Bear Notes App and Nested Tags

The 1.1.1 update to Bear Writer finally fixed the syncing issue I was having on Sierra.  I am not sure where fault lies with this one, but it seems a bug in Sierra and or the way Bear was using iCloud was causing issues.  This was the one thing from holding me back from really trying this out full force.  Guess what.. I am diving in.

Here is my first concern I am coming across; tagging is leaving some room for improvements.

If I want to nest tags for organization, it makes it a lot cleaner looking to view, and search for tags.

The issue I am having is speed of entry.  If I want to tag a note, I have to type #apps/bear to tag a note for bear.   Not horrible, but when i start to think of adding multiple tags by grouping, it becomes tedious.  If I am tagging things under work, it becomes a series of typing the following

#work/projectName #work/PersonICareAbout #work/keyTag

I end up typing way more than I’d have hoped.  If I mis-type any one of those, I create new tags on the fly.  There is no tag completion, no quick selection.

I’d love to hear others thoughts on how you are using tags.  I am inclined today to have a massive list of tags all at the same level for speed.  It’s a pain, but doable.  The fact I can search by #tag is also helping me here.



Why I am sticking with Evernote for now

I don’t use Evernote for everything like I had in the past. It really used to be my “everything bucket”. That has gone away over time, but there are some things the way I manage my daily workflow that really help me out. Let me explain.

I try to keep goals and a journal

Keeping a daily journal; I am not good at this. Actually, I am really horrible about doing this anywhere near perfect. I DO have a strong goal to get better at this. it helps me understand where my time is spent, and also gives me something to look back on over the week to see what I have done.

You can see in the image that I try to lay out a week by week journal in a single note for a single month. In the journal I create a couple of sections:

  • Week of.. to track which week I am looking at
  • Goals for the week help me track what I need to make sure I finish by the end of the week
  • Daily logs of work to keep track of my time and thoughts

It becomes very useful to go back and look at where you have spent time. You can see in the image that many of my bullets are links to other Evernote notes. The way I generate this is one of two ways.

  • Right click and copy a note link for a one-off bullet
  • Towards the end of a day, I use my saved search for UPDATED TODAY to grab the notes I have edited today. Then, highlight all of them, right click and copy note links.
  • Paste these in to my Journal

This workflow in Evernote is one of the key items that keeps me here.

Inbox Use

I use the Evernote inbox to capture everything as a starting place. It is my default notebook for every note coming in to evernote. IFTTT to Emails all show up here when I send things over. If I am jumping in to a meeting to take notes, I go here, create a new note and start typing away. I always file things later, but I pretty much know that anything here needs attention to complete.

In an effort to keep things clean, I use a WIP tag for anything that is a WORK IN PROGRESS. then, I can file away as needed to one of my very few folders. If I need to bring back all things I believe I am currently working on, I use the saved Work In Progress search. It will bring up all notes with the WIP tag.

My Shortcuts are my lifeline

This is really the key for me, what other note apps lack. The ability to create shortcuts for easy access. It is how I manage my workflow.

You can see that I have few, but powerful shortcuts. I will describe them for you to help understand my daily use, and why Evernote is sticky for me right now.


This is where everything starts. The .. at the beginning is just to sort it to the top in my folder view below.

December 2016

This is my “current month” journal. As described above, this is how I quickly add items to my journal. I add items to the top of my journal list so everything appears in reverse chronological order .

Sonos Archive

This is where I store all of my work related notes. Simple. Nothing is sorted beyond this one folder for work. (I also have personal archives). I search and sort with tags as I find them way more powerful.

Work In Progress

As I mentioned above, this is a saved search to find all items tagged with WIP. It helps me keep track of open items.

To Complete – Week

This is a saved search that looks for all notes with open checkboxes edited in the past week. If I am taking notes and I need to add a task quickly, rather than creating it in my Task Manager (currently 2do), I just use the Evernote checkbox.

Later, once I am processing meeting notes, I move tasks to my actual task manager and check them off in Evernote.

Having a quick way to find things for the week has been very helpful.

To Complete – Month

This is the same concept as above, but often I use this just to make sure I have not missed any processing from as far back as month. It’s not common, but it does happen.


So, as you can see, my workflow itself is what keeps me in Evernote. Sure, I could go learn how to adapt to Notes, Bear or other apps, but I have just found that I am very used to working in Evernote this way. I have been an Evernote user since the beginning, and it’s a hard habit to break fully.

Trying out the new note taking app called Bear

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately trying to figure out my long-term plan with Evernote, or something else.  A couple of things that really bug me about Evernote are:

  • Lack of markdown support
  • The editor is just goofy as hell for layout/formatting
  • tagging seems tedious..but perception I guess

So, I was excited to try out Bear when I heard about it.   It’s a new application that looks to bring a lot of key features of Evernote, but fixing some things that really bug me in Evernote.


There are a couple of things I’d like to see in Bear that are not currently there.

  • There is no tag completion.  This leaves it open for me to accidentally mis-type a tag and create a new one
  • There is no bulk-tag management.  I want to be able to select a group of notes and apply a tag.  No luck yet, maybe soon

I am going to play with this for a bit and see how I like it.  If you want to check it out, jump over to for the details.

Use Emoji to help make searching in Workflowy easier

I just had this thought tonight.. I’ve been using #task or #meeting in my notes in Workflowy to track meetings or tasks.  Why not make them an emoji, it will look better, and you can still search on it?

I tend to keep my weekly/daily journal of all meeting notes, things I was working on and random stuff that pops up during the day.  Now, if I just click a month, or week.. and search for the emoji I want to find, it filters down nicely.   See the clip below


For my text expander snippets, I’ve got a few I am using.

The first is when I am creating a meeting.  Once I sit down in the meeting I type .mm to ask to fill in the meeting minutes.  It prompts me for a meeting name, and then fills this in. (with proper tabs for layout)

📅 test meeting name – Tuesday, 25 Oct 2016
Action Items

Then, as I need to add in action items, I can use the — shortcut to put in a ✅ in front of each action item.

Later, as I clear off action items, I can just delete the Emoji, and still see what action items I had captured, but not completed.

Finally.. I can search using .meeting as a shortcut in the search bar to get my 📅 emoji to show up.  This helps me filter on all meetings.   I can also search on ✅ to find all tasks in a bucket.  (usually by week or day)


Shifting gears again on note taking..

Shifting gears again on note taking..

Not sure why I am forever trying to optimize my workflow.  My evenings and weekend “fun” is messing with things, including my own setup.   So.. I am moving my day to day note taking back to Workflowy.

Why you ask?

I decide a couple things.   First, I am not sure if it’s boredom with Evernote’s lack of formatting and updates to fix it.. or if I don’t enjoy the process of Evernote anymore.   Workflow does something so easy for me.. it gets me to notes very quickly.  Both creating new notes and looking up old ones just works for me.   I am an outliner by nature, all of my notes are either outline or mind maps.   Why deal with Evernote’s goofy formatting when Workflow just works for me.  (at least for now)

Do we think it will stick?

Sure… for now . I love having my daily journal along with notes and project details all in one areas.  I break things down from an inbox, work and personal nodes.. but that is it.  Sub bullets from those top level items.

Apple Notes Slowness on Startup – FIXED!

Apple Notes Slowness on Startup – FIXED!

I was trying to explore switching from Evernote to Apple Notes for a period of time.  At some point during this experiment, Apple Notes started acting like a punk.. basically every time I tried to open Notes, the sync to iCloud would freeze up the app for anywhere from 15-60 seconds.  It was unusable.   It was also driving me crazy.

I finally broke down and did something I NEVER do, I called Apple Support.   After a bit of back and forth on the phone, the tech suggested I delete my iCloud Account from the phone and then add it again.   While this seemed extreme, I was a bit desperate.   So I did.   Once I was able to restore my iCloud account, to my happy surprise, Notes was responsive again..  for about 15 minutes.    Then it all went south again.   UGH!  Oh, and did I mention that when you delete your iCloud account, you have to re-add all of your Apple Pay options?  (phone and watch).  What a pain!

After some poking and digging on the interwebz, I came across Adiel_G.  He had found a way to fix his issue.  He gave me clear instructions that I wanted to share here. Why am I sharing?  Well, it seems to fully work!  I no longer have this lag or slow-ness at launch.

Summary:  We want to remove the Notes database from iCloud completely, but leave iCloud intact.  


Before you start, you will want to backup your notes.  You can export 1 by 1 to something like Evernote through a Share Sheet, or use something like Note2Text to export the text out of the notes.  (it loses attachments, but might be worth it for you.  I was for me)

Step 1:  Go to your iCloud Account on your iPhone/iPad and choose Storage


Step 2:  Click the Manage Storage option, this will bring you here:


Step 3:  Click the Notes under Documents and Data.  (If it isn’t showing, click more)


Step 4:  Click the Edit in the upper right, then click Delete All.  This will remove your Notes DB completely.


Sure, I lost some formatting and attachments in the process, but I had also backed up key items to Evernote first.   The key point here is, it fixed me.  I am happy for this.  I wanted to post this in hopes that others find it when searching for the same issue.  What a pain.


IDEA: Auto-create tasks from Apple Notes

IDEA: Auto-create tasks from Apple Notes

I am playing around with the Apple Notes app still to see if I could replace Evernote.  One of the items I love about Evernote is my ability to see recent notes with checkboxes created in them.  There is no way to do this with Apple Notes.  It got me thinking, why are Tasks in Reminders different from Tasks in Notes?

Imagine you are taking meeting notes, and during the meeting you create some tasks that have to be completed.



After the meeting, you currently go back and extract those tasks out manually.  What if the the reminders application had a special note(s) that pulled out tasks for you?   Then, you could use Reminders for your tasks, or automate IFTTT rules into a task editor of choice.


A task is a task in my view. Why wouldn’t I want them in the same place?  It seems like any software creating a “task” could use a common platform and integrate these across the board.   Could someone get to that please?

Life Hack: Linking to a specific Apple Note

Life Hack: Linking to a specific Apple Note

BIG UPDATE HERE:   I figured out a better way to link up notes in Apple Notes.  For this new version, I am using a text expander snippet to generate this for me.  Here is the workflow.

If I am writing a note that I want to reference later, I need to have an easy way to get back to this.  Sometimes I use it for writing a task and linking to a note for details, sometimes it is a note that wants to reference another note.  In Evernote, I would just use the note link option.   For Apple Notes now, here is what I do.

I created a TextExpander Snippet using Javascript with the following code:

 var chars = "0123456789ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXTZabcdefghiklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
 var string_length = 10;
 var randomstring = '#SearchKey: ';
 for (var i=0; i<string_length; i++) {
 var rnum = Math.floor(Math.random() * chars.length);
 randomstring += chars.substring(rnum,rnum+1);

I assigned this to a shortcut, that when I type it, I get something like this:  #SearchKey: CwFPFCR7xm

NOTE: The great part, I get a new code each time I run the snippet.

This is now my new link back to this note.  Now, in any other note I want to reference this note (or in a task manager), I just put this search key in the place I need the reference.  Super easy to get back to my note. As an added bonus, I now also see all reference from other notes when I search.

Referenced Notes


This works great ! I am still playing around more with notes.  I really do want to like this enough to ditch Evernote.  This is just one more nail in the coffin for replacing Evernote for me.

Below is my original post.. but this new technique is much better.


I have recently spent time trying to use Apple Notes instead of Evernote.   One feature I was missing was the ability to link to a specific note like I did in Evernote.   I used this in my task lists all the time.    Since you are not able to get a specific note link from Apple Notes, here is my quick hack.

Step 1:  Create your note

Step 2: Use 1Password (or similar password manager) to create a unique complex password

Step 3:  put the password at the end of the note as a #tag.. so you see something like #jerd-Ax-ceuk (or whatever your password manager generated)

Step 4:  Put the same #tag in your task manager.

Step 5:  When you need to find that note, just search in Apple Notes for the unique tag.. Viola!

Hope that helps someone.  It was a quick fix for me.

Tried and Failed…  Apple Notes vs. Evernote

Tried and Failed… Apple Notes vs. Evernote

I was trying to see if I could switch from Evernote to Notes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Evernote, but with all the hubbub lately around Evernote, I thought it was safe to explore options outside of my walled garden of Evernote.

I figured by trying Apple Notes, I would see if a built in App would work for me.   Here is what I found.

Things I liked in Notes

  • Drawings – this was great.  Evernote does not have this option the way Notes does
  • Safari Integration – I like the share sheet.. to be clear, Evernote has a great web clipper, so no real win here
  • Speed of launching.  Notes was fast.   (I also had far less notes in it)
  • Title, Header and Paragraph formatting.  The ability to hit CTRL T for a title, CTRL H for a header.. so awesome.

Things I missed from Evernote

  • The ability to copy a link to a note and use it somewhere.  I do this all the time within Evernote, Omnifocus, etc FIXED:  See Here
  • Tables.  Yes, Evernote tables suck.. but its better than no tables
  • Sharing of notes.   Getting a public URL is just so nice
  • Search limited to a folder – no way to do this in notes NOTE: Learning more search modifiers is helping me.  
  • Searching for edited files within the past week that had checkboxes.  It’s a great tool to help me track un-done items from meeting notes.  Notes has no way to track check boxes
  • IFTTT integration.  I have a recipe that takes my meetings that are coming up and creates a new note for meeting notes.  Saves a little time, but it’s nice.

Anyway.. for now.. back to Evernote.   I will deal with the speed issues and lack of formatting types for now.

Omnifocus – The GTD Tickler Files

Omnifocus – The GTD Tickler Files

I have been meaning to post this for a while, but it’s the reason I keep coming back to Omnifocus.

I am perpetually torn with Omnifocus being over complex, yet feeling like home to me for tracking my tasks.  When things go into Omnifocus, I have always felt like they get done.  I have also never felt like I am flooded with the entire list of tasks.

They key to Omnifocus and this balanced feeling is two-fold:  Perspectives and Defer Until.


The key thing here is you are on a “need to know” basis.   You can set up perspectives to let you see what you want, when you want based on needs.  The great thing is, if you have tasks that need to be done serially, you can let Omnifocus only show you the NEXT ACTION you can take to make progress on your project.  This saves you from having to look at all of the remaining items when you can’t actually do anything with them.   This is such a time saver.

You can customize your perspectives and name them what you want with the pro version  Trust me, your time is worth getting the pro version.   Here is a sample of the details of my TODAY perspective.  You can see how you can edit and tweak this to your hearts content.

Today Perspective
Today Perspective

Defer Until

This is the real magic here for me.  When I am adding tasks into my task list, often they are things I need to do soon.  Sometimes they are tasks that I don’t need to worry about for a long time.  For instance, if I know I need to follow up on a task to talk to someone in 4 months about a potential project, why do I want that task staring at me every day?  I don’t!  That is just wasted thinking every time I see it.

By creating a task with a Defer Date, you can essentially hide that task away from view until you are ready to see it.  (when combined with the above perspectives).   This is amazing.  I have a lot of tasks I want recurring as well that I defer.  Changing the oil in my car, clean the gutters, etc.  I defer all of these tasks so they go away until I am ready to do them.

Defer Until

I really think this is what draws me back in to Omnifocus when I contemplate trying other software.  Start Date, Defer Until, or whatever you want to call it.. just get it out of my face until I need it.