Brendan Dawes
The Art of Form and Code

Using Vimwiki as a simple, synced, note taking system

For many years I've been using Evernote to store notes, code snippets, found things from the web and a whole lot of other stuff. I like it, especially its integration with web browsers. Yet what has always slightly worried me is its proprietary format. Yes you can get things out as text, but still theor of the app is a proprietary storage system. Also, Evernote as an app has become in my opinion very bloated over the years, with features I will never use. Presentation mode? Yeah right.

Plain Text and Vimwiki

I've always loved the simple power of a plain text file. This website you're reading now makes extensive use of the them — like all websites, and so recently I've moved to a note taking system for text that is routed in the simplicity and ubiquity of text files.

For editing text including writing code I use Vim, so I've now made use of a plugin called Vimwiki that makes it easy to create, query and edit textual information. No matter where I am in Vim, no matter what project I'm working on, I can pull up this wiki with the key mapping ww. Vimwiki loads up ready for me to dive into. I can even do a search of all my notes using grep or Ag.

I had to add a few things in my .vimrc to make it work just as I wanted, such as changing the extension type to be .md, so I can edit these notes on my phone with a relevant app, and also set the path to a directory inside my Dropbox so my wiki is synced across all my devices.

let g:vimwiki_list = [{'path': '$HOME/Dropbox/wiki'}] " set path to a directory inside Dropbox
let g:vimwiki_ext = '.md' " set extension to .md
let g:vimwiki_global_ext = 0 " make sure vimwiki doesn't own all .md files

Mobile Viewing and Editing

Having this text file based Wiki inside Dropbox means I can view and search all my notes from inside the Dropbox app — great when I'm looking for that flight information or a note I saved about where I might have to be when I'm at a conference. To be able to edit these notes I need to use a third-party app that syncs with Dropbox. For that I chose Pretext, which is free and does everything I need it do to for simple note editing on the road.