March 28, 2021 at 9:49am

The Archive

The Archive owes its heritage to nvAlt, which owes its heritage to Notational Velocity — a unique piece of software that broke new ground by integrating new note creation with search in an Omnibar. I’m old enough to remember using the original Notational Velocity. The Archive is true to the heritage of the OG, but moves it in a direction specifically suited to the zettelkasten philosophy of note taking.

What’s zettelkasten, you ask? It’s too much for this software review, but in short it’s a note taking methodology that sees the deconstruction of source material broken down into atomic facts/points, expressed in its own words by the note taker, and given a unique reference link such that it can be tied to other items of knowledge held within the corpus of notes.

A key to the zettelkasten, and thus key to The Archive, is the generation of a Note ID. Upon creation of a new note in The Archive it is given a Note ID which is a concatenation of YEAR MONTH DAY HOUR MINUTE. This ensures that every note can be identified as a unique item, because each note will have a different ID.

To tie these notes together, The Archive supports wiki-links, in the form of [[Note ID or Note Title]]. This makes it possible to create a web of notes, where each atomic note can be tied to others: a key requirement of a zettelkasten.

The app is a good Markdown citizen, and it supports the streaming API to Brett Terpstra’s Marked app. It can also be configured to use an external editor, should you have a preferred one. Given The Archive is quick and efficient, and supports typewriter mode, I don’t bother using an external editor.

The Archive allows you to generate and keep saved searches in a sidebar. This could be useful if you want to show all notes tagged with a particular #hashtag. I use it to break down my notes into years - by relying on the first element of the Note ID, which is the year.

A fun element of The Archive is the range of Keyboard Maestro add-ons that have been built for it. My favourites are the ones that search the notes corpus and allow for quick creation of wiki links. Make sure Keyboard Maestro has full disk access to guarantee some of these work, though.

The user community has built a range of alternative themes so the app is customisable to a point. It also supports multiple text corpuses (corpi?) but only one can be loaded at a single time. A corpus simply represents a folder of text files in the standard filing system, which means The Archive can be complementary to other Markdown/text editors. It doesn’t lock you in. While it doesn’t have an iOS app, the ability to work with files stored on a cloud storage platform means it works nicely with unrelated iOS text editors.

The Archive can be used as a replacement for nvAlt if that’s all you need. It feels more stable than that app. Of course, there is nvUltra in development - but that has had a very long gestation period, whereas The Archive is here and now.


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