Angry Robot

NoteStation Notes

This is the third in a series of posts about note apps/services. In part 1 I explained why I was going to try to move from Evernote. In part 2 I tried Apple Notes.

So, here we are in “Note Station”, which is Synology’s built-in attempt at an Evernote competitor.

Let’s back up a bit – Synology makes Network Attached Storage computers, or NASes. That’s basically a bunch of hard drive bays wrapped in a server. They are known for the quality of their built-in software, and they market these things at both home multimedia enthusiast type users, and small- to medium-sized business. So they include apps for photo sharing, video collections and downloading stuff as well as a mail server, Exchange integration and stuff like this (relatively newly introduced) Evernote-alike. If you don’t have a Synology, sorry – this article won’t be much help for you. But if you do, read on! Because I have one (nyah nyah)

Some trepidation is warranted: so far, I don’t use too many of the Synology-made apps as I usually find them not quite up to their native competitors. Part of it is the web app thing. Synology builds iOS clients (and maybe Android?) which are usually good, but on the desktop your only option is a web app. They tend to be good web apps, but I’ll pick a good native desktop app over a web app every time, and in most of the categories Synology plays in, there are indeed good desktop apps already.

Anyway. Synology’s Note Station web app definitely does less than Evernote, but Evernote does too much, so that’s mostly good. It’s much simpler and less crufty than Evernote. Some features that are present: rich formatting, tags, lists, note encryption, tables and charts(!). A plus is the robust web clipper Chrome extension, which gives you options for full content, simplified content, screenshot and whole page screenshot.

Aaand here I am in the iOS DS Note app which is surprisingly full featured – possibly even more than the web app? You can insert files and even “note links” – an obscure wiki-like feature that Evernote has but keeps buried in its menus.

Not bad!

Now for the cons. First, yes, having to use a web app is a con. I hold out a dream that someday Evernote Mac client extraordinaire Alternote allows one to use other back ends, but until then, no dice. Secondly, the web clipper is only available on Chrome. Maybe that’s not a huuge problem? But I definitely prefer Safari on my macs. 

Third and most unfairly disqualifying: IT at my workplace really loves blocking ports, and I think that’s why I actually can’t connect at all anymore to my Synology from my main work computer. I can connect from the phone and from other computers, but not the one that is ergonomically most advantageous for me to use. Not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does mean I will keep trying out alternatives. Next time: Microsoft! OneNote!