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Cover image for Best Mobile Note-Taking Apps for Markdown
Derek Ardolf for Dendron Inc

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at blog.dendron.so

Best Mobile Note-Taking Apps for Markdown

On the desktop, markdown-based notes can be taken in any plain-text editor of choice. If you're using Dendron, you can use VSCode/VSCodium as well as a suite of powerful commands to manage your notes. Though, what happens when you walk out the door? It turns out that your phone can work with markdown, too!

What we're looking at today:

Obsidian

Editor and markdown-preview screenshots, on Android, for Obsidian

"Obsidian is a powerful knowledge base on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files."

  • Cost: Free for personal use (or paid options for business use and other features)
  • OS: Android, iOS / iPad / Mac, Windows
  • Open Source: No
  • Built-in git integration: No

Obsidian is a PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) tool that provides a sleek UI to Markdown files. It had the best mobile experience, for me, out of the apps I tested. Though it doesn't have git support built-in, other mobile apps can assist in providing that backend. I recommend MGit (Android).

Obsidian uses wikilink style links (ex. [[my.other.note]]), like Dendron, which is a nice plus.

Paid options can assist note-takers with automatic syncing, publishing of notes, and other perks. Note that obsidian is free for personal use but requires at least a paid commercial license for business use.

GitJournal

Editor and markdown-preview screenshots, on Android, for GitJournal

"Mobile first Markdown Notes integrated with Git."

GitJournal has gained quite a bit of interest: it works on your mobile device of choice, free to jump into, open to contributions, and can sync notes to a repo (or multiple repos with the Pro version). The project is built with Flutter, making life easier when it comes to multiple-platforms as target exports.

GitJournal also supports wikilinks and can therefore be used with Dendron and Obsidian.

I'm really interested in seeing where GitJournal goes. I couldn't find other mobile apps that covered both notes in Markdown and git-integration, without needing to juggle multiple apps. With my Dendron vaults, I mostly take scratch notes or edit already-existing notes when using my phone. For more extensive usage, I hop on the laptop.

I will say, though, that I ran into so many problems in trying to get my first demo repository setup that I stopped using GitJournal. Other users are running into issues at the moment having to do with syncing and setup, some of which might be tied to a hardcoded expectation of branch names (such as master). I now use mgit for managing my repos, and Obsidian for managing notes.

iA Writer

Editor and markdown-preview screenshots, on Android, for iA Writer

"iA Writer offers a unique writing experience that lets you concentrate and clarify your message. Used by half a million people worldwide, its powerful interface is crafted to cut out noise, let you focus on what you want to say, and help you structure and trim your text."

  • Cost: $29.99
  • OS: Android, iOS / iPad / Mac, Windows
  • Open Source: No
  • Built-in git integration: No

iA Writer was initially released 10 years ago, and has since evolved to work on multiple platforms. Though it doesn't have git integration, other apps like GitJournal or MGit (Android) can be used for that.

Want to feel like a designer, in a sleek interface with minimalist and Apple-like branding? This is made for you. The editor can work across all devices: phones, tablets, and desktops.

Being a feature-full piece of software, including:

  • Style-checking to help improve note quality
  • Can export to Word
  • A larger list of all-the-things can be found on their main landing page.

Markor

Editor and markdown-preview screenshots, on Android, for Markor

"Markor is a TextEditor for Android. This project aims to make an editor that is versatile, flexible, and lightweight. Markor utilizes simple markup formats like Markdown and todo.txt for note-taking and list management."

Markor is without git integration, but can be combined with an app like GitJournal or MGit (Android) for syncing to a source repo.

I liked both the editor and preview rendering in Markor more than the other apps I tried. Syntax highlighting is a nice touch while editing, and the previews look cleaner than both iA Writer and GitJournal.

Though, the cons here are that Markor only works on Android and needs another app to handle git integration. Outside of that, I can quickly see why thousands of ratings have led to nearly a 5/5 on the Google Play.

Other apps of interest

There are many mobile note-taking solutions that work with Markdown. Below are some additional tools that Dendrologists have used for markdown on the go.

Markdown notes

  • Working Copy (iOS)
    • Git client, paid (free version can't push commits). This app comes up quite a bit for iOS users and within the Dendron Discord in our #mobile channel, so I'm listing it at the top.
  • Noteless (Android)
    • Open source, free, includes AsciiMath, KaTeX, mermaidjs
    • An experimental feature option supports Dendron formatted wiki links
  • Neutrinote (Android)
    • Open source, free, includes LaTeX / math rendering support
  • Editorial (iOS)
    • iPad + iPhone, paid, integrated Python bonus
  • Taio (iOS)
    • iPad + iPhone + Mac, free (or paid option has perks, such as Javascript-supported actions)
  • Textastic (iOS)
    • iPad + iPhone + Mac, paid, code-highlighting, ssh/FTP/SFTP/Dropbox/Google Drive support

Git clients

  • MGit (Android)
    • Git client, open source, free. There is a reason I repeatedly mention it in this article, when it comes to Android users, because it handles git repos well.
  • Working Copy (iOS)
    • Git client, paid (free version can't push commits)

Final thoughts

Users may also be interested in future development around the GitHub mobile client, which currently does not support being able to edit or contribute new files. For now, people can use the app to post "LGTM" to PRs, add thumbs-down emojis to issues, and get notified when your PRs are rejected.

git is not the only way to sync/backup your notes, since tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and Keybase can also help provide that functionality. I, and other Dendrologists, have a bias toward git due to a variety of reasons:

  • Following the Docs as Code approach
  • Treating all documentation as part of a distributed wiki system that can import docs, from any source, into a single workspace
  • git versioning
  • Anyone that has used GitHub, GitLab, or other git-hosting solutions will have git installed

If I had to choose what combinations to use, on Android, I'd recommend Obsidian with MGit (Android). The two, together, have worked very well for me. I'm also a fan of setting up SSH keys to have project/repo-limited permissions as Deploy Keys on GitHub (with Allow write access enabled). This prevents users from setting up SSH keys with user-wide permissions across GitHub.


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