Bear 2: What’s still missing

// Some things are still not there...

Bear hero macOSBear hero macOS

We are all happy about the release of Bear 2: the Shiny Frog teams confirm themselves as one of the few companies that really care about design and User Experience.

Writing notes in Bear is more beautiful than ever, and you can see the attention put in every small detail. Still, these changes (which are mainly cosmetic ones) did not bring any real adjustment in how I deal with notes.

True, we now have fully functioning backlinks, tables of content, and tables but none of these really change how I manage my notes within the app. If you look at the sidebar, apart from the ability to pin tags, nothing has changed.

I see two main improvements the can be made to improve this.

Make the Archive (actually) useful

It’s great to be able to move your notes to the Archive to not clutter the main notes list but, what if I want to search throughout archived notes using the UI? That’s not possible, instead I have to click on search icon (there is no keyboard shortcut to search in the Archive) and then start typing what I am looking for.

Another problem with the Archive is that, once a note has been put it in, its tags (if there are no other copies around your notes) disappear from the sidebar, making it easier for you to create similar ones by mistake (for example product-design vs productdesign).

The last issue I see with the Archive feature is that archived items don’t appear when typing [[ in a note. If you remember the exact name of the note you can still link it by typing it manually but this clearly hints at the fact that, for the Bear team, notes in Archive are fundamentally frozen. While I agree with this, this doesn’t work with my workflow, where I save full pages from the web, highlight them and create notes related to them, then, once finished, I archive them. Sometimes I still want to link something to the original source, in the Archive, but this makes it more difficult than it should be.

Maybe the Archive voice in the sidebar could work as a toggle (turned off by default), which allows users to show or hide archived notes and their tags. Or maybe something else: the solution is surely not simple if one wants to walk that fine line between beautiful UI, simple UX, and a satisfying workflow.

I understand that the Shiny Frog team wants to keep things simple, and I agree with that logic, but there has to be a better way to implement this.

Simplify advanced searches

While writing, I often have to refer back to different tags at the same time (for example a combination of books and research/ux or maybe research/ux and research/apps): to avoid having to type the tags in the search bar every time, I created a shortcut to open these quickly but that’s not far from a clean solution.

If then, let’s say, I want to do something more articulate (for example all tags with open todos in blog/drafts), things get even more complicate, since I have to try and the full list of Advanced Search Options.

We all agree that a clean sidebar is a nice sidebar but, considering it’s also the most intuitive way to access your notes in Bear, the current solution clearly needs some improvement (smart folders, in the way that Apple Notes recently released, seem like a good solution).

Also, enable canceled tasks

While I use Things to manage all of my personal tasks, I still like creating todo lists in Bear (especially when something is not part of a project, i.e. a list of movies to watch). Some times, naturally, I change my mind and I end up not doing something. It would be nice to be able to keep something in an actual todo list but still mark it as cancelled.

Don’t get me wrong, despite these points, Bear remains the best solution for taking and managing notes on Apple devices as its combination of great UX, slick design, and minimal distractions is still untouched.

Still, I hope this new version of Bear is just a first step towards a much better app (and that this time it won’t take us years to see new features being released).

Update 13 July 2023: Looking at the increased traffic in the Bear subreddit, one can see that most questions are about features that people hoped to find in Bear 2 but, as I wrote in the article, were not added.

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