Setting Myself Free of the Bear (and Others)

If you work with plain text, as I prefer to, then you probably try out different text editors from time to time (or, you know, constantly). I recently tried out a nice one called Bear. It’s an attractive environment to write in, syncs well between Mac, iPhone, and iPad, has good previewing and exporting features, as well as a host of different themes to suit your preferences. All in all, it’s got a lot going for it. I used it exclusively for a while, and paid the first month of its subscription.

But I’m dropping it.

The reason why is simple: although it’s all about plain text notes, it doesn’t store your notes as plain text files. Instead, it keeps them all in some kind of database and syncs that via iCloud.

Using iCloud for syncing isn’t a problem, but locking my notes away in a form that’s not accessible to any other text editor definitely is.

Its export features are good, so it’s not that your notes are locked away irretrievably. But while you’re using Bear, you can only edit your notes — or view them, for that matter — in Bear. And that’s just not how I want to work.

It’s kind of antithetical to whole plain-text ethos, to my mind. You should be able to switch text editors without having to even think about it. Just open the file in the new editor and get on with it.

Next I tried the unimaginatively-named Notebooks. A similar setup with the syncing, but you can point it at a directory of files on the filesystem. It has its own strangenesses, though, in that it wants to keep tight control of the directory structure, and when you look at the directory in Finder or another text editor, you find it has been polluted with plist files, one for each plain-text file.

So I dumped that one, too.

And right now I’m trying Ulysses, which is very much of the moment, because it has just switched to subscription-based pricing, and caused much furore in doing so. I happen to also be trying out the SetApp service, which is interesting in itself, and which includes Ulysses as one of the apps it makes available.

It’s fine, but is also prone to dropping the odd plist file in my folder, I see.

In the end I’ll probably stick with nvAlt for short-form notes on the Mac, using a folder synced via Dropbox, and Editorial on iOS. Not forgetting Drafts on iOS, of course, but you only type things there to export them somewhere else, really. And then BBEdit or Sublime Text for longer pieces.

Those last two might become the subject of another piece, about how I don’t get what’s so great about BBEdit. But that’s for another time.

Setting Myself Free of the Bear (and Others)

My site was down for a couple of days. You probably didn’t notice. These things happen when you’re on holiday, it seems. The nice people at Linode were very helpful, though, and it’s all back up now.


I’m pretty sure that all of these are meant to be autumnal. Yet here it’s early August — high summer — and there they are, growing madly.