I’m getting bullish on Bear

Bear has a pleasing interface and uses a nested tagging approach to organizing your notes.

Bear is the most full-featured markdown-enabled notes manager this side of Ulysses. Here’s what the developers say about Bear:

Bear is perfect for everything from quick notes to in-depth essays. A focus mode helps you concentrate, and advanced markup options are an online writer’s best friend. Full in-line image support brings your writing to life.

Bear’s winning features

  • Attractive, full-featured editor, though not as attractive as they’d like us to believe. It bothers me that the bullets our out-dented when they should be indented. (You can manually indent them further with the tab key, but they should be indented by default.)
  • No edit vs. preview modes. It renders your markdown immediately, but leaving the markup syntax visible. This means you don’t have to mess with switching back and forth from editing to previewing. I am putting this feature in both the pros and the cons of the app. It’s a pro because it is one less thing to fidget with as you’re writing. (See below for the con.)
  • Bear features an iOS app, and excellent syncing among all your Apple devices, though you pay for this with an annual subscription.
  • Well-stocked export options: HTML, PDF, Docx, RTF and JPG.
  • Powerful tagging scheme, in which you can create nested tags. Bear attempts to automatically match the topic of the tag with an appropriate icon. But in the most recent build (version 1.5) has added the ability to assign an icon — the choice of icons could be better, and the developers promise more choices in the future.
  • Live todos. Type “- [ ]” at the start of the line and Bear renders that text into a checkbox, which you can check off just by clicking inside the checkbox. This isn’t revolutionary, but it is handy sometimes.
  • Chrome and Firefox extensions allow you to clip information from the web into the app. I’ve found the results of the clipping to be quite clean.
  • Universal search of your notes.

Bear lets you render live todos. Also note the nested tag.

Bear’s weaknesses

  • Tagging is the only way to organize your notes. There are no folders or separate notebooks. The ability to nest tags mitigates this lack to some extent by mimicking folders.
  • While the apps are free, you need to pay an annual subscription of $15 to enable syncing.
  • No typewriter mode.
  • Lack of separate rendered and editor views. I like to write my text with markdown, but I like seeing the text without the markdown when I’m reading. The markdown isn’t overly intrusive in Bear, but it is still there.
  • Content is stored in a proprietary database, and not in individual plain text files, so you can’t add to Bear notes simply by adding a text or markdown file to a file in DropBox.

The verdict

Bear is a very attractive app and could be considered by many as the best replacement for Ulysses (or Evernote, even). It has taken me some time, but I’m starting to warm up to Bear.



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