Open source note taking with Joplin Listed and Distributed

Creating Notes

You create notes either via Web Clipper or manually. Joplin uses Markdown [2], a simple markup language, to define the text's structure. The built-in editor can handle three layouts: Either you see only the markdown text, only the interpreted version, or both (Figure 3).

Figure 3: The editor shows both the markdown text and the interpreted version in split layout mode. This can make input easier.

To create a new note manually, click on New note or New to-do. You can use the context menu to switch between the two at any time. Attachments can be added using the paperclip button, and notes can be categorized using tags. In addition, you can set an alarm; however, this requires an installed and enabled Notify daemon on Linux.

Secure Sharing

If you are using a small network attached storage (NAS), it is a good idea to choose a network drive for note storage. Because mobile devices don't have easy access to a network drive, you should use another option when you include such clients. You can then either use a cloud service in combination with encryption, or you can set up a WebDAV server yourself (see the "WebDAV Server Setup" box).

WebDAV Server Setup

If you run a small home server, you can set up a WebDAV server on it with little effort. All common web servers offer a module for this. For Apache, first install the actual web server with the commands from Listing 2, then copy the contents of Listing 3 to the file /etc/apache2/conf-available/joplin.conf, and enable the configuration with the commands from Listing 4. The configuration shown here grants access to everyone. If you do not want this, set up a username and password. The whole thing will even run on a small-board computer like the Raspberry Pi Zero without any trouble. Apache is considered to be a resource hog, but that will not necessarily play a role in a home setup with low access figures.

Listing 2

Installing a WebDAV Server

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get -y install apache2
$ sudo a2enmod dav
$ sudo a2enmod dav_fs

Listing 3

/etc/apache2/conf-available/joplin.conf

Alias /joplin "/var/www/joplin/"
<Directory "/var/www/joplin/">
  DAV on
  Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
  AllowOverride None
  Require all granted
</Directory>

Listing 4

Enabling a WebDAV Server

$ sudo a2enconf joplin
$ sudo apache2ctl -k graceful

Using a Service

Email providers like GMX offer an even simpler alternative to WebDAV. With your GMX email account, you are also given access to the MediaCenter, which provides 2GB of storage space. Via the service's website, you then log in with your mail address and password and create a folder in the MediaCenter (e.g., joplin/). Then enter the WebDAV URL (in our example https://webdav.mc.gmx.net/joplin) into the corresponding fields of the Joplin configuration (see Figure 2) and add the mail address and password as the username.

Click on Check synchronization settings to check if everything is good to go. Then press OK to complete the configuration. In the current version, data synchronization can only be switched on or off globally; the software does not support restricting this to individual notebooks.

When this issue went to press, the Linux desktop version had a bug that caused synchronization to run extremely slowly. This does not affect normal notes, but only those with attached resources such as images or other files – in particular all pages stored using Web Clipper.

Given Joplin's fast update cycles, the chances are pretty good that the problem will be fixed by the time this issue is published. Apart from patience, the only thing that helps is to switch on the synchronization in time to avoid a backlog of unsynchronized notes.

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