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A simple IMAP Notes backup tool.

Project description

Do you believe in the cloud? It’s in fact only somebody else’s computer. Those might fail or get hacked.

Do you believe in bug-free software? Nah, it’s more likely every now and then a crash, a bug, a race condition or some other back luck will lead to data corruption of the things that you work on.

Do you think you’ll be able to access your notes in thirty years? It’s likely the data format they’re stored in is going to be hard to read.

This is why I store all my notes in my e-mail. It’s been there since the 1970s, it’s going to be there in the 2050s. MIME and IMAP ensure the data is more-less plaintext and easily human-readable even without any tool support. Apple Notes support it on both OS X and iOS. Pure win.

But wait, what about software failure? What if a bug erases my notes or there’s a data center fire and the data restored from a backup is in a state from two days ago? What about bitrot?

Enter zzyzx.

This is the most primitive backup system ever. Set it up in cron on your laptop or a server you control and it will create incremental backups with history between runs (setting up a Mercurial repository). It also creates useful symlinks to human-readable note titles so you can find them more easily.


It requires Python 3.5+ and Click. Just install it from PyPI:

$ pip install zzyzx
$ cat >~/.zzyzx

$ zzyzx backup

Markdown export

If you installed zzyzx[markdown] from PyPI, you can also run:

$ zzyzx md

This will generate a list of files that are a textual representation of the notes’ contents. This is useful for exporting Apple Notes into systems that expect Markdown files, like Bear.

Configure your Markdown support adding a section like the following to your .zzyzx config:


Headings can be “atx” (simple hashes), “atx_closed” (symmetrical hashes), or “underlined” (ReST-like).

Why the name zzyzx?

It’s the last place on Earth. It’s the end of the world.

Known issues

Don’t put the repo path in Dropbox as it doesn’t support symlinks and your other computers will see a lot of duplicate files.

The Markdown export is not perfect because the HTML syntax used by Apple Notes is pretty strange. I did what I could, tested against a few hundred notes against macOS Sierra and iOS 10.2 (they are not consistent between each other either).



  • the Markdown export update: generally sucks less

  • also update the creation and modification date in the Markdown export

  • allow customization of the Markdown export file extensions

  • allow exporting folder-based hashtags (for example for use with Bear editor)


  • bugfix: slashes and backslashes weren’t properly escaped for title symlinks


  • backwards incompatible: zzyzx functionality now available as zzyzx backup

  • new functionality: zzyzx md unpacks .eml into text files and attachments, translating HTML into Markdown

  • bugfix: existing and newly created filenames are normalized to NFD; existing file tracking won’t be so eager to delete files anymore on OS X


  • first published version


Glued together by Łukasz Langa <>.

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