Online "scrivener"?

I know (or at least assume) that there’s not an online version Scrivener, but I wonder if there’s something with similar functionality. I’m primarily just interested in the index card idea. I don’t want to write papers with it, but it’d be nice to have a place where I could jot down Scrivener-like thinking when I’m away from my computer.

  1. E-mail, sent to yourself.
  2. Google Docs.
  3. A nice little notebook with a pen or pencil
  4. Index cards, also with pen or pencil.

I’m serious. It’s often idyllic to sit at a cafe table and just write, with no cords attached.

As a “computer professional” (I thix large systems for a fortune 500 company) I follow #3 and #4 for all ideas. Computers are inherintly unreliable (especially if you know they are broken becuase it is your job to fix them :wink:).

When I have a tough problem to solve my first step is to grab a note book and leave the office/data center/lab, go grab a coffee, and think. While I use scriv’s note cards in real time at my coffe shop, I find the real thing works just as well.

Just my $.02

3 and 4 would be wonderful if they hadn’t been unsuccesful for me for 15 years. Even now, I have no less than 15 notebooks with things written down. Of the 15, I can find 3. Scraps of paper are even worse. It really has to be “centralized.”

E-mails are fine but tend to be somewhat chaotic. Kind of hard to “see” them all at once like index cards.

I really should get an iPhone since I’d have it with me all the time, but contracts, etc, etc, etc.

So am I to gather from the comments that there is no such thing online?

Google Notes is probably the closest thing that I can think of, that is also free. If you use Firefox there is even a handy plug-in for it. I cannot think of anything off of the top of my head that has the same “spatial” quality of the corkboard.

But yes, I am partial to #4. I put down nearly every thought I have onto an index card and process them into my digital system twice a day, where they get keywords and categories. The original index card gets filed into chronological cabinet, but I might dispense with that some day. I have my digital stuff backed up six ways every day, and I never use the cabinet anymore.

Know how you feel. I am the exact same way, and here is how I deal with it.

  1. If you use 3x5, always wear something with pockets. In my case, shirt pocket is ideas for current problems (busted server, character traits if not working), right rear pocket is for long term ideas, left rear is for other high priority ideas (other issues at work, other plot ideas etc).
  2. DON’T USE SCRAPS. When I use paper (which I don’t like but do frequently) use a colored spiral notebook. Always use the same colors for topics. Every spiral that is in my house/office that is red is work. Every thing green is household. Every thing yellow is book.
  3. Find consistent labling schemes. In my world I label that upper left corner. I tried numerical serial numbers, but decided on words when I loast the serial to name list.
  4. find a way to “bind” common things. Stapels, tape, rubber bands, and split rings (hole puch the 3x5) are what I use. The person who taught me this use photo album sleaves.
  5. Be consistent and dilligent. It took me 3 months to get the habbits down, but the payoff was worth it. I also had to change a few things (the binding method was one).

One of the hardest things for me was remembering that these notes are temporary and doing the follow through of copying them to permenent storage (scriv, text docs). Once the copy is done toss the note. Not sure why that was so tough, but once I removed all the old temp notes I suddenly was able to track the next round better as the old was gone.

Not saying that this will work for you, but it did it for me.

As far as online goes, google docs woudl be the best bet. Accessable from everywhere, reliable, cheap. Email would work, but I have an inherit distrust of email (it is what I do for a living). If you follow the same “it is temporary” philosophy then you won’t have a lot of stuff collecting.

Good luck

OK, I’ve done a little more thinking and researching about this topic.

  1. Google Notebook. Clip, organize, publish notes. Access from phone.
    (Must use Firefox or IE as the browser. Free.)

  2. NoodleTools or NoteStar: online notes & bibliography for students.
    Must subscribe (and pay fees) to use the services.

  3. EndNote or RefWorks: online notes & bibliography. Ditto on fees.

  4. Landmarks Digital Index Card: asks questions about your research.
    Creates citations in APA or MLA format. Not clear if it stores for retrieval.

  5. E-mail, with the subject line used to identify topic.
    CC to multiple addresses. Simple and secure; drag to Scrivener.

One of the benefits of Google docs finally working with Safari is that you could write your notes on any computer (Mac or PC), then, when you are ready, use the Scrivener clipping service within Safari to get your notes quickly and easily into a Scrivener project.

Mr Gruff

I use my Palm for those times I’m stuck somewhere, but of course this only works if you have a Palm.

Still, I’ve gotten pretty fast with the little onscreen keyboard. Then I can synch the palm, and copy and paste from it.

I’m much better at doing that than copying from notebooks, which I’ve basically given up on.

Interesting discussion. I appreciate everyone’s insights and suggestions.


Have a look at 37Signals Writeboard.