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How to get private encrypted notes with Standard Notes

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Padlock as a symbol of information safety

Image: Jack Wallen

Security has become an issue of great importance and one that permeates nearly every aspect of information technology—from networks, to desktops, to mobile devices. As we go through the daily grind (and moments thereafter), we are tasked with keeping information and keeping it secure. This need for security trickles down from the software powering our data centers all the way to our note taking apps. After all, you might be jotting down information that happens to be proprietary. If that’s the case, why are you taking those notes on Google Keep, when you could be making use of a tool that is focused on longevity, portability, and (more important) privacy?

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That tool is Standard Notes. It’s 100% private (all notes are encrypted and secured so only you can decrypt them), simple to use, offers a growing library of extensions, and will last.

How do you get Standard Notes? That’s where the news gets even better. This encrypted note taking tool is available for Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, and includes a web-based version, so no matter what platform you use, Standard Notes has you covered. Once you’ve installed the software and created an account, you can then associate any installed instance with your account, and sync all of your notes. The only way to view your notes is to log into the app. (All of your notes are retained on the server, completely encrypted.) When you’re finished using the app, sign out and all local data is automatically deleted. Log back into the app and it will pull down your encrypted notes and decrypt them for viewing.

Let’s install and use Standard Notes

Installation

I’ll be demonstrating the installation of Standard Notes on Elementary OS. No matter the platform, the installation of the tool is very simple. The steps for installing Standard Notes on Elementary OS are the same on all Linux platforms and are as follows:

  1. Point your browser to the Linux app download page
  2. Save the AppImage file to your ~/Downloads directory
  3. Open up a terminal window
  4. Change into the ~/Downloads directory with the command cd ~/Downloads
  5. Give the newly downloaded file executable permissions with the command chmod u+x standard-notes-XXX-YYY.AppImage (Where XXX is the release number and YYY is your system architecture)
  6. Install the software with the command sudo ./standard-notes-XXX-YYY.AppImage (again, where XXX is the release number and YYY is your system architecture)
  7. Walk through the graphical installation wizard (which is a single window asking you if you want to install the app)

That’s all there is to installing. Once it completes, Standard Notes will automatically open (you can run it later by searching your desktop menu for Standard Notes).

Usage

The first thing you must do is either register for an account or log into an existing account (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Figure A

Logging in at first run of Standard Notes.

Once you’ve logged into your account, all of your notes will be downloaded and decrypted, so that they can be viewed. Add new notes or view and/or tag your existing notes with the user-friendly interface. One thing you’ll find with Standard Notes is that the syncing of notes to all of your associated devices is incredibly fast (probably faster than any other cloud-based note taking app I’ve used). Considering this data is being encrypted and decrypted, that’s pretty impressive.

Once you’ve finished managing your notes, you can click the Account menu (at the bottom left corner of the window) and then click Sign out and clear local data (Figure B). You will be prompted to OK this action before the app will follow through. Signing out does exactly as it says — destroys local data to help keep your information safe. In order to gain access to your notes again, you will have to re-open the app and sign into your account.

Figure B

Figure B

Figure B

Signing out and deleting all local data is simple.

Standard Notes has done themselves a favor by not enabling the saving of usernames and passwords for accounts. Every time you login, you must supply your credentials.

The non-free account

If you want to gain access to the collection of extensions (such as GitHub and Dropbox integration, as well as themes and actions), you have to pony up for the Extended account. For $36 USD/year, you get:

  • Note version history
  • Automated backups
  • Extensions

If you need any of the above, the cost will be well worth it. This is especially true if you’re looking to add a markdown editor or a code editor to Standard Notes.

Your private notes will thank you

Standard Notes might seem a bit simplistic on the surface, but if you’re looking for a tool to encrypt your notes (and do a good job of it), you’d be hard-pressed to find a better (and easier) solution. Give this tool a chance; your private notes will thank you.

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