Should I Use Evernote or nvALT to Store Quick Notes?

I am a big fan of Evernote. It can handle almost any document, screenshots, web clipping, you name it and Evernote can take it. But Evernote is also a fairly complex application and it is not always the quickest when you have that quick idea or when you need to store some information quickly. Also, it is kind of slow when you want to search for something quickly. nvALT excels at both of these things. It is extremely easy and quick to create and store notes. And the search, wow, it is blazingly fast and it searches both the note title and the contents for quickly finding what you want. So for quick notes I prefer to use a combination of nvALT (Mac) and Notesy (iOS).

If you would like to see the screencast of the setup see the video at the bottom of the page.


nvALT is free to download:


I recommend storing your text as plain text files. This allows you to access your documents on any device and it is all synced via Dropbox (recommended), Google Drive, or whatever else sync service you want to use.[1]

Setting this up is easy:

  1. Go to preferences
  2. Click on Notes
  3. Click on Storage and switch to Plain Text Files

You can also setup your sync folder.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the default look of nvALT. I’ve found a great combination of colors over at RocketInk that I have been using for awhile now (modified slightly).

  • Search Highlight: #00345F
  • Foreground Text: #e6e1dc
  • Background: #252635

Adding a Note

nvALT makes it extremely quick to add a note. In order to bring up nvALT you can create a keyboard shortcut. Mine is ⇧ ⌘ ⌥ ^ N.[2]

Once nvALT is open it is ready you are ready to give it a title. Type in your title and press return and then begin typing your note.


Like I said above, search is extremely fast. Just type in any words that you are looking for and nvALT will bring up what you are looking for. Note: you search and create a new note in the same place. The only difference is that to create a new note you just press return. In order to quickly go to the search bar hit ⌘ L and begin your search. If you see the note you are looking for you can click it or press the down arrow to scroll through your notes. Note: If you want to go ahead and create a new note add the title and press return .

Adding Copied Text

Let’s say that you copied some text from Safari and you want to save it in nvALT. Well when you do this nvALT will automatically also remember the URL and past that along with it. So copy your text from Safari and bring up nvALT via the keyboard shortcut ⇧ ⌘ ⌥ ^ N then hit ⇧ ⌘ V and it will automatically create a new note.

Markdown or Rich Text

nvALT can either handle Markdown[3] or your traditional rich text.


Notesy is an iOS app that functions much like nvALT on the Mac. It has the same blazing fast search capabilities and syncs quickly.

Download - $4.99 (Universal)


Drafts is a fantastic iOS app that I use to start any text I type on my iPhone or iPad. The great thing about Drafts is that it allows one location for your text that you can choose to send a number of different ways. At some point I’ll do a full post (or series) on this handy little app. But for now I have a workflow that takes the first line of the document as the title and then the rest of the document is the body.

You can download my action here and install on Drafts:

You will want to make sure to change the workflow slightly to send it to your Dropbox sync folder.

Download - $9.99 (Universal)

Other Helpful Links


  1. I recommend using Dropbox as many iOS text editing apps use that as their sync service. Google Drive is great but it seems that it is less widely used in apps.  ↩

  2. This may be a fairly complex shortcut so feel free to make your own!  ↩

  3. More on that later  ↩

Brian Renshaw is pursing a Masters of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is currently a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, North American Patristics Society, and the Society of Biblical Literature. His research interests range from the Gospels, Catholic Epistles, history of interpretation, theological interpretation of Scripture, and discourse grammar. Regarding his involvement with the Center for Ancient Christian Studies, Brian serves as Director of Digital Production and is also on the editorial staff. Currently, he attends Sojourn East with his wife, Jen Renshaw. You can follow him on Twitter @renshaw330, he blogs at his personal website.