Notes: future plans

This is the second in a series of posts about recent design work for GNOME’s core applications. As I said in my previous post, the designs for many of these applications have evolved considerably, and we have major plans for them. Help is needed if these plans are going to become a reality though, so we are looking for contributors to get involved.

In this post, I’m going to focus on the Notes app, which is also known as Bijiben. (For those who don’t now, Bijiben – 筆記本 / 笔记本 – translates to “Notebook”.) This application is maintained by Pierre-Yves Luyten, and is written in C (although Pierre-Yves has expressed an interest in porting the UI to JavaScript).

Where we are

The Notes app aims be a simple and effective note taking application. It has the basic features you’d expect from a notes app, such as formatting, search and a trash bin. You can also organise your notes into separate notebooks.

It also has some other features that you might not be aware of, such as the ability to import notes from Tomboy (or Gnote), and integration with ownCloud and memos (as provided by Evolution), so you can keep your notes online.

Most of the updates that we have planned for notes are designed to polish the existing UI, so it looks and feels really nice. There are also some bigger features planned though.

More online storage

Being able to store your notes in the cloud is a major goal for Notes, and Pierre-Yves wants to expand the number of options for online storage, perhaps through IMAP.

As much as possible, we want cloud storage to become the default option for Notes. As a result, we’re imagining that it might want to ask you where you want to keep your notes when it is run for the first time…

Notes Setup

We also have mockups for migrating notes between online accounts.

Improved grid and list views

It’s important for a notes app to give you a good overview of your notes, so that finding items is quick and painless. We have a number of plans is this area. For the notes grid, we want to show more content from each note, so you get a more useful preview. Date headings are another addition which will make the grid more meaningful and informative.

Notes Grid

The grid view designs are accompanied by a new treatment for the list view. This aims to be neater, more attractive, and easier to read.

Notes List

Better editing

We’ve also done a lot of work on the designs for viewing and editing notes. The overlaid editing controls that Notes currently uses have been a particular sore point, largely due to some technical limitations. As a result, we’ve decided to use an action bar for formatting – this will appear when you select text, and hide when it’s no longer needed.

There are a number of other significant changes that we want to make to the note view, such as using a fixed width layout, having bigger titles, and better use of typography.

Note Editing

Polish, polish, polish

Finally, as with Music, Notes needs a lot of polish. There are quite a lot of small bugs that we have solutions identified for; the overall experience will improve a lot if we can resolve these.

How to get involved

Bijiben’s Bugzilla product is in good shape, so it’s easy to find tasks to work on, and Pierre-Yves is happy to review patches. There’s also a wiki page with details about the application, including a small technical overview of the code. Notes could be a really fantastic application – just get in touch if you want to help out.

10 thoughts on “Notes: future plans”

  1. Nice mockup, But instead of the button “search” , it’s will be great to have a test area to directly search (as it’s on Ctrl-K for firefox )

  2. Well, Bijiben is getting very pretty. (: Nice work!

    BUT: I think the formatting tools would be better placed on the left or right side (like in Builder). Most people have widescreen-displays these days. Or even better; Bijiben should adjust to screen dimensions and screen rotation, to display it’s “tools”.

    And: It would be great if the user is able to choose the directory for local storage.

    One question: Because I am busy with my own Gtk-Vala-project I didn’t had time to look into the code of Bijiben. Is it planned to use Markdown for formatting or is it doing so already?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, poinck!

      The formatting controls are intended to be dynamic (so they show and hide on demand); we placed them at the bottom so they don’t move or overlap the note text.

      Bijiben uses whatever Tomboy used for markup: some kind of XML, I think…

  3. The vast majority of my cloud note storage is in Evernote. If Notes could somehow interact with Evernote, even if it was read-only, that would be a home run as far as I am concerned.

  4. Is there any vision or plan to possibly somehow support MS OneNote notes? I don’t expect to be able to edit and see the notes as in OneNote, but there is an API that may allow at least some limited use..

  5. +1 for the markdown support.
    It would be great to have a button to switch from “markdown mod” to “normal/display mod” :)
    Anyway, thanks a lot, and keep up the good work! I use it every day.

  6. Don’t want to be too destructive, but there are two thinks that actually I don’t like:

    1) on mockup local saving of the notes seem to be a 10th citizen option. I don’t understand why, I like to take my data on my pieces of hw and I’m concerned with privacy questions, even if I know how much important is to have cloud supports nowadays

    2) Many people use clouds, but even more people use smartphones nowadays. Would love to see some support for synchronization on Android when I connect my phone to the computer. I personally think that phone interoperativity is more important then cloud, or at least is at the same level, but gnome developers doesn’t take it in to account as far as I can see…

    Hope my thoughts are not taken as a rant, thank for all your great work


    1. Sorry for not replying sooner. I don’t think we’re ignoring mobile at all, actually. In practical terms, cloud storage is the same as mobile integration. ownCloud has an app for Android, and although I’m not sure whether you can edit notes through them, there’s no reason why someone couldn’t write an ownCloud notes Android app.

      But if by “synchronisation on Android” you mean Google Keep, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck – there’s no public API.

  7. I agree that mobile is a pretty big target for notes (Google Keep maybe?). Also markdown has become the main way I take notes so having support would also be really nice.

    The other thing for me is most of my notes are sorted into tags (not folders) because they are much more flexible to have notes with multiple different tags rather than in one folder. I also take a lot of notes that contain lists and pictures. I’m pretty sure lists are already supported but pictures would probably be for a future feature request.

  8. I would love to see this somehow gets support for encryption, you know, storing password and other secrets in the notes.

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