Saturday, July 31, 2010

Migrating Notes from ToodleDo to ResophNotes and the Simplenote ecosystem

[Shortly after I first wrote this, C.Y. released ResophNotes 1.0.5. Among other things, such as the ability to store notes as indexable .txt files, it has direct support for importing ToodleDo’s CSV file. He’d told me the release was coming soon, I did it my way just for geek fun. I’ve therefore moved the details of what I did to a footnote. BTW, turns out C.Y., like me, migrated to Simplenote from Toodledo/Appigo!]

Once I'd rescued my memory fragments from Outlook 2007 my next goal was to unify them from the former Palm Memos I'd (painfully) migrated to ToodleDo and thus Appigo's

I've been reasonably happy with the combination of ToodleDo and Appigo, but notes are very much a 2nd class citizen on ToodleDo (they're all about tasks) and their search tools are pretty weak. I also wanted to be able to access and work with my notes from my desktop on Windows and the Mac, to be able to back them up, to have them be exposed to Spotlight search on OS X, to integrate my old corporate Outlook Notes with my old personal former Palm Memos and to have at least one open source repository in the mix. I needed the notes to live in a standard file format (UTF-8 text or RTF) free of all data lock.

Sounds like a lot, but the combination of ResophNotes (XP and higher - free but do donate), Simplenote (Cloud, ad-supported or $9/year - I paid - see documentation), (iPhone and iPad app, free) and Notational Velocity (open source, OS X - documentation) gave me everything I wanted -- plus Chrome extensions for editing.

There was only one thing standing in my way. How could I get my ToodleDo notes into Simplenote?

I knew that ResophNotes (Win) would import Outlook's peculiar CSV files (embedded paragraphs!), but the developer, C.Y. I still days away from releasing a more general CSV import feature. I was impatient, so this is what I did. (see footnote [1])

During my early import experiments, because I used a Mac for part of the process, I ran into character encoding problems. Since ResophNotes doesn't yet have note multiselect and delete [2] I had to find its database and delete it.

ResophNotes exports and imports .RSN files (yay! backup!), but that's not how it works with notes. I found them in "C:\Documents and Settings\jfaughnan" in a .ResophNotes folder (hidden). To delete them and start over you have to quit ResophNotes, then find the instance in Task Manager Processes and kill it, then you can delete the files.

That let me start over again.

BTW, here's how the notes look in Notational Velocity's "Notational Notes" store:

Yes, each note a separate Rich Text file (I may convert to safer plain text) -- all Spotlight indexed.

Just in time for my birthday.


[1] Now that ResophNotes has direct ToodleDo import, I’ll include this as a reference for how one might support CSV variants other than ToodleDo or Outlook. My procedure was especially weird because I happened to have a Mac at hand…

  1. Use ToodleDo's Notes CSV export to my Mac.
  2. Import into FileMaker and use Calculation field to merge the ToodleDo Title and Notes into an Outlook style "Note Body". I next renamed the ToodleDo "Folder" column to Category.
  3. Created FileMaker columns to match Outlook's names, and exported as CSV. I had to paste this string in as the first row: "Note Body","Categories","Note Color","Priority","Sensitivity". I left all values except Note Body and Category null. In retrospect I should have appended "Categories" as a string to the end of "Note Body" to facilitate search.
  4. I used TextWrangler to clean up some character encoding CR/LF issues. This was only necessary because I got a Mac in the mix. Curse that ancient CR/LF screwup. It seems to have survived into the world of UTF-8 encoding.
  5. I fired up my Fusion VM (way better than it first was on 10.6) and my old XP image and moved the file over. I opened it in Word and saved as UTF-8 to remove any residual character encoding issues.
  6. I imported into ResophNotes. When I was sure all was well, I synchronized ResophNotes with Simplenotes and all my notes merged into one lovely repository. I fired up Notational Velocity in another window and confirmed all was fine there as well.

[2] Since the latest version can store as .txt files, I assume one could just delete all the .txt files! I haven’t tried this tough.


  1. I use Notational Velocity and Simplenote too. I only regret that the Simplenote ecosystem does not allow for encrypted notes. And how can I trust the 'Simperium' entity without any further information available?

    Another issue is the lack of rich data such as images. I know it is called Simplenote for a reason, at least some basic formatting would be great though.

    BTW, what is your worry with RTF? RTF is basically plain text and should therefore be future-proof.

  2. Excellent comments. I want to reply to the simperium trust question in a longer, separate post. The short answer - I don't trust anything on the cloud. Even if Simperium were made of saints, they can make mistakes. Even if they're perfect saints, bankruptcy receiverships are pure evil.

    Which means I don't use simplenotes for passwords. For things like that I use Dropbox and I do the encryption myself on my own machines.

    The RTF issue is simpler. Not every Simplenote client uses RTF. For example, the excellent ResphoNotes client is plain text. So if I use RTF there are translation issues. I'd like to use RTF, but plain text gets 90% of what I want and is mostly simpler. (Except for the maddening DOS/Windows/Mac/Unix/UTF CR/LF problems.)

  3. Martin, I answered your "trust" question in a longish blog post on ...