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Tuesday
Nov142006

Note Taking Software

Evernote is still proving its worth, but there are some limitations of the program which I find irritating. I've decided therefore to try out various other note taking programs at the same time. I will judge the winner on the purely pragmatic grounds of which program I find I actually end up using.

The programs which I have on my list at the moment are:

If you have a favourite program which you would like to see added to this, please put it in the comments section. I can't promise to use it, but I will have a look to see if it's suitable.

Reader Comments (21)

The GTD Wannabe blog is written by an academic who is an Evernote diva. Here's a link to all the Evernote posts she's made:

GTDWannabe's bookmarks tagged with "evernote" on del.icio.us
http://del.icio.us/GTDWannabe/evernote

It sounds like you can get as elaborate or as simple with EN as you want. (She also has an interesting recent post on her blog about Skrybe. (sp?))

For online, I've been using Google Notebook lately, and before that I used Yahoo's Notepad (you have to sign up for email addresses with both services to get at these things, I think).

I've picked up and put down more note-taking software than I'd like to think about. Some days, a plain old Word file with keywords becomes the most straightforward thing to use, esp since you can create hyperlinks to headings within the document.

At home, I use Notetab Pro as my text editor, and it has an outline facility that is basically the typical list of headings in the left pane, content in the right pane. But it also offers pretty effortless hyperlinking within the file, to other text files, and to URLs. It also offers a "pasteboard" function, such that anything copied to the clipboard gets automatically copied to a designated text file; of course, then you have to cull stuff from the pasteboard. This is trying to live by the "everything in one file" method, which somehow appeals to the efficiency-minded.

The PigPog site had a posting on this ages ago (ages! Dec 2005) on storing and retrieving nuggets of information. I did a couple of long postings there, and the comments were pretty interesting, overall.

Storing Nuggets of Information | PigPog
http://pigpog.com/node/1001/

At the end of the day, I do have to ask myself: How much of this stuff will I honestly need to retrieve? What kind of fear is this digital packrattery supposedly alleviating? The problem is that it's so easy to use these programs, I don't stop to think about these harder questions.

My wife gets along just fine using Google for whatever she needs, when she needs it, putting her specific notes into a project file, and then not bothering with stray nuggets that *might* prove useful *someday.* (The difference between "just in case" and "just in time.")

Our analog forefathers used commonplace books and actually handwrote the nuggets they wanted to remember. We blog and comment, but it doesn't have the feel of integration into an ongoing narrative, which is how I believe our brains prefer to think.

Sorry for the long posting! This is a hobby horse of mine...mb
November 14, 2006 at 19:17 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
BTW, I have EN at home but use it rarely, for some reason. Tried the various Tiddlywiki variants, was dazzled by teh functionality and gee-whizness, but it wasn't effortless. Same for Backpack; I've created a few nice pages for when I've done presentations, and editing is a joy; the finished page looks very good. But it seemed overall a solution to a different sort of problem, not the one I was struggling with.

Haven't tried Stikkit.
November 14, 2006 at 19:32 | Unregistered CommenterMike Brown
Hi Mark,

I have tried a few of those, and have settled on oneNote. By far the most advanced for quickly writing your ideas. The outliner is wonderful.

Also, have you tried mindMaps?
November 14, 2006 at 20:32 | Unregistered CommenterJose
Hi Mark,
I will definetely try Backpack. It looks interesting. I have used Infoselect for 8 years and have really enjoyed it. It is feature dense. www.miclog.com. Also, not exactly notetaking software but very functional for collaboration is www.filesanywhere.com. I have been using this for around a year and have been happy.

Regards,
Sam
November 14, 2006 at 21:31 | Unregistered CommenterSam Morrison
Mark,

You said that there are limitations to EverNote, but didn't list them. Every good author knows that you never make a statement without backing it up. What were the limitations? Please be specific.

Also, of the other programs you listed:
-Tiddly: very cool interface, gonna play with it, but see it specifically as a very public, group information manager.
-Stikkit: I can't take this program seriously.
-Backpack: why pay hundreds of dollars a year for what services like Google already provide for free. Granted, it's not all on one page, but for a little more than a hundred dollars, I'd be happy to click some pre-defined buttons on my browser's link bar.

Just my 2 cents.
November 14, 2006 at 22:32 | Unregistered CommenterKen Donofrio
I guess it depends very much on what exactly you want to use it for (or use the notes for!?)

there's a review of over 20 notetaking software(s) (no online stuff) at
http://www.donationcoder.com/Reviews/Archive/NoteTakers1/index.php
each having different strenghts/weaknesses
November 15, 2006 at 8:56 | Unregistered CommenterTom
Hi Mark,

I use Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 for all of my notes, research, brainstorming, etc. OneNote is a direct competitor to Evernote, but maybe an interesting alternative for you.

It's very easy to use and has a lot of cool features, like taking notes while listening to audio/video files (Podcasts, Webcasts, etc.). The notes are then linked direclty to the a/v file. This way you can see/hear why you took some notes. One of the other features I use daily is search, which is very fast and also searches all of your images you pasted, "screen-clipped" (screen-clipping is one of the features of OneNote), etc. into OneNote (via OCR recognition). OneNote also supports various ways of organizing your notes and informatoin, like multiple notebooks, pages, subpages, sections, etc. If I find an interesting article on the internet (like on your blog) I also don't add it to my favorites anymore, but print it direclty into OneNote where I have a section for information about time management, for example. You know the lists of thousands of favorites you never look at with half of the links not being available anymore, don't you? :-)

You can also make your OneNote notebooks available on more than one machine and keep it in synch automatically.

As another tool I also use Mindjet MindManager 6 for mind-mapping, which I think is the best tool for creating mindmaps on the market, but also more expensive than many other mindmap tools. Many things you can do with note-taking applications don't fit as good in mindmaps and vice versa. I always use mindmaps if I want to summarize many thoughts and information in a structured on one page or if I just want to put together a more detailed structure of my thoughts, todo items, etc. than I could do with numbered and bulleted lists, which is the primary way of structuring in note-taking applications (beside using multiple pages, note containers, etc.). If you like the concept of mind-mapping, then you should have a look at MindManager as well.

Cheers,
Thomas
November 15, 2006 at 10:06 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Wenzl
I use Treepad (www.treepad.com). Allows creating articles in a tree structure. There is a simple and very effective freeware version, and more powerful shareware versions.
November 16, 2006 at 13:07 | Unregistered CommenterGerard van Leeuwen
Thanks to everyone above who has shared their methods and programs. My ideal would be a program which allowed me not only to capture, retrieve and manipulate information and text easily, but also to present or display it in a structured way.

I suspect my ideal program would look something very like Eastgate Tinderbox http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/

If you look at what Tinderbox claims to be able to do you will realise why I think all the programs I have come across so far are limited. Whether it actually does all this in the way I imagine it does, I don't know because it is only available for Macs - and I don't have one!

They have been promising a Windows version for years, but so far it hasn't appeared.
November 16, 2006 at 14:38 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Tinderbox is fascinating but has a steep learning curve. The power of what you can achieve with it is not obvious in its menus. Even the manual provides
only a faint idea of its possibilities. I guess, this is the reason why Mark Bernstein, its author, is currently writing a book about how to use it creatively.
November 16, 2006 at 15:46 | Unregistered CommenterNiko
Wow. A trip to the Tinderbox made my eyes hurt, but it was exactly what we're all looking for (I think). Free form notes and the ability to pull info out the way we need to see it. I'm on the edge of putting this program together myself! And I'm not a programmer! I think it may be time to solve this problem once and for all. And just do it!
November 16, 2006 at 16:38 | Unregistered CommenterKen Donofrio
Perhaps a shower of emails from readers of this blog might persuade Mark Bernstein bernstein@eastgate.com to get the Windows version finished at last. I think I will write a proper blog post on the subject!
November 16, 2006 at 16:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
You could just get a Mac!
November 18, 2006 at 10:24 | Unregistered CommenterTC
Sorry for belated entry -- only found this blog a few minutes ago. I've been using InfoSelect (IS), (http://www.miclog.com) for 15 years now. I don't use its calendar or email (other programs work better for me), but use IS all day to do two things: a) track my next actions and projects (in a mix of "Do It Tomorrow" and David Allen's "Getting Things Done" methods); b) store reference notes of all kinds. IS offers lightening fast search and excellent filtering capabilities, free-form data entry (or structured, if you wish), and easy hyperlinking to any file or URL, including folders on your hard drive. InfoSelect is the one program I don't live without.
December 16, 2006 at 16:05 | Unregistered CommenterLena R
Thanks for your comment about Info Select, Sarah. I used to use it myself, but found it just got too complicated.
December 19, 2006 at 13:51 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Try ndxCards (http://www.ndxcards.com ). I find the metaphor of an index card appealing, and especially like the built in outlining.

Arasu A.
December 28, 2006 at 4:20 | Unregistered Commenterarasu
Thanks, Arasu, for the recommendation. I'll check it out.

Mark
December 29, 2006 at 1:04 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hello Mark,
I just came across your site yesterday, and I greatly appreciate your unique time-management tips. I'm just not sure whether I should start implementing them today -- or tomorrow!
I also read your discussion of note-taking software. I spent a long time last year trying out everything out there, and I found that the best, by far, is Ecco Pro, which is also totally free. It's a simple but very powerful Windows program that allows easy and intelligent organization of information. It was discontinue back in the 90's, but there are lots of
die-hard users (including myself) that still use that version, and there are discussion groups devoted to it. You can find lots of information on the web
about it, and you can download it from this page:
http://supportweb.netmanage.com/ts_viewnow/downloads/patchesUnsupported/ecco.asp
(Netmanage made the program totally free a few years ago.)
I find that the main advantage of Ecco Pro is that it's very easy to assign one piece of information to multiple folders. If you change it in one place,
it changes everywhere. And you can move folders around and create sub-folders easily. Also, you can add columns in order to tag any information with whatever categories you choose.
Thanks again for your great tips!
Cheers,
October 30, 2007 at 15:51 | Unregistered CommenterLucas D
Mark, thanks! Try http://www.idearover.com



January 29, 2008 at 7:25 | Unregistered Commenterigor
Hi Mark,

My company released a Note Software earlier this year called NoteScribe. We too felt that there were a lot of limitations and problems with other note-taking software on the market, so we developed our own. I personally feel that our NoteScribe makes it rather easy to organize your notes by categories, keywords, and sources, as well as a quick way to cite your work as you collect data. It is also easy to search for notes, and attach files to notes.

I hope you will give it a try! Thanks for your time.

Download a free trial at: http://www.notescribe.net
April 29, 2008 at 21:48 | Unregistered CommenterJake
Knowledge Notebook is a simple and free learning software for students. They can take notes, create flash cards, organize , search, review notes. It also supports multimedia contents. It can be used online to utilize online resources. It's free and very helpful for students of all grades. You can download it free from www.knowledgenotebook.com
December 18, 2010 at 2:03 | Unregistered CommenterRizwan Ahmad

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