Why Standard Notes, why Listed | 🇬🇧

It may be a good time to explain why I use Standard Notes to take notes, why this website is hosted and published on Listed, a platform you have probably never heard of, and what are their pros and cons.

Probably everybody needs to take notes from time to time. My system was a combination of my phone stock note-taking app, which backed everything up to a cloud (not good), randomly scattered .txt files in my laptop (kinda okay) and Google Drive documents (not great either). As you can see, I don't take notes by hand (and hopefully never will have to again). The closest I had ever been to creating an order a year ago was when I was attempting Jeff Huang's a single .txt file method. It failed, mainly because I couldn't keep the file organised and I had trouble editing it from my phone without creating conflicted copies.

Standard Notes

Then I discovered Standard Notes and it immediately clicked.

There were several reasons for that:

  1. They are secure. The notes are end-to-end encrypted (E2EE). That means only I can read their content. Also, it's possible to lock the notes, which makes them readable only after entering the account password.
  2. They are always synced. I can access my notes from my laptop's app, phone app or any other browser. As long as the device is connected to the Internet, my notes are always up-to-date. Also, they are always editable offline.
  3. They are free. Both in terms of liberty (the apps and server are open-source and powered by the community) and price. Without paying anything, I got secure, automatically synced note-taking platform with the features mentioned above and without any limits. Eventually, I upgraded to the Extended plan when it was on sale. Thus I gained access to different text editors, themes and extensions.
  4. They are simple. Don't get me wrong, I can see why a lot of people like to use platforms like Notion but I really don't need as many fancy features or such an emphasis on visualisation. There are a few features I would like to see added (as I explain below), but in Standard Notes as they are now, I can do everything I could wish for.

My favourite extensions are two-factor authentication, addons to the Listed publishing platform, the ability to sort notes to folders on top of tags, Action Bar (which adds word count and other useful functions), file attachment and automatic backups to Google Drive (the last two both encrypted, of course). I write in Markdown Pro editor (more about Markdown later), sometimes I use Secure Spreadsheets (the name says it all). Standard Notes has also a Task Editor (among others), however, I use Markdown to keep a to-do list because it offers greater flexibility.

Extensions, including themes, editors, tools, etc., are when the SN community comes into play. Standard Notes team maintains a few, but many more have been developed by normal users over time. The full list can be found here.

Speaking of community, everybody can talk to developers and other Standard Notes enthusiasts on the official Slack, GitHub and Twitter. At least in my case, people have been very helpful.

Lastly, experts appreciate that it is possible to self-host Standard Notes, though this is not a path I am going to take any time soon.

Listed

The Listed platform is available in the free plan. When purchasing Extended, users get the option to use a custom domain and a managed SSL certificate.

It is primarily a blogging platform, which translates into the website's layout. However, there is a way to edit the layout and design using CSS, which I am trying to take advantage of mainly in terms of colours, font sizes and homepage layout. It is a never-ending learning process.

The best thing about Listed is that I can write content for the website right in Standard Notes and then publish it with one click (well, two clicks, but you get my point). This ease of use which completely abolishes any middlemen like content management system makes writing much more pleasant.

I have already mentioned Markdown. Markdown is a markup language (similar to HTML) which offers a range of formatting options in a simple, plain-text, easily readable format. It can also be easily converted to HTML, which makes it popular among bloggers. I write my articles in Markdown coupled with a bit of HTML (for example to create anchor links). My notes are Markdown-only.

The plain-text format ensures the longevity of my writing.

Negatives

There are three main areas where I see room for improvement of Standard Notes and Listed:

  1. Cross-referencing system – there is none. I would like to be able at least to set up links to jump from one note to another. According to SN "this feature sits at the very edge of the debate between simplicity and feature richness, and for this reason, remains to be seen whether we decide to implement it in the future."
  2. Analytics – I was surprised to find out that my Listed website uses some kind of analytics tool. Even though Matomo presents itself as the ethical alternative to Google Analytics which gives customers 100% data ownership, it would be nice if I had access to it. When I asked SN about, they said it is a requested feature and they are in a contact with "the dev team for more information on how Matomo is used with regards to Listed".
  3. Flexibility – as I said, Listed allows some design customisation, but making it easier (= less CSS dependent) could allow users to better express themselves and make the blogs more distinctive and individualised. Apparently. "Listed is still undergoing active development (we currently have a redesign underway) and we plan to add more features to it over time".

So that's a hopeful conclusion.


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