Bear 2 beta happy holidays update (10084 aka backlinks)

We have a present for you before we take a little time off for the holidays—backlinks! This has been a big feature request so we’d love for you to take it for a spin and share your thoughts.

Note, for those who saw the preview of this feature and the upcoming Info Column option: we’re still polishing the Column design and functionality. But you can always keep the Info Panel on screen simply by tearing it off with a simple click-and-drag.

There are a couple other things to test in this build, as listed below. Thanks again, everyone, and the Bear Team wishes you a happy holiday!

  • Backlinks!
    • Check this new, dedicated tab in the Info Panel to see a list of all notes that link to the current note. Click a backlink to navigate to its note
      • If backlinks do not appear in the list, please backup your notes (at least all new and edited notes since you started testing B2) and run the migration again (instructions in this post)
    • The Info Column option that we previewed a little while ago isn’t quite ready yet
  • Added 2 new hotkeys (⌘⇧B and ⌘⇧A ) for opening the info panel’s Backlinks and Table of Content
  • Better migration and parsing of tags that use emoji and non-latin punctuation
  • We added an Importer for Bear 1 backups and .bearnote files
  • Fixed a pasteboard bug
  • Various crash and glitch fixes

Thank you for all your work and this gift. I wish you and all your dears merry christmas


Awesome news, thank you for all the work this year and hope you and the rest of the Bear team are also able to have a nice break.

One quick question that I meant to ask on the other thread: how are the backlinks sorted?

for anyone else curious, the hotkey for backlinks is CMD + Shift + B!


Thank you so much for this update!

Some feedback:

  • is there a way to see more context within a backlink? that would be very useful – especially when the backlink is on a standalone line or a part of a list
  • I like that if I tear away the backlink panel, it updates instantaneously to show backlinks to any new note I press.
  • one confusing thing with tearing away the info panel is that you can get a bit lost if you have multiple windows open – there’s no indicator to see which window the panel belongs to. The only way to figure it out right now is to click on the top bar of the backlink panel which will focus the appropriate window. My instinct is that the same should happen when clicking on the top bar of the window (the associated backlink panel should come into focus). If you can find a tasteful way to visually indicate which panel belongs to which window, it would be helpful, too.
  • the Cmd+Shift+B shortcut only works on the main window. I see no logical reason why that should be so?
  • it would also be nice if the shortcut remembered the last position of the panel, i.e., if I tore it away and close it with the shortcut, I expect it to re-appear where it was before when I press the shortcut. Right now, it goes back to a pop-out.
  • speaking of importing, I don’t see a good reason to have two separate menu items for it (import and import from). Importing from Evernote looks for .enex files so it should simply be a part of the normal import and recognize those as acceptable. Importing from Drafts also looks for files on the drive. I would say: either move everything to the “import from” menu and call out all supported formats as option or simply have the import menu that opens the file browser immediately and recognizes all supported files
  • another importing question with .bearnote: if I choose to keep the original creation and modification date, is there any way to filter for imported notes later? It would be useful to have a keyword like @imported or something
  • the import from .bearnote seems to work perfectly
  • when importing an already existing note, it simply creates a second note with the same title. It would be helpful if the importer recognized that fact instead, and gave us the option to overwrite/keep existing/keep both.
  • since I now had two notes with the same title, I decided to test what happens to backlinks. I really like that you treat other notes with the same title as backlinks, as well. What I like less is that when I create a link, I have to choose one of the two notes, and it only shows as a backlink on that note. All notes with the same title should show links to that title as their backlinks, in my opinion.

All in all a great Christmas gift, thank you team!

Hope you get some nice family time and rest over the holidays. :slight_smile:

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Backlinks look great! I like how they’re “out of the way” in the information panel. They’re not something I want to look at while writing notes - only if I’m looking for them.

I also like how you show both ‘formal’ backlinks AND backlinks to grep’ed mentions of the title. Saves me a search.

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Thank you for this update ! Backlinks are here !!
I have to say, I would have preferred a right sidebar rather than a pop over window (like in Ulysses app). I find the pop over window too narrow when displaying backlinks.

Great Christmas holidays to every one !!

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Maybe we could get the option of choice, the right sidebar, and the popover window?


That „right sidebar“ is going to come:


Hi Bear Team,

Huge congratulations on Bear 2! What an evolution on an app that was already so polished and well considered. Thanks as well for including me among the Beta testers – I now owe you some feedback, having tested… For context: I’m an academic using Bear every day for research and teaching – often for several hours – and have 11,000+ notes with lots of inter-note linking, some of which are quite long. I think most of my feedback will reflect heavy, daily use with a very large collection of materials, where frictionless navigation and working is what matters most.

First, overall impressions… The new editor is overall a huge leap forwards, and displays all the polish and attention to detail that drew me to the app in the first place. And now that we’re seeing the evolution of the app more widely, the future looks even brighter. The contents and backlinks features are especially welcome additions. I have to say, I was expecting the backlinks feature to bring the app to its knees in my use case, but it’s working extremely well! I have one or two key notes that are linked to 500+ times! (Of course backlinks wouldn’t be useful in that case anyway, but I feared they might cause the whole thing to crash down.) But Bear seems to handle those without much fuss at all! I’m no developer, but I imagine that’s quite a feat. It’s been worth the wait!

That being said, here are some things I’ve encountered, which as I mentioned, relate mostly to heavy day to day use of the app rather than technical issues, so apologies in advance for how fine-grained and idiosyncratic some of this is – these are big deals in my experience of the app, even if they’re not big changes for others:

  • The new header that replaces the permanent search bar in the second column is a big advance, because it provides navigational context when in 2-column mode, but I think it needs continued iteration. Here are a few thoughts…
    • When in 3-column mode, it creates some redundancy with the notes/tags column, since it shows the same thing twice. I wonder whether it needs to be there at all in that instance.
    • While “Hide Subtag Notes” is useful and has been much-requested on the Reddit over the years, I think the opposite use case also needs some love. In my case this header is really not useful when drilling down on tags unless the full nested tag is displayed – not just #drafts but #projects/project1/drafts (hopefully the example reveals how some use cases will be hampered by this change versus how you displayed tags in the two-column view in iPad OS on Bear 1) Not sure if it’s a permanent choice to omit the tags beneath which the current tag is nested, but please reconsider.
  • Continuing with the notes column: the new “Preview Style” options are great – but I would suggest we need a few more options here. For context, here’s something that sounds trivial but has proven vital: a surprisingly big reason why I have continued to use Bear all these years is because there are very few apps (if any) that give you bold titles and a couple of lines of preview of the note (and images if present). Most only display the title! For heavy use in research, that little bit of context makes all the difference. Honestly, this to me is one of the USPs of Bear. Again, my thoughts:
    • The note titles are now, to me, a little small for quick browsing and navigating – not awful, but just a step back from Bear 1 for me personally. I’d like to see them a little larger than the text that follows, for easy reading.
    • I have been amused to discover how important to me the relative modification time stamps have been in Bear 1, now that we have lost those in Bear 2. For heavy everyday use, what I really want to see is precisely what Bear 1 gives us: “2 days ago”, “3 weeks ago“, and not “15 December”. Again not huge, but a step back from Bear 1, unless there’s an option. (Let me add that your choice to move those modification dates to the bottom rather than having them to the left seems like a great change.)
    • There’s been a change of keyboard shortcuts and it’s driving me crazy! In Bear 1, Command + 1, 2, 3 changed the focus of the notes column from all notes, to today’s notes, etc. I must use this 100s of times a week. Meanwhile, Command + Option + 1, 2, 3 changes the level of headers in the editor. But now that has been reversed! Here’s the reason why it’s so frustrating: when I am changing note column focus I am often browsing around, with one hand on the keyboard and the other hand on the trackpad. But now the change of focus is a two-handed keyboard shortcut, meaning I have to move away from the trackpad. Meanwhile, when you change a header in a note to another level, you’re already typing and editing with both hands on the keyboard, so there’s no added friction for that to require the additional press of Option. In my own use case, this change is just really slowing things down in an incredibly frustrating way. I appreciate others might feel very differently, but I’d strongly advocate for putting things back the way they were.
    • While the new “bubbled” note list is clearly just evolving alongside MacOS, I do wonder about the utility of the way it has been done. The thick red line to the left just looked right and made sense with a more square note list, but now the red bar looks more like a drag in navigational aid (pin, archive, etc) that’s become stuck. I note that it’s a somewhat idiosyncratic design choice – Mail, for example, just highlights the item in question in the list with the block blue colour, while using grey once you’re focussing on the next column – and I wonder whether a block colour would be more obvious from a usability perspective here too?
  • One thing I had hoped might change with Bear 2 is the beach balling that occurs when making edits to a larger note with many links. For example, I have a 6,000 word piece of writing with lots of wiki links. If I want to add text to this note, I find myself wanting to type as fast as possible, without pausing (hmm, feature rather than bug?) because once I do pause, the app will become unresponsive for ~5 seconds while changes are saved. I had hoped this would be optimised in Bear 2, but so far, the experience is identical to Bear 1 – long notes with lots of links create long lags. I would love to see some optimisation for making changes to long notes – I don’t have a lot of these, but it’s a real bug bear to feel the lag increase as a note’s length (or the density of the links) grows.
  • As for the editor, marvellous as it is, here are some reflections:
    • Allowing nested tags to be split across lines harms readability – at least for me. (I just prefer the white text in the grey bubbles on the default theme from Bear 1 too, but since that’s nothing more than aesthetics, I can’t make the case for it here. I can also see it would make titles weird now that tags can appear in new places…)
    • The markdown-hiding is incredibly well done – again, such polish in this editor. One thing that I would suggest still needs love on that front is distinguishing between (1) internal markdown links to other notes (2) external markdown links to sources (3) wiki links. I can see you’re using a new pencil icon for 1 and 2 – but that still doesn’t distinguish between 1 and 2, which is an important and meaningful distinction in my everyday use case. I’d also question whether, if markdown is being hidden, something in the style of the link ought to differentiate rather than an icon – since cleanness on the page is the reason why we’ve hidden markdown in the first place. What about a paler link colour, or an underline, or something like that? It’s at least as indicative as the alternative. And then, when markdown is not hidden, please consider continuing to distinguish between 1 and 2 as in Bear 1.
    • Also, please give us a shortcut to switch between showing and hiding markdown – sorry, but I’d want to do both!
    • The new text size, weight and above all line height for the note titles is very problematic for long note titles – and very long note titles are increasingly common these days. I think this was also mentioned in a recent post by Andy Matuschak. For me, while the titles in the notes column are a little small, the titles in the editor are too big and take up a huge amount of space if they go across several lines. Bear 1 does a great job of longer titles being big and bold without consuming the entire screen. Line height at the very least, I would suggest, needs to be reconsidered. (On the other hand, you’ve given some love to users of long note titles in the popover for links, which is very welcome – thank you!)
    • Folding is brilliant! I would just really like to see the ability to select and fold multiple bullet lists, rather than just folding one item at a time.
  • Perhaps it will just take some getting used to, but in the first column, text of tags and sections looks a little squished to me versus how the same font and size appears in the editor. Makes that column slightly less readable in my opinion.
  • It’s a great advance to have the pop-up window (and in future that dedicated column) for contents and backlinks. Also appreciate the keyboard shortcuts – thank you for those! My thoughts on this column as follows:
    • If you “tear it off” you ought to be able to resize it – with lots of backlinks or with a multi-level contents, I might want this to take up half my screen, so that I can quickly flick between.
    • Currently the contents tab shows you the name of the note you’re in when looking at this tab, but the backlinks tab does not – I would propose finding a way to display the name of the note in this panel too, if it has been teared off. On the other hand, we arguably don’t need to see the note title (the initial H1 that is) for either contents or backlinks when it is not torn off. :slightly_smiling_face:

OK, those are my initial reflections on beginning to use Bear 2. Again, they reflex a certain kind of use more than anything. Thanks for reading and I hope they’re useful to you when you return from the break! Happy to be quizzed on this or asked to test other things.