A proposed solution to one of the biggest issues for notetaking apps in 2022

THE BIG TREND

There has been a big trend in the last few years towards users wanting to have all of their data locally and in a non-proprietary format that will last for ages.

A number of things have driven this: A real concern for privacy as everything moves to the cloud. People have been burned by cloud companies like Evernote that they thought would be solid forever but then flailed. And open source formats like markdown taking hold.

I hopped on this trend several years ago. I pulled all of my data off of Notion. I adopted Obsidian and Logseq which store their files in markdown locally on your computer. There are even Notion alternatives that store the data locally.

I’ve really come to like this. It offers a lot of peace of mind. Companies come and go but markdown in plain text files will be here forever. I love that I can write little macros or even code on my mac that can manipulate these files in bulk. I love that I can have a single file system structure and open the same files from Obsidian, Logseq or IA Writer, to name a few.

I started using Agenda early on and then moved away for a while. But now I’m back full on - well, because it’s become just so freakin’ amazing with the last few updates. I’ve always appreciated the coolness of the apps and they’re even cooler now.

I still use Logseq and IA Writer and other markdown based tools. Using Agenda isn’t like having your data stored with some cloud provider but the data still resides in a proprietary file format in a proprietary database that we can’t directly access. If only there was a way to address this pressing issue that has become so central to so many users these days, including myself.

Let me propose a solution

What if there was a way to have Agenda automatically save any changed files periodically (say once a day) to a local file system in markdown format. (Maybe allow PDF to be alternate option for those that prefer this). So the first time it runs it will save every note in every project into a separate markdown file on the local system. From then on it will only save (overwrite) those files that change.

There would be an option to use project, category and subcategories as folders or to output everyting into a single folder as is done in zettelkasten systems like Logseq.

Then users like myself would be able to have their Agenda notes integrated into their Obsidian or Logseq systems and to open them in markdown editors like IA Writer. Of course, the changes aren’t round-tripped back to Agenda, but I think that’s ok. It would be for me. I can link to those pages in Logseql and use them freely.

And it addresses a long time issue

Back in 2018 I posted a topic here in this group about the lack of a backup for Agenda. @drewmccormack addressed it by explaining that Agenda is stored in a database and that copies of the database are backed up to Time Machine on a mac. This somewhat solves the issue of backups but isn’t quite fully there for me and I’m guessing others. Having a markdown version of your entire Agenda system stored and updated daily on your mac or in iCloud files offers a deep peace of mind that one’s Agenda data is safe guarded.

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Awesome to have you back first of all!

Interesting solution, especially because back in 2018 we had something like this as a prototype feature. Unfortunately it got on the back burner and we never got to it. But I know @drewmccormack is keen on picking it back up, especially because since then and as part of the collaboration feature we got a lot more pieces into place. Can’t promise when, but certainly still something we’re very much interested in!

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If you ever implement that feature, I’ll be the first to buy premium to get it. :slight_smile:

Friction in getting data out of Agenda was the primary reason I moved away from it. This would make me come back.

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My preference is that Agenda would purely work with data (txt or markdown) in the filesystem and only acts as a logic layer with the current functionaliy of Agenda on top of that (sort of like Obsidian). Any changes done with other compatible applications would then be picked up straight away.
At the moment I export data to markdown files, but any changes there are lost for Agenda, unless I import the file again. But the format is changed all the time by the import/export procedures.

If we would do that we’d have to throw out about half of the features of Agenda. The markdown format is ultimately limited as to what you can represent as plain text (and be valid markdown at the same time). What is suggested here is a more likely solution we might pursue, a kind of mirroring of your notes in markdown that would still allow import of new changes (with the caveat that it could result in loss of some of the features not supported by markdown)

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Is it possible Agenda could just let users export to MD on the category and library level rather than just sub-category as is today? Then expose these actions to shortcuts and users can roll their own solutions.

Just FYI in case someone is looking for a fine note taking app which does keep everything in .txt, .md and .html files in a standard directory tree while also allowing to add/attach every other file type: https://www.notebooksapp.com — I have been using it for a while on both the Mac and the iPad and feel it is on par with Agenda software quality wise and does complement it very well.

I use Standard Notes which syncs across iPhone iPad and Mac OS devices