iPhone App Review: Trunk Notes

iPhone App Review: Trunk Notes

January 25th, 2010 by

Finding a note-taking app that is attractive and easy to use is fairly easy, there are dozens on the app store with different strengths and weaknesses and 100% of them are better than the Notes app that ships with the iPhone and iPod Touch. Rarely though does a notes application give you much control over the manner in which you input and retrieve basic notes. Usually you just click “new”, type in your note, and maybe if you’re lucky you can tag it or stick it in a folder, or event choose a different type of paper to “write” on.

Trunk Notes on the other hand is a note-keeping app that is basically a wiki in the palm of your hand. You input your notes and mark them up using markdown syntax, basically a stripped-down version of HTML that lets you create attractive-looking notes using markup language which you (may) already understand.

Being a wiki, you can also link to other notes by either tapping the menu and choosing the linked page from a list, or by simply typing something in “WikiWord” syntax (any word with mixed lower and uppercase). This automatically makes the word into a link, and tapping that link automatically creates a new page with that title.

These features and the search capabilities would alone be enough to make this a decent notes app, but the recent addition of some new advanced features in Trunk has made it very powerful, as well as unfortunately giving it a somewhat steep learning curve.

“Functions” allow you to do things such as:

  • including an entire note within another note (so that editing the included note automatically updates the note in which it’s included, did that make any sense?)
  • create a dynamic list of notes which have certain chosen tags (each note can have any number of tags)
  • create a dynamic list of individual lines within a note that have a certain action associate with them (GTD users will find the “@context” syntax here familiar)

and many, many other functions.

...yields this list when I save it.

This simple line of text...

You can even configure in granular detail exactly what the badge icon tells you about the app: how many total notes, how many notes with a given action (“@todo” or “@inbox”), how many notes are due within a given timeframe (yes, an action can have a due date and there are functions included for handling due dates and priorities as well).

All in all Trunk Notes allows you to build, from the ground up, a completely customized GTD or information-retrieval solution. It’s purely text-driven, so it’s not the most attractive note app out there, but since it includes a custom stylesheet which you can edit (!) you can tweak it somewhat to make it a little easier on the eyes, much as you would adjust background colors and fonts on a website.

It has a steep learning curve, but for those who are looking for a unique and very powerful way to keep notes or keep their entire todo list, Trunk Notes is for you.

If you’re still not convinced, maybe hit the developer’s website and see if they can explain things better.


  • Extremely configurable
  • Flexible and powerful
  • Markup syntax is easy and very well documented (a little within the app and fully online)
  • Great Search function
  • Fully editable via WiFi access


  • Lacks syncing with… anything (you can email a complete backup as a very small attachment from within the app)
  • Steep learning curve
  • Basic, plain text interface (some may consider that a “PRO”)
  • No real rendering of tables (you can include the tags, and they show up in the WiFi view, but not from within the app itself)

Bottom Line: I love this app, but be sure you know what you’re getting yourself in for before you drop any money on it. It’s very well polished, stable, and robust; but requires a time commitment to truly get the most out of it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jjmancini jjmancini

    How does this app compare to Evernote and Things by Cuturecode?
    It seems that with those two apps, I have a great TDL app and the best note taking app ever…

    What void does this app fill?

    • dancemonkey

      I still use a todo app (Appigo Todo) as well as Trunk. I use Trunk as my general inbox and filing app. If an inbox item needs to become a task it goes to Todo, otherwise it generally stays in trunk but gets promoted to maybe its own page (if it's a research thing or question) or just gets "@done"'d if it's a one-off task or quick note.

      It's also my general reference tome, so lists of writing ideas, movies to watch, books to read. The difference is that instead of having a list called "books" that I navigate to and add a book title to the bottom, I create a new page each day. If I think of a book title, I put a "@books jdhfjhfhk" note on that page. Then on the "Books" page itself (I lied, it exists) I have a little snippet that says {{action @books}}. That snippet dynamically finds all @books references in the entire database and creates a bulleted list of the text following that tag and a link to the actual page it appears on.

      Evernote is a great catch-all, inbox, reference, etc., so if you're happy with that then Trunk may not fill any need for you at all!

      What I like about it though is its ability to be fully customizable. My setup is probably entirely different from anyone else's, and I'm constantly tweaking it to make it faster and more efficient for capturing and retrieving what I need to know.

      Phew, there you go.

  • http://www.appsonthemove.com Matthew Kennard

    Thanks for the review! Just to let you know … Trunk Notes 2.1.0 is now on the App Store – new features include voice recording and geo-tagging

    • http://www.drewlanning.com dancemonkey

      Oh, you just threw off the schedule for my whole night.

      I like the ability to insert the voice memo into the document. It inserts a "GO" link that takes you to the memo's actual page, as well as a "play now" link that just plays it. Tag it with an @inbox, set your badge to read @inbox actions as I have, and you have a voice memo app with a badge counter telling you how many memos haven't been "processed".

      I'll have to monkey around with the geotagging. Is there a report or function that lists tags or locations in some aggregate form?

      Every time I go into Trunk to play with new features I end up monkeying around with the stylesheet. This night was no exception.

      Thanks for the update Matthew, I love Trunk Notes!

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