The Results Are In: Bear Wins the Evernote Replacement Race #amwriting

Bear app logo
The winner—Bear!

I wrote about considering Nimbus Note as an Evernote (EN) replacement in my last post, and you’ll get the detailed review I promised in my next post. I gave it a thorough trial, but I didn’t neglect to test other possibilities. I tested Ulysses, OneNote, and Bear as well. Somewhat to my own surprise, I’ve settled on Bear.

As an ADHD non-student adult, I have some different needs for a notes app.

  • My primary need in a notes app is not writing-related. As long as typing doesn’t suck, I’m fine. But everything—everything—goes into my notes. Research. Project planning. Grocery lists. I take photos. I scan documents. I clip from the web. I use Siri dictation. I handwrite and scan the images. I seldom actually type a note. In short, I need a lot of different ways to get information in, plus fast, legible retrieval.
  • I’m poor at categorising. I use big obvious buckets—”Recipes” “Writing” “Everything else”—yet sometimes I still miscategorise (I found a chapter outline in my Recipes folder yesterday.) Search needs to “just find it,” fast, no matter where I put it.
  • I have vast amounts of data—2,200 notes and counting, a total of about 2.5 Gb.
  • I need it all the time.

With these priorities in mind, here’s how the candidates stacked up:

  • Nimbus Notes: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS. This is the one I ought to have liked best, based on my research prior to testing. Its editor is not bad for a block editor. And it was fast (or faster than EN is now—a pretty low bar). Its price point was apparently lower than Evernote. Nonetheless,
    1. Its pricing is based on total traffic rather than simply on upload traffic. With 2.5 Gb data and three devices to sync, I blew through 5 Gb of traffic fast.
    2. Several of my transferred notes clipped from Wikipedia were illegible, with images overlapping text. I don’t have time to pretty it up just so as to read my research.
    3. Getting stuff into Nimbus Notes was a pain. Its client apps are just not well-integrated into either the Apple universe or the Web app universe. I could have dealt with one, but not both.
  • OneNote: Web, Mac, PC, Android, iOS, and probably others. I gave it a go. It does have handwriting indexing, after all.
    1. It connects well, but only to the Microsoft universe. I visit Microsoft Universe as little as I can.
    2. OMG, its editor sucks! You tap or click accidentally in the middle of the page, and you start typing right there. This is the crap I left Microsoft Word about. Not an editor for someone who prefers Markdown.
    3. Complex Web clippings were also not legible.
    4. It’s very hierarchical. My system of big buckets with minimal differentiation would be hard to implement there.
  • Ulysses: Mac, iOS. I already pay for a subscription, and it’s often mentioned in note apps lists. It will use Dropbox, to which I also subscribe. I love its writing environment. But…
    1. Ulysses is very writing-focused. Getting anything other than writing into it is a pain.
    2. It’s pretty darn hierarchical, for all its tag system.
    3. It’s less well connected to the Apple universe than you’d think. In particular, it has no Shortcuts actions pre-supplied.

Bear (Mac, iOS):

I didn’t want to like it because it uses iCloud sync, which I despise. Yes, I’m an Apple customer and was an Apple developer off and on for 25 years and I loathe iCloud. There, I said it. Not sorry.

  • Yet, Bear uses a real database back-end. Wow! The Bear folks don’t try to roll their own. Further, they don’t try to hide their technology from the Unwashed Masses. Already I’m impressed.
  • Its editor… is nicer in some ways than Ulysses’ editor, mostly because it sticks closer to Markdown. It could be a bit more flexible about colour and font, but overall a B+.
  • All my old notes are perfectly legible (even though tables I use a lot will get some cleanup.)
  • Its tag system is more flexible and less hierarchical than even Evernote’s.
  • Retrieval is fast and accurate. It slows down some on my iPhone, but that’s understandable with 3 Gb of data to troll through.
  • It’s well connected to the Apple universe. I’ve had no problem getting stuff in.

Is Bear perfect for me? No. Nothing’s perfect. Old Working Evernote would be closer (because I’ve spent 7 years leveraging it) but I’m not likely to get it. Given that, Here’s my Bear wish list:

  • An alternate cloud service, either their own or Dropbox. Probably not practical, but if iCloud stops working (as it did last year for a few weeks when Catalina was released) there’s nothing the folks at Bear can do about it except try to keep the customers calm and wait for Apple to… uh, stop being distracted and fix it.
  • Search inside images and PDFs.
  • Index handwriting.
  • iOS search inside notes. My web clippings are often l-o-n-g. Mac Bear does this already.
  • Connection to web automation services like IFTTT and Zapier.
  • Just a smidgen of collaboration. The ability to share a single tag with one other person would do.

But overall, I’m happy with my choice.

I Get Questions re: Adonit Pixel, iPad 6th Generation, and Notetaking #amwriting

A reader recently asked:

I read your post about using the adonit pixel with an ipad 6th gen!

I’d like to buy this gen ipad for notetaking @ school. You mentioned this pair worked fine (despite not being listed on adonit’s site as a compatible apple device)

I was wondering if you could describe what it likes to actually write notes on a notetaking app? it would help a lot with making my decision on whether or not to just chuck my pixel for the apple pencil.

First, my disclaimer: I’ve never actually used my iPad for note-taking in class, nor do I use anything else. I’m the world’s worst classroom note-taker. I survived my university experiences by borrowing others’ notes, reading classroom handouts, or by reading the text. Just reading, not taking notes. Occasionally, I’d use Post-its to mark important passages. My ADHD makes it difficult to learn from listening; if I try to actually take notes at the same time the result is that I learn nothing. My primary learning modes are reading and hands-on. I will make notes during hands-on exercises, though.

So given that my experience is 95% based on creating background notes for my novels, any note-taking app will work with the Adonit Pixel; turn it on and it will act like a plain capacitative stylus, or your finger. The problem is that if you want to be able to use its pressure-sensitive and palm-rejecting capabilities, you’ll need to use a note-taking app that supports those. Adonit have a list of apps that support these features with the Pixel on this page.

What’s more important, in my opinion, is choosing a note-taking app that works well with your method of note-taking. If your system works well with, say, Apple Notes, then use Apple Notes. Same for Notability, Goodnotes, or my personal favourite, NoteShelf. There are many others to choose among. I chose NoteShelf for its flexibility and its superior integration with Evernote, but Evernote integration may not be important to you. If the note-taking app which works best for you doesn’t support the Pixel’s pressure sensitivity and this is important to you, by all means go get an Apple Pencil.

Productivity (Again? Still?!) #amwriting #campnanowrimo

I need to be easier on myself, I think.

It doesn't get easier.
Image courtesy of africa at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not productive on weekends—no matter how I try, various social commitments distract me. And it’s tough for me to be productive mid-week if I have an engagement in the evening.

To put it simply, I get scared. I’m terrified of being late. (Lateness being a Major Sin according to my mother, may she rest in peace.) So I dare not do anything that might put me into an ADHD hyperfocused state… which means I get almost nothing done.

This isn’t an unfounded fear. Before I set up systems to bombard myself with visible and audible alarms, I’d miss about a third of my appointments. I still miss some.

So, having fallen behind—again—in Camp NaNoWriMo, I’m cranking myself up to an unhealthy level of paranoia, which of itself will make it more likely that either I’ll fall behind further, or miss an engagement.

Or both.

So starting today, I’m going to schedule anything I need to schedule as early as possible. If I have an evening commitment, I’ll arrange for pickup by someone prompt so that if I become hyperfocused, it’s not a disaster. And I’ll avoid evening engagements as much as possible. Not just for the duration of Camp NaNoWriMo, but in future, period. I’m tired of this crap.

Can There Be Too Much Tracking? #amwriting #campnanowrimo

For Camp Nanowrimo this year, I’m tracking minutes spent actually writing fiction, as opposed to new words or some other measure. All well and good, but how do I track it when I’m so distractible? How do I tell genuine research, for example, from a distraction? How do I count minutes when I lose track of time so badly that I forget to set a timer for—how long? Was that an hour that slipped by? Do I count time when I’m staring at the screen for—seconds? Minutes? while my brain throws a distraction event and I check out of the planet temporarily?

Seriously, I have little sense of time passing. It’s the ADHD thing. I have a bunch of systems in place, and yet I still manage to miss occasional appointments—I live in dread of it.

So I’m doing the best I can, here. RescueTime helps if it hasn’t crashed and I’m on my Mac. I assume any time Scrivener’s on screen I’m writing. RescueTime’ll catch any time I check out for more than 5 minutes. And I close Scrivener when I’m done on the Mac so RescueTime can’t count any time when Scriv’s just onscreen momentarily.

iOS has been more of a problem historically. I resist using a free service, but I’ve finally given in and turned on Apple Screentime on both my devices. Again I only count time in Scrivener, regardless of whether I was really, really researching or whatever. I’d rather under report than over report.

Other than that, I can only hope that the time I spend tuned out makes up for accidental double recording.

So as far as I can tell, I managed to catch up to “par” today as far as reaching my 3000 minute goal for the month. Onward!

When All Else Fails, Cycle Power

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I really should figure out how to lock away my WordPress access between midnight and 7 AM.

I have so many ADHD traits it’s not even funny. I am impulsive. I am distractible. I enter unpredictably into a state of “hyperfocus” in which I cannot be budged from what I am doing. (The worst example? At the age of twelve I had retreated to the family car in a parking lot to read, being unable to endure the simultaneous tedium and overstimulation of shopping. After a while I became aware that there had been a thumping on the windows and a distant yelling for a while. I looked up. The car was on fire.)

(I still hate to shop.)

I have no real sense of time. For years I used “creative procrastination” as a way of coping with the inability to start on a large project. I have serious trouble with transitions — from project to project to chore, from waking to sleeping.

Right now, the worst offenders are my procrastination (Writing. Duh.) and the inability to transition from waking to sleeping unless I’m so tired I’m stumbling.

After actually sleeping for two nights (!) I’ve taken a look at my HabitRPG items — and the truth is that I’m making a lot of progress. My diet has improved after the vacation meltdown. I”m exercising regularly again (an activity I find so boring as to practically need to point a gun at my own head to get me going.) The diet and exercise are improving my ability to control focus. I’m getting some writing done (Halleluia!)

On any given day, one or another or several of these items may slip. But overall, the trend is upward (or in the case of my weight, downward.) I need to give myself credit.

I especially need to be kind to myself as I make the transition to (immediately) gainful employment. I will need to ramp up my daily rewards for getting writing done — because with almost immediate payment directly proportional to how much driving I do, I don’t think I’ll have a problem with focusing on the new activity. What I’ll have trouble with is transitioning to writing, and keeping on with it. And it may take me a few weeks to readjust my Rube Goldberg-like external structure to accommodate a new routine.

So — not employed to employed. Big freaking transition. Deep breath — here it comes.

Making Self-Employment ADHD-Friendly

Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Not ADHD-Friendly #1 (Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Like many ADHD adults, I have problems with Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind (OOSOOM.) If I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. This leads to a tendency to leave objects out and clearly visible as reminders. If not checked (especially in a house with two severely and one mildly ADHD adults,) the tendency to use objects as reminders can lead to vistas like the one in “Not ADHD Friendly #1.”

(That is not my house. I never took a picture of my house when it was that bad…)

The Tomb of the Action Items
Not ADHD Friendly #2
Helpful non-ADHD friends and many organizing books from the past would advise getting rid of objects that were no longer useful (I heartily endorse) and putting needed items into filing cabinets or other closed opaque containers (see “Not ADHD-Friendly #2.”) I called it “The Tomb of the Action Items” because, without a visual reference, anything in there that needed something done was destined to be completely forgotten until the Highway Patrol stopped me because my registration had not been renewed since 1992, or the city sent my business taxes to a bill collector, or…

I use it now to hold office supplies, tools and small bits of electronics that I don’t use on at least a weekly basis. Periodically, when I can’t shove anything more in there, I’ll go through it and toss anything that has decayed beyond usability or has become obsolete (Apple Desktop Bus mouse, anyone?)

ADHD-Friendly
ADHD-Friendly
Evernote and GTD have helped me to convert my home office to “ADHD Friendly.” I didn’t even realize that I was doing this until I looked around me this weekend and realized that my office area is MUCH less cluttered than the rest of my home.

My top shelf contains my artist’s mannikins, a collection of plush toys and bobbleheads from local minor-league sports, and my Kings and MIT pennants. The rest of my desk contents are 90% used in my current work at least once a week. The rest will move elsewhere or be tossed when they become an annoyance.

See all that wonderful bare desk area? It didn’t exist in January. Every square inch was covered with object “reminders” of things to do, few of which were work-related. As I put all that stuff into Evernote, and put a weekly review item into Habit RPG, the backlog has cleared out. I have a credenza which is similarly cleared, and a smaller work table I use for art and for charity projects, same story.

As I put more and more of the old paper into Evernote, paradoxically it becomes more accessible. I can usually think of something that a document might contain, and Evernote can find it regardless of which “drawer” I stuffed it into online.

Maybe I will achieve “Mind Like Water.” At least the stuff that slid off Mind Like Teflon is sliding into Evernote now.