Document-based File Storage Sucks

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately where I’ve wanted to get ideas out of my head and on to something physical. 90% of the time I’m sat with a computer so some sort of notes app sounds like it should fit the bill.


I happen to use Simplenote with the desktop companion app Notational Velocity. While it’s a great service, it lacks the friendly and familiar user experience of a good old fashioned notebook.

In work I’m coming to the end of one of the bigger projects we do so I wanted to think up ten things I could learn while working on the next projects. With Notational Velocity I had to create a new file, think up a name for it and then remember exactly what I called it next time I want to access it.

Screenshot of Notational Velocity which uses document-based storage

Okay; so that’s not really a big deal, but just a few of these small ‘notes’ will make the file list in the sidebar pretty large. Simplenote’s search or create feature is great, but I think the whole notion of separate files just doesn’t work for a notebook style app.

Linear File Storage

A notebook is so easy to use. You flip to the last-used page. If there’s space, you write there. If not, you start on a new page. What could be easier?

I’d love an app that doesn’t have any visible file structure. I think the experience of a notebook could be enhanced with the paradigms we’ve become accustomed to – like search and copy & paste – while keeping the simplicity of a wad of bound paper.

Mockup of a simple notebook-inspired app

A fixed-size text area with some simple styling options and the ability to search would be more or less all I’d need, along with the ability to move backwards and forwards through the notebook.

In terms of technical implementation, notes could be stored in some sort of wrapper file (Day One uses Journal.dayone), or as a bunch of single rich text documents in a user-determined folder. What’s most important is that the user see’s their notebook as a continuous stream of content – not a diary with one page per day, or one file per subject.

I really, really want an app like this. I’d love to help someone build it, or gladly pay someone who already has. For now though, I think I’ll be buying a Moleskine.

Update: Another great feature of a physical notebook is that nothing usually gets deleted. I often delete items on my next actions list which leaves no record of what I’ve achieved. If I was making this app I’d strongly consider disabling deletion of items after 15 minutes, instead allowing only a strikethrough style to ensure the data is persistent forever.