January 2, 2020 at 8:43pm

Agenda & NotePlan

Agenda and NotePlan: two apps that ostensibly do the same thing. They provide a method by which to take notes with regard to meetings, projects and daily happenings.

Design decisions

Both apps have been carefully designed but have ended up operating quite differently to one another. Agenda feels practically overwrought. It feels slow in operation, fiddly with a range of sliding panes, non-standard drop-down menus and a hybrid rich-text/markdown environment. Everything that is put into the app is tied up into its proprietary datastore.

In use, I often feel as thought I’m fighting against Agenda’s design. Yet it has the killer feature of being able to link together meetings in a continuous timeline.

Additionally, it allows me to attach files, take photos and create a rich tapestry of notes in relation to a project. The only problem is that because the note-taking itself is so obtuse, many of my notes say something like refer to notes taken in OmniOutliner”. Not great.

NotePlan feels lightweight. It feels like I’m writing in a straight-forward text field that supports markdown. In essence, behind the scenes this is what is happening. NotePlan creates a .md text file for each day that a note is created and stores it in the file system. It supports tagging which is how project notes can be tied together with the support of a search filter.

My usage

I used NotePlan consistently for about 6 months, but realised that I wasn’t getting any benefit from the history of notes I had taken. Things were getting lost, rendering the whole use of the app almost pointless.

So I purchased Agenda and moved in. This does a better job of enabling the review of notes, but the friction associated with getting data in is the roadblock.

Both apps offer feature parity across macOS, iOS and iPadOS.

How to buy

NotePlan is available via Setapp or as a standalone purchase. Agenda has a fair freemium/pseudo-subscription model whereby you keep forever the features the app has at that moment, plus anything added in the coming 12 months. If you want features beyond that, you pay once again.

The upshot

It’s hard to say which is better. They are both great, and both infuriating. I’m currently in the Agenda camp, but only just. I continue to look over the parapets to see how the other is performing. I own both, so the barrier to entry is low. Switching costs associated with data migration is the major factor, and that is not much.

I cannot provide a recommendation to others, but I am interested in alternative views.


software review


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