How to run Joplin as a (limited) web app

Joplin is a great note-taking app, but unfortunately, there is no Joplin web app. This guide will show you how to access your notes using a browser.

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This guide will show you how to run Joplin, an application that will otherwise only run on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, as a web app. As already suggested in the title, this Joplin “web app” isn’t actually a web app and though it isn’t limited in function it is in terms of usability. What this guide will show will not replace the native app, and you will only want to use it when you truly must.

I’ve been self-hosting the Joplin server for some now, and everything has gone swimmingly. The problem I have faced is the fact that the Joplin server is just a server and nothing more. Its only purpose is to sync notes. While I’m at work, I’ve often wanted to access my digital notebook for notes on how to do certain work-related tasks. Because there is no web app I could self-host and expose to the internet, I am forced to bring in my personal laptop just for Joplin. From this day forward that is about to change.

When is a web app not a web app?

The reason I’m cautious about calling this solution a web app is because it isn’t one in the traditional sense of the word. Essentially, what I am doing to access Joplin from a browser is running a container, which runs an Ubuntu baseimage, on top of which the Joplin Linux application is installed and constantly running. The container can be accessed using noVNC through any browser. If you set up sync for both your local application and the Joplin web app, you will see all of your notes in all of your applications.

The Joplin web app being displayed in a browser

As you can see, it’s more like accessing a virtual machine to run your desktop-only applications, than running using an actual web app. In my case, the application is slow, slightly laggy, and also not as sharp as a native application would be. But it is usable enough for me to occasionally access it for information.

How to install the Joplin web app

If you are using Unraid as your application server, you are in luck because most of the work has already been done for you. Search for the JoplinApp Docker container in the Community Applications, and make any adjustments you deem to be necessary. I had to adjust the port because 5800 was already in use and I also set the resolution to 1080p. If you are exposing the Joplin web app to the internet you must (!) set a password (and obviously never share it with anyone).

Various settings for the Joplin web app running on Unraid

Setting up the Joplin web app using Docker Compose

The Joplin web app Docker container isn’t exclusive to Unraid and can be spun up on any system capable of running Docker. The setup is simple enough, and an example is given in the GitHub repository. What isn’t immediately obvious is how to adjust the resolution of the application. For a selection of available environment variables, this table can be used. If you wanted to adjust the resolution to 1080p, your Docker Compose file should look something like this:

version: '2'
    image: acaranta/docker-joplin
      - VNC_PASSWORD=<yourVNCpassword>
      - DISPLAY_WIDTH=1920

      - DISPLAY_HEIGHT=1080
      - <yourdockervolume>:/app/.config:rw
      - 5800:5800

Adjusting the settings

As the Joplin web app is no different to the native application you are already running, everything should be familiar to you. The first thing I did was to sync my notes from my server. Because this is the full-blown application, there are also a few advantages. You can install any plugins you might need and change the theme.

The Joplin web app: Not great but usable

The Docker container written about in this article won’t replace a proper Joplin web app, should one ever be developed. At no fault of the developer, this solution isn’t great, but it is all there is at this moment in time. For those seeking a Joplin web app, this is currently the only, and thus best, option. In my opinion, it isn’t great, but it definitely is usable.

About Liam Alexander Colman

I first heard of Unraid through the same medium as many of us did: The Linus Tech Tips channel on YouTube. At the time, I was running TrueNAS (or FreeNAS as it was called back then) on my DIY NAS built using a dual-core Intel Pentium G4400 at its heart. I was convinced, I had chosen the better operating system. After all, it was free and open-source and had a large community behind it. One day, after once again facing the need to buy another three hard drives, I seriously started researching Unraid and its features. I bit the bullet and gave it a go, transferring my data on to external hard drives that I later shucked and added to the Unraid array. Since that day, I have not looked back once, and I am now an enthusiastic and experienced user of Unraid. You can find out more about Unraid Guides right here.

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