/ writing

How I Use Bear Notes

Talking about my note taking process with Bear Writer in the context of being a knowledge worker. This is what my setup/process looks like right now, for my work related notes.

Looking for a Notes App in All the Wrong Places

As I started a new job, I wanted to change how I take notes for my job. Previously I had used TiddlyWiki, and even Gollum before that. Both free, and both web-based, with no syncing other than Dropbox if you wanted to use that with TiddlyWiki, or a remote git repo with Gollum. They worked for awhile, but I found that I stopped using Gollum because doing git commands for my notes was too tedious, and with TiddlyWiki, the default design left a lot to be desired, and I had to add a plugin to get Markdown support, which I do all my writing, note taking in.

With that, I started looking at others that may fit this Developer Wiki app that I thought I wanted. So here are my notes I took when looking for one:

  • BoostNote

    • no vibrancy or transparency on macOS
    • UI/look/feel is not as nice as others
    • it’s either a snippet (gist like file) or a markdown file
    • no wiki like linking or syntax or hard to find
    • stores files on disk as .cjson, but can export as .txt or .md
    • has nice checkbox/list features
    • search/finder UI is nice
    • has tags and folders for organization
    • syntax highlighting, theme choosing for dev
    • no Command +, keyboard shortcut to get to preferences
  • LeanNote

    • cannot be opened, unidentified developer
    • must sign in, or sign in to self-hosted service right off the bat, no offline support
    • most of support/site in Mandarin, don’t know what all the features are, and couldn’t log in
  • InkDrop

    • has built in statuses folders (active/on hold/completed/dropped)
    • tags support
    • multiple folders notebook support
    • better full-width update macOS UI, unlike boostnote
    • has plugins
    • keybinding support
    • has own command line installer thing like atom (apm), which is called (ipm)
    • separate window support

I am a software engineer, so I was looking for something that was wiki-like, and that I could see formatting in code. I also wanted something with a great search. I was close to building one on my own. So I had searched around, done some research, and found nothing that quite hit that sweet spot for me.

I even had notes on the one I wanted to build should have:

  • chrome extension or easy way to import entire web pages or clip them
  • drag and drop images placement
  • public publishing support to different service
  • wiki like linking of things
  • want a ‘OneTab’ like experience that helps marry this editor to the web, and to my browser history/tabs for easy handoff of information
  • should be able to download from a website, or brew cask install!
  • must support offline/syncing, be able to get to notes without the internet
  • plugin system for other hackers to add features
  • you could run code like https://runkit.com/home
  • be able to doodle/draw (using canvas?)

So here I was noodling with the idea to build something, because that's what we do.

Then I saw Rands (a.k.a Micheal Lopp) say:

Bear. It’s not only my go-to writing tool, it’s also replacing Dropbox. Whaaaaaaaaaaat..?

Others, came to similar conclusions.

Laying My Process Bear

So weeks later, I was getting into a discussion about #starting-a-job channel on the Rands Leadership Slack. Glad someone started this channel! And I thought I should also blog my responses about how I'm taking notes at my new job.

This is how I use Bear Writer, which has been fantastic thus far.

Notes are structured thusly:

Tagged in Bear Notes:

These form folders underneath #companyname tag, in my case 'campuslabs'. And it looks like this:


#journal is like this 20170914 with the title as the date in this format, with tasks underneath as I've done them. I also note interactions that were important and other miscellaneous info through the day. I take these todos, notes from today, and before the end of the day, create tomorrows entry, and copy the things over that weren't done. I review my Goals note, to see if I need to add anything there long term and see how I'm tracking on my 90 days plan for myself.

#meetings I take notes during a meeting like crazy. People don't even seem to notice, but your mileage may vary. Essentially I record the participants, important things that were said, and anything that I may need to do as a result of this meeting. I always copy the link of the meeting note and paste into the journal note on the day it happened. Also, I title the meeting with the date too. And I make sure to the next day to review the meeting notes in tomorrow's journal entry, and setup any to-dos if needed out of that.

#towiki Are important things that I need to document in the company wiki that I haven't seen anywhere else, that I want to develop locally, and then move to the company wiki. (e.g. Developer Machine Setup Notes)

Bear With It

I'm still figuring out what works, but Bear Writer allows me to organize, and cross-link across notes, drag and drop files and images, and it all looks really nice.

The pricing is right; it is inexpensive for nearly instantaneous sync across your devices.


Post image of Polar Bear courtesy of Tim Roßkamp.