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CherryTree Takes the Pits Out of Pruning Your Notes

By Jack M. Germain
Sep 4, 2013 5:00 AM PT

CherryTree Takes the Pits Out of Pruning Your Notes

Keeping track of my bits and pieces of information across several computers running Linux and Microsoft Windows has long been a problem. CherryTree is a sweet solution that keeps my information local and cloud-free. CherryTree is an outliner-style hierarchical note-taking application that features rich text and syntax highlighting. It stores data in a single XML or SQLite file.

CherryTree preferences panel
CherryTree's preferences panel has limited but useful configuration options.

I was a longtime user of Notecase Manager, which was discontinued in 2008 and later returned as a paid Pro application. I hadn't found a suitable clone-type replacement for Notecase Manager until I discovered CherryTree.

CherryTree's hierarchical interface mimics the functionality of the original Notecase Manager. It even imports my old Notecase manager database.

Perfect Portability

Just like the app it replaces in my note-keeping arsenal, CherryTree's database storage file can easily be tucked away on a USB drive. Of course, the hard drive storage is my backup. I can take it with me and always have the most current content to load on any computer I use.

I particularly like the flexibility that CherryTree offers. For example, I keep an exported plain text file on the same USB drive. I can open it with any text editor or word processor and find any string of information I need by using the viewing application's search feature.

This gives me the best of both worlds. I can access my stored information on any computer platform, whether or not CherryTree is installed.

I even keep a copy of this text file in my Android phone and tablet. I can easily add new information while using these devices by uploading the updated text file to any of my cloud storage accounts or emailing it to myself for pasting into the CherryTree file.

Getting It

CherryTree is not widely available for all Linux distros, but its popularity seems to be growing.

If you run a Debian Linux variant, you can easily download the latest .deb package (version 0.30.5) from the developer's website.

The Linux Mint and Ubuntu repositories had earlier versions available when I last checked. I also found CherryTree in the Mageia repository

CherryTree is available from the repositories supporting OpenSuSE and Fedora. It is also available in Puppy Linux and other distros.

Cross Platform

You can also get a Microsoft Windows version if you have to maintain access to two platforms. The Windows version reads and writes to the same .ctb format as the Linux version. Thus, you can use your notes files interchangeably.

The only other option for unsupported Linux distros is to download the compressed file from the developer's website. The tarball has the basic directions. Just make sure you track down the specific steps for your distro's manual installation process.

Look and Feel

By default, CherryTree uses small cherries to identify nodes in the left panel listing. Red ones show parent nodes; blue cherries show child nodes.

You can change these cherry symbols to standard bullet points, however, by clicking Edit/Preferences/Tree in the menu. Your options are cherries, standard bullets, or no symbol at all.

The Preferences panel lets you make only a few changes in how CherryTree looks and functions. You can change the background color, fonts and a few other options.

Solid Interface

CherryTree resembles the more well-known hierarchical or tree-based note filing applications, but it has much more functionality.

This hierarchy is displayed in a tree window within an adjustable panel on the left. Each note is referred to as a node, as it is also a node within a tree of notes.

Two main parts comprise each note. The first part is the note title and is visible in the tree window.

The second part is the note itself. When the title is selected, the note is visible for viewing and editing in the main window on the right.

Using It

Navigating within the hierarchy of notes is quick and easy. Many of the menu commands have shortcuts associated with them.

Menu options line the top of the app window. The drop-down menus are labeled File, Edit, View Tree and Format to Import, Export, Search/Replace and Bookmarks.

An icon row resides under the menu row. These icons duplicate various functions already available in the drop-down menus.

For example, you can click icons for opening nodes and files, saving the current note file and saving the file as a different name. Other icon commands are redo and undo, cut, paste and delete.

Quick Steps

You can not modify this tool row or configure it to your liking. Still, nearly all of the steps you need to modify a text entry and formulate it are included in what is there.

For example, you can execute text-formatting commands such as bold and italic, underline and strike-through, and color choices. You can create numbered and bulleted lists.

A handy shortcut for formatting note entries quickly is the Format Memory icon. Highlight a block of text in a note node and then click this icon. It will apply the formatting you last used.

Besides its ample import/output features, CherryTree does something few other applications of this type handle well if at all: It easily generates a simple Table of Contents.

Regal Replacement

CherryTree makes migrating from antiquated apps so easy. It imports Notecase, Basket and KeepNote files. If that was all it could do, using it would still be a winning proposition.

Throw in support for Gnote, Knowit, Leo, MemPad, Tomboy, Tuxcards and Zim -- which it does offer -- and CherryTree is an irreplaceable replacement app.

Getting your information out is just as flexible. CherryTree exports to HTML, XML and PDF formats. It also lets you export selected nodes to multiple plain text files or a single plain text file.

More Pluses

I dislike creating multiple files to track separate projects. So my hierarchical tree structure tends to grow quite large. Okay, it is really my dumping ground for all things important or trivial.

I have yet to make CherryTree slow down a computer or crash from my huge accumulation of nodes. It also has performed quite well in every desktop environment I use -- Unity, Cinnamon, LXDE, Xfce and KDE -- and yes, even Windows (but only when I have to!).

CherryTree handles image imports into a note node with ease. Just highlight a word, phrase or URL and click the Link icon in the icon row to embed a link.

Bottom Line

CherryTree involves no learning curve. Its interface allows quick and simple use of every feature.

It is also a really good Treepad alternative as well, but with a better feature set. If you are looking for a really great Linux replacement for Microsoft OneNote, pick from the CherryTree.

Want to Suggest a Linux Application for Review?

Is there a Linux software application you'd like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please send your ideas to me at jack.germain@newsroom.ectnews.com, and I'll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear.

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