As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve returned to the embrace of Simplenote. It’s more than adequate for my note taking needs. As its name says, Simplenote is simple. It’s easy to use.

But why just limit yourself to taking notes? You can use Simplenote for more than just taking notes and collecting information. It’s a useful tool for working on drafts of articles, blog posts, or whatever you might be writing.

Let’s take a look at how to use Simplenote for more than just taking notes.

A short look at organizing your information in Simplenote

Before continuing, I’d like to spend a paragraph or three to discussinging how information is organized in Simplenote. For better or worse, Simplenote uses a very freeform way of organizing (or not) your notes. The list of notes on the left side of the Simplenote window displays your newest notes first.

If you take a lot of notes, it can be difficult to find something. Simplenote comes with a rudimentary search engine, but it can often return more results than you want. However, you can add tags to your notes. Tagging lets you assign one or more keywords to a note. For example, you can tag some notes with the term writing.

You add tags at the top of a new note. Just type the tags that you want to use.

Tags

You can search by tags which should, in theory anyway, narrow down the number of results.

If you decide to use Simplenote to work on your drafts, come up with a logical and easy-to-remember tagging scheme. I usually use two tags for my drafts: writing and drafts. Not the most imaginative tags, but they work. I could, I guess, substitute articles and blogging for writing. But the tags I use work for me right now.

Note: You can also pin notes so they stay at the top of the list. I’ll be discussing this in a bit more detail later.

Writing in Simplenote

Let’s assume you have a Simplenote account (you can get free and paid ones). Log in and click the Add Note button. You get a blank canvas. Add your tags at the top of the editing window and then start typing.

In case you’re wondering, Simplenote saves your work automatically every few seconds. That’s why you don’t see any buttons to save your work.

Formatting, or lack thereof

Simplenote is a plain text tool. You don’t get the kind of formatting that you’re probably used to with a desktop word processor, with something like Google Drive, or even with Evernote. But since you’re working in plain text, you can paste the body of your draft into a word processor. Or, if you’re writing for the web, you can add HTML tags and use Markdown to format your drafts.

Simplenote has very good support for Markdown. You can write using Markdown and preview how your draft will appear on the web right from Simplenote. To do that, however, you have to change the settings on individual documents. Click the Note info & settings icon in the top-right corner of the window. This opens the Details window for your note. Click the Markdown Formatted option and then click Done.

You can click the Edit or Preview buttons at the top of the editing window to change the mode in which you’re working.

Pinning your drafts

As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, Simplenote uses a very freeform way of organizing your notes. The newest notes, or the notes that were most recently edited, appear at the top of the list. If you take a lot of notes, and do a lot of writing in Simplenote, then what you’re working on could be pushed down in the list. Why waste time searching when you can pin your drafts? Pinning tells Simplenote to keep a particular note at the top of the list.

To pin a note, click the Note info & settings icon in the top-right corner of the window. This opens the Details window for your note. Click the Pinned to Top option and then click Done.

Getting your drafts out of Simplenote

That can be the difficult part. Well, not difficult but cumbersome. Simplenote doesn’t have an export or download feature. When you’re ready to submit you work to an editor or to publish it or just to format it in another tool, you’ll need to copy and paste the text into a word processor or blog editor.

If you’ve used Markdown to format your drafts, you can convert it to HTML using an online tool or drop it directly into a blog editor. Assuming, of course, that editor supports Markdown. WordPress, which this blog runs on, supports Markdown through a plugin or two.

If you have a paid account, you can synchronize your notes with Dropbox. You just need to reach into the folder in Dropbox that contains your backups, which are text files, and work from there.

Final thoughts

Simplenote is flexible enough that you can use it for doing more than taking notes or capturing links. It’s a simple and effective way to hammer out a draft of whatever it is you may be writing.

I know that doing this with Simplenote won’t appeal to everyone, but I find it to be a handy addition to my writer’s toolkit.

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