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Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the unexamined-life-not-worth-living dept.

Software 170

netdicted writes "At the very outset of my career the importance of keeping a daily journal of activities and notes was clearly evident. Over the years I've always had a college ruled composition notebook nearby to jot down important ideas, instructions, tasks, etc. Putting away the rock and chisel was not optional when the volumes grew beyond my mental capacity to successfully index the contents. Over the years I've tried countless apps to keep a digital journal and failed miserably.

In my mind the ideal app or solution is a single file or cloud app where I can organize personal notes on projects, configurations, insights, ideas, etc., as well as noting major activities or occurrences of the day. My original journals saved me on a number of occasions. Unfortunately my tenacity for keeping one has suffered from a fruitless search for a suitable solution. Currently I'm experimenting with Evernote and Tiddlywiki. They approach the problem from two different angles. What do you use?"

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The Luddite Answer (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 9 months ago | (#46800747)

Dear Slashdot, I'm afraid that years from now, my nuggets of wisdom will be lost, and I will not be able to find the appropriate pithy thought to properly respond to a Slashdot Troll... What ever shal I do?

Dear "Netdicted", first of all, your screen name for some reason reminded me of getting my cat neutered. Second, unplug. There is more to life than a 24/7 high speed connection. Third, consider your follow-on. Your children and grand children will not be able to read your e-diary, and writing things on paper long-hand will help you stave off Alzimers. In other words, keep writing in your Moll Skin, it's really the hippest and most practical way to go, and will leave something for your kids and grand kids to enjoy long after you are gon. Seriously.

Snark aside, work out a system of indexes - electronically in necessary, but please continue using that old "buggy whip", a pen and paper.

Excuse me now, I have to mow my lawn.

Re:The Luddite Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800825)

"stave off Alzimers"

Says the guy who can't spell it.

Re:The Luddite Answer (3, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 9 months ago | (#46800833)

"stave off Alzimers"
Says the guy who can't spell it.

Says an Anonymous Coward.

Re:The Luddite Answer (1, Offtopic)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 9 months ago | (#46800871)

Attacking spelling is the last resort of someone who can't come up with a cogent counter-argument...

and often ears a "+5, Informative" on Slashdot, depending on the point under discussion.

Re:The Luddite Answer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802097)

If you are unable to spell then it stands to reason that you are unable to understand anything more complex than grade school ideas. This automatically invalidates anything that you might have to say.

Re:The Luddite Answer (2, Insightful)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 9 months ago | (#46802297)

If you are unable to spell then it stands to reason that you are unable to understand anything more complex than grade school ideas.

I love the irony of such shallow thinking to no end.

Re:The Luddite Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801197)

Allow me to piggy back on the trollfest. Slashdot has certainly stepped it up when it comes to inciting the hordes who find venting on some poor unsuspecting submitter, a refreshing hobby.
Fortunately, Easter is upon us, and it would be unconscionable for me to engage in a vicious attack of the author's relatively innocuous plight. Instead, because of my rather barbaric work schedule, I find myself, only at this late time to be setting up to color my Easter eggs. My dilemma is whether to use the color tablets, or the liquid dye. Had I only saved my past experiences to so much as a notepad file, I would not be experiencing this trepidation.
What do you guys favor? I know most here don't want to commit to the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but surely an occasional flight of fancy to the Easter Bunny is a welcome relief to the psychotic world of quantum physics you have leveraged your futures against?

Re:The Luddite Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801307)

Dude, If I were you, - Tablets. - I'd definitely stick to all blue pills. No way you should be messing with the red ones.

Re:The Luddite Answer (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#46801639)


You mean the 10 Commandments kind?

Thou shalt not take thyself so seriously that you think you have to save everything.

Re:The Luddite Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46803013)

Snark aside, work out a system of indexes - electronically in necessary, but please continue using that old "buggy whip", a pen and paper.

I am one of those who uses a pen/paper to take notes. But on the few occasions that I do bring my laptop into a meeting and take notes on it, I have noticed that it's definitely a lot faster to take notes on a laptop than it is to write with a pen on a piece of paper. I imagine anyone with a decent typing speed would agree.

One stop shopping solution: emacs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800785)

It works. Runs on my laptop, server, and tablet!

Org mode (5, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 9 months ago | (#46801179)

http://orgmode.org/ [orgmode.org]

Re:Org mode (1)

Stephan Schulz (948) | about 9 months ago | (#46801409)


Re:Org mode (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 9 months ago | (#46801659)

I've been using emacs for 15 years for all my software development.

That said, orgmode doesn't look very useful. If you're wanting note-taking software that specifically allows formulas to be written in lisp, then it is surely the way to go. Or if you not only use emacs, but also use emacs for things other than editing, then perhaps it is just the nerdy tool for you.

I don't think I'd put it in a list of tools targeted at professional journalists for taking notes, though.

TuxCards, dokuwiki, freemind, freeplane all look a lot more like the sort of tool being asked for here. Suggesting kitchen-sink type of tools for emacs sure doesn't help popularize emacs for what it is good at, either.

Re:Org mode (2)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 9 months ago | (#46802187)

The genius of org mode is that the only key you need to know is TAB.
Whether it requires too much emacs affinity to be useful to the non-nerd is a point well-taken.

Hipster PDA + emacs orgmode + cyborganize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800793)

Re:Hipster PDA + emacs orgmode + cyborganize (2)

seebs (15766) | about 9 months ago | (#46800855)

I got as far in the "cyborganize" page as "your brain works just like everyone else's" and stopped reading. There's a whole lot of similarities, but there are huge differences, too. For instance, the rate at which you forget things, that they so proudly identify as precisely worked out? Highly variable. The gap between, say, an autistic person who doesn't have ADHD, and a non-autistic person with ADHD, is going to be large.

Maybe the system is independent of these variances, but in general, if someone says everyone thinks the same, I dismiss them as not having made even the most casual effort to comprehend the field.

emacs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800795)

steep learning curve but worth the climb for open vistas and a healthy body/mind

Kept it simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800799)

I've kept it relatively simple over the years.

I have a text file where I keep a daily log of sorts. My time is charged directly to the customer of the project I'm working on, so the main purpose in this log is to keep track of that (we have a system for entering our time, but it sucks, so I like having my own records) and keep additional notes about what I was doing that day (the system where it ultimately gets entered only cares about the numbers).

Project specific, I usually create a specific directory per task. I usually end up with a notes.txt file with random bits of info, copies of emails, data files, diagrams, etc. I do most note taking / scratch work on paper, and then either transcribe the important bits (not as arduous as it sounds) or scan them and store them in the folder (we have a really nice sheet fed scanner here). On particularly large projects where I have a lot of written notes, I'll have an actual physical folder or binder to cart the stuff around.

It's one of those things where tech should be able to solve the problem better, and I'm sure if I adapted to some specific software rather than trying to make the software adapt to how I like doing things it could work, but for now I just haven't found anything that works better or offers a compelling reason to change.

In my case specifically, one major roadblock to adopting a "paper-free" approach is I often do testing/debug work outside the office, where there is no or little access to the internet and a tablet is not an option for various reasons.

Text file (5, Interesting)

Strange Attractor (18957) | about 9 months ago | (#46801301)

You are right.

I use simple text files. I like them more than paper notebooks because:
1. I can edit them from anywhere that I can use ssh
2. They are easy to search
3. They are easy to back up

The comments (including the parent) that suggest simple text files and editors have all been modded down to 0. I don't understand why.

Re:Text file - Ed (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 9 months ago | (#46802425)

So I take it that you use ed, since it is the standard UNIX editor.

One Note (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800805)

Seriously, it's the best out there.

God forbid you buy something though. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/onenote/

OneNote is very good (4, Informative)

lucm (889690) | about 9 months ago | (#46800807)

A lot better than Evernote, and now it's free.

http://www.onenote.com/ [onenote.com]

Re:OneNote is very good (4, Interesting)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 9 months ago | (#46800915)

Agreed. OneNote is perfect for note-taking. With compatible hardware (tablet with N-trig or Wacom digitizer) you can even get the best handwriting experience this side of paper. Naturally, it works just as well with keyboard+mouse.

The Windows Desktop version (which is the only one I regularly use) has some pretty random bugs when drawing shapes with the built-in tools (it may be limited to high-DPI displays, though, since it looks like a bad coordinate transformation - and it only happens occaisonally), but is otherwise stable.

Like all Office applications, it might be good to spend an hour or two learning the ropes instead of diving right in.

Re:OneNote is very good (2)

meeotch (524339) | about 9 months ago | (#46800981)

+1 for this. Though I'm sure nobody around here wants to hear about M$ products. "LALALALALAproprietaryLALALALALAwalledgardenLALALALALA".

I haven't tried Evernote, but only because I skimmed through the site, didn't like the formatting options, and since I've been using OneNote, I haven't felt the need. It did seem like Evernote had more options for grabbing stuff form disparate sources.

I also haven't tried OneNote 2013, because I don't like subscription software. (LALALALA) But OneNote 2010 has been pretty great. Particularly for my style of note-taking, which involves a lot of page layout, previously requiring going back and erasing when you realize you haven't left enough room, then rewriting all the notes in that section.

Some irritating issues, that mostly have workarounds:

1. You can't edit images (or not very well) once they're pasted in. Workaround: hotkey for screen cliping, hotkey to MS Paint. Ctrl-V edit Ctrl-C Ctrl-V into OneNote.
2. "Dock" mode actually takes over half of your desktop, and shoves all your icons out of the way. Workaround: icon saver program, hotkey.
3. There are some stupid hotkeys that
3. Probably some other stuff I'm not remembering.

The killer feature: With this guy's add-on, you can auto-complete to build up fairly complex mathematical equations pretty quickly.
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/murray... [msdn.com]

It also auto-OCR's images in the background, so that you can search for text in images you've pasted in.

Exporting to pdf appears to preserve links, including "internal" ones between pages, as long as you export all the relevant pages together. Exporting to mht is not quite as successful.

Now my notes look like this:
http://imgur.com/h4wYP3k [imgur.com]

I believe there's a tablet version - but I wouldn't want to use it with a stylus. Particularly if I was trying to use handwriting recognition to enter math equations.

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

meeotch (524339) | about 9 months ago | (#46800985)

Ha - forgot to finish point #3, and renumber point #4. Like I said about editing my notes...

3. There are some stupid hotkeys that I find myself accidentally hitting all the time. Like "New page" and "New Section". I don't believe you can change them - though I assume you could steal them with AutoHotkey.

Re:OneNote is very good (3, Informative)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 9 months ago | (#46801209)

OneNote 2013 is now free, so there's no reason not to upgrade.

As for equations, just hotkey the Office equation editor - it even accepts a lot of LaTeX syntax - which is a lot more intuitive than most shortcuts from that add-on.

Re:OneNote is very good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801621)

Wrong. It's only free if you want to be locked into Microsoft's cloud service. Did you honestly think anything from Microsoft would ever actually be "free" (speech or beer)?

Re:OneNote is very good (2)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 9 months ago | (#46801755)

Wrong. It's only free if you want to be locked into Microsoft's cloud service. Did you honestly think anything from Microsoft would ever actually be "free" (speech or beer)?

You do NOT need a Microsoft account to use OneNote. You can store your notes locally, or on a fileshare, or anything that ES File Manager can get to.

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 9 months ago | (#46801091)

I found OneNote useful as well, ironically, only thru my Windows Phone. When it first appeared on my PC as a part of an Office installation, I had no idea of what to do w/ it. But on my phone, once I saw templates like shopping lists, travel plans & so on, I was hooked. Now I use it on my phone all the time. From there, my usage on the PC has also gone up, thanks to OneDrive.

Re:OneNote is very good (0, Troll)

Sesostris III (730910) | about 9 months ago | (#46801299)

sudo apt-get install onenote
[sudo] password for xxx:
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
E: Unable to locate package onenote


Re:OneNote is very good (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about 9 months ago | (#46801771)

You'll have to use your web browser, then, when in Gentoo: OneNote Web App [microsoft.com]

paper...pencil (5, Insightful)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 9 months ago | (#46800831)

I've been working on a research project in Chemical Engineering for the past 5 years as a consultant. I struggled, like you, to find a technical solution for a professional journal. I had to settle for fifty cent spiral bound notebook and pencil (I found a neat plastic case to keep them in). No other solution could provide me a way to easily keep a written ledger of text and numbers, draw diagrams, schematics, and allow me to easily edit mistakes. When the notebooks were full, they went into a three-ring binder. Searching through the pages of the binders is fairly easy, especially since *I'm* the one that wrote the notes.

Don't over-think the problem.

Re:paper...pencil (2)

The123king (2395060) | about 9 months ago | (#46800875)

This. No software can trounce the flexibility of a pen and a pad of paper. If you're that obsessed with digitising it, get a scanner and save the scans as PDF's

Re:paper...pencil (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 9 months ago | (#46800927)

Well, a tablet with a digitizer (Think Surface Pro) can do pretty much all sorts of notetaking typically done with pen and paper. It helps organization immensely.

Re:paper...pencil (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800949)

Big advantage paper has is you can spread it out.

I don't think I've ever been in the design of anything non-trivial where we didn't eventually end up with 3 or 4 people in a room with a big table just covered in paper with hand written notes/diagrams/whatever.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 9 months ago | (#46800975)

Hmm, the problem I find is that when notes start getting too copious it can be difficult or almost impossible to find a particular bit that you were looking for, especially stretching over years. If pen and paper notebooks came with an automated search function I'd be happy!

Re:paper...pencil (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 9 months ago | (#46801061)

The automated search thing uses the wiggly bits at the end of your hands and the lookey bits on either side of your nose. Sorry, not trying to be snide, but the things I'm usually searching for 1) were written by me, so when I get close to the proper page, my memory kicks in and I usually remember where stuff is*, and 2), I'm usually not searching for an individual search term. If something is unique, I can usually get close enough to find it by flicking through a few pages. Weekly/monthly/quarterly reports also help narrow time frame.

  *this is a kind of a Fourier Transform, where the "when" (time function), turns into a "where" (spatial location) in the series of note pages.

Re:paper...pencil (2)

black6host (469985) | about 9 months ago | (#46801337)

What I'm using is Evernote plus a Livescribe Sky pen. You write your notes in a notebook (yes, it has to be one of their notebooks) but a copy of the page (searchable if you use Evernote Premium and write halfway legible) is stored as a note. Plus audio can be recorded at the same time and is associated with the text being written at the same time. I've tried the Echo version of the pen and it requires Adobe reader to take hear the audio. Don't like it as Adobe reader is nothing but a big self contained advertisement that does some other stuff.

There is also a newer version of their pen called the Livescribe 3 but it doesn't work with Android devices (the Sky does) and requires a device to playback audio.

Plus, if you lose your notes in Evernote you always have your backup paper notebook with your handwritten text. So you haven't lost it all.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about 9 months ago | (#46800901)

Spiral bound is nice as it lays open and flat, but the spiral part doesn't weather well. For the last couple years I've been using a Whitelines squared hardcover notebook [amazon.com] and a Lamy fountain pen/a. If you're gonna be using it for the next year or so, you might as well get decent stuff. [amazon.com]

Re:paper...pencil (2)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 9 months ago | (#46801143)

My notebooks weren't always spiral bound, sometimes they were the kind with the bound backing (I bought several of whatever was cheapest at the beginning of each semester). When whatever form they were, got full, they went into a 3-ring binder (including the covers which have beginning-ending dates, phone numbers, and other important info). Almost all of these (college ruled) notebooks are also pre-punched, so I just carefully remove the pages.

I started using expensive refillable mechanical pencils. After they were dropped (once!) and broken, I went with either cheap mechanical pencils, or the old fashioned wooden ones (which no one seemed to steal!). I need the ability to correct things, ink is not practical (except for some drawings where I use lots of colored pens to keep functions seperate)

Re:paper...pencil (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 9 months ago | (#46801395)

One of the other functions notebooks occasionally fill is as evidence in patent hearings. If that's a consideration, pencils are a no-no because things can be changed. Yeah, I'm at the "get off my lawn" age these days, but best practice for patent cases is still bound notebooks, numbered pages, ink. If you screwed something up three days ago, you don't erase and fix, you redraw on a new page with the current date and refer back as "corrects version of this on pg 23." For personal use, that's overkill.

I ended up with a piece of home-grown Perl/Tk code that lets me do notes from the keyboard, simple drawings with the mouse, paste in pictures and files, etc. Uses what appears to be the old xterm "fixed" font because at one point I planned to have a version that multiple people could view across the network and I wanted pixel-level sameness across locations. Multiple colors because as you say, sometimes that helps with clarity (and if I go back to add another observation on an existing page, I use a contrasting color for the text). Every line of text or drawn element gets timestamped and recorded -- that's for my own use, and is certainly not good enough to stand up in court. No limit to how far a page can grow down or to the right, which creates its own set of problems. I'm probably the only person in the world that would find it useful, but it does get some of the job done.

mechanical is best (1)

rewindustry (3401253) | about 9 months ago | (#46801043)

i have kinetic memory, my body knows where it put something, even when i cannot remember a thing.

there is no substitute for writing it down, i find, and typing is definitely not writing, does not have the same effect.

the only digital solution that almost worked for me was a pen tablet, and perhaps now that our invention has come full circle, and we're back to scribbling on stone (well, sand) tablets again, i may finally lose the pen and paper..

but not yet - paper can be recycled - and as far as i know this is not true for batteries.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

fermion (181285) | about 9 months ago | (#46801045)

Keepping a notebook is critical, and for most application pen and paper is good enough. I learned that when I was young and working in small business and research. Everyone had a notebook. Some just a spiral bound notebook. Some a real research notebook. Many a Franklin planner with yearly storage cases. I myself keep many various notebooks around that I jot notes in.

Which is to say that not everyone has the same solution, and some find electronics notebooks useful. My main problem is that most electronics notebooks do not handle math and drawings will, which is what I do. I do have some stuff on electronic notebooks. Those listed are what I use. What we don't have are people who are proficient enough to teach the workflow of how to use them.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 9 months ago | (#46801217)

Plus . . . I haven't seen a Snowden press release yet that the NSA has technology for snooping in pencils and paper. When they come knocking on your door, you can eat your notes. A USB stick will not digest.

Maybe there is some kind of edible rice based paper that would dissolve quickly in the stomach . . . ? In old spy movies, folks used to munch down secret notes all the time.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

ortholattice (175065) | about 9 months ago | (#46802087)

I do this. Also, once every year or two, I scan all the pages and make a nice pdf file of each volume. I put bookmarks on pages that I think I may want to look up quickly (often these correspond to physical bookmarks such as little sticky notes) and also bookmark start of month or start of new project. My bookshelf, with 5 linear feet of notes over the years, fits on a thumb drive. In practice, I typically look up things in the pdfs rather than the physical notes. I intend to dispose of the physical notes someday, at least the very old ones (ego has prevented me from doing so thus far), but even if my house burns down my notes are safely stored away on a remote backup.

I use tuxcards (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about 9 months ago | (#46800835)

I use tuxcards [tuxcards.de] . I used gnote for quite a while but I find tuxcards makes it easier for me to visualize what I have.

I don't keep huge piles of notes in it, though -- mostly things like to-do lists.

How about your text editor? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800847)

Search-able and simple simple text is cross platform and easily copied and pasted. It acts like your "College ruled" notebooks and a single file could hold all. And, using the search mechanism you could search for a word or a date. The discipline you need is a really simple format: date first, topic or keyword and then just type. End with a signature, initials, keyword or "to do" note or phrase.
Why make it harder?

(Cringe) OneNote (1)

westernjanus (900664) | about 9 months ago | (#46800849)

I am in fear of the flames now, but I started using OneNote around three months ago and I swear, it is the best note-taking system that I have ever used. I would go so far to say that it might be the best program that Microsoft has on offer. Very flexible, very easy to use, and the cut and paste feature really makes it useful. There you go....And they are giving it away free.

Re:(Cringe) OneNote (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about 9 months ago | (#46800925)

OneNote is great, except that it needs a computer to run on. A good pen and notebook can be much lighter/cheaper/faster for jotting down a note and will give you great battery life to boot!

I agree though, if you're in front of the same computer all day OneNote is a truly excellent program.

Paper for me too (1)

Anrego (830717) | about 9 months ago | (#46800865)

I've gotta go with the hive mind here as well. I do most of my note taking on pads of paper, then throw those pages into physical folders, and then those folders into a filing cabinet.

On the computer side, a folder with the name of the project/task/whatever to dump digital stuff related to it.

Old fashioned, sure.. but it works.

Re:Paper for me too (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | about 9 months ago | (#46801271)

"On the computer side, a folder with the name of the project/task/whatever to dump digital stuff related to it."

I also always use filenames like 20140420.txt. Graphics get names like 20140420.jpeg. Search with grep, back up with rsync, remote access via ssh. This works for me because (1) most of my notes are text and (2) keeping the material readable for 10 years or longer is a requirement. Take notes by hand in meetings and transcribe later, which means I rewrite them into English while I still remember what happened.

notepad (5, Informative)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 9 months ago | (#46800867)

Seriously. Just put .LOG on the first line of the file and every time you open it Notepad puts the date and time.

Re:notepad (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 9 months ago | (#46801345)

a rare moment when someone posts something potentially useful and not well known on /. kudos

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802229)

Thank you so much for posting this.

Re:notepad (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 9 months ago | (#46802883)

... Holy crap. There is an actual *feature* in Notepad beyond the bare minimum required for a GUI text editor?

I'm quite honestly astonished. I generally assume Notepad has no meaningful features at all. Tested though, and it worked. You don't even need to use a particular extension (or at least, both .log and .txt work); looks like it just checks that first line.

Omni-Outliner (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 9 months ago | (#46800919)

from OmniGroup.com or a similar outlining app.

Text, images/screen shots, linked files, audio, all in an organizable outline format meaning I can keep a years worth of notes searchable and displayable in a small window.

The text is kept in normal Mac format, so Spotlight can easily search all OO files for a specific text item.

OneNote (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about 9 months ago | (#46800931)

Microsoft OneNote.


Re:OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801649)

Only if you want a non-free solution. Which is ok for some, not knocking it.

Re:OneNote (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801923)


Faggot strikes again. Go suck on Ballmers balls.

DokuWiki (1)

JamesA (164074) | about 9 months ago | (#46800933)

I used to use organized .txt files but switched to DokuWiki.

https://www.dokuwiki.org/dokuw... [dokuwiki.org]

Now I can access notes from all of my devices and share them easily with associates as well.

I tried Evernote, MediaWiki, Atlassian's Confluence and a ton of other options but DokuWiki is the only solution I have found that makes managing a notebook easy, fast and enjoyable.

Org mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46800953)

Try Org mode in Emacs if you are reasonably comfortable in it (or even if you are not)

Re:Org mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801247)

Your message already speaks what is bound to be confronted: a software which is quite uncomfortable to use. ;)

Get a dry erase marker and write on the screen. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 9 months ago | (#46800977)

Rsync [samba.org] your CherryTree [giuspen.com] file, or sync with whatever cloud storage solution you use, Google Drive, Microsoft NSAAS, whatever.

It's a bit limited for complex things, but it worked for some students I know tracking the majority of their note-keeping needs. Stopped using 3rd party solutions since I eat my own dogfood, and now have notes integrated into my distributed versioned whiteboard / issue tracker / build & deploy & test product. I have issue/note/image annotation plugins for coding with Netbeans, Eclipse, Visual Studio, Emacs and Vim -- Which reminds me of a Vim plugin I just saw that you might find useful... [vim.org] if you can run a (home) server (and port forward around NAT), then install Wordpress on a LAMP stack (in a VM, because PHP exploits) -- I'm pretty sure Emacs has all that built in by default now: C-x M-c M-microblog.

I jest, it's just Org mode. [orgmode.org] Save your .org to your Git repo, and away you go.

org-mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801027)

I'm using Emacs org-mode w/ a vcs. Most-used features are TODO's, scheduling (agenda), document export

Keepnote (1)

ikhider (2837593) | about 9 months ago | (#46801033)

Your notes can be as detailed or as slim as you want. This is some pretty good project management software.

freemind (1)

thecoolbean (454867) | about 9 months ago | (#46801055)

I have used OneNote for years, but take a look at Freemind [sourceforge.net]
I like using it specifically when laying out a working outline for a theme paper, a programming problem, etc.

It allows Visual / Org-chart and outline display of notes. not just tabs. Easy to re-arrange and show different ways. Import and Export to HTML & XML. Superneato.

Ethnographic field notes (4, Interesting)

spasm (79260) | about 9 months ago | (#46801081)

I've been writing ethnographic field notes for about 15 years. I had a couple of phases of trying to do this electronically, but the notes from each of those 3 month experiments are for the most part now lost or at least difficult to access - proprietary formats, failed backups, accidental deletions, you name it. Whereas the paper notebooks are sitting on my bookshelf beside my desk. For one project I chopped the spine off the notebook and dropped the pages into a bulk scanner before perfect-binding the notebook back together again, but the resulting physical notebook is a bit more delicate than I'd like. But I do like having an electronic version, both for backup and so I have a copy available when I'm away from my bookshelf. So these days I photocopy each notebook and drop the photocopies through the scanner (and more recently I've been able to have a student or an intern do it, but for a task I only needed to do every three-six months it was never that onerous to begin with), storing both the photocopy and a copy of the pdf offsite. I've played with various indexing schemes over the years, from leaving the last dozen pages blank and writing a single-line description of the contents of each page as I filled it (2002-03-21: key informant interview, ER doctor, hospital xxx), through to embedding metadata on relevant pages of the pdf to make it searchable (my handwriting is way way too bad for ocr to have any utility). But the 'write the index on the last few pages of the notebook as you go' method has been the simplest and most robust, and it rarely takes long to find anything, even with 30 or so notebooks on my bookshelf. And picking up an old notebook every few months and just reading or skimming through it is often a worthwhile exercise, reminding you of ideas and streams of thought and research context in ways that simply searching for something you already know is in there never can.

As an additional benefit, I've always found making notes in a notebook to be less intrusive in meetings or interviews than typing or using a stylus on a tablet (although changing social norms may make the latter less intrusive eventually), and the act of writing to be less intrusive to my own thought processes than typing (maybe just because no red squiggly lines appear under my notes as I type, or text reflowing, drawing the eye as it does so), but that might just be me, or I might just be showing my age.

hello ethnographic field notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801879)

please please please have some breaks in your writings. one long running block of text is so hard to wade through. three or four lines then a line break then another three or four lines and so on. think of those who may want to read your writings. please.

Re:hello ethnographic field notes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801943)

Don't listen to someone who doesn't know where the shift key is.

boogie board sync (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | about 9 months ago | (#46801107)

Writes like paper
Syncs to evernote
Saves everything to pdf and can easily be printed for paper archival

freeplane (1)

dslbrian (318993) | about 9 months ago | (#46801131)

I use this: Freeplane [sourceforge.net]

It's not the right tool for long verbose text, but for collecting ideas and arranging them together it works well. I tend to think of it as a free-form web page. A few key things:
- It is portable, at least I run mine off a USB flash drive. This is a key feature, if it were not so then it wouldn't get used. It's not "cloud" but then I think of this as being better than a cloud version, as it does not require network, and you don't have to worry about cloud security.
- It can support links to other files (local on the drive) or web links to external sites. This ability to organize an amorphous collection of things (text, local links, remote links, images) is what makes it a good idea tool.
- It can collapse/expand parts of the map so you can focus on topic at hand. Just make sure to enable the setting that saves the state of the map (for some reason IIRC it defaults to everything collapsed when the map is first opened).

Once you setup a couple keybindings, and get the hang of creating and linking new nodes it becomes a pretty fast tool to work in also.

I want an app that does what I want. (1)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 9 months ago | (#46801139)

If you're just looking for a laundry list of note-taking apps, I'm sure Google can help. If you want real advice you need to provide more information. You're obviously in the habit of taking notes with pen and paper, so why have you failed miserably to keep a digital journal? What part of it doesn't work for you? Your list of requirements is missing that bit of information. You want a "single file or cloud app where I can organize personal notes on projects, configurations, insights, ideas, etc.,". Well, that about covers every single note-taking app ever written, as well as every text editor from the dawn of time. Try to narrow it down a little. Or, stick with pen and paper if it's been working for you. What do you hope to gain by going digital? Knowing that will help point you in the right direction.

EMACS + org-mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801145)

No, seriously. Amazing for journal keeping, customization to what you want, tagging, indexing, scheduling, time-logging, integration with calendars, org-mobile for your mobile needs with synchro. If I wrote something on a notebook, snap a pic, link it to a note with relevant tags. I use it for my job (post-doc researcher) to juggle all the stuff I need to do, and it is amazing on all counts.

I use Evernote. But I don’t trust it. (1)

Qbertino (265505) | about 9 months ago | (#46801201)

I use Evernote. But I don’t trust it.

I use Evernote for most of my digital notes stuff. I like the syncing feature which keeps notes on my mac, smartphone and tablet in sync.

However I don’t trust it for really important long-term stuff. Really essential stuff, such as long writing projects, articles, essays, important letters or digital journals go into textfiles that are in directories covered by redundant backup/archive mechanisms on detached portable HDDs with filesystems that can be read with widely available free open source software (Mac OS X HFS *without* journaling).

Doing anything else with anything valuable that’s supposed to stay useable longer than a decade is insane.

For instance, I still have CD copies of CD Archives of Zip Disk Archives of very old HDDs (2,5 40 MB HDDs would fit on one ZipDisk attached via parallel port - yepp, those were the days) with texts written in Ami Pro. The Ami Pro format is openable with a regular text editor, but it still is anoying to extract the useful data. No way am I installing Dos 5 and Win 3.11 on a Vbox just to run Ami Pro just to open them. Hence, only UTF-8 textfiles since round-about 2000.

You should do the same for any journal stuff that is supposed to last longer than 3 years.

My 2 cents.

Re:I use Evernote. But I don’t trust it. (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about 9 months ago | (#46801779)

It's easy enough to export Evernote data into a directory full of HTML files. I dump mine into the git repo I keep all my important files in. That even keeps formatting and linking, which is a big improvement over most text file oriented solutions. If you're more of a fan of wiki style for that, you can use something like Markdown conversion. [github.com]

The main tie-breaker reason I ended up at Evernote is full read and write access to the repository on my phone. The days of losing an idea when I'm wandering around are gone. I type it into my phone, and by the time I'm on my desktop that note is stored with more redundancy that I ever achieved on my own.

FireFox Scrapbook extension: for 'collecting' jobs (1)

SpzToid (869795) | about 9 months ago | (#46801249)

Only slightly offtopic: Here's a similar use-case and how I solved it. The problem is 'collecting' job ads efficiently to spend my time applying for.

Requirement: Avoid redundant re-reading of the same stupids ads over and over, (so alway view ads boards by date, most recent ads first; and maybe use 'email search by date filters' too). Also, I want to avoid applying with recruiters as much as possible by applying only directly to firms whenever possible, etc.

The Scrapbook extension allows me to quickly select html verbatum from any web page and save it locally to disk with my notes, while a right-click takes me to the original web page. I save these in 'dated' folders, at least initially to save time, so I can stay focused to the task at-hand. Even when the original webpage is gone, I still have a copy of it, (and I didn't print or save any paper either).

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-... [mozilla.org]

Scrapbook allows me to save these pages locally to disk in folders, *and* the extension appears in the sidebar, *and* allows me to prioritize the ads worth applying to simply by re-ordering them up and down, using the mouse; and also move them to other folders

This is the best solution I've found so far, and if anyone knows something better I'm eager to read.

What about security? (1)

ZeroPly (881915) | about 9 months ago | (#46801293)

What you call "notes", the local prosecutor calls "evidence". Something you write that might seem totally harmless to you - "today I spent three hours daydreaming about putting bleach in my idiot boss's Diet Coke" suddenly becomes damning when presented out of context to a jury, after someone put bleach in your boss's Diet Coke and he wound up in the hospital.

I have been keeping a plain text log for the better part of two decades. They are just individual text files, one for each day, with titles like 2014-04-20_sue_party, a date and a quick description of anything unusual. The encryption mechanism has changed, but right now they are all stored on a Truecrypt volume. A vanilla search only takes a minute at most.

Re:What about security? (1)

greg1104 (461138) | about 9 months ago | (#46801887)

I don't expect encryption to save me here in the US, not the way key disclosure [wikipedia.org] law is going so far. There's no perfect solution possible here, and the trade-offs in only having a local copy aren't so great. You have to transport the data over a network to get real redundancy for your notes, which is one of the most important things electronic notes do better than handwritten ones. Recent news has shown in so many ways that you can't expect network privacy either.

I'm skeptical of people who believe their personal systems are beyond monitoring too. If you theorize a world where hostile prosecutors are empowered and interested enough in you to search your private notes, your problems are bigger than how exactly you protected them

WikidPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801583)


WikidPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46801617)

I've been using WikidPad recently - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikidPad

Pros so far are that the notes "database" is just flat text files (so you can VCS them easily with git and use any editor to create them, although WikidPad has a decent enough simple editor) - the dynamic links and formatting are all done on the fly. Also, it's written in Python so the source is freely visible and hackable.

The upshot of those two points is that it should be relatively trivial in future to process and export/import the notes to some other format if a better tool comes along. It has an HTML export/publish facility already, so that's a way of pushing my notes to a server that I can refer to anywhere (even if I can't edit them).

Cons are that I don't particularly like the CamelCase document linking method (I'd like a way to indicate that a CamelCase link should actually be visible in the document as "Camel Case" (or "Camel case" or "camel case")). That's fairly trivial though (I can always dive in and submit a patch that adds that option if I'm that bothered by it).

Overthinking the problem from both directions (1)

Xel (84370) | about 9 months ago | (#46801741)

I grew up right on the cusp– I learned to print and write cursive in grade school but I always had bad penmanship and started typing papers on a word processor in middle school. Got my first computer in high school. So I am more comfortable typing than writing by hand, and Im sure anyone younger than me is going to be even more so. I can understand why so many people suggest you type your notes- it does present zero barrier to entry, and no compatibility issues, but its the WORST format by far for searching and retrieving information later on. The more you write, and the longer you wait, the harder it will be to remember where and when you wrote that one particular nugget of wisdom.

I'd also stay away from any app or god forbid, cloud service, that is proprietary. If it doesn't offer XML import/export, I wouldn't even consider it. Also, no way Im using an Omni product that will extort a $100 upgrade fee whenever they like. Plain text for me, with a copy exported as PDF and appended to a master document that I can search from any PDF compatible app on any platform.

Give Up, Just Use MS-Word (or whatever) (1)

DrTime (838124) | about 9 months ago | (#46801919)

I went from keeping a simple and cheap paper lab notebook to just using MS-Word. Paper notebooks were fine in the olden days, I could tape in tables or diagrams from books. But paper is hard to search and organize and move from desk to desk and job to job.

I simply keep an MS-Word (or Google Docs) file where the document starts with several tables, such as charge codes, assigned staff contact data, assigned staff current assignment, and a To Do List.

Then I have a current to past date order where each date has a header with the date in Bold (using a style) and is followed by note lines indented to make each entry easy to spot and follow. When I read a document or reference a file, I add a hyperlink to the item in my notes.

With MS-Word i have active hyperlinks, I can paste in tables or diagrams, or Dilbert cartoons. Every three months I close the file, write lock it, and start a new one from the previous one. To shorten the file, I trim old entries from the current one because the original file is intact. Eery month I print the current one to have with me for reference. Each file ends up about 40 pages. I currently have less used tables at the end of the file.

My oldest one still opens and has its original file time stamp. If MS-Word ever announces it will obsolete a format, I could convert them to Google Docs or save in the new format. Lets face it, MS-Word is a defacto standard. It is used everywhere now. I have used these files on both Macs and PCs.

My method has saved my sorry ass many times. When did I talk to such and such about something? I search the files and I have dates because I record a brief summary of every discussion I hold with names. Personnel issues, I have notes. Document lost? I have links and the dates I read it, even if the link is broken, I have a record. Travel, I have a record. Meetings? I have a record with notes.

Do I want to trust a third party like EverNote, No.

Have I ever lost one of these files, No. I have them at work, at home, and on Google Drive.

The records have helped me trace missing circuit boards since recorded to whom and when I sent them.

I started using this when my manager, before I became one, would ask me if I was working on something. If I had no record of when we talked and what he said, I was at fault for not working on something. When I started keeping records, that problem ended.

NoteTaker: it's like a digital 3-ring binder (1)

Cludge (981852) | about 9 months ago | (#46801945)

I learned to keep detailed, highly organized notes while working as a field biologist as a young man. In those days, if you were lucky enough to be museum trained, you used "The Grinnell System", which was a binder-based system that specified everything from the kind of ink to use (high carbon, black india ink), the paper (acid free high cotton bond), and layout elements, such as the locations of margin lines, dates, and page numbers. Tabbed sections were used to organize notes by activity. We used 8 1/2 inch binders because the smaller size was easier to use in the field. I spent many a long rainy night, usually in a tent or the front seat of a truck, completing my notes of the day's observations. My notes are now deposited in a museum, where they can be accessed by researchers working in the regions I used to haunt.

These days, as a statistician, I still take copious notes. But the ink and binders are gone (and so are the ticks and mosquitoes!). Organization is key: I need to record the entire data analysis process, from data formatting and cleaning, to graphical analysis, coding for models and processing scripts, and finally construction of figures suitable for publication. I looked long and hard for a digital note taking system before finally settling on NoteTaker by Aquaminds. I think it's binder-like system appealed to me, after so many years using binders in the field. I've been using NoteTaker now for at least 7 years.

NoteTaker is not completely free-form like some systems: note books mimic lab books in style and format, with digital pages in a digital binder. You add discrete entries, which are organized consecutively like an outline (entries can be moved around in the hierarchy). There is a table of contents for each book, and tabs are used to organize books into sections, much as a physical binder. Content can include everything from text to jpegs to sound files and video and everything can be time-stamped. Auto-indexing is a useful feature, though of course there is a built-in search utility, too. Notebooks can be ported to PDF, and there is a free reader for sharing notebooks with people who haven't purchased NoteTaker.

I've used NoteTaker for many academic and professional projects over the years. I've grown to rely on it as my main method now for keeping track of projects. It's not the Grinnell System, but for people trained on a binders, it feels like a natural replacement.

A wiki (1)

ukoda (537183) | about 9 months ago | (#46802047)

Several years ago I started to use PMWiki and was surprised to find it replaced my use of notebooks. There is probably better wiki software out there but it does what I need.

The search feature makes it easy to find old notes just by remebering one word specfic to the info I want. This was the key short coming of my paper notes, after a while finding stuff was no longer pratical.

The other thing was being html on a server meant I always have access from any PC or from my phone. When my job started including international travel this remote access to my notes was great.

Plain text files (2)

drolli (522659) | about 9 months ago | (#46802075)

The best system i found are plain text files for the really important things, in a year/month/day directory structure. Store it locally on a usb stick and use an arbitray sync tool or version mangement to sync between your devices.

Searching these is easy.

Start using callij (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802625)

we were fed up taking notes and other stuff and keep lossing them, now we use callij to take our notes and other stuff. I even use it now to store my admin history, important emails etc.
We love its feature of able to auto link back between the notes. Try it out.

favorite app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802105)

Notability is my favorite app, though it's only for iProducts...

Re:favorite app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802331)

Found The Bullet Journal system via paper and ink to work rather well.

Prefer using grid paper for my notes, have binders back to 1986. Have now started using the Bullet Journal system.

Started out using Franklin-Covey Binder system, which works yet due to the binder rings do not hold-up in patent court. These go back to 1986.

food for thought.

Emacs "Org Mode" file (2)

helixcode123 (514493) | about 9 months ago | (#46802203)

I use Emacs with "Org Mode". It lets me collapse each day's information to single line, but all of the information can be searched like a normal Emacs buffer and expanded as needed. You even get the handy table formatting. If you need to output sections they can be rendered to PDF, HTML, etc.

Re:Emacs "Org Mode" file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802983)

And it syncs to my Android phone. Dunno about that other brand.

Re:Emacs "Org Mode" file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46803005)

I forgot to mention that I also keep a Clairefontaine 96 page 9x14cm notebook ($3.50 or less & it lasts several months) in my hip pocket and a Uniball PowerTank pen which writes upside down and under water.

Zim + storage of your choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802207)

I like Zim [zim-wiki.org] for note-taking with minor formatting and image insertion. Have the folder sync to any sort of "cloud" storage you prefer and you can access it anywhere and keep it synchronised. The formatting is just a basic wiki style formatting using plain text files and folders, so even if you don't have a native client for every device (phone/tablet), you can still edit or add files and clean things up later. It also has a plugin system so you can get extra features like in-line calculation, automatic date-based journal creation under a namespace, tagging, etc.

I keep one primary notebook for notes, ideas, and random information, using separate namespaces to categorise; then I also keep some extra notebooks for specific projects or even keeping track of data for games that benefit greatly from a journal of locations and inventory, such as Minecraft or Starbound.

LightPaper is also decent but it's tied tightly to Dropbox. Visually appealing, works nicely on mobile, and formatting is Markdown so it's simple to work with on other platofrms. Bad part is it's hard to get your files out of it other than with Dropbox, and limited platform support (Android and OS X only, oddly).

No matter what you choose, though, it should be something that creates files that are human-readable or at least can be parsed by other programs. Anything else risks you losing your data

Try a Livescribe pen (1)

sc0nway (628426) | about 9 months ago | (#46802287)

I would recommend a livescribe pen [livescribe.com] . You get the best both worlds. You use the pen with their paper - which you can download a pdf template for free from their website. And you can download what you have written, as well as any conversations that were going on while you writing on your computer which is then indexed.

The only downside is that it is an electronic device and needs to be treated as such. I had it in my soft tote book bag in the back of my car for a couple of weeks and it got banged around and broke. At $150-$240 apiece treating it like just another pen was an expensive mistake.

But even with that downside if you take good care of it the Livescribe is awesome!

vi, find, grep (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 9 months ago | (#46802433)

I do that with vi, find and grep on a collection of plain text files. It works rather well.

ZIM (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46802597)

I use it with Dropbox to make it available with all the computers I use.

  Zim is a graphical text editor used to maintain a collection of wiki pages. Each page can contain links to other pages, simple formatting and images. Pages are stored in a folder structure, like in an outliner, and can have attachments. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a nonexistent page. All data is stored in plain text files with wiki formatting. Various plugins provide additional functionality, like a task list manager, an equation editor, a tray icon, and support for version control.
Zim can be used to:
        Keep an archive of notes
        Take notes during meetings or lectures
        Organize task lists
        Draft blog entries and emails
        Do brainstorming
Zim handles several types of markup, like headings, bullet lists and of course bold, italic and highlighted. This markup is saved as wiki text so you can easily edit it with other editors. Because of the autosave feature you can switch between pages and follow links while editing without worries.

Evernote (1)

stargazer1sd (708392) | about 9 months ago | (#46802617)

I've been using Evernote for almost 4 years now. Overall, I like it. Having access to the same information on my desktop, laptop, tablet and phone is amazingly handy, especially at events where I go through multiple sets of batteries in a day. (SXSW comes to mind.)

The key to using Evernote, or probably any personal content management system, is organizing your data so you can find it later. I started using notebooks, but have evolved to a combination of notebooks and tags. It's important to spend some time up front, and create some management system and stick to it. It will evolve, but as with many things, if you have a good base, it will grow well. I use the notebooks to separate major contexts; like work and my various hobbies. I use the tags to keep track of individual subjects. This is handy when a given item can fall into more than one category.

I like that you can use the camera to embed pictures into notes. You can also embed other files. The free version has a fairly modest limit on the amount of data you can upload, but it's been adequate for me. You can upgrade to the pro version for $45/yr, which gives you a lot more upload and I think some enhanced OCR capabilities as well.

I also like the web clipper plug-in. It will extract the content and put it into a note. This is very useful if the content changes or even disappears. They've been steadily adding features. I'm getting into the shortcuts and reminders and finding both useful.

Going back to your original application though; if you want to keep a journal, keep a journal. Adding organized, indexed notes to it will be amazingly useful. I do keep an irregular journal on Evernote. Though, if I have an ongoing need for detailed tracking, I switch to pen and paper, usually in the form of a Daytimer. I do this for legal reasons, and not operational ones.

My only major criticism is that the iOS app is very slow on my iPhone 4.

Please don't construe the above as a diss on One Note. I haven't used it, and haven't been motivated to try it.

Permanency (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 9 months ago | (#46802699)

I mostly use OneNote (was using Evernote for shared stuff, but am transitioning that to OneNote now that it's free). The biggest problem I run across is permanency. If you write something on paper, it's pretty much permanent (unless the ink fades or the paper turns to dust). If you write something in OneNote, then later accidentally select it while typing something else and don't notice it, it's gone. For shared notes, if someone wants to cover up a problem, they could simply delete someone else's remark pointing it out.

The same characteristic makes it difficult to use these note-taking apps for event tracking. For certain tasks (e.g. customer relationship management), you want an immutable record of events which you can refer back to in the future. Worst case you may even need for it to stand up in a court of law. You get this permanency with pen and paper (at the cost of disorganization). You don't get it with OneNote or Evernote.

(Yes I realize for serious customer relationship management, I should be using real CRM software. But I just fix stuff on my extended family's computers, and have been bitten by accidental deletions more than once.)

You Want to Keep A Log??? (1)

perry64 (1324755) | about 9 months ago | (#46802751)

Yes, if only someone had invented a way to log things on the web. I bet that they could call it a web log, but knowing how everyone shortens things, they would probably call it a wog, or something like that.

If there was something like that, there probably would be lots of software available to do that, which would have lots of ways to index the contents with a series of tags.

If only that existed.

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