Linux Note Taking Software

Some time ago I was complaining about lack of good note taking applications on linux. I concluded that there are simply no open source applications that could be a replacement for Microsoft’s OneNote.

Fortunately, I was wrong. I have found some alternatives which prove that this type of software does exist on linux. These apps are few and far between, but they can be found with a little effort and detemination.

First one is called Gournal. It’s a perl+GTK app which allows you to doodle with mouse and type notes. It saves them in tared svg files. It would be awesome, if it only worked properly. I found it incredibly buggy. The whole time I was running it I basically had a console screen scrolling with error messages. The typing feature didn’t work at all for me – rendering this app virtually useless. I don’t have a tabletop! I need doodling for quick drawings, and typing for notes.

And yes – I did have all the dependencies met! I checked several times… Maybe I simply got a crappy binary? It’s perl based, so there’s really not much to compile either. I think it’s just shoddy programming šŸ˜› The app is poorly documented, and has virtually no support. There is a wiki but it has no content… Author does not seem to be actively working on the project anymore.

I found a much better alternative though. It’s Java based Jarnal. You can see a screenshot of me playing around with it to the left. This project seems to be well documented, mature and – what’s most important – simply works. It has much more features than the simple Gournal – including different types of strokes, shape drawing and etc. In addition it also has a collaboration mode in which you can start a server on your machine, and have other users connect and edit the notes.

Jarnal also is able to pull notes from server via HTTP and upload them using POST statement (I think) which will send back the file. Using that mode you can actually run it as a Java applet on your server – which is very impressive. The website provides a php script which will grab the Jarnal’s output and upload it to the server when needed.

The files are saved with jaj extension, but they seem to be simple zip files containing svg graphics and some config information. When I was testing it, it seemed to be quite stable and it didn’t give me any problems regardless of what I was trying to do. I will definitely play around with it some more. Meanwhile I highly recommend it as a Linux note taking app.

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