Go cloudless with TagSpaces, a powerful Evernote alternative

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TagSpaces is an off-line, cross-platform file manager and organiser that also functions as a capable note taking app, providing an open-source alternative to Evernote. With its plain file format, easy and portable tagging mechanism, powerful searching capabilities and  user friendly interface, TagSpaces is not only an ideal replacement for proprietary platforms, but it can very easily become an integral part of one’s personal and professional life.

Access your own notes anywhere

Probably the most notable feature of TagSpaces is its transparency and off-line file access. Popular as they are, most major note taking platforms will allow you little flexibility when it comes to accessing the notes you’ve created. Most platforms will use their proprietary file-formats, and while they might be available on multiple operating systems, you will be forced to use specific applications to access your own files and data.

The hype of everything migrating to the cloud had not missed note taking. Evernote is a good example of a “cloud only” system, that forces you to upload all your personal information to a remote server, which means that the platform can only be fully used while connected to the internet. Off-line access is granted with paid premium subscription only, which, apart from being inconvenient, and carrying the risk of data breach, is alarmingly reminiscent of common ransomware. Of course even the downloaded off-line Evernote files only be served in Evernote’s own file format, so that even paid subscription might only buy you a limited access of your own data.

TagSpaces offers a different approach, with off-line, transparent data access, and plain file formats, like HTML, markdown, or plain text for notes. You can of course use TagSpaces on a mobile desktop or laptop, running any of the major operating systems to manage these files, but you are not forced to do so. Syncing your notes would be handled outside of the app, and with your preferred cloud based, or non-cloud based platform, so you might retain complete control. This adds enhanced privacy and freedom to the fact that you keep ownership of your own data.

Consistent cross-platform user experience

TagSpaces offers many useful features, some of which are quite unique to the software. For first time users, it can take a little learning to make the best use of the application, and the interface built on the material design paradigm might require some getting used to.

tagspaces platforms

Getting acquainted with the application will be a one time investment, as TagSpaces offers the exact same mechanics on every operating system it can be installed under. This might make it somewhat less native looking, but a lot easier to use cross-platform, even without the need of using it from a web browser. Even the Chrome browser extension that offers a convenient file browser to find your notes look similar like the main application, although it offers read-only access.

More than just note taking

There is of course life beyond notes. While its web scraper Chrome plug-in makes TagSpaces as functional as Evernote, its capabilities extend far beyond the convenience of remembering things. TagSpaces is a powerful file manager and organiser, that can handle and display many multimedia file formats, including images, pdf documents and e-books.

As its name suggests, TagSpaces offers powerful file tagging capabilities. You can tag any file with a few clicks, and then later search and organise these tags with ease. The tags themselves work in a portable fashion, becoming part of the filename, enclosed in square brackets, like filename [tag1 tag2 tag3].extension.

For example applying the tags ‘todo’, and ‘personal’ to a file called my_file.html would result in the file being renamed to my_file [todo personal].html. This does not only eliminate the necessity of using a database file for tagging and organising, but makes the tags portable across operating systems, file systems, and even file browsers. The files will retain their tags in a human readable format, even outside TagSpaces.

Naturally, this approach towards tagging is not always, workable. In a development environment, and especially in case of collaborative projects, the filenames might need to remain immutable. Having listened to user requests, TagSpaces developers now offer the option of storing tags and other meta-data in sidecar file, currently available in the Pro version.

A paid version with real added benefits

Unlike Evernote, which requires the users to pay for accessing their own files, TagSpaces Pro does not force itself upon the user. The community edition is perfectly functional, while the Pro version will live up to its name and offer extra features for professional users and use cases. Apart from the before mentioned sidecar files, that make tagging possible without disturbing naming conventions, TagSpaces Pro offers a major enhancement in file search (including searching inside the contents of files), the possibility to add tags and descriptions to folders, deleting to trash-can (thus making deleted items easily recoverable), and signed installers for compliance purposes.

Active development

Tagspaces continues to evolve with new, updated versions released consistently. Its developers take user feedback seriously, and are usually quick to implement any feature addition/modification requests from the publicly open ‘user voice’ page, which ensures that the software will evolve in a direction that is increasingly user friendly, and covers the real life scenarios its users are facing.

Planned features for the upcoming releases include:

  • Geo tagging, with OpenStreetmap integration
  • Descriptions and comments on files and folders
  • Custom background colours
  • Reminder tags with notifications.

The list is constantly updated, as new functionality is implemented, and new user requests crop up.

Open source, transparent, and community based

Probably one of the best guarantees of quality and continued improvement is the fact that TagSpaces uses an open source software base. It’s source code is available on github, and users are not only able, but even encouraged to contribute. As it’s easily extendable with plug-ins, there is already an impressive user-created plug-in library available on their website

Being open source also means that you can easily follow the progress of any new version’s development, report any problems, see any open issues, and get the newest version as soon as it’s released.

Get TagSpaces

The latest version of tagspaces can be downloaded for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android, and as a Firefox or Chrome extension, or you can make a small contribution to its continued development, and support the creators by buying access to the Pro version directly from the tagspaces website.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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