Recomendation for a note taking app

Hello everyone, I'd like your recommendations for a note taking app that:

  • Can be selfhosted
  • Stores the notes as plain text or *.md files, not some SQL database.
  • Can use Marddown format.
  • Have an android client or at least a mobile optimized web-interface.
  • Not a must but it would be nice to have a to-do list option.

I tried:

  • Trilium: use an encrypted litesql to store the notes.
  • Joplin: does not encrypt the notes, but store them in random named directories, making ot harder finding the notes.
  • Logseq: No firefox support, I did not check how it stores itsdatabase.
  • Standard note: Needs subscription to selfhost or to even use markdown format, otherwise it is a heavy text editor.
  • Memos: does not store plain files, instead uses a (sqlite probably) database even when setting local filesystem as current object storage.
  • CodiMD: use database to store its notes
  • Hedgedoc: the same as above
  • This is what I will end up using if Obsidian + syncthing was not for me,It is minimal without losing much features and can be enhanced with plug-ins.
    . It does need a bit of getting used to and it does not have an android app but can it can be run as PWA that runs offline. The only downside is it does clutter your note directory with a bunch of dot files (if you decided to install plug-ins).

The closest I found so far is Obsidian, which:

  • Unfortunately, does not have any selfhosting option.
  • Have a client app on every platform and store.
  • Can use a custom directory to store it database as plain text files, which can be a network mounted directory (on my laptop/desktop) or a directory on my android phone that i will have to keep synchronized using a third party app.
  • I used "Remotely Save by fyears" which allows you to synchronize local obsidian note directory with a cloud directory (onedrive, dropbox, webdav...), It requires webdav for self-hosted options, kinda forcing you to use a 3th party service to run a 3rd party plug-in so you can use Obsidian with your home server directory. On top of that It can only use a folder on the root of the webdave server (say /notes instead of /documents/notes).
  • I used syncthing initially to sync my Notes directory but I ended up using it to keep a buch of directories in sync across all my devices. Leaving you to use whatever app you like on any device, not just Obsidian.

Edit: March-2nd: added memos, codimd, hedgedoc
Edit: March-9th, It has been a busy week and I could not do much. I added silverbullet and both syncthing adn remotly-save for obsidian. I'm using now Silverbullet and Obsidian+syncthing until I decide on one.
Thank you everyone who helped me choosing.

thayer , (edited )

I write nearly everything in markdown. Like you, I don't want databases, or other barriers that will complicate portability.

I just use my text editor of choice, usually VSCodium or vim on the desktop, and Syncthing to keep the notes synced across all of our devices.

On Android, I've been happily using the Markor markdown editor for years. I've tried several others but always return to its simplicity.

All of the above editors support opening folders in a tree view, so you can easily keep your notes sorted under a traditional folder structure and find what you when you need it.

Edit: Forgot to mention that Markor does have a dedicated to-do feature too, which also uses markdown.

mhz OP , avatar

Thank you for your reply, I do host a vscode instance to keep for my python learning. I will fall to that (with markor) if nothing else works.

thayer , (edited )

You're very welcome. For Markor, I wasn't a fan of the default viewer theme, which is how I view most notes when on mobile, so I made some tweaks to improve its appearance...below is a screenshot:

If you want something similar, add the following under Settings > View mode:

  • Open existing files in view mode: on (this may be default)
  • Link color:

And replace the <style>...</style> block under the inject -> head pop-up with the following CSS:

html, body { 
  font-family: sans-serif-condensed;
  font-size: 110%;
  background: #0d1117; 
  color: #c9d1d9;
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0.5em;

a {
  color: 58a6ff;
  text-decoration: none;

h1, h2, h3, h4 {
  padding-bottom: 0.25em;
  border-bottom: 2px solid #222934;

hr {
  border: 2px solid #222934;

pre, code {
  color: #b5a5ee;
nomadjoanne ,

Nextcloud notes. They'll sync as text filed between your devices. You can use markdown, and they have a mobile app.

Drz ,

Dokuwiki with markdown plugin, or gollum wiki (or one of its forks) should meet the requirements

Libertus ,

Maybe you should try Anytype. It's Open Source, encrypted, has applications for major OSes, provides synchronization, allows export of documents to Markdown and PDF. Sometimes it's rough on the edges, but I think it has a potential.

The1029 ,

Another vote for Obsidian. I use it with the remotely-save plugin via WebDav and Nextcloud - completely self-hosted, I haven’t even made an Obsidian account. Sync conflicts are very rare, I’m using it on iOS and four desktops. While I wish it was OSS, nothing I’ve looked at even comes close to the flexibility of Obsidian. I’m using it for daily notes, habit tracking, task lists, and most recently to write a book.

garibaldi ,

I'm self-hosting Obsidian as described below and it works really well. The syncing happens automatically in the background and I rarely encounter conflicts. I'd highly recommend it!

Father_Redbeard , avatar

Obsidian is my favorite thus far. It sucks at checklists/Todo though. So I use Quillpad as a shopping list keeper and as my task management/Todo, both syncing to my self hosted Nextcloud instance.

I'm still on Obsidian Sync because I couldn't get Syncthing to work reliably, but that was very early in my selfhosting journey, so I will try again.

XenoWarden ,

I sync obsidian with my self hosted owncloud instance.

Lem453 ,

Self hosted obsidian live sync eorks very well. I use it on 3 devices each with a different OS. Super fast and responsive. I can see text appear almost as fast as Google docs when types on one device and watched from another.

I know obsidian itself is not FOSD but the files are markdown and you can easily back them up with your existing backup setup (seafile for me) and then open up the plain md files if needed for some reason

Father_Redbeard , avatar

I'll give it a go. The plain md files is exactly why I went with Obsidian in the first place. I just haven't found a FOSS alternative that I like as much. Closest is Acreom but it's not yet open source, on the roadmap though.

Father_Redbeard , avatar

Coming back to this, I just realized I have Seafile syncing my Obsidian vault already. I know you said you're using it for Backup, but have you tried to use it as the only sync solution for Obsidian? I like it so much because of how fast it is, so if it works well, I may just do that once my membership expires.

Lem453 ,

Seafile doesn't have 2 way sync on android. Would probably work well enough for sync between two computers

Father_Redbeard , avatar

How incredibly timely!

I'll have to give it a go with a copy of my vault.

Lem453 ,

Oh wow, direct obsidian seafile sync sounds amazing.

It bypasses the android sync app and just syncs to the server directly! This is brilliant!

Main issue with live sync is if you have multiple users you need multiple sync servers. This will allow all your seafile users to sync right away which us amazing!

johntash ,

I already replied to a different thread, but figured I'd comment on some of the other options too. My vote is for Silverbullet, but I've tried way too many note taking tools.

  • Joplin: I ran into multiple syncing issues that caused data loss and large numbers of conflicted files. I'm pretty sure these were all fixed a long time ago, but it was annoying. The dev was always good about fixing issues when they came up. It takes forever to sync on my devices and only syncs while the app is open with the screen on. The format it exports markdown files in isn't standard, so I had to write my own scripts to export from joplin to markdown and preserve metadata.
  • Standard Notes: I was willing to pay for this, but it's extremely slow. Their support said it's because it loads everything into memory, which I'd expect to be terrible on mobile with large databases. It's also pretty limited in what you can do on the free self-hosted version.
  • Obsidian: I really like obsidian's ui/ux, and my only complaint is that it's not OSS. I'd even be happy if they offered a self-hosted sync solution. There are some third party solutions for syncing, but they aren't as smooth as the paid sync.
  • Trillium: I love Trillium. I would vote for it, but it recently entered into maintenance mode. The community is working to start a new fork and I'm sure it will be great, but it's too new to know where things will go yet. Trilium lets you encrypt specific notes and also has a cool plugin system where the plugin scripts are just notes in the database. It does have a mobile interface, but it's a bit limited compared to the desktop interface and also doesn't have an option to sync notes to use offline.
  • Silverbullet: My current choice. I use it between windows, macos, and an android phone. I leave all three clients on sync mode all the time. The interface is minimalistic, but offers everything I need for notes and documentation so far. One of the rare "markdown" tools that actually save your content to markdown files and not to a database with the ability to export to markdown. It also has a cool feature built in where it indexes all of your notes/tasks/paragraphs and lets you build queries around them sort of like the dataview plugin for obsidian.
  • Emacs: I haven't seen emacs mentioned yet, but emacs+org-mode is still great. The mobile apps just don't live up to the desktop experience, and you'd still have to figure out how to sync your notes yourself. Logseq's outliner format is a similar feel afaict
lightnsfw ,

The closest one I've found to what I'm looking for in a note taking app is Obsidian. Really it kind of set the standard of what I need with how efficient it is to use. The only issue is syncing to my phone and tablet. I'm using Nextcloud and so far have only been able to get "read" access on my mobile devices. If I try to create/edit a note it gives me access errors that I haven't found a way around. This isn't a huge problem because I mostly reference notes on the devices anyway and am not making changes to them. Mobile note taking is typically done in my physical pocket notebook anyway.

UnixWeeb , avatar

For syncing to multiple devices, I would recommend syncthing. Was pretty easy to set up and haven't had any issues.

kellenoffdagrid , avatar

I second this, my dumb-as-bricks setup for syncing obsidian notes is just running a Syncthing instance on a little Raspberry Pi I keep on all the time, and it works like a charm.

jjlinux ,
TypicalHog ,

Obsidian without a doubt!

abies_exarchia ,

I use obsidian with obsidian-livesync for selfhosting the notes. Works pretty well across linux, macos, ios so far

Dhrystone , avatar
mrh , avatar

Try Orgzly with Emacs Orgmode

jeffhykin ,

For standard notes, its got an auto-export plaintext file option on desktop. Were you wanting two-way editing of plaintext? (e.g. Auto export and import)

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