📝 Simple delightful note taking, with more unix and less lock-in.
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Simple delightful note taking, with none of the lock-in.

Asciicast demo

This demo uses zsh, vim and dropbox, but don't panic, that's just me. notes will work just fine with whatever other text editor, shell and syncing solution you feel like.

Why do I want this?

You already have a tool that backs up and syncs your data (be it Dropbox, iCloud, Seafile or whatever). You already have a text editor on your desktop, your laptops, your phone and that tablet you've forgotten about.

You want to take notes.

You could use a web X.0 note taking app that reimplements all of that from scratch (poorly). You could tie yourself to a tool that holds all your data for you in its own brand-new format, locks you into its (often bloated) UI, and then steadily removes features unless you start paying (hey Evernote). You don't have to.

Instead, you could have a simple folder full of simple text files, synced with your sync-thing of choice, edited with your edit-thing of choice. It's easy to understand, easy to use, and accessible from a million other new tools too whenever you next fancy a change. You can do this with little more than windows explorer and notepad, but it's nice to have a specialised tool to add on top and make this a little neater where you can.

That's where notes comes in. Bring your own data syncing, bring your own text editor, put your notes in good old fashioned files, and notes will give you a CLI tool to neatly glue it all together.

This is just one tool in the chain. notes is a command line tool, and some people will want a proper UI, or a web interface, or something that works on mobile. You can use this in one place and solve every other step in that chain any other way you like though — there's no shortage of simple file browsers and text editors that'll get the job done on any platform you like.

How do I install this?


curl -L https://rawgit.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/install.sh | bash

This will install notes, a default configuration, a man page, and bash completion if possible.


Download notes, chmod +x, put it in your $path. This will probably do it:

curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/notes > /usr/local/bin/notes && chmod +x /usr/local/bin/notes

Installing auto completion

notes includes auto completion, to let you tab-complete commands and your note names. This requires Bash > 4.0 and bash-completion or Zsh to be installed - it's probably available from your friendly local package manager.

To enable completion for notes, copy the completion script into your bash or zsh completion directory, and it should be automatically loaded. The bash completion directory is /usr/share/bash-completion/completions/ on a typical Debian install, or /usr/local/etc/bash_completion.d/ on OSX with bash-completion from homebrew. The zsh completion directory is /usr/share/zsh/functions/Completion/ in Linux. You may be able to find your own bash completion directory by running the following command:

pkg-config --variable=completionsdir bash-completion

Installing the completions might be as follows:


curl https://cdn.rawgit.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/notes.bash_completion > /usr/share/bash-completion/completions/notes


On *buntu based distros and OSX:

curl -L https://rawgit.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/_notes > /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions/_notes

On other Unix distros:

curl -L https://rawgit.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/_notes > /usr/share/zsh/site-functions/_notes

You'll need to open a new shell for this to take effect.

What if I want to uninstall this?

If you used the automated install script to install notes, you can uninstall it the same way, by running:

curl -L https://rawgit.com/pimterry/notes/latest-release/install.sh | bash -s -- uninstall

How do I configure this?

By default your notes live in ~/notes, but you can change that to anywhere you like by setting the $NOTES_DIRECTORY environmental variable. See how do I configure this? for more details.

To get started with you'll want to set $EDITOR to your favourite text editor, and probably $NOTES_DIRECTORY to the directory in which you'd like to use to store your notes (this defaults to ~/notes). You'll typically want to set these as environment variables in your .bashrc, .zshrc, or similar.

There are also more complex options available. You can set any configuration properties either in the environment, or in a config file (stored in ~/.config/notes/config), with settings in config overriding those in your environment. This allows you to configure a different $EDITOR for notes to everything else, if you like. The config file is a good choice for more complex set ups, but probably not worth worrying about to start with. We've included an example config in this repo for you (config.example) that you can copy if you like.

What are the configuration options?

  • QUICKNOTE_FORMAT changes the way that quicknotes are generated. The string formatted using the date command.
  • NOTES_EXT changes the default extension that notes are saved with.
  • NOTES_DIRECTORY changes the directory in which notes are stored.
  • EDITOR can also be overriden here, for notes only.

How do I use it?

notes new <note-name>

Opens your $EDITOR of choice for a new note, with the given name. The name can include slashes, if you want to put your note in a subfolder. Leave out the name if you want one to be generated for you (e.g. quicknote-2016-12-21.md - format configurable with $QUICKNOTE_FORMAT). Shorthand alias also available with notes n.

notes find <part-of-a-note-name>

Searches note filenames and paths for the given string, and returns every single match. If no pattern is specified, this returns every single note. Shorthand alias also available with notes f.

notes grep <part-of-some-note-content>

Searches all note content for the given string and returns all the matches. Shorthand alias also available with notes g.

notes search <part-of-a-note-name-or-note-content>

Searches all note content and note filenames for the given string and returns all the matches. Shorthand alias also available with notes s.

notes ls <directory>

Lists note names and note directories at a single level. Lists all top level notes and directories if no path is provided, or the top-level contents of a directory if one is provided.

notes open

Opens your notes folder in your default configured file explorer. Shorthand alias also available with notes o.

notes open <note-name>

Opens a given note in your $EDITOR. Name can be an absolute path, or a relative path in your notes (.md suffix optional). Shorthand alias also available with notes o.

notes rm [-r | --recursive] <note-name>

Removes the given note if it exists. If -r or --recursive is given, deletes the folders/notes recursively.

notes cat <note-name>

Displays the note

notes grep/find <pattern> | notes open

Combine these together! This opens each matching note in your $EDITOR in turn.

Tell me of the future

All the above works. Here's what's coming next:

I want to help

Great! Jump in. Feel free to play around, open an issue with new feature ideas or open PRs for fixes and improvements. Do check with an issue first if you're planning to do anything substantial to avoid disappointment.

Remember that notes is intended to be a small toolbox of commands - if it's possible to build your extension as an independent wrapper building on the existing notes commands, that's probably a better first step. Create new functionality on top of notes and then file issues to extend notes to better support that wrapper, or to merge your wrapper in as a built-in command later, once you're sure it works and it's useful.

If you want to get the code locally you'll need to:

git clone <your fork>
git submodule update --init --recursive
./test.sh # Check the tests work before you make any changes

If you install entr you can also run ./dev.sh, which will watch all files within the project directory, and rerun tests any time they change.

If you submit a PR, please make sure it:

  • Doesn't break any existing tests
  • Adds new tests, if appropriate
  • Adds new documentation, if appropriate