Note Taking for Linux With Encryption

If you use a Mac or Windows, you may have read my posts about what I feel are the best note taking applications for Windows and Mac. As I now use Linux, and have used Linux for many years on and off, I want to share with you what I feel is the best Linux based note taking and storing program.

My favorite Windows and Mac note taking applications do not run on Linux natively. The best known Linux note taking program I know of is Tomboy. Tomboy, is a cross platform application. Tomboy does have some limitations which keep it out of my favorites as my needs are different. Tomboy is included by default in many Linux distributions and worth checking out if your needs are simple for note taking and storage.

What for me is a better alternative to Tomboy for Linux is a program named Cherrytree.  Cherrytree per the home page is:

“A hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting, storing data in a single xml or sqlite file.”

I enjoy using a a notes program with a tree like structure. If you ever used any version of Treepad for Windows, you will be right at home. Cherrytree’s tree like node structure lends itself to easily visually find any note. Cherrytree also contains a handy search function. The tree node structure allows for notes to be placed under notes. This means no folder to open and peruse, notes are visible unless you have condensed the node.

cherrytreeI enjoy the Cherrytree search function. When using the search function, Cherrytree lets me know every instance of the keyword, or phrase I search for. Cherrytree has options for keyword setting on each node of the tree. My notes are not that complex, but the option is there if you need it.

What makes Cherrytree special, is Cherrytree has an encryption option for storing note files. On top of an easy to use, and easily to modify tree structure, notes can be encrypted when the file is saved.

What I do is I have two files. The first Cherrytree file contains my ’43 folders’ type information (calender and to do system), and general notes. I leave this file unencrypted. I have a second file containing passwords and other personal private information which is encrypted. Swapping between the two files with Cherrytree is a breeze. When Cherrytree is in use you may open another file as easily as you can with a text editor.

For the password protection scheme, Cherrytree uses 7-zip. 7-zip uses Strong AES-256 encryption in 7z and ZIP formats. Strong enough encryption for me. If my computer turns up missing, as in stolen, I have plenty of time to make all the alerts I will need to make.

Another important Cherrytree option is the ability to make each node on the tree ‘read only’ with the press of a key. There is nothing to match the frustration of overwriting a password or phrase because I did a Shift + V (paste), instead of Shift + C (copy) and later saving the file and not noticing what I did.

One final and perhaps moot point is Cherrytree is aware of file modification. Some programs are written with the user in charge, no questions. A file may be saved in a changed state, no questions asked. Cherrytree however asks if I want to save the modified file. This simple question has saved my passwords from being overwritten by mistake because I am thinking of other things while closing programs.

Cherrytree is in the repository of many Linux distributions. If Cherrytree is not in the repository of your favorite Linux distribution, you can download Cherrytree (as I have) in the format you need from the authors web site. Install instructions are easily followed, and simple to do.

The odds of anyone trying to break an encrypted file saved on a stolen computer are so low it is not worth worrying about. Thieves are only interested in a quick buck, not personal secrets. Truth is, if a thief is smart enough to break password encrypted files, they are not physically stealing for a living.

If you use Linux, and want an easy to use program to store sensitive notes, Cherrytree is the best program I have found. Having read only ability by a key toggle, and strong encryption make Cherrytree stand out from the crowd.

For all this, Cherrytree is donation-ware. Try out Cherrytree, and if you like it, let the author know by making a donation to the program via Cherrytree home page. Donating helps keep Cherrytree and its author reamin alive and healthy.

Mac Note Taking Made Easy

As with almost any OS, there are any number of note taking applications for Mac. Here are three note taking applications I use almost exclusively. I would not be happy if I had to stop using any one of them. Like you, I find I take a lot of notes. Notes may last for a few hours to notes saved for the long term. One of the biggest drawbacks with notes, is long term notes.

Long term notes

My long term notes have been created Windows, copied into Linux, and finally onto my Mac(s). Keeping notes in text file format is incredibly helpful when it comes to both long term and cross platform notes. Generally every file system recognizes the .txt ending, and every platform knows how to display text files. As long as long time notes are kept in text format, they can be emailed, placed in dropbox, put on a usb stick or backed up for long term storage.

Note taking should be simple

Three note taking apps I use on my Mac make taking and keeping notes simple. Why three applications and not a single application? I have been through the realm of organizers, one long document made up of smaller notes, and sticky notes, both paper and virtual. They all have their limitations.

Organizers tend to lock you into their format, or they duplicate your notes. Long single documents keep everything in one place, but cutting and pasting into and out of a long doucment gets messy. Sticky notes multiply until there are too many to keep track of. Too many loose sticky notes in itself become a problem.

Easy and fast note taking

Total Note Control

Take Great Notes

I use Notational Velocity, nvALt which is a modified Notational Velocity, and a third app named xPad. All three are free apps. All three apps fill a niche. Notational Velocity and nvAlt no longer share the same database, so you have two separate databases for different types of notes.

All three of these programs easily export notes as text which is critical for long term note keeping. They are simple to use, and can be used almost entirely from the keyboard of you wish. There only drawback, though use and ability override this is they are not the prettiest applications out there. There strength and ability far outweigh what they lack in looks.

Encrypted notes

I use Notational Velocity with the option of an encrypted database to store private information. The plethora of personal information we need to share grows weekly, and Notational Velocity handles it all easily. My notes are safe via encryption, and retrieved as fast as I can type in a search word or phrase.

Note Syncing, Markdown, more

nvAlt is a modified version of Notational Velocity. I use it for public notes, which if seen by others does not matter. For example, urls, command key sequences for programs, HTML examples, Markdown, any note that is not personal or sensitive. nvAlt works with drop box, so notes can be sync’d across your computers.

Short term Notes

xPad is my all around scratch pad. I use xPad for short term notes, or to jot down some important blurb of information. I am using xPad to write this post. Once this post is written, I export it from xPad into a folder. Other notes are deleted when no longer needed. xPad has a sequential directory of your notes. One icon click and your documents are displayed. If you do not name your document, xPad saves your note in as Untitled xx, with xx being the next number in the untitled note sequence you have already stored in xPad.

Save as not needed

All three applications share the freedom of not having to manually save your note. This feature ensures your notes are there when you need them. Notational Velocity and nvAlt want a name first before you go on to create your note. One that is done, your note is being saved as you type it.

These three applications cover almost all of my writing needs. I have tried most of the other popular formats, and for me, they all fall short on one way or another. These three are very straight forward, easy to use and cover all my note taking and typing needs.

Exporting notes

The ease of exporting notes is a must for keeping notes. In Notational Velocity and nvAlt, when I have stagnant notes [notes I want to keep but seldom reference], I use the export feature and save them to their own topic folder. For example, all my blog posts are kept in on one main folder. All my other long term notes find there way into a folder named by subject.

I have all my notes handy and easily located. My commonly referenced notes are mixed with notes I seldom have a need to reference. This makes searching for notes simple, without adding any additional overhead to my notes such as keywords.

More information and Downloads

If you are not using these three note taking programs already, you are missing out on something good. Try these three apps out. After a few days, I am sure you will agree, they make your note taking simple, complete, and safe. You are not sending your bank account information into the cloud and across the net. Best of all you will have the perfect note taking app for each and every note you want to create.

Notational Velocity – http://notational.net/

nvAlt – http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

xPad – http://getxpad.com/