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Comparing 3 GNOME Notes Apps: Tomboy Vs GNote Vs Bijiben

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What I require from a Note Application is the easy of use, simplicity beyond the simple, a quick launcher and also I want my Notes to be easily recognized and discoverable at first sight without have to reading the titles. I am not looking for a persistent storing for an example an online service, since by definition notes is something you keep for while and then you throw it away.

If I need really to keep something for ever there are plenty of cloud services, and certainly is an advantage for a Note App to can sync with them, but it isn’t the first priority.


I am just comparing the three Apps that exist in GNOME Git and I am expecting from them to work nicely with my GNOME 3 Desktop. These are Tomboy, GNote and the newcomer Bijiben. I compiled Bijiben and GNotes from Git today, while I couldn’t build Tomboy, so I used the package provided in Fedora,  1.12.2.

1. Tomboy

First of, Tomboy needs a ton of non-GNOME dependencies to be build (Mono/C Sharp) and this is something annoying if you building from source, a small detail yet, since all distributor provide packages.


A nice feature of Tomboy is the Notebook creation that act like categories that we can organize our actual notes inside. Create a new note requires a navigation to menu  and File->New (!!) or we can <Ctrl+N>. Creating a new Note comes with a pre-existing text (New Note 5), that we have to manually delete. This is like having a search entry in an web-page that writes “Search” and we have to delete that before we enter the term we want to search for. A nice thing here is the support of Templates for your notes.

Looking at sync options, I can see Tomboy Web and WebDAV. As a new user, I am thinking What Tomboy Web is, What WebDAV is? Let’s Google it. The first link I will find is a how to connect Tomboy in Ubuntu one. The figures there are from GNOME 2, so a GNOME user that was unlucky to had Linux before 3 years he will suppose that this another Desktop.

The second link that Google gives me is Tomboy Official page. Let’s try the features page. This is much better. I can see Windows 7 Screens here. So I maybe have never seen GNOME2 before, but I have definitely seen Windows, it’s a start ;)

If people are lazy to make 10 html pages, write 500 words and attach 5-6 screens, what makes you think that they will bother to make a nice App? There isn’t even a reason to search what WebDAV is, and I just forget the sync thing.


Quick Launcher hasn’t been port yet to support GNOME 3, while the search is not instant even if I only had 5 empty notes. Tomboy is a powerful Note Application that even support plugins but.. is the definition of “From Developers to Developers”.

Tomboy is the most feature-rich and powerful from the 3 Notes Apps, but its features are either hard to use, or needless in most of user-cases. However once you used to it, everything seem pretty cool. If you are looking for good first impressions you won’t find any.

2. GNote

This seems a re-write of Tomboy in C++. It has less features, sync supports only WebDAV and quick launcher (status icon) has the same issues with Tomboy (not ported to GNOME 3), but at least the icon looks nicer. New Notes open in the parent window and if you close the note, you’re actually closing the whole application.


There is a quick button for creating new Notes, it also supports Notebooks and Templates,  it has an Application Menu instead of a Window Menu and it also supports plugins as Tomboy. While it feels better from Tomboy, if you can work with that, I don’t see the reason to don’t jump to the more feature-complete Tomboy. Also I don’t see the reason why GNote copied the design of Tomboy, was it so successful?

3. Bijiben

This is an Application written from scratch from GNOME 3 on mind and while it wasn’t build from GNOME devs, it follows the Notes Designs. Bijiben’s author Pierre-Yves Luyten started that without having a super knowledge of GNOME/C and he managed to create the most practical GNOME App alongside with -the not ready yet- Calendar.


I have done lots of reviews in Bijiben because is an App that I really love! Bijiben is meant to be a simple Notes App (and that is a huge advantage), currently doesn’t support Notebooks (this is a minor disadvantage)  and it has no sync with any service, at least not yet. Notes can be easily discovered with the first sight withe the colorful boxes, if we supposed you don’t have hundreds of them, but if you do, it also support a list view.

It hasn’t a quick launcher but instead has a search provider! It is also the first GNOME 3 App (as far as I can see) that supports the new initiative for copy/pasting which works fantastic! Search unlikely with other Gnome Apps, hasn’t a button but it works similar to Shell, just start typing in Bijiben Overview!


If you are using Tomboy/GNote and you want to switch to Bijiben, you can do the one click import! Bijiben will come in GNOME 3.8 and is still under heavy and very active development.


Tomboy is the most powerful Note Application from these 3, but it will hardly attract new users. It does more that it really has to and goes in paths that bigger and better applications and solution exist. GNotes doesn’t give anything new and seems disinterest. If you like it, use it, it works :)

Bijiben on the other hand is what is meant to be, just a simple Note App. It looks modern, it looks nice, it integrates perfect with GNOME 3 and is easier than easy to use.

In the end of the day, all three are open source apps that you can instantly try and make your choice. But I am really happy to see that *finally* GNOME will get its very own and very nice Notes App! Of course gEdit remains the King ;)

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  • Aldaron

    You can also try Zim, im very happy with it.

    • alex285

      There is also EverPad that syncs with Evernote, but for now I just stayed in those 3

    • seba

      I tried almost 10+ note taking apps, and Zim was the best. You can enable addons for displaying notes in tags instead of tree structure also. The best thing of it is that the notes are saved in plain text, I had strugle with other notetaking apps because of the format. Only thing it still lacks is encrypted notes.

  • Pierre-Yves Luyten

    Hub Figuiere explains here why he did port Tomboy to gtkmm

    Currently Gnote is evolving (changing UI). There are also “Tomdroid” and a ongoing “Macboy”. Tomboy itself is evolving (stronger integration).

    • alex285

      What Bijiben does, treats Notes as thumbnails and “recognize them by color/text”, is the optimal way to handle notes and whatever else. Of course you can add categories, sync and 100+ features but Bijiben’s design concept is the best way to do things. Everyone is following that approach for a reason. I prefer your way, Apple users prefer your way, Android users prefer your way and GNOME users I guess they will prefer your way..

  • Helder Pereira

    I don’t need syncing or anything fancy,just the ability to take notes. I started to use Tomboy, but since Gnote is pretty much a clone of it with less dependencies (no need for Mono…), that’s what I tend to install now.

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  • nonotes

    Too bad that none of these apps has a plugin to sync notes with Dropbox or Google Drive and access on a tablet. Tomboy comes close with Tomdroid…. But be prepared to set up your own finicky Snowy server. Not a choice if you want to share notes with non techies. With gnote you can symlink the notes folder to Dropbox; works will between linux clients, but no Android client. With Bijiben there are issues even between linux boxes when trying to ‘share’ a folder on Dropbox, let alone access on a tablet. This lack of necessary functionality in the mobile world is hampering the adoption of all 3 of these apps.