Sorry, TaskPaper, it’s not you, it’s me… 👋
I recently wrote a comparison of Craft and Notion. I didn’t really like either. I didn’t really get it. I moaned about Things. I sang the praises of plain text and TaskPaper. I clutched my notebooks firmly to my chest. My problem, dear reader, was that I didn’t really have a system to manage my notes, ideas, various miscellanea and scraps around what I do. Ideally, I wanted to keep everything in one place, but I couldn’t find the right solution. Since the last article, though, I’ve spent more time with Craft – and you’ll never guess what: I’ve only gone and subscribed! Here’s why…
I explored various solutions to my issue. I’d heard a lot about OmniFocus. A friend of mine swears by it. I had a look, but it’s expensive and seems excessively complicated, at least for my needs – something about a sledgehammer and a walnut comes to mind. I wanted something simple and flexible, and that’s why TaskPaper appealed.
I used TaskPaper for a few months. I’m a big fan of plain text’s simplicity, lightness and speed. TaskPaper has strong points, but it proved impractical on a day-to-day basis. The more I used it, the more I became aware of its limitations. This was especially when trying to sync to iOS – something I managed to fudge using iA Writer, but it wasn’t ideal.
So, things didn’t work out with TaskPaper, and I’d still got stuff all over the place. I needed something more focussed, more unified. Something that syncs across Mac and iOS, and allows easy manipulation of content. I wanted to be able to move tasks between days of the week or just change their order on any given day. And I want to be able to add or edit notes anywhere.
Given these criteria, I realised I had to abandon my somewhat Luddite attitude and plain text leanings.
Like the cockpit of a luxury car, Craft is a really nice place to be
Looking for a solution, I tried Things again. I still couldn’t get on with this app, though. I wanted to like it, I really did. I tried to set it up in different ways, created “areas”, used emojis – all the stuff so popular with the nerds. But it quickly became cluttered, with this kind of textual fan dance, showing me some but not all unless I clicked or hit return.
And the greatest annoyance about Things? The one aspect I just couldn’t get past? You can’t hide Anytime and Someday! I never use these! Ever! I never use them, and I don’t want to see them. I’m even getting frustrated thinking about it! Apps that force us to do things a certain way are the kind of thing I expect from Microsoft. Once again, Things was ditched.
I remained stumped.
Then I remembered Craft. Could that be the answer? Despite previously writing somewhat sniffily about this new kid on the block, I paid another visit.
And my opinion has changed completely.
Somehow, on revisiting Craft I immediately saw how it could work for me: separate pages for different projects; pages within pages if I want; templates for my weekly plan and repeating work; task lists, notes – pretty much anything. Craft isn’t plain text, but it’s an incredibly versatile blank canvas that you can set up however you wish.
Here are the features I’ve found most useful so far:
- For repeating projects, creating templates as pages in Craft
- Linking to pages from entries in my weekly plan or Daily Notes
- Links between documents within Craft are easy and fast
- Resting the cursor over an internal link gives a preview of that page – a nice touch that can sometimes provide all the information I want without having to actually open the page
- Links to other documents, applications or websites are inserted using CMD+K, providing a formatted link without having to see the code – as implemented in Ulysses
- Swiping and keyboard navigation are extremely intuitive – not much to learn here!
- Some aspects of markdown have been simplified: for example, typing the letter x followed by a space creates a task checkbox
- Formatting isn’t applied across the entire page; it’s possible to format blocks independently, for example if you want some text in a monospace font while the rest is a modern sans serif
- Links don’t break if you change the text!
Craft has highly polished aesthetics. Like the cockpit of a luxury car, Craft is just a nice place to be. Although I was initially cynical about all the prettification options in Craft, it turns out these are very useful, encourage creativity, and are just fun. By using the text formatting options judiciously, it’s possible to create a tasteful, sophisticated appearance across all of your documents in a way I don’t think is achievable in other apps.
The environment when working within Craft feels like a very unified and self-contained system, and a genuine companion to Ulysses. Both apps are from European developers: is that a contributory factor? 🇪🇺
Craft is widely referred to as “a note-taking app”; to my mind, note-taking apps are programs such as The Archive, Obsidian and Roam Research; I can see why some people give Craft this label, but I think it’s a very different, and much more versatile proposition. Although, it would be fair to say that this very versatility means it could be a simple note-taking app, if that’s what you want.
I don’t think I’ll use Craft for actual writing: Ulysses, Scrivener and Drafts will remain my weapons of choice there. But as a repository for resources, links, notes and all the stuff that surrounds projects, coupled with the ability to link out to other applications via x-callback-URLs, I think Craft could prove invaluable.
If you’re in the Apple ecosystem, I think Craft’s a far better option than Notion, not least because the information is stored locally rather than on a server somewhere. For the full package, Craft has a subscription in line with that of Ulysses. But the free option will offer a good idea of the experience, and may be all many people need. And if you’re a teacher or student, there’s always that discount.
Craft is seeing rapid updates, and I look forward to seeing what features the developers introduce next.
I’m a writer, Royal Literary Fund Fellow, workshop lead and creative coach. Subscribe for updates, sneak peeks and early bird discounts.