Notes Apps and Data Portability

One thing that’s become increasingly important in the days of vendor lock-in and siloed data is the portability of that data. In my notes journey, this is something that’s very much front-of-mind.

Whilst Evernote allowed exporting of data, its .enex files were a custom format, although there are plenty of importers available. I ended up using Joplins importer to convert my Evernote exports into folders of Markdown + Front Matter.

Markdown - which is just plain text - is ultimately portable. As long as plain text files are readable, then the notes I’ve captured over the years should be as well.

This blog has for years been powered by Markdown, starting with Jekyll, and moving to and Listed.

Testing for Portability

Standard Notes also uses markdown, so importing my notes was easy. However, as I mentioned yesterday, attachments were not imported, leaving me to manually upload and reconnect attachments with their notes.

Whilst gradually doing this across my notes, I decided to try exporting content from Standard Notes to ensure that my data was portable should I decide to move my notes in the future. (the note-taking apps space seems really busy at the moment!)

Unfortunately, whilst the Markdown data is exported, the attachments are not.

Most of the notes I’ve captured have been documents, receipt, artwork, or audio, making these exports redundant. I would be constrained to the way Standard Notes organises things (at least, without manual processing should I wish to move to another note platform).


Alongside Standard Notes, I’ve also been trying out Obsidian, which - using a completely file-based system of organisation - allows attachments to notes to be preserved through simple Markdown [title](./path/to/file) links.

Thanks to the Joplin conversion of my Evernote files to Markdown+Front Matter, along with attachments in their own folder, getting my data into Obsidian was relatively easy.

Whilst this puts the responsibility of data management on the user, a purely file-based structure feels more future proof.

The ability to run scripts and tools across the files (e.g. normalising YAML front-matter, etc.) is an advantage.

Unlike Standard Notes, Obsidian doesn’t include a blogging plartform. However, being Markdown, the files can easily be published to a static provider, or a service such as Blot, again.

I’ll continue working with Obsidian and Standard Notes to determine which of the two best fits my needs. However, the portability of data and ability to migrate to another service without too much manual processing is something that will be a key requirement.

December 21, 2022