Skip to main content

Building Editors for Standard Notes


Editors are front-end extensions for Standard Notes. They provider users with a custom way to interact with the contents of their notes. For more information on editors in the Standard Notes ecosystem from the user's perspective, please see "What are Editors?". In this article, we provide motivation and information about building editors.

Why build editors#

The process of building editors is like this: research, design, develop, document, publish/release, market, and repeat. Here are four big reasons to go through the process of building your own editor:

  1. Building editors is fun. When you build editors, you can practice your creativity and imagination. Editors are like works of art that you can use to help you accomplish a goal, and creating works of art can be fun at any skill level.

  2. Building editors can help other people. When you build editors to solve a problem that you have, there are probably other people who have similar problems. You can share your editor with them, help them solve their problems, and enjoy the feeling of knowing that you are helping others.

  3. Building editors gives you control over their features. When you build editors, you can choose which features to implement and how they work, and you can implement them at your own pace. The engineering team at Standard Notes tends to focus on improving the core products, services, and infrastructure. If you have an idea or feature that you want to implement at the editor level of the ecosystem, then you can pursue it and have full control over it. You can have control over the future of your relationship with private productivity.

  4. Building editors is a great learning experience. When you build editors, you can learn more about yourself and what you like to do. The entire process of building editors improves your fluency in skills that are important for a variety of career opportunities in the technology industry, including software development, software engineering, product design, product management, and technical writing. Building editors is a great way to gain more experience and to get involved in the technology industry.

The engineering team at Standard Notes works to solve many difficult problems so you, a developer of editors, do not have to worry about them. These problems include how to sync the contents of the notes between mobile and desktop devices with end-to-end encryption, how to make the sync work instantaneously, and how to make the notes secure on each device. They work to create a way for editors to communicate with the main notes application and make it easy for that communication to work offline.

Free tools such as GitHub provide a place for you to store the source code of your editor and deploy a version of it to a highly available, global content delivery network without having to worry about server management.

With Standard Notes and GitHub, you can create very sophisticated single page applications without having to worry about problems in back-end engineering. The Standard Notes community has many members who are ready and available to experience new innovations in note-taking and private productivity. When building editors in Standard Notes, you do not have to worry about not having a market for your creations. You can focus on creating and be confident that we will be excited to see what you build.


Standard Notes provides you with a wealth of opportunities to get started with front-end software engineering. The editors communicate with the Standard Notes application through an open-source library called the Component Relay.

The Component Relay is released under the Affero General Public License Version 3.0 or any later version (AGPL-3.0-or-later). This a summary of the license provided by GitHub:

Permissions of this strongest copyleft license are conditioned on making available complete source code of licensed works and modifications, which include larger works using a licensed work, under the same license. Copyright and license notices must be preserved. Contributors provide an express grant of patent rights. When a modified version is used to provide a service over a network, the complete source code of the modified version must be made available.

In other words, if you build an editor with the Component Relay and give copies of it to other people or let them use it, then you are legally obligated to provide them with the source code of the editor under the same license (AGPL-3.0-or-later). A common and easy way to do this is to host the source code in a public repository on GitHub.

We use AGPL-3.0-or-later to protect the community. Without the license, large technology companies (think "big tech") and startups backed by venture capital could potentially copy Standard Notes technology, rebrand it, and use the rebranded copy to drive Standard Notes out of business, thereby eliminating the future of Standard Notes as a commercially viable product and service. The Standard Notes community depends on Standard Notes being free, open-source, and trustworthy for many years to come, and the community is important and essential to us, so we use the AGPL-3.0 license. You are free to solicit fees and donations when marketing your editor, but we ask that you respect the license to help us protect the community.

Standard Notes as an operating system#

Operating systems such as MacOS, Windows, and Linux allow users to build their own desktop apps and run them on their computer as they please. Similarly, Standard Notes allows developers to build their own editors and use them in their Standard Notes app as they please. Therefore, you can think of Standard Notes as an operating system. The possibilities for building editors (apps) for the Standard Notes operating system are almost endless. Some possibilities to get you started include editors for code, markdown, rich text, passwords, bookmarks, calendars, charts, grids, kanban boards, presentation slides, spreadsheets, timelines, to-do lists, two-factor authentication codes, and other structured secrets. Think of a problem that you want to solve, and try building an editor to solve it.

Get Started with Building Editors โ†’

Last updated on