Cross-platform or best platform?

Cross-platform or best platform when it comes to productivity systems?

What is better? A cross-platform productivity system or the best productivity system, even if it is only available on one platform? I was thinking about this some more after I published my previous post this morning.

A productivity system for autonomous adults

The answer mostly hinges on whether you can be reasonably assured that you will be able to use the device/operating system of your choice going forward or whether you need to cater for an environment where you could find yourself working on whatever your employer gives you?

My employer, like many companies, issues Windows-based laptops to its staff. I have been a Mac user for about a decade and I use a number of apps that are only available on the Mac. That said, much of how I work on my Mac is also possible on other operating systems. I write in plain text using MultiMarkdown and I can do that on just about any device and OS. We use Google Drive for internal document sharing and that is available from any modern desktop browser and most smart devices.

One of the reasons I really love MultiMarkdown is because it is truly cross-platform and it doesn’t matter what you are using to write, it will work because it uses the most basic format: plain text. I’m going through a phase right now where I wish I could just do everything in plain text files and easy to migrate and sync files. I want to explore some sort of alternative to Evernote. Evernote is my primary reference repository for my stuff. I have a lot of data in there and I am a bit concerned that Evernote might go away one day and I won’t have an independent and similar system I could switch to.

So the question which has guided many of my productivity system choices has been whether to focus on a cross-platform system or on the best system available to me?

  1. A cross-platform productivity system would be something like Asana, Trello or even a plain text file with some customised syntax to reflect tasks and actions on tasks (I had a pretty interesting system running in Atom for a while).
  2. The best productivity system available to me at the moment is OmniFocus but its value is entirely dependent on me being able to use a Mac and iOS devices day to day. I’m using my MacBook Air for work at the moment but that is primarily because I returned my underpowered, office issued laptop and it hasn’t been replaced yet. This works well enough but if my MacBook Air were to decide to take a vacation on me, I’d have to switch to something else and my efforts to set up an effective productivity system using OmniFocus would be rendered useless.

At the moment I am leaning more towards using the best system available over cross-platform, primarily because nothing else is as good, intuitive and effective as OmniFocus on my Mac and iOS devices. I’ve discovered that “good enough” isn’t always good enough and carries a fair amount of aggravation with it.

The underlying question still remains, though.

Image credit: Pexels

Enthusiast, writer, strategist and photographer. Inbound Marketing Specialist. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid


  1. Do you use a productivity system for autonomous adults? Does it support you to “do the things you want and need to do” without getting in your way? Does it help you get things done?

  2. 🙂 It’s a difficult situation/question for work related tasks. Native apps do certain things really well and often offer additional eye candy but don’t always provide the continuity aspect of a web app. Amelia and I use a few shared reminders lists for personal to-dos; reminders is accessible via iCloud’s web UI.

    With regards to Evernote, I am almost ready to ditch it. I really wish iA Writer would launch a web based version and sync service with shared folders. I <3 the editor but want folder sharing as Amelia and I use a shared Evernote notebook for quite a lot of stuff.

    1. Yeah, I’m ambivalent about Evernote. On the one hand it is a great place to put everything (except for notes and documents – I much prefer text notes with MultiMarkdown for that). On the other hand, I would love to be able to replicate the functionality I use in a folder system I could sync and access on my mobile devices.

      I can do most of what I need already. The challenge is replicating something like the note-being-everything model with text notes (even if it means some sort of basic folder structure to hold files and associate them with text files) that also works easily on mobile. Other things like moving emails into notes for later reference (I want a single filing system for everything) and clipping stuff on the Web into my system don’t seem to have convenient analogues outside Evernote.

      There must be a way to do that or maybe it’s about reconceptualising how to construct that system to handle everything from basic notes to various document types to clipped things from the Web and photos on the go. If it isn’t simple, portable and independent on anything more than the Internet and a basic file system, Evernote will remain the best option. At least for that stuff.

      1. I’m on the complete opposite of the spectrum. Keeping files in a file system (folder structure), notes in a note system and email in an email system makes things a lot easier for me to manage.

        I only store text, with some minimal formatting, in Evernote. Lately I’ve been relying on Google Docs a lot more for collaborative writing, which I previously did in Evernote; sync is so unreliable, I have given up. Real time editing within Google Docs is so much more efficient.

        It seems like iCloud Drive with tags might do the trick for you. You could sync files across multiple devices, make use of a mix of folders and tags for organising the content and you could search within the content of documents too.

        1. If I was going to shift to a more cross-platform system, I wouldn’t want to use iCloud. Too specific to the iOS/Mac OS ecosystem. Besides, I don’t really trust iCloud that much. I’d rather use Dropbox for that sort of workflow (which I mostly do at the moment anyway).

          I really want to simplify as much as possible and that means keeping everything in one system, ideally. In practice that is still a bit difficult to do. Evernote is the closest I’ve been able to come to doing that.

          Maybe I’m just too hooked on the impermanence of everything. In fact, that is almost certainly what this is all about.

  3. A hosted Linux VM synchronised with a local server at your home and/or office might be the type of solution you’re looking for; a system where you’re paying for (and managing) the end-to-end solution and using open source technology so as not to depend on a proprietary provider or on a private entity shutting down.

    You could also control the type of encryption being used.

    In terms of local server, you could use something like an Intel NuC so it’s low power and a very small form factor.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: