a free web service I've come to rely on shuts down, part 47
September 2, 2013 8:31 AM   Subscribe

On Sunday morning I discovered with a shock that Catch.com had shut down. So now I suddenly need a replacement for taking simple notes. A complete list is inside, but in short I want to A) create and edit plain text notes on my Android device, B) create and edit plain text notes on a web service and C) have those two stay synchronized. Some more needs are inside. Help me find a new solution! And before suggesting Evernote, see ...

Here is what I am looking for:
- Android app to handle plain text notes
- add and edit notes on mobile device
- add and edit notes on web
- sync between the two
- just need plain text, don't even need formatting
- offline use / cache on mobile device
- 4000 characters minimum per note (aka memo)
- display title (or first line of memo text) in a list of memos
- bonus: sorting by title (or first line of memo text)
- bonus: uses GMail for credentials, so I don't need to set up Yet Another Web Account

I went through this three years ago (I still miss my old Palm OS phone) and following that effort ended up with AK Notepad, which was bought by Snaptic, which was bought by Catch.com, which has now shut down.

At the time, three years ago, Evernote was already the most popular app for this, but I rejected it for two reasons:
- No offline use / cache on mobile device; I had to have network connectivity to see my notes. That is a non-starter for reasons I should not have to explain. Is this still the case?
- Poor handling of plain text notes. I want to enter plain text, no HTML, no images, no social integration, and definitely no autoformatting (e.g. creating bulleted lists in a note).

So, if you are going to recommend Evernote, can you comment on how they handle the desired feature list at the top, and whether they've addressed the two issues above? Assuming they have, what don't you like about Evernote?

A DropBox-like solution is a non-starter.

Later today I will use the tags to search Ask Mefi for other discussions of this.
posted by intermod to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Google Docs? It's usable offline (I've enabled mine for this but have yet to try it). Syncs. Accessible anywhere. Easily searchable. Likely not going anywhere soon...
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 8:43 AM on September 2, 2013


I prefer Google Keep to Catch myself.
posted by gorcha at 12:11 PM on September 2, 2013


Simplenote

The core of Simplenote is a web service that stores any number of text-only notes online, but also syncs with many other standalone applications. In my case, I use the official Simplenote app on my iPhone, and the third-party nvPY on my PC. Both of those sync automatically with the files stored online, whenever they are running, so I end up with three copies of everything -- one on my phone, one on my PC, and one in the cloud. I virtually never log into the Simplenote website directly. I generally access and edit all my notes through the iPhone app or nvPY.
posted by jon1270 at 12:19 PM on September 2, 2013


Seconding Simplenote for all the reasons jon1270 mentioned :) I'm currently using Apple's Notes but before there was an OS X version, I used Simplenote on my phone and Notationaly Velocity on my Mac.
posted by RandyWalker at 12:27 PM on September 2, 2013


Great suggestions so far, thanks!

I'm running Android. I see from SimpleNote's website that while they don't have their own Android client, there are apparently many Android apps out there that sync with SimpleNote. Anybody have experience with any of those?

When posting about your favorite app, can you clarify whether the notes are available in your phone offline? Turn off the cell mode (aka airplane mode) and turn off the wifi, and see if you can still view and even edit notes. Edits should sync up after the phone gets the network back (manual resync is OK with me).

I'm afraid to trust Google, following the Reader shutdown*, so I'm leery of the Google Docs and Google Keep solutions. On the other hand, I've shot myself in the foot with smaller operations like Catch because they just shut down with essentially no warning ...

* And Google just removed the Wikipedia layer from Google Maps. Argh.
posted by intermod at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2013


When posting about your favorite app, can you clarify whether the notes are available in your phone offline? Turn off the cell mode (aka airplane mode) and turn off the wifi, and see if you can still view and even edit notes. Edits should sync up after the phone gets the network back (manual resync is OK with me).

This is exactly how the Simplenote clients I use work. They store copies of all the notes, syncing when they are running and an internet connection is available.

I'm afraid to trust Google, following the Reader shutdown*, so I'm leery of the Google Docs and Google Keep solutions.

Understandable, but nobody can promise you anything. Just make sure whatever you use produces copies of everything in a non-proprietary format so you can shift it all over to a new app or service if it ever becomes necessary.
posted by jon1270 at 12:52 PM on September 2, 2013


It's not identical, but I've been really liking Fetchnotes as a Catch replacement since I heard that Catch would be shutting down. I can access notes offline on my iOS device, not sure about Android.
posted by dialetheia at 1:09 PM on September 2, 2013


todo.txt?
posted by notyou at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2013


I also was quite disappointed with Catch disappearing. However, one very cool thing is that they refunded the money to anyone who paid for extra space--in full!

Anyway, if you do like Simple Note, they JUST released their own app. I haven't tried it yet--been trying (and fighting) to use Evernote because I could import all my Catch notes.
posted by dobbs at 1:01 PM on September 12, 2013


So, I finally got around to evaluating the above last week. And as dobbs said, by then SimpleNote had released their own app.

So far it's perfect. I think this answer in their FAQ sums it up perfectly:

Q: Does Simplenote support images or audio attachments?
A: Nope. The current goal for Simplenote is to do one thing extremely well: text notes.

YES. Thank you. Plain text, and that's it.

So far it does nearly everything perfectly. It fully satisfies my requirements list above, and does so better than Catch did. (Version history? Holy crap!) And since so many apps are using the platform, and it seems to be mature, I'm more confident that it'll stick around for the long haul. Woohoo!

The only minor quibble I have so far is that I'd like to see last-edit timestamps on the mobile platform. But I can go to the web interface to see that info if it's important. Also I wish there was a way to turn off spellcheck, as that's just distracting (maybe it's my phone that's doing that).

Being able to import my old Catch notes is of no use to me because Catch didn't properly notify us about their impending shutdown (no, they did not *shakes fist*) so I didn't get a chance to export and it had been months since I'd done a backup. I was able to save them to text files on my phone and copy out that way though. It's only a few dozen files so I've just been doing it manually, chipping away at the tedium a little bit at a time.

Thanks all!
posted by intermod at 2:49 PM on September 18, 2013


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