Where are Bear notes located?

Noldorian's Avatar


04 Nov, 2016 04:44 PM

The Mac app description says Bear notes are text files but I can't find them anywhere on iCloud or even local. Where are they?

  1. 1 Posted by Craig on 04 Nov, 2016 05:27 PM

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    Hi Noldorian,

    I don't work for Bear, but my guess is that Bear uses "CloudKit," which is actually separate from iCloud Drive. This is the data model that Drafts also uses, which they outline here:


    So, while there are indeed "plain text" notes in their CloudKit database somewhere, they're not anywhere that you can easily access them—so, yeah, it's a little disingenuous IMO, because you have to export them from the Bear db to work with them as text file. You can't, for example, create a note on Bear on your phone and then open it with Sublime Text once you get back to your machine without exporting first, at least as far as I know.

  2. 2 Posted by Noldorian on 04 Nov, 2016 05:52 PM

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    Craig, thanks for your reply. That clears things up for me.

    Yea, I don't love that. I get leery any time a piece of software doesn't allow me to access my files directly. Export seems straightforward enough but it's not the same thing.

    Mulling over cancelling my pro membership.

  3. 3 Posted by Julián Romero on 04 Nov, 2016 07:58 PM

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    Check out this:

    ~/Library/Containers/net.shinyfrog.bear/Data/Library/Application Support/net.shinyfrog.bear/

    There is a core data sqlite file.

  4. Support Staff 4 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 06 Nov, 2016 12:21 PM

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    Bear notes are stored in plain text but not in plain text files. Bear need a database to make tags, files and note linking work. But you can easily export your notes in plain text with it's export options:



  5. 5 Posted by Craig Eley on 06 Nov, 2016 04:50 PM

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    Just to be clear, Bear chose to use a SQL database. It doesn't "need" to
    use a database to make these features work. See, for example, programs like
    nvALT and Write.

    Bear could easily store files in Dropbox and use built-in Finder tags. But
    that's not what you built.

    Craig Eley

  6. Support Staff 6 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 07 Nov, 2016 01:07 PM

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    Hi Craig,

    We tried to built it that way, but inline files/images are a really hard feature to implement in files based sync.


  7. 7 Posted by bill on 25 Mar, 2017 06:11 PM

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    having the files stored in plain text files has many advantages: easy access from any application, easy storage options (dropbox, google drive, my dog's usb drive), and best of all (maybe) is that the mac can find and index these files.

    nvAlt, as mentioned by Craig, stores notes in this way and is INCREDIBLY helpful. i was really looking forward to the features of Bear that take it beyond nvAlt, but the limitations imposed on a db-based system is hard to overcome.

    craig, i appreciate the difficulty of implementing image/web snippets in a text-based system - i wouldn't want that on my task list! - but i would hope there would be a way to handle them separately.

    please know that i am going to give Bear a whirl, but the inability to store these notes on google drive/dropbox, the inability for mac to index these files, and the inability to work with these files through other utilities puts it at a disadvantage.

    even if i find that Bear is not the right tool for me, i do wish you the best of luck with this product as i feel there is a real need in the quasi-minimalist-note-taking-app market!

    thanks for reading,

  8. 8 Posted by Scott C. on 02 May, 2017 07:47 AM

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    I second Bill on this. It was the first thing I checked when I tried Bear, and to my disappointment, Bear saves all data in its proprietary data format which I can't decipher. I've been around long enough to experience the major pain of locking myself into a roach motel data architecture with similar apps in the past. Journler, MacJournal, Circus Pony Notebook, and Evernote, to name a few.

    I know Bear boasts its excellent import/export feature. But the problem is that the other apps did as well, and it often choked on a large amount of data, especially Evernote. I abandoned Evernote a few months ago, and it was hellish; it choked on many notes during export. I had to hunt down every single one of them through trials and errors to finally export several thousand entries. And guess what, they still boast about how they are all against data lock-in. In the case of Journler, the OS got an update, and it no longer launched, so I couldn't even access its export feature when I needed the most. The dev had already abandoned it by the time I realized it became an abandonware. It took a lot of time, detective work and a long wait for a reply from the developer to figure out a workaround, which, by the way, was clumsy and barely satisfactory.

    So now, I refuse to use any apps that don't use generic, open file format that I could open with another app. iA Writer (my personal choice at the moment), nvAlt, SimpleNote (my second personal choice), EagleFiler, Together, Yojimbo, DEVONthink, and Ulysses all pass the test. Even Apple's Photos.app pass this test while maintaining its metadata in XML files inside a package file (folder). Why not Bear??

    It's very unfortunate because I like everything else about this app. But open data format is *extremely* important to me because of my previous experiences with other similar apps. I can never commit to Bear, no matter how nice everything else in the app is, until it changes its data philosophy and starts doing the right thing. It takes a lot of blind faith for me to believe that Shinyflog won't be like Journler. I hope you guys will work on addressing the concern.

  9. Support Staff 9 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 02 May, 2017 09:11 AM

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    I need to clarify something about our choice of using a database.

    First of all, we provide free export options to allow people to move from Bear to other apps. This is something we really care about and if someone feels some format is missing please let us know.

    Bear does not have any proprietary format or database, your notes are saved as plain text in Bear database, which is an SQLite file readable with open source libraries and apps.

    As I wrote before we tried making a file-based sync using DropBox but the result was not satisfying for attachments, images, tags and conflict detection. The other reason is databases are more "future proof": Making features like collaboration with files only is hard to imagine.

    Now, is possible to have both files and database, even if is basically data duplication and we are woking on a local file-based versioning for notes which will make use .textbundles and symbolic links for storing both text and files, but I don't know if this will be enough for your purposes.


  10. 10 Posted by tod.w on 02 May, 2017 11:13 PM

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    I can verify that accessing Bear files from the SQLite database is as easy as pie. I am absolutely not a developer or creator of SQL databases but their open structure allows even total idiots like me use a 3rd party app such as those found on MacUpdate to extract the text from such databases with no prior training. In addition, as I understand from reading about SQL databases, a dev can offer many more features to the frontend app than can be done when only a series of straight text records is the file system. I would much prefer a database-driven file system than any other system, for its flexibility.

    Disclaimer: I am a crusty old fart of 75 who has fiddled with computers since using punch cards on a Burroughs B2000 in 1960. I am a tinkerer, not a programmer, couldn't program my way out of a wet paper bag. Most of the time I don't know what I'm doing so I always have two backups. 🤗

  11. 11 Posted by bill on 03 May, 2017 01:30 PM

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    thank you for the time and effort you have put into addressing our concerns.

    i appreciate tod.w's response that accessing the files within a SQLite db is easy, that's great! and i am very interested in your work on a local file-based system for notes - that sounds like a great step forward for those of us sharing this concern.

    one of my biggest needs is the ability to store notes in the cloud so they are accessible from multiple macs (work and home).
    1. does the current version of Bear allow cloud storage (of the sqlite db) or have the ability to sync between multiple macs? note: i read that you can sync between mac and ios, but i need my notes available on two macs.
    2. will it be possible to store the future, local file-based notes system to be stored in a cloud service?

    thanks again for your time and consideration you have given to our concerns.


  12. Support Staff 12 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 03 May, 2017 04:26 PM

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    Hi Bill,

    1. The Bear Pro subscription allow syncing any Bear instance which shares the same iCloud account ( Mac to Mac, iOS to Mac, iOS to iOS, etc... ). Bear Pro comes with a free trial period if you want to try it first. Here more info: http://www.bear-writer.com/faq/Sync/Syncing%20your%20notes%20with%2...

    2. We'll consider some alternative form of sync in the future but I can't guarantee it will be file based because We will work on features which don't ( or kind of ) work in such context.


  13. 13 Posted by Julián Romero on 03 May, 2017 07:12 PM

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    For me a perfect solution that doesn't require changing the internal storage format would be to have a small binary in Bear bundle to perform a one-way synchronization of the notes to a external folder (including attachments). Sync means only modified notes are exported.

    With this I can setup a full backup in old plain text format. Also great to grep, quicklook, spotlight etc.

  14. Support Staff 14 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 04 May, 2017 07:53 AM

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    @Julián I'm afraid the vast majority who want a file-based sync also want any file change to be mirrored in Bear, which of course is the problematic part.

  15. 15 Posted by Kai on 03 Jun, 2017 02:43 PM

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    Why not one step after another. Start with a simple one-file synchronization of the notes including a lock file that can be overridden and you already satisfy a lot of users with a simple and solid solution. I don't see why having the vast majority wanting more is a reason to implement nothing at all.

  16. 16 Posted by natenate on 06 Jun, 2017 01:36 PM

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    Bear is awesome. I've run it through its paces and really want to adopt it as my notes app of choice. Unfortunately, like others in this thread, having plain text files is the reason I haven't adopted this yet. For me there are three reasons this is important.

    First is that I have a number of workflows with Drafts on iOS or other applications (say Sublime Text for TODOs) that make slight edits to notes files. I really want to use Bear as the center of my notes ecosystem but can't if other applications/workflows can't write to the files.

    Second is native integrations with spotlight, search, and finder tags which I make heavy use of.

    Third is lock-in, as discussed at length above.

    I'm sure that those of us for whom this is a priority are a small minority and I completely understand the complexities of this implementation AND the fact that it likely won't happen. I also agree with @julian and @kai - any movement in this direction would be a great step forward.

    Thanks for the amazing application. I am really impressed with how good Bear is. I'm going to continue reading every new version's release notes in detail in the hopes that one day I'll find features of this nature implemented.

  17. 17 Posted by Mondozeer on 21 Aug, 2017 10:03 PM

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    +1 to natenate. I'm following discussions waiting or plain text to happen. I have the full app. Just don't use it for the reasons mentioned in this thread. Would love to use it. Waiting...

  18. 18 Posted by Richard on 29 Aug, 2017 04:52 PM

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    I agree about the need for two way file changes mirrored to and from bear, both NvAlt and Ulysses allow this and we would pay for a subscription. We use git to sync md files between our staff so we have to use an editor that can read and save files to disk (or at least sync them both ways).

  19. 19 Posted by Fabio on 06 Sep, 2017 07:07 AM

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    I rather have an application across the Apple ecosystem that works flawlessly across those platforms and takes advantage of the technology of them to maintain the best and most consistent user experience possible across all the devices. Bear does that extremely well!

    If someone really wants everything to be file based on their cloud service of choice, they can save their own structure there and use their editor of choice. I have tried this way of note taking and writing. Bear on the other hand is a service as a whole, so the way it works and syncs now in my opinion is how it should be and I'm enjoying the experience a lot!

  20. 20 Posted by Gustavo on 11 Oct, 2017 02:26 AM

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    Hi, so where's the database located?
    So I can read it and know that my data can be successfully backed up and restored if needed.

    Thanks in advance!

  21. Support Staff 21 Posted by Danilo Bonardi on 11 Oct, 2017 07:58 AM

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    The sql lite database is located here
    ~/Library/Containers/net.shinyfrog.bear/Data/Documents/Application Data/database.sqlite

  22. 22 Posted by Gus Ferla on 11 Oct, 2017 02:51 PM

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    Awesome, thanks!

    I've found it and coud read it perfectly. Cheers!
    I'm a PRO subscriber (yearly) since yesterday.


  23. 23 Posted by CNorris on 12 Oct, 2017 11:14 PM

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    I personally love the fact that Bear keeps its data in a widely supported database. I had screwed up my import from Evernote, tagging everything from my "Personal" notebook with "##personal#" instead of just "#personal#". I was able to go into the database and do a global replace command to fix the hundreds of notes with the problem all in one go.

  24. 24 Posted by Jive on 07 Nov, 2017 01:36 PM

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    Is a Dropbox sync require file based and no sqlite?
    I mean, if the database where in my Dropbox folder it would be fine to me, and I could sync with my phone and computer at work (what I can't do because I cannot add iCloud sync since the company account is already logged-in).

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