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Syncing notes on the cloud

March 17, 2013


If you’re the thinking type who’s always writing down notes, you might want to take a closer look at   With all the little scraps of paper that have been littering my desk lately, it’s time to organize and start using less paper.  My pocket notebook is nice, but after few years of that and a dozen notebooks later, and it gets hard to find stuff when you need to look it up.  That’s why I like Tomboy.

Later Tomboy…

Tomboy has been awesome.  I have really loved using Tomboy on Ubuntu, for many years, and it works pretty well for me.  Tomboy has so many virtues: a fast search bar (like gmail) which instantly finds anything I need to look up in my notes. This is key. Why note it if you can’t find it fast later when you need it. It sits in my system tray so it’s always fast to get at, so I use it often.  It syncs and backs up to dropbox automatically.  It works when my netbook is offline.  I like it and have relied on it so much that I recommended it to my mother who also started using it.  So what’s not to like about Tomboy?

I’ve found Tomboy has lacked some key features for all these years, like web access, and a full featured Android app.  For a while UbuntuOne had tried syncing and providing web access, but it was always kind of flawed and then they cancelled it altogether so I just synced it using dropbox. I never bothered with Tomdroid on my android phone because the app was read only and I couldn’t write notes from my phone.  I don’t think it’s asking too much in this day and age of high tech so advanced it seems like scifi. There’s just got to be something out there that can sync your notes on the cloud to your Ubuntu computer and Android phone.

I’ll pass on these…

Yes there are some nerdy servers for Tomboy you can program like snowy or rainy, but they seem too complex to be practical for me.  I’m not trying to make my life more difficult here.

I know there’s an army of Evernote fans out there.  It’s popular, feature rich and looks great. However,  you only can have offline notes on android if you pay $45 a year.  The feature that enables users to download notebooks to use offline is only available to premium account holders.  People also complain that it’s slow to use. Pass. runs on Ubuntu, has a Chrome extension, syncs with Dropbox or UbuntuOne, but there’s no android app that I know of.  Too bad, it looks good. has an android app, and a nice web interface, but sadly no native Ubuntu app.  Pass.

Discovering provides cloud storage and online web interface access to your notes.   And there are all kinds of native apps on all kinds of devices that will sync with it: Android, iPhone/Pad, Windows, Mac and so on.  There’s also extensions for Chrome and Firefox for it.   Ok, now I’m interested and look further. The reviews I read say that people love it for it’s speed and simplicity:

“adored by those who pride themselves in their use of beautiful and uncomplicated software.”

~ Shawn Blanc

“Simplenote is a killer web application that does one very simple thing very, very well. That one thing? Creating, editing, and managing as many plain text notes as your heart could ever desire.”

~Adam Pash (Editor of Lifehacker)

Using nvPY on Ubuntu

nvPY is an open-source cross-platform note-taking app that syncs. It’s a clone of National Velocity (popular on Mac).   It’s fast, it’s simple to use, so it’s practical and you get things done.

It syncs with, can be used offline, has a real time search bar (like gmail and Tomboy), hyperlinks, internote linking (like tomboy), tagging, note pinning.  It also consumes very little system resources, which is great for me because both my computers getting pretty old and only have 1gb ram.

While it’s not exactly as polished as Tomboy, nvPY is working out great on my Ubuntu 12 systems. I love how I can open my netbook and fully sync all my notes with a click.  I can also access and edit my notes  at any other computer through the web, or on my Android phone.

For me it will likely replace Tomboy from here on in.  You should check it out. Besides, it’s free (as in beer).  Also, don’t be intimidated by the installation, it took less than a minute to get it set up and running.   Go review the nvPY home page and the installation instructions.  The hardest part is using the terminal — maybe soon there will be a .deb file or it will be added to the Ubuntu repository (hint hint)

Other Devices:

Android has many apps to choose from that sync to  The one I’m trying out right now is mNotes. On Windows (or Ubuntu under wine) you can use ResophNotes and there’s even a portable edition that can be run off a USB key if you need.  I don’t have an iPhone/Pad or Macbook, but there’s apps that sync with on those devices as well.

The Issues: 

I do wonder how long a good thing can last. Somehow I doubt be around forever to sync everyone’s notes for free.  There’s buyouts and bankruptcies just for starters.  Maybe someday there will be an easy to set up open source server available?

Another thing worth considering however is the inherent risk of privacy.  It’s still not the place to be putting your most precious private data on the cloud.   (Something like KeePassX synced with dropbox seems like a better idea for that.)  But I like how John Gruber puts it on his blog:

“The biggest downside to web-based syncing is the implicit lack of privacy. Your data resides on a server that someone else controls. I’m willing to accept this because the convenience is worth it, and the privacy issues with Simplenote are no different than with any web-based service.”

So dear reader (did you make it this far?!), what do you think?  As always your comments are appreciated!

Further Reading:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. pvphan90 permalink
    April 10, 2014 2:26 pm

    Exactly what I was looking for. I love using Tomboy, but I just can not sync it seamlessly with my android phone. I’ll definitely have a look at nvPY and simplenote. Thanks!

    • dimeotane permalink*
      June 7, 2014 8:35 am

      Another great application to try out that I’ve really enjoyed using is quicknote on chrome that syncs with Diigo.
      The diigo chrome extension allows you to annotate and highlight any web page you visit. I can sync my notes on my android using the Diigo app. Highly recommended.

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