How did Perpetual Notes choose the features to implement?

Ensel Software
4 min readFeb 12, 2021
The Kanban board

We did a user survey between 3rd and 4th month of release of initial version of Perpetual Notes. We asked users to rate what features they want to see and what features they don’t mind having it.

Here is the summary of what we gathered from our users.

Notably, only missing feature is the ability to edit RTF in mobile devices. It is only missing in a way that Perpetual Notes yet to offer a branded app for mobile editing, you can use 3rd party apps in Play Store to edit RTF files. This is the advantage of using a notes application which uses open source file format — thus not tying you with a specific application.

We also not yet implemented import/export from/to other formats, but it is available indirectly.

We have done some test scripts to import DOCX files (without using any 3rd party code) but it lost some formatting and images. We resisted the urge to implement DOCX feature because would then expect full compatibility with Microsoft Word format, implementing which is beyond the ability of our skill (especially when we developed this application as hobby and not as commercial venture). There are free 3rd party controls available to read and write DOCX files, but on our experiment, it took few seconds to finish even for small notes — this, in our opinion, is not suitable for a good user experience point of view.

More so, more file formats we offer, more confused our users would be. In fact, we debated whether to offer only RTF and nothing else. Yet, we have given up to popular demand and ended up supporting RTF, TXT and now HTML too. Although, HTML support is via 3rd party code and we don’t allow to create new HTML from menu for this reason.

Again, this was a conscious decision. Usage of HTML requires some technical understanding of how HTML works, else users would open an HTML with CSS and then would complain why not rendering correctly. So a techie user can always create a blank .html file manually first using Windows Explorer and then open it inside Perpetual Notes.

If you are not that techie, just forget HTML notes exist and simply use RTF notes.

We offered pure text notes mostly to facilitate non-English (e.g. far Eastern) Unicode characters. Our stats show over 50% of Perpetual Download is from non-English speaking countries.

We received several feature requests from users. Unfortunately it is not possible to integrate and implement every feature for practical reasons. We follow “less is more” philosophy (somewhat like Apple — we wish). We feel offer fewer features which work more reliably and consistently is a better approach to overload the application with myriads of half baked functionality.

Using same logic, our bug fix approach is also agile and follows 80/20 principle. Some obscure bugs which may not be discovered by 99% of users, may remain unfixed for a long time. Of course, if any bug is major (i.e. leading to data loss) then we take them seriously and fix as a priority.

We know until version 3.51 of Perpetual Notes, the experience with table is subpar. This is because we are using a lower version of .NET Framework (because it is available in all Windows computers made in last 10 years) which restricts what we can offer as rich text formatting.

We are trialling with a higher .NET Framework (4.7.2 — if you ask) version which would offer better user experience with tables, namely allowing you to wrap content in cells and change row/column width by dragging the cell boundary.

This version will also lead to smaller file sizes if your notes contain images. This is because previous version converted all images to Windows Meta File (WMF) while saving images. This new version can save images as PNG/JPG etc. which takes less space.

There is a caveat though — if you insert an image using higher version of .NET Framework and then open same note in a computer running lower version of .NET Framework, the image may not appear! If you do work in this fashion, then we are including a way to insert images as WMF for backward compatibility. This can be access via View — Advanced menu. For 99% users it won’t be necessary.

Our Kanban matrix shows what features users use most. Most people don’t use tables or spell check in notes. At Ensel Software, we always make applications so that people would want to use it. We develop “applications for the masses”.

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