I read The Pragmatic Programmer when I was early in my career. One concept this book exposed me to is “Engineer Notebooks”.

The idea that electrical engineers have tiny notebooks they jot down their thoughts in every day and then file away.

For better or for worse, I wanted an electronic system to do this (the trade off being that physically writing down thoughts and ideas has been proven to be better for memory).

My list of criteria was

  • open source
  • markdown
  • able to sync across devices
  • lightweight

Since January of 2022, I have been using Joplin to take my daily notes. Each workday, I pop open my Joplin app, use the quick date short cut to label the note in my “work” notebook, and begin writing.


  • Quick Search (especially because I will copy error messages)
  • Markdown makes it quick to get my thoughts out and format them
  • Flexible and customizable (plug in ecosystem)


  • Sync can be cumbersome (using dropbox, but you can self host or pay)
  • Markdown on mobile is not my favorite (you can use a GUI but it takes time to switch)
  • Electron framework doesn’t work the best on my work M1 Macbook
  • Open source but the files are coded in a Joplin specific way