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Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?

timothy posted about 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46800825)

"stave off Alzimers"

Says the guy who can't spell it.

Re:The Luddite Answer (3, Funny)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803457)

Point proven. Now, don't you have some deep fryers to clean?

Re:The Luddite Answer (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | about 8 months ago | (#46807885)

Oh, now you're going from "can't reason above grade school level" to outright kindergarten sandbox, projecting and making shit up, awww ^^

Don't feel bad though, the world is full of dumb fucks who use superficial markers to delude themselves into believing they can reason themselves out of wet paperbag, you'll blend right in.

Re:The Luddite Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 (1)

gzuckier (1155781) | about 8 months ago | (#46821093)


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 8 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.

Re:The Luddite Answer (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | about 8 months ago | (#46808375)

I tend to agree with sticking with Moleskin(sic) - preferably 8 1/2 X 11 size --- nonruled (blank). I've tried electronic logs - I've tried electronic drawing apps (e.g. Papyrus on a Nexus 7 Android system). The main problem for me is not only do I want to write in it - but I find freeform drawing to be more helpful in conjunction with the writing. The Nexus pixel sizes for drawing where too coarse - and while you can zoom in and out -- the drawings always ended up looking odd - and took longer than just writing on paper. The only other acceptable solution I found was a $1500 Wacom electronic drawing tablet --- so I continue to buy Moleskin at a fraction of the cost.

So that does bring up the problem that is mentioned regarding indexing - and here is how I deal with that:

Each entry is dated in this manner: yyyymmdd e.g. 20140421 ; in this way each volume contains a series of entries that are uniquely numbered; if you need to add more than one entry per day - then just add hours and minutes as needed: 20140421:1405 (using the colon to visually separate the date from the time is preferred by me).

I also encode each entry as to 'type', where types are based upon single letter codes: C = computer science, A = art, etc... I put the letter code inside of a square in the upper - outer corner of each page where an entry begins.

The next step is to create an electronic index to key entries in your logs --- assuming you number your volumes sequentially - you can identify an entry like this:

Vol 2, 20140421:1400 History of FOO

With this system you can have both the flexibility of combining freehand drawing with your log entries, and also keep an index of your key entries organized however you like (perhaps by type, or project codes etc...you can expand this as you need beyond my simple method).

One stop shopping solution: emacs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46800785)

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

Org mode (5, Informative)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 8 months ago | (#46801179)

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

Re:Org mode (1)

Stephan Schulz (948) | about 8 months ago | (#46801409)


Re:Org mode (1)

Aighearach (97333) | about 8 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 8 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.

Re:Org mode (1)

Bastien Guerry (3584101) | about 8 months ago | (#46813291)

I guess many Emacs users only use Org. And I know for sure many Emacs users who learned Emacs just to use Org. So maybe there are more nerds in this world than we expect at first.

Another plu g for orgmode. (1)

Beetle B. (516615) | about 8 months ago | (#46803055)

Orgmode is also the most useful note taking tool I've found. Of course, it helps if you're OK doing it in Emacs. I will point out, though, that many people learn Emacs simply so that they can use orgmode - it's that useful. If I had to guess, I would say that since 2008, more people learned Emacs to use org mode than for any other reason.

Notepad (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 8 months ago | (#46803143)

Back when I had a Psion 3A organizer, it was a great tool for taking notes on, though eventually the hardware died.

After that I used a series of Palm Pilot versions, which weren't as good - graffiti was slower than typing, and the text file editor could only handle notes up to 4KB, so I had to start new ones roughly monthly (though at least they did sync with Outlook pretty well.)

For the last decade or so I've been doing most of my work on Windows, so I just keep a Notepad text file open on my laptop all the time, and update the filename quarterly to keep an archive (though I haven't actually truncated the old part of the file in a few years, since Win7's Notepad can handle decently large files.) I back it up to various other media, and I suppose I could also back it up to my phone.

Hipster PDA + emacs orgmode + cyborganize (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46800793)

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

seebs (15766) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46802425)

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

Re:Kept it simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46811983)

Zim: http://www.zim-wiki.org/
Everything is saved as separate files, so you get the benefit of all that simplicity, plus on the supported platforms you can use a visual editor if you wish; It acts as a wiki so you can easily link things that way if you need/want to.
I don't recall offhand which format it uses (I haven't used it in a little while to be honest), but it was something Markdown-like, or maybe it does use Markdown. Obviously, that's optional if you'd rather just use plain text anyway.

One Note (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 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 8 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.

Cherrytree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46806269)

It's a GPLv3 note taking application, which supports most of the same stuff as OneNote.


White-text-on-black-background (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | about 8 months ago | (#46811381)

The white-text-on-black-background is discouraging. Can that be changed?

Re:OneNote is very good (2)

meeotch (524339) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 8 months ago | (#46803717)

Even if you had to absolutely use OneDrive with OneNote, what's the big deal? You don't have to use it for anything else (but you should, it's good).

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46801771)

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

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

Sesostris III (730910) | about 8 months ago | (#46803421)

Actually (and seriously), as per some comments above, I use simple text files, both at home and at work. I'm not then dependent on a specific application. I'm not even dependent on X.

Re:OneNote is very good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803743)

Great. They are useless for the rest of us who would like to embed documents, presentations, audio, video, pictures and other data which can convey information - in some cases - better than text can.

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

Sesostris III (730910) | about 8 months ago | (#46804205)

Then use onenote. Of course you'll then be tied down to a specific application and even (as I seemingly trollishly demonstrated above) to a specific operating system!

Should I want to reference a document, presentation, audio, video or something else in a text file, I just record the file location. OK not embedded, but I haven't found this to be problematic, especially if I group things into folders.

Re:OneNote is very good (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about 8 months ago | (#46804885)

Then use onenote. Of course you'll then be tied down to a specific application and even (as I seemingly trollishly demonstrated above) to a specific operating system!

I believe OneNote is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Win Phone, and Linux if installed the right way: https://appdb.winehq.org/objec... [winehq.org]

Not really tying you to one OS. Plus you can export in open formats - PDF, XPS and HTML at least.

Should I want to reference a document, presentation, audio, video or something else in a text file, I just record the file location. OK not embedded, but I haven't found this to be problematic, especially if I group things into folders.

Linking and embedding are different techniques with pros and cons, something like OneNote allows you to use either (or both) as appropriate rather than be tied down to a specific one. Guess you probably never, ever, move, rename, or edit your referenced files, and never want to put annotations over your referenced image, and never need to search your notes including the not-embedded references (or are happy to open up each reference and search it separately). For other users who do have some of those requirements, text files won't cut it.

paper...pencil (5, Insightful)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 8 months ago | (#46804199)

Big advantage paper has is you can spread it out.

You obviously need more monitors. :D

Re:paper...pencil (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 8 months ago | (#46803761)

You can get notebooks/pads with markings in the corners and an accompanying Android/iOS app that lets you scan them with the camera. The marks help the software neaten the photo up. Works well with erasable Frixxon ball pens.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46805163)

I use an Echo (bought it before the Sky came out), and I'll echo all the above. I periodically export my evernote data and save it in case the service goes down.

With the Echo you're not limited to Adobe to listen to the recordings - you can also listen to them with the supplied client software. The Sky does not use client software as it just directly syncs to Evernote.

The only thing that makes me nervous about the Sky is that it is dependent on an outside service. In theory my Echo pen will work 10 years after Livescribe and Evernote goes out of business - I just can't upload my notes to Evernote. But, the Sky certainly seems more useful to me overall - perhaps I'll upgrade and donate my Echo to a college student.

Re:paper...pencil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46806693)

I use Evernote 2.x, which I bought some years ago. No cloud, works great. Combine it with a cloud account -say, Dropbox, and you can access your Evernote database(s) from anywhere.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

kbrannen (581293) | about 8 months ago | (#46806719)

If I was taking a class (or whatever) with a high ratio of drawing to text, then I'd agree. However, I'm rarely in that situation; most of my notes are text only.

I can type faster than I write, even with abbreviations (which I can do while typing too), and my handwriting has decreased over the years, so typing is almost manditory unless I really slow my handwriting down, which is the opposite of what I need to do while taking notes when someone else is speaking.

That's how it is for me, perhaps your situation is more conduction for pen and paer ... mine's not.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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.

Re:paper...pencil (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803153)

>Don't over-think the problem.

"You can't grep dead trees." Get with the 21st century, man.

Re:paper...pencil (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46805109)

I have a livescribe pen, which I use for exactly the reasons you state. It requires special paper, but the cost of the paper is cheap compared to the time I spend writing on it.

It captures everything written and can output in PDF, and can also do correlated audio recordinds, export to evernote, etc. Since it captures the path and not just the resulting image the OCR should be better than for scanned handwriting.

If I had a pen-based tablet I could see going electronic, but I doubt I could do handwriting on a standard touchscreen tablet very well (a pen-based tablet only detects input from the pen - you can touch the screen with your finger and nothing happens).

Re:paper...pencil (1)

grebke (2881557) | about 8 months ago | (#46805135)

I use cheap composition notebooks to take notes of any kind. I write the page number in the corner of each page, since the notebooks that have printed page numbers are an order of magnitude more expensive. If there is a small printout I need to keep I get the scissors and rubber cement from my desk drawer and cut/paste away. As far as searching for a note, I have an index text file for each notebook with a page number and a summary of each page, mostly keywords like ''53 selinux, apache source, tracker" that I have in the file 18.txt in my NOTEBOOKS directory. I use grep to find the note which tells me the file and page number for each hit. I scan the pages and keep a copy at home and at work so I can look at the page content. The FastStone or XnView image viewers make it very easy to look look at the pages.
The main rationale for using 'stone knives and bearskins' is longevity. JPG and TXT files will be readable for many years to come. This may not be the case for other formats.

I use tuxcards (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46801345)

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

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46802229)

Thank you so much for posting this.

Re:notepad (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 8 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.

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803309)

Used to use F3 to insert date/time. That feature disappeared; I now know where it went!

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46804213)

I prefer Autohotkey with the strings 'ddt' and 'ddd' mapped to current time and date stamp! This works in all text editors.

Re:notepad (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46807509)

Wow ... so, are there any other things like that it does? I must confess, this is the first I'm seeing this.

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46808581)

Yes, and in case more timestamps are needed, just press F5.

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46808879)

Now only if the timestamp were in a sort friendly format.

Re:notepad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46812947)

AMAZING. Thanks. all these years of using notepad and I never knew.

Omni-Outliner (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 8 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 8 months ago | (#46800931)

Microsoft OneNote.


Re:OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 months ago | (#46801923)


Faggot strikes again. Go suck on Ballmers balls.

Re:OneNote (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 8 months ago | (#46803755)

The angry AC strikes again...

Re:OneNote (1)

plazman30 (531348) | about 8 months ago | (#46804323)

Once your stuff it in OneNote, there's no easy way to get it out. Personally, I hate the UI. I'm using Tiddlywiki till something else wows me.

Re:OneNote (1)

kbrannen (581293) | about 8 months ago | (#46806753)

Once your stuff it in OneNote, there's no easy way to get it out.

Seriously? You haven't found the export (save as) feature? They give you Word, PDF, XPS, and MHT formats. If it all goes bad for you, you can always copy-n-paste it out. It's not hard to get info out of OneNote. If you're trying for mass export, as in you're trying to move away from OneNote, I believe they also provide the API so you can write your own export filter (haven't tried it though).

DokuWiki (1)

JamesA (164074) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46801943)

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

Re:Ethnographic field notes (1)

jittles (1613415) | about 8 months ago | (#46804829)

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.

I always use the computer for taking notes in meetings. I can type at over 200WPM and my handwriting is painfully slow in comparison. I used to do transcription work to pay the bills through my days at the university. I could quite literally record every word of a meeting if I wanted to. I find that its easier to follow the meeting if I make a quick electronic note and then return my attention to the person talking. It's important to have the right keyboard for this. Many people like their MX keyboards with mechanical switches, but they are very loud and very rude during meetings. It is considerate to avoid making loud keyboard noises.

Re:Ethnographic field notes (1)

martinQblank (1138267) | about 8 months ago | (#46810935)

To further this one bit - the batteries on my spiral notebook have NEVER died and extra pens are easy to carry and or find (read steal - if no other option presents itself) when needed.

ANECDOTE: I've got notebooks from 15+ years ago in a filing cabinet. Will they ever be useful to me? Likely not - but at least my kids will understand why I'm crazy if they bother to look through them. That said, having the last year or so's notes readily at hand can be a huge win - especially if you work on longer running projects or programs. Or, heaven help you, you have to maintain legacy products where each relevant detail is painfully pried from an unyielding source.

boogie board sync (1)

Deathlizard (115856) | about 8 months ago | (#46801107)

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

Re:boogie board sync (1)

Megaport (42937) | about 8 months ago | (#46803241)

Thanks for mentioning boogie board, I didn't know about it. I'm a big fan of eReaders, and I can't wait to try eWriters now!


freeplane (1)

dslbrian (318993) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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.

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

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46805251)

I'm on the same page as you. I use evernote for the cloud convenience, and it gets me automatic backup of all my documents for free.

I periodically dump everything locally. I usually use their xml export format, figuring that if they ever went out of business suddenly somebody else would come up with a way to transform it. In the more likely case that I have a sense that they're going out of business I can export to html as you suggest, but as a backup format a tree full of html isn't ideal.

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

SpzToid (869795) | about 8 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 8 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 8 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

Re:What about security? (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about 8 months ago | (#46805905)

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.

I'll chip in with a combination that works for me. This may or may not overlap with the OP, but YMMV.
Anyway, I want to be able to have access to my data in multiple places, including mobile. On the other hand, I also expect a certain control over my data, including the ability to encrypt (and still have access).

Org-mode has some support for iOS and Android apps, including syncing to a central location via Dropbox or WebDav. Encryption is available too, using the OpenSSL command-line tool IIRC. WebDav is also supported by ownCloud, so the central sync point isn't DropBox and their snoopy new board member, but my own VPS elsewhere. Of course, one of the beauties of org-mode too is that in the end, the data is still plain text once decrypted, so the local copy is never stuck in an opaque format. If I'm concerned about my local copies' security, then that is in an encrypted volume.

WikidPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46801583)


WikidPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46802105)

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

Re:favorite app (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 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 8 months ago | (#46802983)

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

Re:Emacs "Org Mode" file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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.

Re:Emacs "Org Mode" file (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803203)

and a Uniball PowerTank pen which writes upside down and under water.

What on earth are you going to be writing on, underwater?

Zim + storage of your choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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.

Re:Evernote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46805963)

One of Evernote's strengths is its search capability. So you _can_ spend hours geeking out about a notebook / tagging taxonomy... Or you can create one notebook and call it "Trunk" and throw everything in there and when you want Aunt Norma's cookie recipe, search for Aunt or Norma or cookie or sugar or teaspoon, or some combination, and find your result in a snap.

You can't do that with pencil and paper.

Re:Evernote (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about 8 months ago | (#46806039)

The problem I had with EverNote is that there are no encryption options. I'm less worried about availability since I back up important data, but why should they ever have anything other than a bucket of bits?

Re:Evernote (1)

stargazer1sd (708392) | about 8 months ago | (#46811881)

If it's something sensitive, you could encrypt the file and attach it to a note.

Re:Evernote (1)

Tool Man (9826) | about 8 months ago | (#46812693)

If it's something sensitive, you could encrypt the file and attach it to a note.

You could, for a one-off. It's not a useful model overall though, where their whole model of simplicity and ease of use only works if you're taking the easy way out and sharing everything by default.

Permanency (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 8 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.)

Re:Permanency (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803735)

Good points!

Do you think "real CRM software" guarantees immutability though?

Re:Permanency (1)

ray-auch (454705) | about 8 months ago | (#46804621)

Immutability and retention are an issue with all digital information outside a properly configured and standards-compliant electronic records system - and even then there are limitations.

OneNote can get close enough for most purposes however - it can be configured to auto-backup to any location at configurable time intervals. Use file-history, time-machine, rsync, etc. from there. Zip, digital-sign and timestamp the backups and store in your records management system or file directly with multiple sets of lawyers around the world. Once your backups grow to significant size, realise you needed a retention and disposal policy and mechanism...

Also, be aware that nothing is perfect - permanency of paper stores is often overestimated. Anything that is ever referred to (and if not, why are you keeping it?) needs a checkout/checkin/refile process all of which involves risk of loss. Temperature, humidity, mold, vermin, can all bite you badly, before you even get to the more obvious ones of the single cigarette-end or burst water pipe.

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

perry64 (1324755) | about 8 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.

Notational Velocity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803045)


I've been using this for the past week at the referral of a colleague. It seems to be basically text files with full text search. Works, but hasn't replaced the mnemonic device of pen and paper. Stuff just gets stuck in my head when writing it down vs typing.

Tiddlywiki (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803059)

I myself like Tiddlywiki, I keep a empty copy that I customized it to my preferences and when a new project comes along I create a new copy and use it for documentation and notes like TODO lists, bugs, etc.

Shameless self promotion (1)

valles (2826761) | about 8 months ago | (#46803107)

I'm also a journal user and was I wondering why journal software isn't an easy switch, so I created doodL.E. http://doodle.redadept.com/ [redadept.com] which should be launching on iOS this week. I made the software as lightweight and fast as possible. I'm also a doodler, so I made the tool art capable. My email address is brook_seaton[at]redadept.com if you want to begin a conversation.

Text files and version control (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46803209)

I use text files written with Emacs with version control in Git. Emacs lets me commit a new revision by just hitting C-x v v and typing a log entry in the window that it prompts with. That lets me back it up trivially with git push to a remote box. I can use multiple files for different topics and occasionally move stuff from one topic to another, in which case I commit both files atomically (git is built for this). I can use a git GUI tool (I'm a luddite and use gitk) which shows the whole history and the log entries at a glance, etc. The revision history is similar to what you'd get with a wiki, but without the goopy formatting or the need to type in a browser window instead of a powerful editor (Emacs). It seems like a good combination to me of high tech and dead simple.

Try Tagspaces (1)

kmf (792603) | about 8 months ago | (#46803469)

I'm a very committed Evernote user, the product is great, however I started migrating my data (3500 Notes/750MB) to Tagspaces, it's Open Source, relies on open standards and I feel it's the safest way for me to store my information. It's not as fancy as Evernote but I believe in project and the developer behind it. Have look at it : http://www.tagspaces.org/ [tagspaces.org]

Desktop Wikis (2)

Morpf (2683099) | about 8 months ago | (#46803681)

I started using desktop wikis for writing down my notes. Right now I am using Zim.

Bonus: You can read and edit the files with any text editor as it's just mark-up.

Tomboy Notes (1)

captjc (453680) | about 8 months ago | (#46803993)

It's a FOSS cross-platform personal wiki. It has all the advantages of wikis without the bothersome markup language. It is best parts of being able to link notes together mixed with a simple rich text editor.

Simple and Easy to use.

Re:Tomboy Notes (1)

plazman30 (531348) | about 8 months ago | (#46804349)

The problem I have with Tomboy Notes is the lack of consistent cross platform releases. The Mac version is pretty old, compared to Linux, and not every release gets a Windows build.

I use all three platforms and need my solution to sync across all three.

Windows note-taker suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46804407)

I've used EssentialPIM (www.essentialPIM.com) for years. It's straightforward and simple to use, and quite nice - a Wysiwyg editor, visual notes (lets you embed images and tables, among other things). It has other features that I use unrelated to notes as such: a scheduler, a to-do manager, a calendar, a password locker. It also has a contact list and mail interface, though I don't use them for my purposes. The free download version checks for updates and nags discreetly about upgrades to the pay version. I see that there is an Android version as well.

KeepNote (1)

horza (87255) | about 8 months ago | (#46804613)

The best app I have come across for storing ideas is KeepNote [keepnote.org] . Free and cross-platform, though it could do with a few more features. OneNote seems not bad for storing recipes etc, but is obviously unacceptable for storing personal data.

In terms of PIM, this is not really the same as OP was asking as most of them are calendar/to-do based. I've tried every single ones of these, and have found MyLifeOrganized [mylifeorganized.net] to be the best. One of the few apps I've been happy to pay for. Microsoft Windows only but works under WINE.


Online Tiddly Things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46804655)

There are a variety of TiddlyWiki descendants that are good for online storage of notes while still allowing some of the TiddlyWiki goodness (disclaimer: some of these were written, at least in part, by me): TiddlyWeb [tiddlyweb.com] , TiddlySpace [tiddlyspace.com] , Tank [peermore.com] and TiddlySpot [tiddlyspot.com] .

Tank is the newest one, but probably least featureful. It distinguishes itself from the others by preferring Markdown over TiddlyWiki text.

Thank You Apple, Thank You Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46804903)

I use the data from your Evernote and Tiddlywiki

LabNodes (1)

guru42101 (851700) | about 8 months ago | (#46804993)

https://labnodes.vanderbilt.ed... [vanderbilt.edu] has the ability to keep track of resources and share them with other researchers. They were working on notebook functionality before I left, but it doesn't look like that has been implemented yet.

libreoffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46805045)

I use a nice ultrabook with what I found to be the most comfortable keyboard to type (lenovo t440s), installed fedora on it, and use libreoffice files to save my notes. Especially handy given that I can get a freedom of information request in my line of work.

Tablets blow donkeyballs if you can touch type. And I no longer care what people think about my typing during meetings, since I am often asked for copies of my notes.

TWiki (1)

SethBrown (585099) | about 8 months ago | (#46805525)

I have been using TWiki since 2002. I used to have binders before that, but searching through binders is a pain. TWiki provides version control automatically on all documents. Documents are kept in text files. You can use HTML tags plus TWiki's own markup language. There is no database backend so you don't have to worry about database corruption.

Subjects can be organised into "webs", which are colour-coded to make them visually distinct. Each web is a directory with its own internal structure, templates, etc.

I can upload binary files which are attached to the particular topic, so I can add screenshots, config files, router configuration files, executables, tgz files, PDFs, etc.

I use TWiki to track my projects, customers, network layouts, scripts, code, documentation, pictures, basically my entire life.

In response to the idea that my descendants will not be able to access this chronicle of my life, since TWiki is basically a bunch of folders with text files, as long as one browser that can be basic HTML and text survives, this information will be available.

To me, TWiki is my superpower. It has turned your average geek into a Guru, despite being over 50 years old and not able to remember anything from last week, I have a tool that allows me to recall commands I used in Windows 95/3.11, code snippets from the green screen era of System V UNIX, MS-DOS, Novell, OS/2 and C/PM.

Because TWiki supports HTML, I have built screens that allowed me to manage networks with hyperlinks to run VNC to connect to users' desktop PCs, phones, printers, PBXes, servers. I have code from hacking cellphones, databases, weird little one-off projects like swipe card interfaces. Code snippets in dBase, C, SQL, PHP, Informix, VisualBasic.

All searchable with regular expressions.

Blessed Ishtar, how does one live without a wiki? I literally can't remember life without it.

Bullet Journal (1)

wneuheisel (3624307) | about 8 months ago | (#46806339)

If you're already used to using paper notebooks, this is a pretty cool system for organizing and indexing them: http://www.bulletjournal.com/ [bulletjournal.com]

Freemind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46807261)

Notes change as research progresses. Links, pictures, todo along with status and disposition of tasks are usually included. Then all of that is eventually pruned and consolidated. The only thing flexible enough to keep up is a mind map. Freemind is free and powerful enough for the job. I often strayed from it, only to come back.

Still my first choice ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#46807409)

Over the years I've always had a college ruled composition notebook nearby to jot down important ideas, instructions, tasks, etc.

For me, I have never seen any of the technology solutions to have ever gotten better than this.

In terms of flexibility, robustness, availability, and the lack of the need to fiddle endlessly with technology which almost does most of what I want (but with more effort)... I will stick with my black hard-cover lab books. It's independent of my employer, my time zone, what kind of power plugs are used locally, and vendors who decide they don't want to support it any more.

I've got a stack of them which go back almost 20 years. I've used them day in and day out. If I can come up with an approximate timeline as to what I'm looking for, I can usually find what I'm looking for fairly quickly.

Every now and then a co-worker will wonder why we're doing something a certain way, or how we decide on it ... and I can usually dig it up in my notes pretty quickly.

Go ahead, use your fancy cloud technologies, your scanning pens, your digicam pics of your notes ... me, I'll stick with the low tech solution which has served me well for many years.

Sure, I'm a grumpy old man. But I was grumpy 20 years ago. Now I'm just grumpy about different things. Endlessly fiddling with technology which isn't really any better than a pen and paper is one of them.

For me, the optimal solution already exists. If you are feeling really fancy, get one of those pens with the 4 different color inks -- you can annotate and mark things up to your hearts content.

Redmine (1)

mebrahim (1247876) | about 8 months ago | (#46807765)

Redmine [redmine.org]

Re:Redmine (1)

tzanger (1575) | about 8 months ago | (#46825333)

I've set up my entire business around Redmine. There are some pretty impressive plugins to handle blogs [redmine.org] , CMS [redminecrm.com] , CRM [redminecrm.com] and even a WYSIWIG editor [github.com] to help "normal" people format tables, lists and text but who would normally be put off by trying to learn Textile. SCM and issue tracking is integrated, there are time trackers and forums, GANTT charting... it's a great resource.

Best of all, it's database agnostic and open-source.

TaskPaper (1)

zieroh (307208) | about 8 months ago | (#46807897)

I use TaskPaper. It's just slightly more than plain text, offering some automatic (and fairly unobtrusive) organization. I keep one text file for one year, and then start a new one.

Vim and Dropbox, with .markdown extension (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46812697)

Leaving aside the editor wars, there are 2 main issues here: file format and sync. No reason to avoid text, and writing markdown has advantages. For sync, there are many options -- I like Dropbox because it's reliable and simple, and has fine-grained sharing. You can share a single file easily, and the markdown gets rendered reasonably well with no additional effort.

To search this content requires nothing more sophisticated than grep.

the ultimate solution (I hope), a work in progress (1)

lcall (143264) | about 8 months ago | (#46837687)

I'm late to the discussion but this might help. It's the solution I use every day, after a lot of effort:
- I tend to take a lot of notes, about many things. I have wanted and been thinking about what you're asking for a long time, and had discussions about it with others.
- Over time I've used spreadsheets, a paper system, text files named and organized carefully into directories, emacs org-mode, jedit, then enhanced those with collapsible outlines that do work well, but break down after a certain point.
- We made a long-term plan, then got busy with life.
- Recently I've been able to give it some attention again, and I have created the beginnings of software that I hope will become your dream software for this purpose. Really. I don't use such words frequently or lightly. It is AGPL.
- It is successfully now replacing my use of collapsible outlines in jedit (which itself much easier than emacs' org mode, which I used to use). Not replacing my spreadsheet yet, but that is in the plans.
- It has a text-based UI that perhaps only its author could love (only text-based, wouldn't be too hard to adapt to a GUI given how it's organized, I hope). It is keyboard-efficient, and (almost?) always can be used by simply reading the screen and tapping a single visible menu letter for what you. It feels a little bit like "git commit --interactive" does.
- It doesn't have a convenient installer or prebuilt binaries but I hope/plan to make something in that direction *soon*. Right now the step-by-step INSTALLING guide has you installing PosgreSQL (not hard, really), java, maven, and following some instructions. But it does work.
- When you launch it, it is a bit bare, because I haven't implemented data sharing or templates yet, to show an idea for how I use it to organize arbitrary life information in a somewhat useful, complete way.. But there are specific plans.
- Right now, it amounts to creating entities that have whatever data you want, in a fundamental model of knowledge a layer below what text (words) provides, with efficient collapsible outlines of such entities that (withing a few days) can be recursively nested or one outline can be linked in multiple places. There is some theory behind this. Not ACM-rigorous maybe, not BNF, but it's not completely loose either.
- It can import/export from text outlines like I used to use, now.
- It needs a search feature which is also coming soon, and shouldn't be hard to do since postgres is underneath it all.
- It works. I use it in my job every single day, and rely on it. With the features it has *now*, it is replacing or has replaced my personal journal, to-do lists, planning tool, notes on many subjects, and little notes like "my wife said the cord she uses for those backpacks she makes is 12' long", but *modeled* (in an early, rough, incomplete way) not just typed as a note. That note (aka Entity) is associated with my wife, or soon to be text-seearchable, and could also be associated with anything else I care to link it to. It is not bug-free, but I use it all day, every day.
- It's freely available at https://github.com/onemodel/on... [github.com] . If our old mailing lists at OneModel.org (preferred) don't work any more (it's been a while), you can contact me either via github pull request, or at, let's say, removing the spaces, filling in numbers and the @ sign where I'm hinting (sorry to be obscure, spam is annoying): luke three hundred thirty-nine -------> onemodel.org.

Efficient Diary (1)

Erich Pace (3630799) | about 8 months ago | (#46838973)

I just used this for once, and not too bad, at least it can meet all my need. It can be used for free trial, but if you want some better tools of it, you have to pay a little. Just a suggestion,

LibreOffice Writer is excellent (1)

cboslin (1532787) | about 8 months ago | (#46865549)

I too have tried this with text files and other methods (ie. SQL databases) only to come up way short. I know you cellphone users don't like that as anything more complex than text is going to present allot of problems for an itty bitty display surface.

With LibreOffice Writer, I can save pretty much anything, except perhaps binary blobs, instead I can 'refer' to that blob's subdirectory path within LibreOffice. By referencing other documents, even images stored elsewhere, you can keep the file size of your journal from growing larger than your journal editor can handle. Wile 'hackedit' (h.exe) would let you edit a file larger than memory, like other text editors, to not have links to content and the ability to include graphics is too limiting. For windows OS I found WordPad to be adequate as it could handle pretty large files, however ultimately too limiting.

Forget about MS Office Word, if the data format is not changed on you, there will be some quirk introduced in a later version to make it more difficult to include other content.

LibreOffice Writer works very well for saving URLs in a format that you can click on to get back to the original source. If you need the material for future reference, you should store a copy of the web content in a local directory. Down the road if your source gets deleted, you can put the saved copy on your own website and call it a 'cached copy'. At least you have the source. Not much you can not download with FireFox + the DownloadHelper Plugin.

Nothing worse than trying to back up information with sources only to have those sources disappear...biggest problem on Google's Youtube IMO. (If someone does not like what you are saying, they will say you are infringing on a copyright, Google automatically pulls the content and you are required to prove that its not infriging before you can load it back...by the time you load it back, the gain of immediacy for your content is lost, thus the value of Youtube for that is diminished.)

Some Positives . . .

  • ~ Can copy/paste working URLs / links and click on them to see and/or use, just can not do this with text editors.
  • ~ Ability to save images and graphics.
  • ~ Ability to save portions of spreadsheets, though I would recommend storing in a separate .ods file and have LibreOffice Calc execute and load the spreadsheet.
  • ~ Flexibility, while you can save lots of stuff in a .odt file, often it might be smarter to save in a separate file and reference from your journal OpenOffice Writer document. Yes we can copy/paste it, but should we...?
  • ~ Avoid complications of SQL for average users. If you need database information, store in a separate directory, document the /directory/file location within your "'journal' LibreOffice Writer file" and if it will not load automatically (when you click on it), leave instructions so information can be referenced.
  • ~ Anything that can NOT be stored in LibreOffice Writer, can be stored separately in a directory with a reference to the file saved in Writer. Videos, binary blobs, database files, etc...
  • ~ Libreoffice will let me 'export' as a PDF file that can be read on a tablet or handheld. As long as the device has a micro-usb and/or usb slot, I can store allot of information on a 64GB or bigger micro SD card and access it via USB. This is how I reference and read my content on my Android tablet...works great.
  • ~ No Adobe professional (expensive) writer tools are required to create a .PDF file.
  • ~ No Adobe is needed to read .PDF files. With Linux/Android, use Evince Document Viewer.
  • ~ Since application runs on the device locally, no bandwidth or bandwidth cap concerns. Don't kid yourself, with the loss of net neutraily, you do not want to depend on anything that eats bandwidth...no matter what the providers promise they won't do. They have been bad actors for too many years to trust them not to muck it up down the road.
  • ~ No proprietary format BS concerns. LibreOffice Writer stores data in an open data format, so there is no fear of a propietary format being changed down the road with a new version of the software as has happened with many tools over the years. (Why Microsoft Office is a non starter, have lived this at least twice over the last 30 years with MS Office, not going there again, ever. Live and learn.)
  • ~ No monthly reoccurring fees!

Some negatives...

  • ~ Will not work on a handheld or cell phone.
  • ~ Probably will not work with a tablet except for reading. Only use tablets to read .PDF files, not to load, edit and save.
  • ~ You will need memory. While 4GB of RAM should do it, my new laptop has 16GB of triple channel memory and those large .odt files do open faster. If you have less memory (in my case 512MB would be too small) than the file size, while OpenOffice Writer will open the file, it will be significantly slower to do anything.... My largest .odt files are 916.6kB and 395.5kB. Most editors would choke on files that size full of URLs, images, chunks of data copy/pasted in...not LibreOffice with enough memory.
  • ~ You will need a search function for multiple files. While LibreOffice Writer's 'in-document-search' is excellent, if you want to search all the .odt files on your hard disk, you need something more. So you would need a programming language that can open .odt files without overheard problems. PHP, while hated by many, would work fine for this. Running from CGI prevents the need for running PHP from a server...something to think about, however the average user might have problems setting that up.
  • ~ You will need many cross references. Example: Udev see Linux ~ Udev ; for example. Remember the way you think of a topic today, will change down the road...even with multiple cross references sometimes you approach a topic from a totally different perspective, therefore you must be able to search the document. LibreOffice has a search function built in that works very well. Here is my example for Agile. In the document I might have
    Agile ~ Stories; or
    Agile ~ Acceptance Testing (UAT vs Q-UAT) as entries in the document.

    Agile; Software Tools see Project Management ~ Agile/Scrum ( /data/ProjectMgmt/Agile; Related Documents; Definitions; Measuring; Motivation; Stories; Acceptance Testing (UAT vs Q-UAT); Agile Modeling (AM); Surveys; Disciplined Agile; not indexed );
    see Agile Modeling (AM);
    see Dimensional Modeling;
    see Anchor Modeling;
    see Modeling;

  • ~ Need laptop, netbook or desktop. Forget about a cell phone, screen size is too small to do anything meaningful IMO. While LibreOffice is available for my tablet, would need a USB keyboard to really make use of it, thankfully my Android tablet has a micro USB port, therefore a possibility.

Backup copies of files...:
No matter what tool you use, keep lots of back up copies. I do not back up every day, instead I backup when I feel I have contributed enough work to the file that losing it would be painful to me. Remember LibreOffice Writer will automatically save the file while you are working on it, so this happens without you needing to think about it. What I am referring here are more copies of the file in case your original gets corrupted. When I feel like it I will save it based on the day of the week, today is the 28, if my file is called Journal.odt, I might save an additional copy as Journal-bak28.odt today. Over time you might end up with a file for every day of the week, but since you are not saving them every day, one might be this month another might be last month or even a few months ago. It is easy to to see the date of the file in the file list to see which one is the most current. Hint: Its not always the largest file if you have pared something out of it and put it in another file, having refrenced this other file in your original.

Backup strategy, gets data off computer and stored safely, can also be retrieved as needed:
You should have a backup strategy that you adhere to. A conversation about backing up, is way beyond the scope of this here, just regularly make backups and keep a copy offsite (in another geographical location) in case there is a disaster, rain damage, fire, etc... Now-a-days hard drives are so cheap that there is no excuse for not simply compressing your files and copying them to a hard disk. This method does not impact bandwidth caps and delays caused by backing massive amounts of data over an internet connection. Its an effective DIY solution that does not involve another monthly fee. Hate those monthly fees.

Don't use Cloud apps: need a local app and avoid reoccurring monthly fees:

Since I know others might mention some cloud application, I provide one of my biggest objections, automatic reoccurring fees; however not having an application that will open your data locally is a non starter for me. So Cloud only no, Cloud to enhance, perhaps, but even than I would want to make use of HTML5's ability to store and retrieve data without being actively connected to the Internet...Cloud apps will never allow that.

Use Ripple, Dwolla, pre-paid cards instead...

Hint to ecommerce sellers and especially SAAD providers (Software As A Dis-Service cloud providers) give me an option that does not include 1) a revolving charge (bank account, debit/credit card) and 2) my phone number/cell phone or I will NOT use your service. Hint: a pre-paid debit card, Rechargeable Gift Cards, Dwolla, WePay, Ripple.

Hey merchants, Dwolla lets a customer purchase items costing up to $10,000 and only charges you (and the customer) $0.25 cents . Yes ONLY a quarter per purchase!

Admittedly Dwolla is tied to a bank account, but Dwolla lets me, the customer, cancel a payment at any time for any reason, regardless of how bad the customer no service is via the company I no longer want to do business with. Dwolla will also remove a commercial entity that abuses Dwolla and/or cheats a customer, just as they will remove a customer that tries to cheat a business. Seems extremely fair to me. Another Dwolla plus, money transfers are instantaneous, no two, three or four day wait for money to get into the account and/or to the merchant. Since they make their float on the back end between bank transfers with the Federal Reserve System, they do not have to gouge their customers.

I believe WePay requires a bank account as well, however pre-paid debit cards, rechargeable gift cards and Ripple do NOT require a bank account. Thus you can not screw me with a re-occurring charge...provide me service or I will cancel your behind. (Remember PayPal and Burning Man...thus the mention of WePay instead.)

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