Agenda has always been a great app for your personal note taking, that’s what we set out to originally create, and that has always been our focus. But while most of your notes are (very) personal, some notes are meant to be shared: a team brainstorm, a packing list for your family trip, the checklist Drew and I have for our next Agenda update, are just a few examples. In Agenda 16 sharing a note is now possible in a simple and secure way.
Agenda 16 allows you to share notes with other Agenda users and edit them together
Now before we talk more about how collaboration works, it’s perhaps nice to give a bit more insight into how this update came all about…
There are updates of Agenda that are relatively straightforward for us to make. Yes, they still mean a lot of effort and polish, but the plan is clear, the work that needs to be done pretty evident from the beginning, it just needs the hours to be put in. The Agenda 13 update with the Open Quickly feature is a good example.
Seems easy, was easy…
Then there are updates that are harder, they need a lot of work under the hood that nobody sees but can be tough. These often require you to think hard about how to solve certain performance bottlenecks, like in Agenda 14 where we had to rewrite large parts of the text editor and needed to migrate your notes to a new internal format in order to bring auto-completion and coloured tags.
Seems easy, actually not that easy…
And then there’s this one. This was a big egg to lay as we say in Dutch, an egg that was mainly put in Drew’s basket. He did a tremendous amount of work for this update. In fact, he started working on this before Agenda 13, over a year ago. It had to be interrupted by Agenda 14 and 15 just because we didn’t want to leave you without any updates for so long, and now finally ships today.
Seems easy, actually damn hard…
First, we wanted to add collaboration in a way that would fit the spirit and user experience of Agenda, a personal note-taking app. We didn’t want to turn the whole app upside down, it had to be simple, yet powerful, and what one would expect in terms of Agenda’s look and feel. That sounds easier than it is. It has to be secure and “just work”, but that requires taking care of a lot of work and details. Drew pulled it off .
But there was an entirely different aspect to this update. We are just two guys in a garage so to speak. When we started Agenda we worked very closely with our long time friend Marcello, aka @wrinklypea, who gave Agenda it’s beautiful look-and-feel. This is in large part what makes Agenda such a great app. Apple thought so as well and not only awarded us with an Apple Design Award, but also Marcello with a job offer to join “the mothership”. The latter was and still is totally deserved, Marcello is an amazing designer, but it left us without one…
Three little monkeys, jumping on the bed. One fell off and went ahead… to Apple.
The good thing was that Marcello had left us with a ton of designs for all the things we knew we wanted to add (and some we still want to add) to Agenda from the beginning. But the collaboration feature wasn’t one of those. And as usual, a lot of things you only realise you miss until something is gone. Long story short, we learned a number of valuable lessons, about our work process, about motivation, about how we work as a team (even as we are the smallest number that still qualifies as a team). One day we’ll write them up as a Talk article, but in the end Joe Cieplinski helped us out to get back on track and we couldn’t be more pleased to see this update finally out in the wild .
Sharing a note in Agenda 16 is simple, simply click or tap the new person icon in the top right of the note and go from there.
Premium: Inviting others to join a note requires the premium features, accepting the invite to join does not require the premium features however. Those joining a note can use the free version of Agenda if they want.
We decided very consciously to keep things simple and not add all kind of complexities like admin users or read/write permissions. Anyone who gets an invite can join and edit the note in near real time** and it works seamlessly with syncing of your personal notes through dropbox or iCloud still proceeding as normal, as well as a feature called Shared with You Apple has shipped in the latest OS releases.
Inviting additional people to the note is easy, we even make it just one click if you have already shared a note before with that person. Also unique to Agenda is that you can use a different handle for yourself on each note. For work, you might call yourself “Mrs Jones”; for your social clubs you might be “Janice”; and for family notes you could be “Mom”.
To easily distinguish a shared note from your personal notes, and to see who edited the note last, we introduce the user “bubbles”, which are colored balls containing initials, to show who is collaborating on a note, and who made the most recent edits. They will also appear in the recently edited list in the inspector to alert you that someone has made a new edit.
Quickly see who’s on a shared note and who made the most recent edit through the user “bubbles” in the top right corner of the note.
Important: When we say near real time we mean that the changes will sync within seconds, which is fast enough for almost all use cases. We don’t mean it to be a replacement for Google docs however; if you want to intensively work in real time on a shared document where many people are typing at the same time, Google docs would still be a better fit.
The notes you share are encrypted on-device before uploading to the cloud, and when stored in the cloud, so their content is well secured. We also take great care to not expose private details like your email address to other participants you invite. These are just some of the small (but important!) parts of what makes it just work. You decide who you want to share a note with, and Agenda takes care of the rest.
While this update is all about sharing, we can never resist to put in a few other things. With the release of macOS 13 and iPadOS 16 the App Shortcuts we introduced for iOS are now available on all platforms, and in Agenda 16 we added many improvements. Just open the Shortcuts app to get started.
Automate Agenda through App Shortcuts and create powerful workflows in the Shortcuts app
These are exciting times for Agenda, because this update turns Agenda into a multi-user and collaboration tool for the first time. It has been long in the works but we think it was worth the effort. And rest assured, those other items on the list are still at the top of the list in our own shared notes.
In the meantime, be sure to update to Agenda 16 and check out the YouTube video we made that shows you how it works:
Enjoy Agenda version 16, and let us know what you think!
Alex & Drew
PS The complete release notes of Agenda 16 can be found here…