19.12.12. Restoring Lost OS X Notes Folders
So I'm a loose fan of OS X's Notes app. It's simple - no having to think of filenames or storage, simple folders if needed, and it syncs everywhere. No dealing with Markdown. It's pretty damn close to a piece of notepaper.

Unfortunately, it has some weaknesses. And the most unfortunate weakness is that its data can be a bit fragile. The data is stored in IMAP on your mail server, and to keep things simple, I just had two folders in my iCloud mail account. All was going OK. Until the app had a mini-freakout earlier (it wasn't showing a cursor in the note area). I quit and reopened the app, and I was faced with a collection of local folders as well as iCloud folders. The local folders had 'recovered data', but I only had one new note in there. So I tried to empty and delete the 'recovered data' local folder.

Instead, I ended up accidentally deleting my Work Folder, and the ten or so notes I had in there. There was a warning dialog that popped up, but I thought it was in reference to the local folder and clicked through it.

So the notes were gone. I had to try to find them, but they were gone. The computer I was on didn't have Time Machine, so I had to hope that there was something I could go back in time and find at home.

Here's the location - {Home}/Library/Mail/{iCloud folder}/. I hit the time machine button once I was in there and was able to go back to yesterday and found a Work.mbox. I restored this .mbox folder, but that alone didn't cause the notes to come back. There are a bunch of folders and subfolders until one comes to .emlx messages. The easiest way to list all of them is to search for .emlx files. They don't open in Notes.app but they will open in Mail.app, with all of their formatting preserved. I imagine if you could open them in OS X 10.7 Mail.app, which still had the integrated Notes folders, you could move the messages into a new subfolder. But on 10.8, I had to manually copy the message text into Notes. It was only about 10 notes, so it wasn't bad. It's better than losing some of this data.

This did lead me to start looking at other options to handle short term reference that was as simple and convenient as Notes, but maybe with an easier-to-restore backup option, but I haven't found it. I am evaluating Evernote, but it feels more complex than what I use Notes for.

For me, Notes.app is a good place for temporary reference or some other minor/personal notes and lists. It's not a permanent archive, but it's a good place to collect thoughts before going into meetings or to hold onto some reference material from emails. Again, I don't need to think of filenames or tags or Markdown or anything fancy with it. I just wish it behaved a little better on OS X. I wish it was an iCloud Documents app that hid the file management part completely, but could take advantage of OS X document management (versions, time machine, etc).

Evernote may solve my problem of where to put notes after they're no longer needed in Notes.app, but feels a bit heavy for the use case outlined above.

Hopefully this is the only time I run into this problem.

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