Taking Plain Text Notes with Nextcloud Notes

Scott Nesbitt | 15 February, 2022

(Note: This article was first published, in a slightly different form, at Open Source Musings and appears here via a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.)

There are a myriad of note taking tools out there. And those tools cater to a variety of needs and to a variety of user bases. It isn’t a stretch to say that there’s a note taking application for just about everyone.

If you use Nextcloud, you have a more-than-serviceable option in the form of (wait for it!) Notes. It’s worth a look if your note taking needs are simple and you want to work in plain text.

Let’s take that look, shall we?

Working with Notes

Before you start, you’ll need an instance of Nextcloud. You can either host your own instance or get account with a provider.

Notes should be enabled out of the box. If it isn’t, click the account icon in the top-right corner and then click +Apps. Find Notes in the list and click Enable. The Notes icon appears on the toolbar.

The Notes icon on the toolbar in Nextcloud

Click the Notes icon and then click New note. The editing space displays.

Editing a note with Nextcloud Notes

The editor is simple and bare bones. But more than enough for most tasks.

To get to work, start typing. The first line of the note becomes its title in the sidebar. You can use Markdown to format your notes.

A note in Nextcloud Notes

Nextcloud saves your notes as you type to the folder Notes. You can change that folder. More on this in a moment.

Organizing Your Notes

If you take a lot of notes, you’ll quickly wind up with a long list of notes in the sidebar. You can group your notes into categories to make them easier to manage.

A list of Nextcloud Notes categories

To add a note to a category, click the ellipsis () in the top-right corner of the editing space and then click Details.

The details of a note in Nextcloud Notes

Click in the Category field and select the category to use.

Selecting a category in Nextcloud Notes

If a suitable category doesn’t exist, then type the name of a new one in the field and press Enter.

Other Features

Earlier, I mentioned that Nextcloud Notes is simple and fairly bare bones. That doesn’t mean it lacks features. Here are a few that you might be find useful.

Previewing Notes

If you format your notes with Markdown, you can view how they’ll look when converted to HTML (or another format).

To do that, click the ellipsis in the top-right corner of the editing space and then click Preview.

Previewing a note in Nextcloud Notes

You can go back to editing the note by clicking the ellipsis and then clicking Edit.

Creating a Task List or a Checklist

You can also use to Nextcloud Notes as a plain text task list or checklist. Do that by creating a new note. Then, type this:

 * [ ]

That immediately turns into a checkbox. Type a description of the task or the checklist item and then press Enter. Doing that adds a new item to the list.

Example of a task list in Nextcloud Notes

Changing the Settings

There are only two that you can change:

To change those options, click Settings in the sidebar.

Changing the settings of Nextcloud Notes

Going Mobile

You’re not stuck with working with Nextcloud Notes on your computer. If you’re using an Android-powered device, you can install the Nextcloud Notes app.

You can create and edit notes, add categories (and add notes to them), create task lists and checklists, preview your notes, and even use the mobile app with multiple Nextcloud accounts.

There’s also a widget that you can use to display notes on a home screen. Or you can pin a shortcut to a specific note on a home screen to get quick access to it.

The Nextcloud Notes mobile app in action

Final Thoughts

Nextcloud Notes is a good choice if you need a way to quickly take notes and sync them between your devices. That Nextcloud Notes saves your notes as individual files, which you can work with using any text editor, is a bonus. As is its support for Markdown.

If that wasn’t enough, the Notes app is another way to enhance Nextcloud as your own productivity hub.