Collaboration Made Easy With Simplenote

How does a small genealogical society with limited resources make it possible for board members and staff to easily access needed information like meeting agendas, speakers lists, scheduled presentations and news releases? They use Simplenote.

Simplenote ( is exactly what its name says it is  . . . a simple way to create and share notes. Even better, it is free. Automattic, the company that created the WordPress blog platform, also created Simplenote. It can be used just about anywhere on just about any device. There are apps for Windows, Mac and Linux computers along with iOS and Android devices. Each note you create or edit is instantly updated on all your devices.

Using Simplenote to work with others is just as easy. To share a note with another Simplenote user, all you need to do is “tag” your note with that user’s email address and Simplenote will take care of the rest. Each of you can make changes and see them almost instantly.

Your notes are written in “plain text”. There are no formatting options like bold, italics, fonts, etc. If you want to format your text, you can take advantage of the Markdown feature to add a broad range of formatting. Not familiar with Markdown? Check out the Writing for the Future article to learn more.

Simplenote on an iPad

This example shows Simplenote on an iPad. Simplenote supports Markdown. Tap the Information icon in the toolbar to display the tools panel. Notice that the Markdown item is highlighted. That means it is being used to format the note’s content. Using the tools panel, you can publish the note, pin it to the top of your notes list, send it to someone, review this note’s editing history, collaborate with others or trash it.

Note formatted with Markdown

When using Markdown to format your notes, all you have to do is swipe the note to the right and you will see what the formatted note looks like. Swipe to the left and you are back into Markdown editing mode.

Organizing your notes is also quite easy. Look for Tag . . . in gray at the bottom of the screen. Tags are keywords used to describe each note. In the first example above you see two tags – todo and storytellers-studio.

Tags panel

Tap the tags icon shown at the top left corner of the screen to display a panel showing your tags. Tap a tag and all the notes with that tag will appear in the workspace. It’s a delightfully simple way to keep your notes organized.

Tags have another purpose – collaboration. When you want to share a note with another Simplenote user, enter that person’s email address as a tag. (Note: it must be the address they used to create their account at Simplenote.) Your shared note will pop up in that person’s note list. He will need to add your email address as a tag on that note so you both can work together. If you are working on iOS or Android, tap on the Info panel icon while viewing the note you are collaborating on, then tap Collaborate.

How can Simplenote be put to use in your society? Here are a few ideas:

  • While the programs chair manages the speakers and presentations scheduled for society meetings, both the webmaster and the publicity chair need access to the information in order to promote it. When all three members have access to the note containing that information, it’s a lot easier to get what they need when they need it.
  • How does your society define what is on the board meeting agenda? Create a note for the agenda and add the board members as collaborators. They can add their agenda topics and, once the president finalizes it, it’s accessible to them all.
  • Simplenote is a great place to build and maintain your society’s policy and procedures manual. It’s a lot easier to update when necessary and it’s available any time from anywhere.
  • Simplenote is so simple that even “digitally-challenged” staff will find it easy to use.

Take a look at Simplenote. You’ll soon find all kinds of uses for this delightful app.

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