I am intrigued by the new note-taking app, Agenda. I’ve been using it sporadically for the past month or so, but have been making a more concerted effort to try it out over the past couple of days. So far I’m mildly impressed. It has many thoughtful features and unique methods for accomplishing common note-taking tasks.
Date-centric Note Management?
The developer claims Agenda is a “date-focused note taking app for planning and documenting your projects.” This is true, but it seems to me to be the least original aspect of the program. Any journal app does the same thing, and MacJournal provides even more powerful meta-data and organization. Agenda is, however, a bit more nimble in how it handles dates. In fact, unless you specifically apply a date to a note, Agenda leaves the note date-neutral (I’m sure it keeps meta data about when the note was created and/or modified). You can assign a date to the note, but what that date is is up to you. It could be the date a meeting is set to take place. A task due date or a date to start working on a project. It can be a date in the future, or a date that happened already. Whatever is meaningful to the context of the note. You can also link a note to an event in your calendar — and when you open the event (the Mac calendar is the only one I’ve tried) you can click the link back to the Agenda note. I’m not sure yet if this will be useful to me.
Categories, Projects & Tags
Agenda has a pretty typical method for organizing notes in categories and “projects.” Projects can be anything that has associated notes. For example, I have a project for planning our upcoming vacation. I also have another one for Personnel Notes. Projects become folders for containing related notes. You cannot nest one project under another.
Agenda allows you to apply tags to individual paragraphs. You can also “tag” paragraphs with people.
Agenda supports linking, so you can apply some wiki concepts to your notes if need be.
On the Agenda
You can designate any note to be “On the Agenda.” You would do this with any note that needs more immediate attention. Then you can see all the items that need your attention regardless of which projects they may live in. There is also a view that shows you all the notes that have the current date.
On the right hand side of the window, you can open a “Related Notes” panel. Here you can see which calendar events you may have associated with the selected note, recently edited notes and notes “related” to the current note. Notes are related when they share dates, tags and people.
A note taking application should be a good place to write your notes. You should be able to quickly capture ideas and comments, and then you should be able to easily edit those quick notes into ones that will mean something useful to you and your colleagues. The editor in Agenda gets a B minus in this regard at this point. It has some nice methods to format text. As the developers put it:
Agenda is a styled-text editor. Styled text combines the best of plain text and rich text. It is as easy to edit as plain text, but allows meaning to be added, leading to visually stunning documents without breaking a sweat.
Styling text is achieved through a click on the small bullet that appears at the start of each paragraph when you hover the cursor over a paragraph (see the screen shot below). From this popup menu you can assign paragraph styles and list styles (including creating checklists). You can also assign tags, people, indentation. To assign styling to individual words, you use the gear menu in the lower right corner of the note. You can access these text controls via the context menu when you right click inside the editor. If you want to apply a format to more than one paragraph at a time, you need to use the popup context menu.
So far, so good.
Where Agenda’s editor loses points is in these aspects:
- You can’t change the font or the font size of the notes. This is a bit problematical, because the set font size is rather small. You better have good eyes or good glasses.
- There is no typewriter setting, which keeps the line you’re working on vertically centered on the screen, so when writing longer notes, you are forced to point your eyes at the bottom of the screen.
- You can’t open a note in a separate window in order to reference it while writing another note.
Free or Premium?
The developers say that Agenda is free to use forever. Premium featuares require purchase, but in a bit of a unique way. I’ll let them explain:
Agenda is free, with no time limits. You can use it forever, at no cost.
Agenda does offer extra premium features that require an In App Purchase. If you decide to purchase the upgrade, you permanently unlock all current features across all of your Macs.
Even better, any features we add in the 12 months following your purchase are included, and permanently unlocked as well. All yours to keep.
The current premium features, which cost $25, are the following:
- Saved searches
- Copy and export in markdown format
- Creating calendar events from within Agenda
The Bottom Line
I like the potential of Agenda. It is an elegant note-taking application. It is not a full-time solution for all my notes, and I don’t know if it ever will be. It isn’t a place to capture random thoughts or information. It isn’t really a diary app either, despite its date-focus. It lives somewhere between Evernote and DayOne. Does that make it superfluous? For some people, most definitely. But if you find yourself taking lots of notes for related subject areas, you may well find Agenda quite useful. The developers are still working out the kinks, and — as their payment scheme makes clear — they are incentivised to add new features yearly in order to get users to upgrade and keep their revenue flowing. So Agenda will evolve, and will become more powerful. I’ve been an early adopter because I want to support their efforts and see where they go.
One final note: As I write this, there is not a companion iOS app, but the developers say they are working on one and expect to release it the first half of this year.
Update: Agenda now features a way to enlarge the size of the text on the screen.