Drafts as a Notes Database

V4 of Drafts was simply a way station where my text was entered, but always went to a destination outside of Drafts.

V5 changes this. This is due to Workspaces, tags and the macOS app.

Using Drafts as my text destination and repository has caused some challenges and I’m looking for others who are doing this and want to learn from their workflow and actions and strategy.

I’ve had some email interchanges with Agile Tortoise about this and thought it would be good for the forum.

  1. Drafts needs a step type specifically for Drafts. In my opinion this is a glaring omission. I can use content tags for moving my text everywhere except into Drafts. This is mission critical. Try appending an existing draft note with today’s date and time with your new draft content. The facility to do this is not there unless you know Javascript.

  2. What is the best way to store your drafts. Getting stuff in is unparalleled. No app is as fast and it’s what I love about drafts. But if Drafts is the final destination how is the information best saved? For example, I take meeting notes in drafts, do I create a tag for each area and create a workspace? All my tasks are in Drafts. Currently in one Draft, however, having a separate Draft per task would allow me to make notes and subtasks. With 150 tasks, does this become to unwieldy? Is the secret in setting up detailed workspaces to help you find your information?
    Should I create long notes or short snippets that become linked by tags? How easy is linking drafts, would that be better than tags? Can I take my draft meeting note and easily email it as an rtf pdf to all attendees?

  3. If Drafts becomes my text database, how much text can it handle? There would be no point if in a years time it takes too long to open or do anything?

  4. Is mass export possible? After a year I may want to permanently archive text outside of the app because the text is now redundant?

These are just some questions I’m asking and am looking forward to how you use Drafts as your notes database.

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I don’t use Drafts particularly in some of the ways you are describing, but.

For #1, what you are describing is possible via scripting but also via the URL scheme and if JavaScript isn’t something you are confident with, then utilising Shortcuts to use the URL scheme (or other methods soon :wink:) would be an option, or simply re-working an existing action created by someone else.

For #2, it is important to note that all of the Drafts are broadly speaking in the same place. It is just how you filter them that changes. I archive or trash things that are processed and have workspaces based on tags for different areas I focus on at any time. Nothing more complicated than that.

For #3, your conversations with Greg would be the DE facto response. He has the technical specifications. Also note that platform and device capabilities change over time. Bottom line is I doubt anyone has hit a limit in this first year and a bit.

For #4, yes. Utilising actions you can export to text files, JSON, or pretty much anything else you like. Remember Drafts was designed it the principle of capturing and getting text out of it to anywhere it needs to go. All you are doing is talking about volume and repetition, something our devices are very good at.

Hope that helps.

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As @sylumer mentioned, you don’t really need to think about where to store your drafts. No folder hierarchy or save as equivalent has to factor into your thinking at any point. This can be disorienting at first when thinking about Drafts as a long term space for your notes.

But it’s actually quite liberating. Because instead of building elaborate storing structures you can just worry about being able to call up the drafts you want when you want them. Tags, absence of tags, flags, and word or character choices are your note tools. Tag filters, searches and Workspaces are your finding and grouping tools.

How you choose to use them is often a personal preference.

I wrote a long post with my thoughts on this stuff if you are interested.

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I believe every database/repository requires a strategy. Perhaps with the exception of the Silver Searcher which is so good it doesn’t matter.

I’m becoming more familiar with Drafts and experimenting with various strategies. I completed a whole meeting using Drafts this morning on my iPad and email formatted notes to all attendees with 10 min of the end of the meeting after I’d cleaned up the text. I’ve also managed to create a quick task entry method and a search to find all open tasks. So far things are moving along nicely. I have too many workspaces at the moment, but that will even itself out once the workflow has bedded in.

Two things missing in drafts

  1. Specific Drafts actions in the Steps
  2. Being able to open another Drafts window. Often when creating a new draft I need to refer to other drafts and having multiple windows would be useful on the mac.

My approach to Drafts as my database uses a few principles:

  1. Alway name a note so your self in a year can find it, not your self of today. This may sound odd, but is very important.
  2. Make all your tags plural or singular, but not both and stick to it. It’s also worth noting that tags could be used to split categories starting with major categories and as the data increases introducing minor categories. ie You may have a client that you’ve picked up that sends you a little work. A tag “ClientA” may be sufficient at this point. Should the client send you more business you may include tags “ProjectA”, “Project B” and so on. This would allow you to see the big picture as well as hone into the detail. It’s worth thinking about this now as you can set up your major categories. It would also be worth finding out if you can change tag names in Drafts as this would mean you can be less careful as you can always change it later.
  3. When referring to people always use their full names or initials. Makes searching later a darn sight easier. Don’t use Bob in one note and Bobby in another and that fellow with the red hair in a third note.
  4. Be consistent. Whatever you do be consistent as this will allow you to find stuff later.
  5. Establish a date format and stick with it. I use 20190704 16:50 even though I’m in the UK and most people use 04/07/2019 4:50pm. It doesn’t really matter, but stick with it. I use this format because it is easy to search using numbers. If the item was in 2018 I start a search for 2018. This narrows the field. I can then go by month etc. Always add the date if it’s important. Why? Exporting your notes will remove all created dates and reset them to your exported date. If you’ve ever migrated OSs you’ll know what I’m talking about. Do not trust software date stamps, they are fragile in the world of export and import.
  6. Start with the end in mind. The point is not how easy it is to add the data, but how you will be able to find it if you need it. No point in having tons of text if you can’t find what you need when you need it.
  7. Establish how your storage tool will allow you to pinpoint your data and use that to built up your system.

Because Drafts is so adept at storing text, it would be easy to just throw everything in and then never find it.

Is drafts text on macOS indexable by an external app? I use Foxtrot Pro and this would be extremely useful. I’m not really keen on siloed data.


This is possible currently:


Thanks Derek,

I was thinking more of the Editor window so tags, searches and Workspaces are duplicated.

Reminds me of how people reacted when Gmail came along and popularized the idea of organizing e-mail by tags and search rather than the elaborate folder hierarchies a lot of us had been using.