The road to Muse 2

Muse 2.0 will include a native Mac app and local-first sync between iPad and Mac, launching in spring of 2022. Read on for the full vision, and how you can help.

Muse is a digital workspace for thinking. This is somewhat unprecedented: typically thinking work is done with analog tools like a sketchbook, a whiteboard, index cards, or post-its. Computers are more often involved in the later stages of the creative process: production work like writing a book, designing an interface, or creating a CAD diagram.

Muse 1.0 launched last year on the iPad as a spatial and visual space for deep thinking. We focused on what makes the iPad special: the intimacy of the touchscreen, and the ability to use it away from a desk. That led to features like the powerful gesture system which lets you use both hands and the stylus together; and an interface with no toolbars to keep things distraction-free.

Since then, our team has shipped 71 major and minor versions with significant updates like flex boards, improved pricing, and multi-window support.

We consider this first iteration on the Muse vision a success within our niche. But this was just the beginning: now it’s time to grow beyond the relatively small pond of the iPad.

A medium for thought

Creative professionals have a computing life that spans multiple devices. At a minimum a desktop/laptop computer and a phone; often also a tablet or an e-reader.

Each device has its purpose in your life. The phone is great for quick capture on the go, but isn’t a place to sit down and work out a complex spreadsheet. A workstation with a mouse and keyboard is great for heavy authoring tasks, but doesn’t offer good ergonomics for lengthy reading. And tablets are ideal for sitting back in your armchair to read and reflect.

Platform Purpose
phone quick capture and lookup
desktop/laptop heavy research, authoring, editing, bulk organizing
tablet annotating, sketching, brainstorming, sense-making
the web sharing

We want Muse to be not just an app for the iPad, but a tool for thinking that is available on every device that’s part of your thinking process. And to connect them all together such that you can switch from between them seamlessly.

Given this vision, perhaps tool is not even the right term. As Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen (quoting Alan Kay) write:

What’s more, the term “tool” implies a certain narrowness. […] A medium creates a powerful immersive context, a context in which the user can have new kinds of thought, thoughts that were formerly impossible for them. Speaking loosely, the range of expressive thoughts possible in such a medium is an emergent property of the elementary objects and actions in that medium. If those are well chosen, the medium expands the possible range of human thought.

We believe that a Muse which spans all your devices has the potential to be this type of immersive context. And thereby to expand the breadth and depth of your creativity, your problem-solving ability, and your ideas.

iPad was the right the place for us to start: it’s a keystone device for developing ideas. And it was also perhaps the least well-utilized of all computing platforms for pro uses.

But after iPad, the next platform is the desktop, and that bring us to Muse for Mac.

Muse for Mac

Mac is where creative work gets done. It’s the best platform ever created for creative and productive tasks, and it encapsulates 30+ years of thinking on the topic. Without a doubt, this is where Muse needs to be next.

Muse in the Mac Dock

Muse for Mac will be lovingly built specifically for Mac to run lighting fast and keep a copy of all your work locally. Though we love the web for many reasons, web technology cannot currently offer the fast, fluid, hardware-integrated experience that Muse wants to deliver to you.

Muse for Mac will look different than Muse for iPad, reflecting the unique strengths and capabilities of each platform. But we will make your boards available on the desktop in a way that takes advantage the greater screen real estate, the keyboard and mouse/trackpad, Finder, overlapping windows, and other capabilities of the desktop.

Following on the role of each device being different, here are two use cases we’re excited about:

  1. Deep research. Many open tabs in your web browser, clipping multimedia content and assembling it on a board for later arrangement and annotation on the iPad.
  2. Authoring. Muse isn't an authoring app, but often it's helpful to copy fragments of your ideation process into the finished artifact. For example, if you've used Muse to devise the outline of your screenplay, you might put a Muse for Mac window alongside screenwriting software like Final Draft.

Muse for Mac will more closely follow the native macOS interface guidelines than Muse for iPad does with the iOS guidelines. This reflects the more mature and established design patterns for productivity software on Mac compared to iPad.

But we will have some interesting things to say about the design of apps on the desktop and phone—more on this to come.

Local-first sync

The next piece to achieve the vision of a medium for thought: your work needs to be available seamlessly across all your devices (iPad, Mac, phone, and even multiple iPads). That implies sync.

A traditional cloud solution would be antithetical to our values of fast, intimate, and in your control. Hence we need sync that preserves the autonomy of your individual devices and gives you ownership of your data, while still connecting them together effortlessly.

Conveniently and not coincidentally, two of the Muse partners are coauthors of the essay Local-first software: You own your data, in spite of the cloud. This widely-cited academic paper summarizes a decade of work on a technology that has the promise to give users the benefits of the cloud (device syncing and multi-user collaboration) while also keeping data local for speed, offline capability, and greater agency over your work.

The Muse engineering team has spent the last year developing our own production-ready sync service using local-first principles and CRDT technology. The result has these benefits for you, the user of Muse:

Muse 2.1 and beyond

We’re aiming for the launch of Muse 2.0 including Muse for Mac and Muse Sync in spring of 2022. A beta preview will be available to our Pro members much sooner than that.

But the “medium for thought” vision naturally extends beyond just these two platforms, so here’s what we see coming after that.

And one more thing. The same technology that powers Muse Sync can be used for multi-user collaboration. Imagine being able to share your Muse boards like you would on a collaborative whiteboard app like Miro, but with full local-first capability and ownership over your data. We find this very exciting.


While we work on this release, Muse 1 will be in feature freeze. Much as we're looking forward to oft-requested features like dark mode or better search, these will need to wait until after the 2.0 launch.

You can follow along with Muse 2 development by via email or on Twitter.

And, here’s how you can help with making Muse 2 a success:

Follow Muse development

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