Cult Favorite Note Taking App Notational Velocity Gets A Cross-Platform Alternative

Notational Velocity is a cult favorite open source note taking app for OSX. The phrase “life changing” gets thrown around a lot by it devotees. It’s simple, fast and it can sync with either Simplenote or Dropbox, giving you access to all your text notes from virtually any device.

But it’s only for OSX. Now there’s an open source clone called nvPY that runs on OSX, Windows and Linux.

Over the years there have been a few attempts to clone Notational Velocity. There’s the closed source but free-as-in-beer ResophNotes for Windows and a Linux clone called Notetak that hasn’t been updated since 2007 and doesn’t sync with SimpleNote. There’s also the Chrome plugin SyncPad.


But developer Charl P. Botha, a Linux user, wasn’t happy with the choices. “ResophNotes under wine works, but is sometimes wonky (I’m an intensive user),” he wrote on Quora. “SyncPad for Chrome works very nicely, but the search can be slow.” So he wrote his own, and the result is awesome.

It takes some command line work to install, which is unusual if you use Windows, but it’s really easy. Instructions are here. The app itself is not as pretty as NV, but it’s not bad looking and it has many of the same features Notational Velocity does. Here’s the feature list:

  • Syncs with simplenote.
  • Support for simplenote tags and note pinning.
  • Partial syncs (whilst notes are being edited) are done by a background thread so you can keep on working at light speed.
  • Can be used offline, also without simplenote account.
  • Search box does realtime regular expression searching in all your notes. All occurrences of that regular expression are also highlighted in currently active note.
  • Markdown rendering to browser.
  • Continuous rendering mode: If you activate this before starting the markdown rendering, nvpy will render new html of the currently open note every few seconds. Due to the refresh tag in the generated HTML, the browser will refresh every few seconds. MAGIC UPDATES!
  • reStructuredText (reST) rendering to browser. Yes, you can use nvPY as your reST previewer.
  • Automatic hyperlink highlighting in text widget.
  • KickAss(tm) inter-note linking with [[note name]]. If note name is not found in current list of notes, assumes it’s a regular expression and sets it in the search bar. See the screencast.

One big missing feature is the ability to save files locally as a directory full of plain text files. Currently the app saves everything in a single flat file in the popular format JSON.

I use ResophNotes on Windows myself. I store my notes as text files and sync them with Dropbox so that I can access them on my phone with Epistle, so I’ll be sticking with Resoph for now. But I’m glad to see that Resoph isn’t the only game in town, and that there’s finally a real option on Linux.

Update: A feature enabling you to store notes as a folder of text files has been added, but it’s not well documented. Here’s what you’ll need in your config file to make it work:

simplenote_sync = 0
notes_as_txt = 1
txt_path = C:\whateverfolder

Obviously you’ll need to change “whateverfolder” to the actual location that you want to use. If you want to store your files as plain text files and still sync with SimpleNote, change “simplenote_sync = 0” to “simplenote_sync = 1” and include username and passwords lines from the original documentation.