Why I wish I could use Agenda more

I know I’m going beyond the scope of a note taking app, but I’ve just spent far too long writing a report in Pages - and it was horrible. (And it would probably have been worse in Word.)

Wasted so much time editing heading sizes, line spacing, setting and applying styles etc. Distracted by page the page layout on screen. And fiddling around to make inserted images move with text properly.

Coming back to Agenda it is just so clean. No faff, just write. If only I could write reports here! Luckily I don’t have to write them often.


I guess that is the emphasis that a note taking app puts on efficiency versus flexibility. Word processors give you more control, but require endless tweaking.

When you say you can’t write reports in Agenda, what aspects are you missing to do that?

Ok! Things I’d need to be able to write reports etc in Agenda. This is assuming my ideal workflow of writing in Agenda then exporting to pdf for emailing to client with no further manipulation:

  1. Some way of creating a cover page with report title, logo, date etc
  2. Page break between cover page and body of the report
  3. Table of contents, page break
  4. Body of report with page numbers (possibly numbered headings)
  5. Intelligent, automatic page breaks, so for example images (and tables when they come) aren’t broken across pages, headings ‘keep with next paragraph’, no widows, orphans.
  6. Appendices each starting on new pages

I realise some of this goes way beyond a note taking app! However, there are a couple things that would make a workaround possible:

  1. The ability to hide or suppress the ‘on the Agenda’ check box in the note title (This looks weird out of context!)
  2. ditto the date - though I could manually remove that, but that might be unhelpful in terms of not management
  3. Alternatively, an option to have the title on a header page
  4. Intelligent automatic page breaks as above

With these features, I could write the report in Agenda, create the report cover in Pages, export both to pdf, and join the cover and report together in Preview. I could also create any appendices as separate notes, export these and join in Preview.

I’ve just tested exporting a whole project as pdf and realise having an option in the export dialog to start each note on new page would be helpful.

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Thanks for the feedback!

Indeed, some of these things would push Agenda too much in the direction of word processor, and may make it more cumbersome to use. Others may be possible down the track.

For now you are probably best to write stuff in Agenda, and then copy it to Pages for final “prettification”

If you ‘copy’ the styles are lost, so it needs to be ‘export as rtf’. This doesn’t include any images - and for me having the images in the place I am composing is important for the thinking process.

Also, weirdly, if I compare the same note exported to pdf and ‘exported to rtf, opened in Pages’, there are more lines on the page in the pdf than in Pages. The output is great in the pdf, but line spacing are too big in Pages. And because the heading attributes have been lost, it’s not possible to edit the styles - it would mean editing each para, which takes me back to what I’m trying to avoid!

Suppressing the ‘on the Agenda’ check box and intelligent pages breaks when exporting to pdf would be a huge help!

Copy does put rich text on the pasteboard. Perhaps you need to choose a different Edit > Paste option. I think Pages has two different ones.

You do lose the attachments at this point, yes, but perhaps you could drag those over, depending on the length of the report.

Of course, rich text is not the same as styles. I am not aware of how we copy send the styles (eg heading) to Pages, unless it supports HTML. Have you tried Copy As HTML?


Pages offers:

  • “Paste” which maintains formating but no style attributes
  • “Paste and match style” which pastes everything into the default style of the Pages document (i.e. ‘body’)

Unfortunately style attributes aren’t maintained with html either.

If you have lots of reports to write like this, and they‘re all in the same style, I would strongly recommend Ulysses. It requires a one-off investment of time (and a small learning curve) to produce a Ulysses style-sheet which will export your markdown text as a fully formatted Word Doc or PDF in the style you want it, but once you’ve done it, it will save hours of formatting in the long term. Ulysses integrates beautifully with Agenda — both use Markdown — and Ulysses will open Agenda’s .md files. Plus it also works seamlessly across Mac/iOS.

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I used to use Ulysses, but stopped when the subscription came in. I never got to grips with the style sheet, but it may have improved since then. The subscription level isn’t outrageous, but it’s one of those things I need only from time to time, and all these different subscriptions add up!

Scrivener is somewhat like Ulysses, but better and without subscription. :wink:

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I don’t know much about it, but if you are a little technical, you can use pandoc command line tool to convert. Seems there are even ways to give it styles.


Command line interface is not for me! I’ve been using a GUI interface since AppleII days.

Scrivener doesn’t seem to support markdown. It’s not clear how it would handle importing rich text. I could try it, but it’s yet another app, and it has tons of bells and whistles I don’t need.

Agreed. Get Scrivener. Better is subjective. But I like it over Ulysses. But both are good.

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But not suitable for my use case! I don’t want another complex writing app. I want to write my reports in Agenda, because they start off as notes. Ideally I’d like to complete them in Agenda, but in the absence of that, export a final draft to another app to add title page, table of contents, page numbers etc - with minimum friction! That means styling attributes of paragraphs and headings are maintained, and are recognised by the final editing app. This is necessary to generate a table of contents.

iA Writer is another Markdown editor that can export to HTML, PDF, and DOCX.

If you want ultimate control over everything and are willing to put in the time and effort to learn seriously powerful software, and automate your workflow, while sacrificing some UI polish, write your documents in Emacs and convert to any format you need with Pandoc.

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See my post immediately above!

The trouble with what you’re looking for is that in spite of what an editing application might show on the screen, it handles and stores semantic data and aesthetic data independentl of one another. Agenda (and any other app mentioned here) can theoretically export a document that specifies, “this is a heading; this is body text; this is a blockquote,” etc. Many actually do have that feature. But the internal settings of the application that you then use to open up the exported document dictate how all those things will look on the screen inside its own window. It’s still entirely up to you to configure those settings as you see fit. Achieving minimal friction for yourself sometimes means sanding down some surfaces to your desired level of smoothness.

Absolutely! Unfortunately Agenda doesn’t. And I want to write in Agenda, and do final layout, cover etc, in another app.

Agenda does. HTML is exactly the information you are looking for. Markdown has similar information content as HTML (it is designed for that purpose).

So Agenda actually can export the semantic information for you, but you need to import that in some other tool that can then style the output.

Apologies! So Pages isn’t picking up the semantic info from the html file.

The more I think about the overall workflow, the more I’m inclined to try to go straight from Agenda to pdf where I can. Getting to grips with another app between Agenda and pdf is a layer of complication and cost I don’t need (Pages is free and I’m comfortable using it - but doesn’t pick up the semantic info).