Blog Post

Notational Velocity + Simplenote: A Superfast Note-taking Combination

Notational Velocity is one of those apps that doesn’t look like much when you first open it up, but turns out to be surprisingly effective. It’s a free open-source note-taking app for the Mac (s aapl), and what makes it so great is that it’s incredibly fast to use.

Fire up the app and you’re presented with a minimal search box and a list of notes. Rather than having to wade through menus in order to work with your notes, Notational Velocity knows that you’re there to either add a new note or find an existing one. Type a phrase in the find-as-you-type search box and any notes that match your phrase will pop up in the list below. Even when you have lots of notes, searching for them is easy and fast. Select a note and the full text appears in the bottom pane:

To create a new note, you just hit return — the text in the search box will be the title of your new note. Because there are no folders or tags, everything is found through the search box; you don’t need to worry about organizing your notes. There’s no “save” button, either; any changes are stored automatically.

Unlike many other primarily text/keyboard-driven apps, Notational Velocity is intuitive because it’s so straightforward and well-designed. You won’t have to spend hours learning arcane keyboard shortcuts in order to be productive; you can start using it right away.

Where Notational Velocity really excels for me, though, is that as of version 2.0, it has built-in support for seamless wireless syncing with Simplenote, the free note-taking app for the iPhone.

That means that I can have a blisteringly fast note-taking app on my MacBook, and my notes are also available to me wherever I go via Simplenote. Here’s a note synced from Notational Velocity:

Unlike more heavyweight note-taking apps OneNote (s msft) and Evernote, which can be used for storing a wide variety of information like PDFs and images, Notational Velocity and Simplenote are only suited to storing text notes. But if that’s all you need to do, it’s a brilliant combination, and you really should download both of these apps today. As they’re both free, they won’t cost you a cent!

Let us know what you think of the Notational Velocity + Simplenote combination in the comments.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution

13 Responses to “Notational Velocity + Simplenote: A Superfast Note-taking Combination”

  1. Thanks for an excellent write-up.

    But if you can have Simplenote on your desktop (in a browser) and synced to your iPhone via the Simplenote app, why would you also need Notational Velocity?

    • If you have the MobileSafari web browser on your iPhone, connected to the Simplenote web site, why would you need the Simplenote iPhone app?

      I guess you don’t need access to your notes when your device/computer is offline?
      I guess you don’t mind waiting the extra 10 seconds to load up the Simplenote web site? (Notational Velocity starts in 200 milliseconds for thousands of notes.)
      Nor do you mind having a clunky and delayed JavaScript search interface to your notes over what are literally instant search-results in a native app.
      I mean, hey, it’s slower, takes longer to load, you periodically lose access to all your data, and all the UI elements are emulated equivalents of the real thing — what’s not to like?

      • @Right, I think you misunderstood. I said I had the iPhone app for Simplenote. I’m not accessing Simplenote via MobileSafari. With the Simplenote iPhone app, I do have offline access to all my notes.

        But you’ve made me realise something that I should’ve thought of initially: If my Mac is offline, I won’t have access to Simplenote in my browser, so in that case, NV would be a better choice.

  2. I’ve been using this combination for several weeks and am really impressed with it. Notational Velocity is well designed app and has revolutionized the way I deal with information.

  3. Thanks a lot, Simon! I have not seen an earlier post from Mac Break Weekly. I have been looking for a substitute to my current setup for storing short and plain personal notes and synchronizing those between my MacBook and iPhone. I have tried to use Google Notebook and Google Docs in an attempt to streamline the process of transition of raw thoughts and ideas into more complex project documents. To say the least, that combination did not work well for me, and Google Notebook fell short due to a number of reasons. I have also tried other applications such as Evernote, Springpad, and a few others, but those solutions seem to be overstuffed with so many features, they take a lot of time to learn and work out techniques for fast and effective thought processing. I have experimented for a couple of days with the Notational Velocity and Simplenote combination, and it turns out to be a great substitute for Google Notebook and any other note taking and processing application I have used in the past. I think I will stick to it for some time and will use it to store my thoughts and ideas, while preparing those for transition into Google Docs. Thanks again for a great tip!

  4. Robert Kawaratani

    You’re almost late to the party, Merlin Mann introduced this combination weeks ago on Mac Break Weekly. All kidding aside, it’s a truly powerful combination due to its simplicity. One key point regarding Simplenote that you didn’t note was that it works with Textexpander on the iPhone which makes it even more convenient.