Note Blizzard


What do you guys do with regard to notes? I have to write things down, my brain seems to purge every night :astonished:

But I end up having notes on my mac, notes on my iPad, notes on my phone, notes in my paper notebook, on wrinkled pieces of paper, on pads, on my arm, on the back of receipts that my wife wanted to save (and NOT because of my unforgettable musings).I can’t even find settle for one note writing program on the Mac. I think I have ADHD!

I have Evernote, but I don’t like it very much. It feels like write notes in a ledger. Or a meat grinder.

Anyway. Do any of you have a good philosophy or system for keeping notes?


Simplenote. :slight_smile: It’s… well, simple. You just dump stuff down on whatever device you are using, and they show up everywhere. On the Mac, I access my Simplenote files with Notational Velocity, and this system even works nice with Scrivener now. If I have a note that is related to a project that is being synced on Simplenote, I can put that project keyword into parentheses in the title, and it will get pulled in the next time I sync.

Thank you, amberV, I’ll try out Simple Note. I have downloaded it, and it looks beautifully simple!

The reason I posted this in “And now for that latte”, however, is that it was not so much a question about software and technological solutions as a question about how the rest of you go about this hopeless and never ending toil of dealing with and later consolidating your notes.


You aren’t alone, Erik. :unamused: I think about this all the time, and even think I need to do some analytical thinking to map how I take notes and where tend to put them. I have, surprisingly, started to map the paths of my research snippets, to see how I can better corral them. I’ve also started carrying a small notebook (a small moleskine-like notebook), and I’ve been surprised at how religiously I’ve made this a part of my routine. I now always carry my Lamy pen (fuchsia, of course, with aqua ink (for now)) and this notebook. What I thought was frivolous (fountain pen, fun colors, smooth writing paper, &c) has turned out to be important: I’ve made this part of my routine because I like the tactile quality of the pen and ink and paper, and the colors feel lively to me. Using a ballpoint pen and scratchy, thin (American) binder paper irritates me, though they’re perfectly serviceable. I’m learning that the aesthetic aspect of writing, whether with pen and paper or computer program, matters to me.

I loved reading that Agatha Christie was totally disorganized with her note-taking:

Twyla Tharp in The Creative Habit recommends using a designated box for storing all scraps related to a project. I like this idea, especially because when I try to engage a left-brain structure, I overdo it, become perfectionist, and give up–though I’m awed by that kind of organized thinking.*

You could also build a habit to take digital images of your written scraps, and hand, if you want a digital box.

On the computah, I’ve been playing with SlipBox: I used to think NoteBook or NoteTaker were the answer, but as you said it’s like writing in a ledger: not quite flat, but not as multi-dimensional as I’d like.

I am really getting to the point, and your post nags at me, where I need to sit back and do some meta-thinking of my thinking and scrap-collecting process. I like to browse through my (large) collection, because I see connections or realize the importance of a particular scrap much later, which I do more haphazardly than regularly–and it’s always useful.

Formerly-known-as-and-still-AmberV, damn you . I do not need yet another note-bestrewing program to play with! [size=50]and of course I’ll download and play with it[/size]

  • When I was still doing a lot of secretarial work <sigh of relief I’ve left that behind>, I once temped for a newly-hired executive. I thought he could use a filing system, and started one: I practically had a single file for every letter and document he had. :laughing: Poor guy.

All this to say that I millimeter toward a System, I yearn for one, I imagine the beacon, and … Helpful post, huh? :wink:

Inspirational, mon amour. 8)
Le D :smiling_imp:

Have to agree with AmberV about the Simplenote and Notational Velocity combo. What I love is that syncing is automatic, instantaneous and, well, quite simply, simple. My iPad is pretty much with me at all times, so any sudden thoughts are quickly and easily jotted into Simplenote. Then, later, at home at my desk, hey presto, the same note is there in Notational Velocity on my Mac. Very sweet. It really is one of the few solutions that have worked in my case - but, then, I am but a struggling muggle in the daunting land of GeekNess.

SlipBox now has an iPhone/iPad companion program that syncs via Dropbox with the desktop program. Unlike the Simplenote/Notational Velocity combo, SlipBox keywords (tags) carry over properly from device to device. Also SlipBox’s search (raw search and “associate search,” or information scents) on the iPhone/iPad is much more powerful than Simplenote’s, handy if you have a lot of research notes or ideas you like to sift through when you’re out and about.

@ henrietta: were you by any chance abandoned at Paddington Station as a child and adopted by a kindly but strange family? Are you my long lost sister? Your troubles with notes are very familiar to me. And this is indeed not about yet another notekeeping program (though I will grant amberV and the rest of you that the search must continue).

Somebody once (in another life) taught me to keep track of tasks and big projects. But I have yet to find a way to keep track of small ideas and random thoughts that I might need someday. I feel like Robert De Nero in Brazil - the scene where he is overcome by bureaucratic paperwork .

Anyway - I am curious about the result of your research snippet tracking experiment?


I too endorse the Moleskine or clone/Notational Velocity/Simplenote combo.

I also have Shovebox installed – a reliable snippet-Hoover similar in many ways to Slipbox, with hotkeys and an iPod satellite but without Openmeta tags.

There’s a new forked version of Notational Velocity:

New features of forked version:

  • Fullscreen view
  • A Horizontal Layout (with the notes list to the left of the text)
  • Collapsed Notes list
  • A system wide menubar icon and menu as well as dock-less mode.
  • Multiple color themes, including: a low-contrast, low eye-strain, increased readability theme, and a user customizable theme
  • Modify, delete, or add tags to multiple notes at once.

Author’s post about forked release.
Release notes & updates of forked version.
Review of forked version.

  • The original Notational Velocity can be found here.

Off-topic: “Note Blizzard” would be a fantastic name for a note-taking software app.

A note-taking app with as much care and thought put into is as Scrivener that would be fantastic. A note-taking program for writers and researchers that concentrates on what a note actually is and what you need to able to do with it.

I have looked and looked and it doesn’t really exist.

The sync between SimpleNote and IndexCard and Scriv is pretty cool, though.

The closest I ever found to this was, from every indication, vapourware. It was a concept with some early alpha builds by the developer of Journler, called Lex. Unfortunately he lost interest in developing both Journler and Lex at around the same time, so it never came to fruition. The idea was to make an application that focuses on documents as nexus instead of dates, like Journler did. So you would have all of the networking and support for taking notes around a central concept using the same type of interface as Journler. Pity it never really went anywhere, as it sounded like an interesting idea.

On the other hand, a document centric note taking interface kind of sounds like a Scrivener project, when used in a certain fashion.

I am very intrigued by this comment, but I’m unsure exactly what you mean. Would you elaborate a little? Thank you.


Well, I can try. I grant you my comment is a bit vague. What I have in mind is something like this: All the note-taking software I have ever tried focus on storing and perhaps tagging all kinds of info hopefully making it easier to find again someday. Notes are percieved as single items. But they never really are, are they? They are most often bits of something else - or something that might someday be part of a project, you just don’t know which one yet.

A program like OmniGroup’s OmniFocus has some of the functions I would like to have in a note taking program. (But OmniFocus isn’t a note taking program, is it!). It has an inbox that lets you just dump stuff there. But it also has intelligent ways of grouping your stuff (tasks in this case). It also - not unlike Scrivener - lets you define your structures very freely.

The problem - for me at least - is not managing big projects, the problem is managing and working with the beginnings of ideas. (Well, managing big projects is a problem, but it is a different sort of problem, and I have Scrivener for that)

Finally exporting often seems to be a problem. When at some point you need your ramblings in another program (Scrivener for instance) it can be difficult to lift from one program to the other.

It is still quite vague, I guess. I hope it makes some sort of sense to you :confused:


It’s possible that I’ve misunderstood you, but it sounds to me as if you’ve defined the specification for Tinderbox – or at least what Tinderbox could or should be if its learning curve wasn’t exponential.

I must look into that! I never tried Tinderbox.

That was my reaction, too, Hugh. Including your comment about learning curve, unfortunately.


An exponential learning curve isn’t always a negative. :slight_smile: It can be an asset if you need it. Not the curve, but what it implies. Twig can be a nice “front-end” to Tinderbox, giving it a Notational Velocity kind of feel to it, or the OmniFocus Inbox dumping ground you refer to. It is easy to rapidly sketch out ideas and end up with some simple structures as a result that can be viewed in Tinderbox style maps, charts, and outlines. It also has a more basic, but quite useful, agent engine for automated gathering (but not processing, you’ll need TB for search engines that can Do Things).

Biggest drawback to Twig: It’s basically a module for Tinderbox. Yes, it is a stand-alone program, but with zero export options it’s only interfacing mechanism is with Tinderbox and good old copy and paste. As an $80 module on top of an expensive application: it’s for people that have money to throw at a problem, without a doubt. But if you’ve got that problem, and the money, it’s a good mix.

Only exception to this at the moment is: Twig uses a relatively easy to fathom XML format. If you are adept at XML, building an exporter for it would be trivial.

@AmberV: I often marvel at your in depth knowledge of software and its uses!

Btw: Tinderbox is expensive!!