It is no secret that I use and love Simplenote — you really should use it too — so I want to share with you a tip for getting the most out of Simplenote when you are using it on iOS. One great thing about Simplenote is that you can instantly search any note and you never need to name a note — except that you really should be naming your notes.

The first line in your note is always displayed as the title of the note and I like to make use of this by naming my notes. This way they are easier to find later on — you know when you need that note now.

Most of my notes have titles like this:


It is a very simple naming convention — I start with what the document is (in this case a note) and follow with the date (Year_Month_Day), ending with a custom name that gives a brief description of the note.

The problem with my naming convention is that it makes for a lot of typing and keyboard view switching to accomplish in iOS. That is until you realize that all I type is nnt and TextExpander fills everything but the descriptive name. The advantage to naming files like this is that I can really drill down in searches, I can use the date I am looking for to filter quickly and I can see if I am using a note or a different file type (for example I may start the note title with Ref in place of Noted so that I know the file is for reference).

QQ Trick

The above naming convention works really well for 90% of all my notes, but there are times when you make a note that you know you want to be able to access quickly (perhaps you want the note to be a bit more ‘sticky’). For that I use Merlin Mann’s ‘Q’ trick. 1 Basically the ‘Q’ trick is that you start your note name with the letter ‘Q’, this way when you need to search for an important note you can drill down the name with Qs. It is best to use two Qs and then add more from there.

This is how an important ‘Q’ note looks in my setup:


From there I just add more Qs at the beginning as I see fit. The benefit of this is immediately realized when you start to search. I keep less that 10 of these ‘Q’ notes in Simplenote among the hundreds of other notes that I have. Even if one of these notes is months old I can quickly find it by typing ‘QQ’ in the search field and right now that only brings up three notes. It is very unlikely that you will ever type ‘QQ’ in a normal text note at any point.

I personally use two thru four Qs at the beginning of important notes, with four Qs reserved for notes that are really important. The nice part is that you can quickly keep tapping Q on the keyboard t drill down fast. Of course I title the ‘Q’ notes using TextExpander too, that abbreviation is ‘Q2’.


I never use tags, in part because:

  1. They don’t work with Notational Velocity on the Mac.
  2. I have never been a fan of tags.

You can use tags to accomplish a lot of the same things that I have written about above, but they offer no real speed improvement when you consider how fast this method is when it is coupled with TextExpander. As a bonus if you do use TextExpander on iOS and your Mac, be sure to sync the snippets between the two (you knew that right?).

  1. I have heard him talk about this before, but I can’t find a written reference for you. [Update: A few readers point to this Podcast interview with Merlin.
Originally posted for members on: February 14, 2011
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