ShowIH January 3, 2021

✍️ Washi - my note-taking app project

Federico Ruggi @rgg

Hey everyone - happy new year!

In the late spring of 2020 I started working on the note-taking app I would love to use and it's been my side project since then.

The app is called Washi and it's now in early-access if you wanna try it out: https://washi.xyz

Some highlights:

  • Markdown support (without those "small differences" that mess up my muscular memory 😄)
  • Tasks as first-class citizens
  • Easy categorization, tags, global search, calendar integration
  • Code syntax highlighting
  • Inline calculations and unit/currency conversions
  • LaTeX formulas support (I find so weird so few mainstream apps offer this)
  • Web and cloud based, available on any platform (this also means that any browser extension that already helps you being more productive, for example, most likely works just fine on Washi (e.g. Grammarly))
  • An eye for privacy: no peeking, no tracking, no data mining, no unethical behaviors. Also, support for end-to-end encrypted notes
  • Shared notes

Some history: as an engineer and a manager I take a ton of notes – with paper journals, stickies, sketches, and a plethora of digital writing apps; over time I grew super tired of constantly jumping between apps that were all missing some small feature that I needed.

I did not start with the idea of building something myself, but rather from a spreadsheet of the features I wanted vs. the apps I used: since no column was acceptably "green-ish", I decided to try to build my own writing app. I've been using it every day for the past few months, and I never looked back.

Note-taking apps are weird beasts: writing and being productive is something very personal and I don't think it makes sense to try to build something that can satisfy the needs of every possible user; there's always room for one more note-taking app, and it's never a zero-sum game.

Washi is my take on writing: after showing my prototype to some friends and colleagues I got some positive feedback and I decided to try to open it to the public and see if there are more people that share the same pain points I had, and if my project can be useful to somebody else as well.

I took the best parts of other apps I used and combined together in a way that tries to be as simple and straightforward as possible, adding some personal twists on some common things.

There's still a lot of work to do, and this is my first time talking about it publicly in the open, hoping you will love using it as much as I do for both work and personal writing; I'd love to hear your feedback in case you may find it interesting. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out 😊

Cheers!

  1. 1

    Looking gouda :sunglasses:

    1. 1

      Haha thanks 🧀 🇳🇱

  2. 1

    Looks so good that makes me want to build it :D

    1. 1

      Hehe thanks! 😊 but let me know if it’s something you’d also like to use! 😄

      1. 1

        I signed up through the typeform

        1. 1

          You should have an invite in your email inbox!

  3. 1

    This is sweet - congrats on where you got so far! I love the approach of a note taking app closer to dev notes rather than the wide-spread Product notes like Notion et al.
    Im a UI/UX designer based in London, UK. Im looking to collaborate on an early stage project. I'd love to chat if you are interested. Let me know :)

    1. 1

      Thanks, glad you like it! Feel free to DM me :)

  4. 1

    This looks great. I signed up via the Typeform. Great work on the demo video. Love the idea of inline calculations and currency conversions. I am always typing calcs and converting in Google. This would be awesome to be able to do in a note-taking app.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Will send the invite out soon. The conversions are super handy, my girlfriend just shared this she just made while she's preparing lunch :D https://imgur.com/uuvx0TX

  5. 1

    Looks great, I'm really digging the UI.

    1. 1

      Thank you 🙏 glad you like it

  6. 1

    Sign up done ! I can't wait to try it :-)

    1. 1

      That's great! Feel free to reach out in case I may be of any help :)

  7. 1

    Already signed up! I'm currently using Notion and while I love its categorization and overall note management, its performance SUCKS massive balls. Notion runs like crap on my low RAM old Android tablet, and won't even work on an old iPad due to version incompatibility. I really hope Washi will ship with lightning fast performance as well as a minimal startup process so I can get to writing as soon as possible, simply because in the end that's what a notebook should be. I don't need my pocket notebook to also be an USB drive, a powerbank AND a projector and cause me backpain.

    1. 2

      Hello! Yeah, Notion is kind of a heavy beast :) Performance tuning is still to be done on Washi, but with my testing it should run just fine with low resources. The onboarding process is pretty barebones (maybe too much tbh 😄), but in general once you load the page you go straight into writing without jumping around. I second 100% your last sentence btw, if a paper notebook is more immediate/intuitive than a digital counterpart... what's the point then? ;)

      1. 1

        Hey there! Just wanted to give a few thoughts after giving Washi a rough test drive:

        • There seems to be Light & Dark mode but I can't find the option to switch between either anywhere. My work PC is on Light but my home PC is on Dark. Weird.
        • I remember there being a roadmap for Washi somewhere but I accidentally erased the default note. At least during the beta I think having a Roadmap menu button somewhere would really help motivate testers.
        • Seems I'm not able to do markdown tables yet? This one at least for me is crucial.
        • A bit slow when loading Notebook section. Other sections load just fine. I understand this is still a beta but I really sincerely hope you will pay special attention to performance.
        • Bit of a UX problem: Please let me click outside of any popups to close it instead of clicking on the exact X button. Again, I'd want my notebook to be fast, fast, and fast.
        • I'm on Windows and I have no idea what those Mac keyboard shortcut icons correlate to in the Help section. Tried out a whole bunch of combos but none worked.
        • Ability to create repeated daily/weekly/yearly tasks would be really nice. I find most other note-taking apps don't pay so much attention to task management to the same degree with most task management apps.
        • I understand and support Markdown editor but will there be a way to view my notes without all the markdown syntax? Perhaps a read-only mode or a toggle to hide markdown syntax would be great.
        • Ability to customize fonts would be great.

        That's it for now. In general while there's still a lot of room to improve and I most likely won't switch over to Washi at the moment, I can safely say I'll put a lot of hope in Washi and will come back to test out new features. You are doing an excellent work. Thank you and all the best!

        1. 1

          Wow, your feedback is super helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time to write down your thoughts!
          All your remarks make total sense: I am aware of some of them and I wrote down the others and put them in the roadmap. To help the visibility of work (which I think is crucial for this kind of projects, as I'd like to keep an active conversation with users rather than guessing or assuming) I made a public board (also linked in the roadmap, and I'll add links in the app itself): development roadmap board.

          Some things about your points (I added some of your remarks to the board):

          • dark mode is currently tied to the system/browser preferences, but I'll add a toggle in the settings page right away
          • Markdown tables are very important for me as well, I wanted to get them right though, I have a semi-ready version that I'll put live very soon.
          • Repeated tasks and scheduled tasks are coming :)
          • Custom fonts as well! Probably a fixed selection for now (at least monospace, serif, and sans-serif variants)
          • "I understand and support Markdown editor but will there be a way to view my notes without all the markdown syntax? Perhaps a read-only mode or a toggle to hide markdown syntax would be great." I'd love to hear more about this, as I think it may be useful to more users. If you want to elaborate your thoughts more I'm all ears.
          • The performance slowness on loading the notebook is weird: on my personal account I have a ton of notes and they load up in a split second. My guess is that the problem is in the network: there's currently only one server, located in Europe, and if you're connecting from a different continent it may be slow. Scaling and distributing on different regions is something I'll work on when the other usage issues are ironed out (like the ones you mentioned in your comment).

          Again, thank you for your inputs. If you want to discuss more feel free to reach out on Twitter or on the Discord server. Cheers!

          1. 1

            Would love to chat more but I'm not too big on using Discord. Hope you'll post more on here or I'll reach out via Twitter.

  8. 1

    This looks really neat!

    I'm super interested in how calendar integration works, or what your use-case is, and what you're building there.

    Looks like timestamped todos and then something something I don't quite get.

    Would love for my notes app to aggregate all my todos into one giant list like this kind of looks like you're doing!

    1. 1

      Hey 👋
      I built the calendar integration as a way to be able to not move away from my notepad to check my schedule somewhere else. In my mind it's the equivalent of a diary or a journal: I look in the past or in the future and "write stuff" about what's going on in that day. At the moment it's a read-only kind of integration, but some users are suggesting also write actions (e.g. creating a new event from Washi). I'm still trying to understand what would be a good experience in this case, because I fear the scope would explode (similar to what is, imho, a problem of Notion to some extent).
      I guess that if I want to change my calendar is fine to switch to a calendar app, which offers a clearly better experience to actively interact with it; browsing and passively reading, instead, is a different story imho :) But ideas are more than welcome!

      Happy you find the concept useful, would love your feedback! (feel free to join the Discord server if you want)

      1. 1

        Cool! I'm not suggesting a deeper integration, I just realized when I saw this I am keeping Todos in separate lists / pages / locations only because my current notes app (Bear) doesn't aggregate them.

        1. 1

          Yeah same here. The way I work on Washi (but maybe it's just me) is that I write down my todos in my notes (agenda or notebook) and then I head over to the tasks recap page and see what's left to do; typical part of my morning routine :)

  9. 1

    Awesome! I can relate to a lot of the use-cases/frustrations with other apps that you listed, and I also switch between many note-taking apps for similar reasons. This is looking great!

    1. 1

      That’s great to hear! I with love to have your feedback then, if you have the chance to try it out

      1. 1

        What's your preferred way to be sent feedback? :D

        I tried it out today taking lecture notes. Love the organisation of the app, it reflects how I think about notes! I ran into some UX bugs:

        1. if I made a second-tiered bullet point, editor gets stuck in indented mode. I can't get back to zero indent.
        2. if I make the page smaller (I had windows side-by-side to take notes), the text starts getting cut off
        3. In the notebook, if I write out the title then go back to the start of the line to type ###s to make it into a title, it won't make it into a title.

        I can provide screenshots if that'll help, turns out it's tricky describing with words!

        1. 1

          It’s super valuable feedback thank you 🙏

          1. You should be able to de-indent with shift+tab, but probably it’s a bit obscure. Simply backspace could work for most users? Wdyt?
          2. Yeah, gotta fix the layout soon. You can hide the sidebar to have more real estate in the meantime
          3. You need to have a space between the hashes and the title characters in order for it to work!

          For leaving feedback anything that works best for you: there’s the Discord server (the best place to have a conversation imho), but email and Twitter should work fine :)

          I’d love to keep talking on Discord/DM if you have any follow up, but either way thank you very much for trying it out and taking the time to write down your thoughts 🙇‍♂️

          1. 1

            I am in so many discords! :P

            I tried to join but it looks like the link is expired.

  10. 1

    Very cool. I was actually working on compiling a list of note taking apps today.

    Your project looks really good, nicely done.

    Quick question: where are the file stored?

    1. 1

      Thank you!

      Currently the data is stored on Postgres for the most part; optional backups and direct storage to third party storages (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) as plain text is one of the upcoming features, it should be ready in about a couple weeks.

      Regardless, they can be individually exported to plain text and PDF, with more formats in the future.

  11. 1

    Do you have a test account IHs could use to test the product ?

    1. 1

      Hi! If you prefer that to signing up sure, just let me know via DM :)

      1. 1

        DMs don't appear to be open on Twitter

        1. 1

          Oh sorry, fixed that :)

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