First Impressions From a Long Time User

For context, I’ve had an annual Bear subscription since the first day it hit the App Store. I’ve tried out a ton of other note apps since then, but I’ve always come back to my nice warm home in Bear. No matter what sparkly object popped up in another app that led me away from whatever issue I was having with Bear at the time, deep down I always knew I would be back lol.

First off there’s a ton of goodness here, and overall I’m absolutely loving the new app. I can’t wait for Bear 2 to drop, period. So in an effort to keep this as short and readable as possible, I’m just going to go over the few things I think could be improved. Hopefully I’m not too late to the beta party (life was just too hectic to beta another app).

I would also like to state right here that the Bear devs should be super proud of this truly wonderful app and what they’ve accomplished to date (no matter how long it has taken :kissing_heart:).

Stuff that could be improved (imo)

Headings

  • Adjustable heading spacing (before and after)… this has been one of the few design decisions I’ve disliked since day one. For my brain, I want headings to vary in size not how much linespace there is below them… it has taken me literal years to know at a glance whether I’ve got the proper (according to the markdown spec) single newline between h1 or h2 and a ¶ or if I’ve omitted it. I bet I’ve wasted a total of 5 hours checking this one little thing since Bear was released. Having an option in Prefs → Editor to control the spacing before/after headings would be great… or maybe just a checkbox to unify all spacing before/after headings.
  • I personally think the new three line icon before headings is anti-user… it’s soooooo much harder to know at a glance what a heading is. Sure I can see if it’s h1-h3, but it’s nowhere near as clear as how it is in Bear. Same goes for h4-h6… yeah I can tell based on the position of the highlighted line where I’m at, but it just takes more time to parse that. I’m sure I’ll get used to this, but it truly feels like r/designdesign to me

The Info Panel

  • I’ve never been a fan of this style of hidden panel and now that ToC and Backlinks have been added, I would LOVE to see a dedicated Info sidebar on the right side of the Editor
    • I’m aware this topic has been brought up before in this forum, but I want to reiterate that I think having a full-time dedicated panel (just like Tags and the Note List are) for these two new wonderful (and super powerful) features is pretty important
  • Barring that, I would like to see sticky selections… so whatever tab I’ve selected last, is what’s selected when the info panel is reopened, even after quitting Bear
  • Barring that, I would love to see Statistics moved to the third position… I’m sure some ppl find that tab super useful (I use it occasionally), but its usefulness pales in comparison to ToC or Backlinks… if it’s in position 3 I can easily tap on it on one of the three occasions a year I need it
  • I personally think ToC should be the first tab, Backlinks second, and Statistics third

The Note List

  • When hide subtag notes is enabled, double clicking the tag should activate the disclosure triangle to mimic using folders… as it is now it feels a bit funky having to target the disclosure triangle
  • I LOVE the new options here though… hide subtags, hide attachments, and Small/Medium/Large are suuuuuuch nice additions
  • Forgot to add: I would love to see manual sorting for pinned tags… as it stands now, I’ll still have to add . or ~ to keep some stuff sorted to the top… if I could manually order my pinned tags, it would alleviate having to do that

Misc

  • I would love a typewriter mode… having this would literally make writing longer stuff in Bear so much nicer! It’s a testament to how good Bear is with everything else, that I keep coming back here for long-form writing too, even though a lack of typewriter makes this a bit painful.
  • Some new themes would be appreciated (this is by far the least important thing for me in this post)

Hopefully this wall of text gets read by someone at Shiny Frog… the only reason I’ve taken this much time to write this all out is because I truly love (and have loved) this app to a surprising degree and want it to be as amazing as possible :heart:

8 Likes

Fully agree with this. The new header icon design is a step backwards in usability.

Looks good, but harder to use. (Would prefer old style.)

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I agree with everything you said here. Bear is such a fast and amazing app but I feel these changes would make it better.

I believe the Info panel would be much more useful and easier to discover if it could be a permanent side panel.

I would also love to be able to link to any paragraph, not only notes and headings in notes.

Another smaller improvement I’d like to see is the ability to add an alias for a note link. This can help with very long titles or if you need to slightly change it to make sense inside a sentence.

For example, if I have a note called “Bear App” and somewhere else I link it as “The app of the year is [[Bear App|Bear]]”, visually it would appear as “The app of the year is Bear”. This reads better because I don’t repeat App twice. It is a trivial example but you get the idea

Also a long time user. Will add my opinion to your points along with a few extra nitpicks.

Overall
Agree that they’ve done an amazing job. Thanks so much to the team.

Headings
The fact that the markdown is finally hidden is one of the things I’m most excited about. But when highlighting it would be great to see an h1-6 icon instead of the three lines.

Info panel
Agree with almost everything you’ve said. For me, having a dedicated side bar with the TOC visible would be a game changer. A collapse-all feature would be awesome for the longer notes with many headings. Ulysses is a nice example of an app that implements this well.

Note list
Agree about the ordering. Pins only provide one level. Being able to manually order both tags and notes would be really nice. I can finally stop adding Greek letters haha.
Would also be nice to hide the last-edited date, it has never been relevant to me. Just a clean list of titles is the dream :heart_eyes:

Themes
What I would love so much more than extra themes is simply the option to create my own. Even if it was just selecting the hue for the main/accent colors. Duotone Snow is the GOAT, but I don’t need that red accent everywhere haha.

Personal opinions
The new tags stand out unnecessarily. Preferred a consistent text color and subtle highlight.
The link-editing icon was cleaner and more balanced as a simple chain. Don’t need that wispy little line :stuck_out_tongue:

Again, great job to everyone involved.

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Ha I’m with y’all for all of this. I didn’t want to get too in the weeds with my original post because I’m always worried about being concise… but I guess we’re all text geeks here (I mean this is a forum for beta testing a notes app lol) so maybe a bit more detail is warranted? :sunglasses:

I’m down with the stuff @Stephen mentioned like block linking and changing wikilink display names (noteName|displayName), but none of this is super important to me… I’m much more focused on the stuff in my OP. When I was using Obsidian, I certainly used this stuff, so it’s nice to have for sure, but at the end of the day I’m quite happy with what we’ve currently got.

I’m also 100% with @luro with one exception (so I guess I’m at 83% :rofl:): a theme editor. For me this is a double edged sword. I have a terrible habit of spending waaaay too much time when there’s an editor (I mean even when there isn’t an editor I’ve gone into app packages and edited themes :man_facepalming:) so I’m totally fine with not having one available… but I absolutely can see the draw to having one.

And I feel your pain with tag prefixes… I’m currently using ., ~, 1-9, and Ω for crying out loud. Manual ordering would solve all these issues (although I would continue using 1-9 because it’s part of my PKM schema). Also, why does Ω render as a stylized w in the tag sidebar but render just fine in the Editor?

Sidebar

Editor

Nitpicky stuff

  • More/better Tag Icons… having Drupal or Medium icons (not to mention Triforce or the Avengers logo) might be helpful for some, but I feel like we’re seriously lacking more/better standard icons. I would love to see more variations of notes/books/alterts/warnings and stuff like that. But this could be super idiosyncratic.
  • Would like to see more keywords added to the Tag Icons… I haven’t found search to be all that helpful at this point. Like all this stuff, it’s a million times better to have it, but I think it could be improved
  • I just realized that the Bear 2 importer renamed all nested tags with closing hashtags. That’s a bug IMO, as none of my nested tags contain spaces or “illegal” characters… I’ll check to see if this has been reported (I’m sure it has) and post or +1.

I know there are other nitpicky things I’ll add to this later on but I can’t think of anything offhand right now.

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Totally agree with everything. For me it would be

Typewriter mode.
Remove last edited
Headings
Bring back the h1 etc when you have selected a header and just have the same usability as now where you just press if you want to change it. Now i will create a bunch of headers inside a note and sometimes forget is the above me 3 or 4 so i can fold them all at once inside the H2 Headers and not leave out a struggler.

Local Folders
I just love the way ulysses allows me to use local folders to store my files and edit them so i can use encrypted cloud services as opposed to icloud.

Softer themes

I never knew how much i disliked these “coding themes” like dracula or solarized dark or lighthouse until i was able to change both the sidebar and the main editor in Scrivener. Give me some soft browns or light browns. Give me colors that are a bit more aesthetic. Especially in the darker mdoe.

Hide Tags

Give us an option to write down a tag or subtag and have it hidden from the page, just appear on the info. If you want. the moment you write or create a tag for a note it just disappears unless you go to bear settings and get it back…

Add more icons
I don’t know about others but i like to customize my icons . Also allow us to just drag tags one above the other instead of listing them by A to Z or most notes.

The “stylized w” ω (omega) is the lowercase of Ω (Omega)

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1000000% on Typewriter Mode… it’s really the one major flaw (imo) that Bear has… most of the other stuff is just a nuisance, but no Typewriter functionality is an actual flaw (or major omission if you want to say it another way).

I also saw your post on Dark Academia a couple days ago and would also love to see that theme implemented.

Along the same lines, some other “dark but soft” themes I really like are Gruvbox and Monokai, both of which I’ve used a lot in the past.

:man_facepalming:

Oh man that makes perfect sense since everything else is lowercase there… I didn’t even consider that lol. Thanks for correcting me :+1:

That said, I would prefer to see “normal” (I guess uppercase?) symbols in the sidebar…

I never know how much i needed typewriter mode until i started using it for the first time. For me the soft themes are just more pleasing to the eye.

Like give me this on bear.

Typewriter mode with a light caramel-esque editor. that is all i need. Oh and hide the tags in the editor when writing. I just want a clean writing / note taking app. It would be so useful to have a list of apps and my writing in the same app. Bear is like 90% ready for me with just the implementation of a typewriter mode and a few more normal themes.

Also i agree with the whole make our own theme like on Scrivener. It could be a cool idea but that feels like something that would take too long to implement and with too many bugs. Just choosing all the header and tag and highlight titles. It would be make the app go from simple and perfect to Scrivener light. That is an option for 2024-2025 kind of timeframe. When they feel a bit more comfortable and have given us a more complete app.

That‘s going to come in the next beta probably. Take a look into the update section of this forum. There you‘ll find a topic about backlinks and screenshots about the info panel

That’s already possible: [[title|alias]]

That‘s also going to come at some point probably. I would link the topic but currently I am on phone and therefore it is difficult to find the topic

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Thanks for the head’s up about this stuff.

I now remember reading the Backlinks and Info Column post at the end of last year but completely forgot about in the span of two weeks :man_facepalming:

But after rereading that post I’m super excited to use/see the new sidebar first hand… and now I’ll go necropost on that thread :sweat_smile:

Oh thanks, I don’t know how I missed that, but it seems to be working as expected.

I have tested Bear 2 and have not seen any bugs so far. Nice evolution !

Heading level indication

The only thing I don’t like in this new version is the lack of heading indication.
In Bear1 the heading level was indicated, and it was very convenient. In this v2 there is no way to quickly see the heading level, which is a pain in the writing process.
A design choice I don’t understand.

Table of content

Great function, but unfortunately there is no way to move the parts (by Heading) to reorganize them.