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Taking Notes

24 Mar 2014

For the longest time, I’ve fussed over my note-taking ‘system’. I like taking notes, mostly to silence my inner monologue, but I’ve never been able to find the right tools for the job. But I think I’ve found a solution that’s good enough.

I love Evernote. Actually, I love the idea of Evernote, but I have a few complaints. Its biggest flaw is that it’s too bloated, so it’s not suited for those quick, one-off notes that I often have to make. (Then again, it’s probably not made for that purpose - it’s more like a digital lost-and-found, which is how I’ve come to use it.) The lack of a true Linux client also bothers me, but I think the command-line Geeknote is some consolation - it gets brownie points for being CLI based. Besides, most of my notes are either long Linux commands or lists of things I want to do/buy/read, so all the fancy image and voice recognition stuff is quite useless to me. And did I mention that it’s slow?

Google Keep was my next tool of choice since it seemed to do everything well enough – it had fast syncing, full text search and a nice looking Android app. Throw-in time and location based reminders and it was (nearly) perfect! The only thing that bothered me was the lack of organization, there was really no way to sort my notes. I tried using different colours but I could never remember which colour was for what category, so I gave up.

I eventually resorted to storing my notes in plain-text files and putting them in a Dropbox folder. This was great as I could quickly pop open a text file no matter what program I was in, and I didn’t even have to be online to do it. Taking notes on my phone, though was less exciting - most of the plain-text apps are really ugly or lack basic functionality like search.

Today I started using Simplenote, which is a beauuuutiful app. It’s extremely bare-bones – only plain-text is supported, but it has really fast search and you can use tags for better organization. The real clincher for me was that I could use Resoph Notes on Windows, which gives you the option of storing the notes as plain-text files. Naturally, I opted to backup my notes in my Dropbox folder (which used to be part of their premium plan), so any files added to that folder get synced to Simplenote’s servers.

The productivity geek in me is happy now :)

Update (18/6/2014) - There’s a new app for Windows called Notation, similar to Notational Velocity for Mac, that sync with Simplenote. It’s much better looking than Resoph Notes and can be invoked from anywhere using a global shortcut. It’s definitely an improvement over Resoph Notes (which doesn’t run automatically on startup), so it’s worth taking a look at.