Comparision of Notetaking Applications

— Comparision of Notetaking Apps — From an earlier post I noted that tomboy (my favorite notetaking app) fails to run on my iBook. On my MacBook it was a livesaver but since I ditched that rag, I’ve missed tomboy alot. Good news is, I finally got tomboy to work. By reverting back 0.6.3 and mono- it is functional again; the bad news it that it’s horribly unusable.

We all like apps that when we get an idea the pen and paper is right there. Thats the way a note taking application needs to be. The incredible number of links to other notes (I have a lot of them) creates a terrible amount of dependencies. I can wait 5 seconds when I click the tomboy icon just for the notes to show. The large notes have become almost impossible to edit on my iBook. For instance just copying the information on one note took minutes to do.

Seconds going by can mean the deterioration of an idea. So my “OMG this is taking a dam week”, with Tomboy reached such a pitch I began just thinking of using gedit as my new notetaker.

Enter the Players

I began research if any alternates were available besides just using gedit. And thankfully there were.


Xpad is a very simple notetaking app. Basically it’s sticky notes with gtk support and ability for simple formating (Bold, Italic….).

It does support multiple notes and it extremly lightweight. I copied my largest notes onto an xpad window and it handled them without a problem.

Xpad I would gladly use. The only thing putting me off would be having to manually transfer and reformat all dozens and dozens of notes.

Xpad screen


Notecase is an interesting application. Originally I was expecting something similiar to xpad but it has more features (though I feel overcompicatedly so). Notecase support hierachical note taking, meaning notes can be nested within notes – a nice feature. Notecase keeps track of notes in a seperate pane. The setup, though a bit eccentric, (notes are called nodes) is very nice. Support for linking to other notes and to weblinks are a plus.

Notecase is written in C++ and feels like it. Almost instant loads times and responsiveness its what I was looking for in a note taking app.

Notecase Screen


Zim is the most unique of the group. Labeled a notepad wiki is may be a bit more extravagant than I was looking for.

Zim is written in Gtk2-Perl and proposes to me leaner on resources then tomboy. It has support for all types of formatting, linking to other notes and webpages, heirarchical notes views, and understands wiki formatting.

Zim felt pretty responsive – alot better than tomboy, but not close to Notecase. The best thing about Zim is there turned out to be a conversion script for tomboy notes! Unfortunately the conversion script is a bit dated and would fail on some notes – it would convert them but the conversion process would stop. So I had to manually grep through my 1dlasdfaXXXYYY.notes and discover the offending ones independently and move them. The entire process took about 15 minutes so I shouldn’t gripe, the script did pretty good including indenting, bulleted lists, formatting and all links.

zim screen

Zim installation did unfortunatly take over the file:/// mime type so all folders I tried to open did so through vim. This was easy to fix by right clicking a folder and in “Open With” reselecting Nautilus.

Some tips for Zim:

• Tip: If you have a lot of topics like me, a general topic can be made and then others dropped on it. The easiest way to do this is to go into the folder where the notes are and create their own folders for them.
• Tip: Zim’s performance can really be improved performance by turning off spelling on large notes.
• Tip: Left-click on the Zim notification icon will display the most recent notes.
• Tip: Use “space *” to create a bullted list.


Tomboy is the king of the pack. It’s indent features, automatic linking, and save positions are key features not seen in alot of note taking apps. But the bell tolled…

Bye bye tomboy. You are awesome, but with lots of notes (even on the MacBook)… responsiveness is important. Notecase is my favorite of the pack, but not my overall choice. Because of the tremendous amount of conversion time it would require to convert all the notes to Notecase, I went with Zim. A good deal lighter and nearly all the features of tommy make Zim a good choice.


8 thoughts on “Comparision of Notetaking Applications

  1. Bengt

    Hi Dirk, I’ve finally come around and updated the script (tomboy to zim conversion) at Hopefully it works better now, if not you’re welcome to send me “offending” notes, and I’ll see if I can improve the script.

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  3. Stephen

    A second cheer for Notecase Pro. Has free feature set and if you pay it unlocks some extra features. Well worth the $20 or so to buy. Fully free “Notecase” (non-pro) is quite old and lacks many features compared to the newer pro version. Use it every day, is great. Switched over from using personalmicrocosms vault which I had used for over 10 years. The notecase author even wrote me an import filter for my old notes doc format to import them in.


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