Suggestions - how do you organize random quotes, etc


In the old days some of us had piles of index cards with quotes and random notes scribbled, organized and filed away. Things should be cleaner with the computer. Yet, no matter how many schemes I try, I can’t seem to get to the quote or reference I’m looking for quickly.

Right now I use Scrivener with markdown for writing and composing. Notes and references are spread between hundreds of text files in fairly well organized folders. PDFs, MP3 recordings and DOCs are spread in a somewhat less organized way with some links to them in the text files. There is also a huge folder with a mishmash of stuff called /sources.

At one point I tried to use Scrivener for Reference material, but found it distracting. I love Scrivener for the writing. F11 makes me happy.

I’d love to have a clean, lightweight program to hold quotes and notes (with pointers to the PDF, DOC and media files) with tagging, quick search, etc.

How do you manage all of your random bits? Linux preferred, but I’m most interested in how you’ve tackled this.

Thank you - I’m at a loss and could use some help.

Hi Alec:

I do use Scrivener for organizing quotes and all other notes etc. Like many others on the forum I’ve spent many, many hours and much money searching for the ultimate note taking app. I don’t think it exists and have to remind myself of that every year or so when I resurrect the search :smiley:

My main criteria is the solution has to support cross platform (Mac and Windows) and Scrivener supports that. I played around with labels, status, keywords and custom meta-data and have settled on a pretty extensive list of keywords based on main categories of: work, personal, writing etc. Every entry has a keyword and Scrivener links allow me to connect quotes, thoughts, rants and occasionally, real writing :slight_smile:. If you want more details on how I manage it all, let me know.

I don’t know if you’ve come across the Zettelkasten concept of note taking. I’m still researching this but there’s a free cross platform app (including linux) at My big issue is that the storage format seems to be proprietary – another plus for Scrivener where I can get to the individual files and someone, somewhere will hopefully support the RTF file format.

Hope this helps.


(Deleted: wrong platform)

Hi Richard, you’ve just about convinced me to try again with Scrivener. I do sync my Scrivener files - so a note system which didn’t require any additional fiddling to backup and use is a big advantage. Some details on how you manage everything in Scrivener would be most appreciated. Zettelkasten looks worthwhile - but I’m a little hesitant to get sucked into studying and learning what looks to be a completely different methodology and perhaps philosophy of note-taking. And in Germ-glish, too. :cry:

Dr Dog, thanks for showing me nvAlt. This looks really good for Mac users.


I use Scrivener for notes and quotes. Putting them in either a separate project or, for random (singular) ones, the Scratchpad.When I want to include the quote I drag it to the working project’s Binder.

Hi Eric:

How do I manage all the notes? First, everything ends up in the Scrivener project. My notes come from many sources: a daily journal, audio recordings, iPhone notes, iPad notes etc. I have a folder for each year and sub-folders for the months within that year (There’s also a folder titled Undated to capture those notes I made without a date reference). Each individual note is dated and numbered so they’ll appear as:

June 14, 2015 - 1
June 14, 2015 - 2
June 14. 2015 - 3

And so on. I break them down as notes within each day will usually have different themes – one might be note on a story idea, another an observation of something or someone I saw in town and the third a scrap of bad poetry or doggerel. Notes can be a couple of words, like an idea for a title, or a couple of thousand words. EVERY note gets a keyword assigned even those that don’t fit neatly into the current keyword structure get the ‘Random Thought’ keyword. Currently, I have between 40 and 50 keywords defined. Every so often I’ll do a keyword search on the Random Thought note and browse through them to see what ideas spark. Collections let me pull out everything I’ve assigned to a keyword and copy them somewhere else to explore the ideas further – usually Scapple, Tinderbox or another Scrivener project.

Where relevant, I use multiple keywords - a mystery story idea for example might fit into the keywords Mystery, Babylon and Auburn - the last two being specific project ideas I’m developing. Where I have follow-on thoughts over several days, I use a Scrivener Link to associate the two (or more) documents together. In the research folder, I have a section for Books – these are the title, author, publisher, publication date and where I can find the book again – ebook, local library, somewhere in the house :smiley:. Any notes I make about the book are in that document and again there’s a Scrivener link to the relevant daily notes (I’ve dabbled with reference management tools like JabRef but I’m not an academic so they’re a little overkill for my needs). Mind Maps, Scapple diagrams and similar digitized scribbles are either embedded into the daily note or put in the research folder and Scrivener linked.

Non-fiction articles are stored in DevonThink and I use the DevonThink URL to link to the document. I know it’s not transportable from Mac to Windows etc. but it’s a trade-off I can live with.

One of the things many of the information management writers talk about is adaptability. My Work keyword revealed a jumbled assortment of thoughts for white papers, project comments and musings on the state and future of the health care industry. That led to a new keyword section and a couple of hours of restructuring. This in turn led me to an experiment of digitizing my handwritten notes for each project - I already scan and shred the notes each month and archive them in an appropriate dropbox folder. These notes follow the same naming and dating rules above but with an alpha suffix (A, B, C) instead of the numeric mentioned above. There’s no discernible logic to that decision, it just seemed a good idea at the time. The jury’s still out on the value of this – good to get the notes in a searchable format as OCR can’t read my writing any better than I can, but is the frequency of how often I need to reference those notes worth the time taken to transcribe them?

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with and good luck.


Hi Richard,

Thanks for taking the time to describe your system. I spent part of last night pulling in text documents and consolidating items and keywords into Scrivener. Keywords - how brilliant. For some reason I’ve never used them - CTRL-SHIFT-O makes them simpler. And now Collections make a lot more sense.

There are so many nice touches in Scrivener. The elegance was what first won me over. But the depth of thought that has gone into providing easily utilized options without forcing you to use them just shows how great a tool it is. I’m so, so grateful that the Linux edition continues to be available.

Random quotes, etc problem on the way to being solved. Thanks again.