda for what I have happening today and a log for what I did that day.

Greg Morris had a nice article about daily notes and explained them perfectly saying:

Daily notes is a practice that I preach to almost anyone that will listen, the one thing that remains form my time using Roam Research. In these I record almost everything that happens during my working day, such as telephone calls, things I am thinking, interactions I have had and anything else I think I might need to refer back to later. This allows me to just get things out of my brain at the time they pop up so I can act on them later, or refer back to them if needed.

Once I learned about the power of daily notes, I started to think about how to maximize their value and remove any friction I could have when making these notes. Thankfully, Obsidian has an impressive set of options you can use to make daily notes populate automatically and even have templates set up. There are other options as well that deserve mention, namely Craft and Drafts. If you want to look into those apps you can take some of what I write here with you as well.

I want to share with you my daily notes setup, some tools and resources I recommend, and show why you should consider daily notes for yourself as well.

My Daily Notes Template

My notes template isn’t anything special, but I think it is a great starting point for many looking to use Obsidian, or another app, for daily notes.

Here’s what my daily note template looks like:

If you want to learn more about templates you can find a bunch of great information from Obsidian help and support documents.

Let’s break this down for each section in the template.

Tasks

The first thing I have in my template is tasks. I use this for two instances of task management: the tasks I assign to do today and the tasks I created today.

For the former, I user an embedded search with the plugin Vantage and their search query. It sounds like a lot, but basically this plugin is used to allow users to create custom searches that finds instances in their notes library that fit their search. Once you have one made that you want to use you can embed that search into a template and use it every time you create a new note with said template.

For me, I wanted to find every incomplete task that is due on today’s date. I might have a document that has a task in it that I have assigned a due date like [[2021-06-27]]. With this embedded search set up in my template, I create the daily note for June 27th, 2021 and the search query populates looking like this:

```query(line:(/- \[ \].*{{date:2021-06-27}}.*/))```

What that shows is this:

There’s more you can do with this for tasks, but you can learn more about Vantage and how to use it on their GitHub page.

For the tasks I create that day I just input them as the following:

- [ ] this is a task 

From there, I will process any incomplete tasks and move them to either the next day or assign them to another date. It is also very possible I decide the task I created is no longer worth my time and I just delete it entirely.

It might seem pointless for me to make a task only to delete it later but at the time I put it in I wanted to do that task, but after some time settled and I thought more in the processing phase I deemed it not to be worth my time, effort, or both.

Reading List

One thing I also use Vantage for is a reading list. Instead of using a date to find notes, I use tags.

Tags in Obsidian aren’t too different than tags in other apps you have used. For me, I use #readlater for all the articles, videos, and more that I want to capture in Obsidian and read later. There are two ways you can add tags to a note in Obsidian.

You can either use tags inline with text like #readlater or put it in the front matter of the note, which is as simple as having the following at the top of your note:

---tags: readlater--- 

Either way, once you have a specific tag set up for your reading list you can use Vantage to create this embedded search.

Once I have it the way I want, I click “Create embedded search” and it will paste it into my note.

```query(tag:#readlater)```

It looks very similar to my other embedded search, but you can see that it uses tags rather than dates in the query.

When I change it from editing mode to preview mode (using Command-E ) I see something like this:

Once I add the embedded search to my daily notes template it will populate all notes and text with the tag readlater.

Notes

Finally, Notes is a catchall for everything I find, think of, or want to remember. It is my scratchpad for all links, ideas, events, etc. that I want to make sure I capture before it leave my mind. I also have been dabbling in writing out journal entries from time to time as well.

Once I know it is in this notes system and I have it written down somewhere i can allow my mind to relax and focus on coming up with ideas rather than keeping them.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done once said “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” I often think about this quote and I use it to remind me just how important it is to have a trusted system for you ideas, tasks, and everything else. I am not saying Obsidian is the perfect app for all of those things, but Obsidian has become a bigger part of my trusted system for some time now.

As for what happens to all of my notes, tasks, etc. I process them either at the end of the day or first thing the next morning.

Quick Capture

I really wanted to show Quick Capture in action on iOS 15 but as of right now, I can’t seem to get beta 2 to work with Shortcuts reliably. At times it works, but at other times it doesn’t. Sadly, for that reason, I can’t in goo conscious share anything iOS 15 related

However, if you are on iOS 14 and want a way to make it happen right now, all you have to do is follow this video Curtis McHale streamed a week back and it will help. The catch is you need to use the app Toolbox Pro in order for this to work for you. It uses a neat workaround for you to append files outside of the Shortcuts folder.

With Curtis’ shortcut you can even take it a step further and get things from Safari like the page Name, Author, publication date, etc. and use that in a shortcut to have everything you need all in one spot. The opportunities for growth and tweaking are endless. If you end up making something awesome let me know on Twitter, I would love to see!

There is also a workflow from Mike Schmitz over on The Sweet Setup where he shows how to use Drafts with Obsidian for quick capture.

The nice thing about Obsidian is that it is a notes app built around markdown files. It is just plain text, and because of how simple it is there are lots of different ways to add, edit, and append to the files.

I hope that iOS 15 allows for these workarounds to be obsolete, but until then there are a couple ways for you to add to your Obsidian daily notes.

How Daily Notes Help

So, what is the point of daily notes? Why bother with all of this setup? Here’s a few things you can benefit from with them.

Remember it Now

I am a huge fan of Field Notes. They are small notebooks that I keep in my pocket to write down things when my phone isn’t going to cut it for me. Their motto has always been a mantra for me, “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.” I have always kept that in my mind over the years because it reminds me that my brain isn’t going to remember this later so I need to write it down now.

If you are someone that wants to be more diligent in notes and capturing the things that you want to remember, daily notes is a perfect way to do that. Before I was using daily notes, I was relying on my brain to remember and save all of the things that I would think of in a day. This is a horrible system. I lost count how many times I would forget a thought I just had minutes prior. If I had daily notes, or a notes system I trusted, I could have written it down and saved myself the trouble. Now, with this system I am able to drop links, ideas, and tasks without worrying about forgetting them.

Daily Log

Another benefit with daily notes is that I now have a log of what I have done for the day. Before, I would often go to bed feeling like I hadn’t accomplished much for that day. I would feel unfulfilled, wish I had worked harder. Over time I began to feel like I wasn’t doing enough, until I started logging what I was doing each day.

What I learned by logging what I was doing was that while I may not have something tangible to show for my work every day, I was indeed making small incremental changes moving the proverbial needle forward to reach my goals. I took nothing for granted, everything I was doing needed to be logged no matter how small it was. After a short time, the feeling of inadequacy and failure washed away all because I was making a conscious effort to write down everything I was doing each day.

Journal

I mentioned journaling earlier, and it is similar to the daily log, but I wanted to harp on this a bit more. Journaling can be beneficial for your mental health. It can help reduce anxiety, reduce stress, and cope with depression.

For me, I never got into journaling until I started to use it in my daily notes. It was a game-changer for me. I really felt that, similar to the daily log, I was able to process my emotions and concerns in a more fully-thought-out way. Instead of having anxiety without knowing what may be causing it, I am able to look at my journal and see why. For instance, between my daily log and my journaling I can see that I had a lot on my plate the last several days and that could be the reason why I have been uneasy every time I sit down to do some work.

I don’t write mountains of text in my journal. I simply write how I am feeling, what I did to help with it, and how I felt about the day. It is as simple as a few sentences a day.

Conclusion

Daily notes aren’t something new, but they are new to me. After some time with them I have seen the benefits of them already, and I am sure I will see other implementations going forward that will inspire me.

If you are looking to have a notes system you can trust to capture ideas and resources, be a journal for your life, and log the things you did each day give daily notes a chance.

If you are using daily notes please let me know how you are using them by either emailing me jeff@clicked.news or DM me on Twitter.

Why Craft is the Note Taking King

This weeks issue of Tablet Habit is going to be all things Craft. This was originally going to just be an interview with CEO Balint Orosz but after spending more and more time with Craft I went into a rabbit hole.

I promise this isn’t sponsored, this is just such an amazing app that I have been thinking about a lot this week and this was literally the only thing on my mind for the newsletter.

Today we are going to talk about what Craft is, the history of how it came to be, how things are going now, and what makes it such a great app to use.

Finally there will be a litany of resources below as well as interesting workflows for Craft if you are interested in trying this app out yourself.

What is Craft?

Craft is a note taking app created by Luki Labs. Released in November 2020, it quickly became the latest hot note taking app in the Apple ecosystem.

I think that Ryan Christoffel from MacStories said it best in his review of Craft:

Craft is launching today across iPhone, iPad, and Mac as a new note-taker that blends the block-based approach of Notion with a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the OS technologies you would hope for and throwing in valuable features like real-time collaboration. It’s the most exciting note-taking debut I’ve seen in years.

Craft offers some interesting features including excellent collaboration tools, full markdown support, native iOS and macOS apps, beautiful design, and the ability to link notes together.

Linking Notes

If you aren’t familiar with what it means to link notes, think of it as you have two pieces of paper on a board, and you want to link the two together because they are related in some kind of way. Craft allows you to create. a metaphorical piece of yarn to connect those two pieces of information.

All you have to do in order for that to happen is type the “@“ symbol and start writing out the note you want to link. You can even create a new note if you find yourself wanting to have a separate note that will link up with information in the note you are currently working on.

For instance, if I were working on a note that is for a review of a product and I find myself wanting to write out some more background information about the company, I can create a new note and have it linked to the note I am currently working on by typing “@Company Info.”

Not only can you use Markdown to write in Craft but you can export it in Markdown with multiple different variation options. With support for CommonMark, iA Writer, Bear, Ulysses, and Notion you can export your notes into pretty much any flavor of Markdown you want. You also have the ability to export it as a PDF, TextBundle, Microsoft Word, and more.

Speaking of exporting, there are direct app integrations with apps like Drafts, OmniFocus, Things 3, Ulysses, and more. With just a simple tap in the export options you can send your Craft note to the app of your choosing like magic.

These are just a few of the plethora of options Craft has to offer, and I want to dive deeper than a review for Craft. With that said, if you want to learn more about Craft feel free to look at the resources below from both Craft and from others who have shared some very interesting and cool ways to use Craft.

You can download Craft today for free at Craft.do. If you decide that Craft is your kind of note taking app you can purchase a Pro membership for $44.99 a year.

History of Craft

Craft was spearheaded by founder and CEO Balint Orosz, who began this note taking journey back in 2018. Balint began researching and creating the app that is now formerly known as Craft. In an interview I conducted with him, Balint tells me that this app was created because he wanted to do more with touch screens saying:

I just simply didn’t feel I can be productive on touch devices. It took me a good 6-9 months of thinking and researching to figure out the exact reason – which was mainly related around organizing/restructuring content on touch devices was horrible – and for my thinking process that is crucial.

One thing that got Balint to think that this kind of touch-first note taking can be accomplished was an app that had actually nothing to do with note taking.

After seeing TikTok, Instagram stories, etc. which effectively simplify video editing (one of the most complex desktop software) in a way where billions of people can use it, I thought that for sure we can do it for text.

Nearly 18 months later after a long beta season with users, of which I was a part of, Craft was ready to launch.

Release Day

By November 2020 Craft had become publicly available for people to download and use. Version 1.0 was officially out, and with it came some challenges.

One of the challenges was feedback and bug reports. As Balint explained to me, when you have a beta app you get different kinds of feedback than you would a public app.

[I]n beta very few people actually used Craft as their primary tool – while a lot of them started doing so once we were publicly available – and this meant that some smaller bugs which have been overlooked became critical. Balancing these, with new features our users are requesting is very challenging.

Even though there was more work to be done, it was clear that Craft had managed to catch lightning in a bottle. It gained momentum right out of the gate.

Balint Orosz on the user response from launch:

You get tons of (new/different) user feedback you want to address as soon as possible – so a mix of joy & dopamine from the positive feedback with the longer than usual shifts to get the first few fixes shipped ASAP.

Overall as the feedback, download & revenue numbers were above expectations we were very happy – recognizing there’s so much more we need to do.

Craft was out, and people were flocking to it. The reason, from my persecutive, was two-pronged. The first is that it is simply a great note taking environment on all three Apple platforms. Second, it is a native iOS and macOS app that simply oozes Apple aesthetics and design prowess.

I wasn’t the only one thinking this, in fact a lot of people have seemed to join the Craft bandwagon because of these two reasons.

Christopher Lawley on Craft:

Personally I have gone all in on Craft for note taking and research. I like their implementation, I like what they’re doing with the app, they are constantly updating it.

Curtis McHale:

The big thing Craft did was give me a truly excellent iPad app for my writing and research. Obsidian only had desktop at the time and their predicted iPad app was not what we have now. Craft was an excellent app on iPad which let me used my preferred platform for focused writing and research.

Reception and “Best New App” Award

By December 2020, just one month after public release, MacStories gave Craft the award of “Best New App” award, with editor-in-chief Federico Viticci saying:

I’ve been reviewing apps at MacStories for well over a decade at this point, and it’s only natural that, over the course of several years, it’s become increasingly rare for a new app to genuinely surprise me and upend my expectations in a specific category. I don’t mean this in the context of “I’ve seen it all, everything is boring now”; it’s just that after writing hundreds of app reviews in 11 years, testing even more betas, and following the evolution of App Store trends on both MacStories and AppStories, my threshold for being impressed by the 1.0 version of a new app or service is very high.

Present Day

Craft has been out for nearly 6 months now to the public at the time of this publishing. I wanted to know from Balint how the company felt about the reception of the app and the numbers they have for Craft subscribers.

We’re very happy with the numbers, but most importantly the user engagement (both within the product, but also the level of communication between the internal team and users) is just amazing. We’re getting a tremendous amount of insight from our users, and this makes our job both very challenging in one way, and easy on the other.

Using Craft

When Craft came out, I originally thought that this app was nearing its maximum capacity. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

Ryan Christoffel from MacStories explained just how powerful Craft was as a 1.0 app in a way I couldn’t.

Craft is the strongest 1.0 note-taking app I’ve ever used. It offers a thoroughly native experience, taking advantage of all the best system features across its respective platforms, while also retaining the power and versatility of modern web-based services like Notion. Real-time collaboration is an especially exciting feature, and I love that even if someone doesn’t have a Craft account, they can add comments to your notes through public webpages.

Just as a user of this app, there is a lot going for it. Where I find I am using this the most is on my iPad, for obvious reasons.

Since launch, Craft has had numerous updates. Among them are some strong features added and bugs squashed. Here are the highlights:

  • Faster Search
  • Trash Can for deleted items
  • Web Editor (currently in beta)
  • Dedicated sidebar for iPad
  • Tabs in both iPadOS and macOS
  • Universal Attachment support
  • Surround selections (You can add ( ), [ ], { } easily to the beginning and end of the selected text by simply type ( or [ or {.)
  • Swipe to indent lines
  • External Locations
  • Notion, Roam, and batch Markdown import
  • Spotlight Search integration
  • Backlinks
  • iOS 14 widgets

The iPad Experience

One app that comes to mind a lot when I think about the design, usability, and versatility of Craft is Things 3. To me, they both offer a similar feeling with me, and I think it is because it is also native, frictionless and beautiful.

If you have ever used Craft or Things 3 you will know right away that it isn’t like every other app. It has an aesthetic that shows care, finesse, and obsession. Someone who worked on this app put their heart and soul into how this app looks and feels for the user.

I love that Craft decided early on to focus on being a native app, rather than doing something like Notion, a competitor for Craft, where it is a web app wrapped into an iOS and Mac app.

Balint commented on this decision saying:

From the start we wanted to create a Mac App which isn’t a blown up iPad app – but rather something you feel is built for the Mac itself – and Catalyst doesn’t provide much for you in that area (with the new MacOS 11 design language it’s better – but at the time with MacOS 10.15 you still had a very different visual environment). This meant we had to re-build pretty much the whole UI – different visuals, interactions, overall structure – and all of this had to be done in a way where we don’t have two apps – but one. So any feature we introduce on one platform should be available on the other platform as well.

Looking back moving to Mac early on was one of the best decisions we made. It forced us to re-think components and interactions in a more holistic and cross-platform way. It provided plenty of challenges, but both our design language and codebase is now a lot stronger because we made that decision – and with the M1 Macs Catalyst performance is just amazing.

It is interesting to see from a developer standpoint how integrating macOS can cause a complete overhaul for the iPhone and iPad apps as well. This decision could not have been made lightly, thankfully it was absolutely the right call. The native iOS and macOS experience is something that Apple users can sense and when it is done wrong, it leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

Personally, I can’t count how many times I have tried an app and leave it feeling like it is trying to be a Mac app but it feels like a web app. One app that is like that for me is Notion.

Recently I was talking on Twitter about Notion, and many were telling me that, when it comes to iOS and iPadOS, the best note taking experience between Notion and Craft is by far and away Craft.

James Eaton wrote:

One of my favorite things about Craft is how easy it is to just start taking notes. I tend to take somewhat of stream-of-conscious notes in meetings and I love how I can just type my thoughts and then sort, add lists, and develop blocks after the meeting is over. To put it simply: Craft does not get in my way when I want to capture text.

It’s clear that the current success for Craft is prosperous, but what does the future hold for Craft? According to Balint, quite a bit.

The Future of Craft

While Craft is still in its first year of release, it is clear that there’s more to come. Each update is indicative of that.

I wanted to know what Balint had planned for Craft, and when I asked about what the future of Craft looks like this is what he had to say.

Most of the things you see in Craft are the result of us learning from our users. We have a strong vision of creating the “next generation writing app” – i.e. one that supports workflows for knowledge workers in today’s ecosystem, not one which was built 20-30 years ago. This means we have very strong principles around :

  1. Cross platform and form factor usage (users are no longer working on just one device)
  2. Integration to other services / tools vs being the “all-in-one” (respecting that others across domains built amazing tools – we shouldn’t try to replicate that into one monster, but figure out ways that tools can be effectively co-used)
  3. Privacy & Data Accessibility – Your data is yours, and we should actively help you exercise those rights.There’s lots of details and nuances in all of these – and that’s where user input and feedback drives majority of the implementation details.

    The biggest thing we’ve learned is that every individual has a different set of preferences & needs for them to become productive – in other words to please hundreds of millions of users (which we want to do) one needs to provide a large number of features – or features in a way where these are customizable – while making sure the product doesn’t become overly complicated or bloated. In other words we are not in a sprint – but rather a marathon.

What also sends a clear message is $8 million in funding they received earlier this year in Series A funding. Craft made it clear that this funding will help grow Craft and expand its reach in a recent email to users saying:

What this means for you is that we will have plenty of resources to continue & build Craft for years ahead.

As for what Craft plans to work on in the near future, Balint tells me it is actually one of the most common requests they have received since launch.

On the very top of our list is of course tables – it’s challenging to get it right on touch, but we’re making good progress – and of course we’ve just launched our web editor, which has also been requested by many users.

The new Web Editor mentioned is something I didn’t expect to see so soon. Alas, I am pleasantly surprised by this. Like many, I work in an office environment that is completely Windows based which doesn’t bode well for apps that are only in the Apple ecosystem. Thankfully, the new web editor is working on fixing that for users.

I don’t want to talk too much about this as it is still in beta but I will say that even as a beta app it is surprisingly full-featured. Craft continues to raise the bar for beta and version 1.0 apps and for that we can all be grateful.

If you want to give the web editor a shot you can sign up for the waitlist of the beta.

Wrap Up

Craft has been a welcome addition to my workflows and I can’t wait to use this app more and see what kind of benefits I receive once I invest even more into the app.

If you are at all interested in trying out Craft you can start with the free tier and see how you like it. The features you get even in the free tier are vast and the amount of notes you can write before hitting its limits is large. I highly recommend giving this a go for a project you are working on or as a system of saving notes for different aspects of your life.

Finally, if you want to learn more about what you can do with Craft or how to use the app please look below at the multitude of resources I have curated of the last month.


Craft Resources

Below are a ton or resources I have been saving over the last few weeks that I think might be helpful for new and intermediate users of Craft looking to learn more about how this app works, organizing your notes, and more.

From Craft

Keyboard Shortcuts

Other Blogs/Websites

A Quick Overview of My Craft Workflow

Videos and Screencasts

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