For the last few months I have struggled different apps for taking and managing notes. There seem to be a fair number of tools out there but all seem to fall short of being the one “aha” application I can commit to. These days one of my primary use case is to jot down a quick idea and share it with some friends and not that many applications seem to help there.
Traditionally my notes used to be on one off text files that I would save on my desktop when I was writing them and then a week or so later figure out where among my folders I would keep them. This always bothered me as I am not a super organized person as is and would end up having 10-15 text files on my desktop before I would decide to organize them. Moreover many of these documents would contain references to information in other notes (if I could ever find them), so I began my quest for the perfect note taking application.
Here were my high level requirements:
- Bring all my notes under one application
- Rich formatting options
- Be able to group documents
- Be able to link documents from one to the other
- Grow a document from a few lines to a comprehensive body of knowledge
- Allow certain documents to be sharable
- Web sync for me to access them on different devices
- Be cross platform (I use a mac at work and a PC at home)
I have been using Evernote for the last few months and its not bad. It allows individual notes that could be tagged, web synchronization, public/private notes and had a good PC and Mac client. Thats what I am using right now. However the document formatting is okay at best and it doesnt help that most of my collaborators arent on Evernote.
For my last collaborative project I started working with shared Google Docs. It had better formatting options than Evernote and almost everyone I know seems to have a Google account these days. And since its on the web, there is no synchronization or cross platform issue. The minus: the workflow for a quick note seems wrong. I dont want to create a Google Doc for a 2 liner note (it feels fairly a formal document) and it definitely feels a more distant application than an installed application that I can launch with a couple of key presses (using QuickSilver on the Mac and Launchy for Windows).
With the announcement of Google Wave, I was pretty excited (yes I am one of the few who finds it pretty useful and wish more people started using it regularly). The format of a wave is less formal than a Google Doc, the in line contextual commenting on shared waves makes it great for documents that are still in the amorphous stage and it has options of embedding raw html and iFrames that let me embed relevant information right in the document. However it does seem to suffer from the same problem of not feeling very “on my machine”. Occasionally I need these notes in places where internet connection is spotty at best.
I have also tried other applications like VoodooPad and personal productivity applications like DevonThink, Together, Yojimbo etc and they all seem to have elements of my perfect app but they aren’t quite there yet. Actually in the last couple of weeks I have reverted to using my trusty Moleskin notebook and that almost works best.
So what do you use to take notes and such? I am curious if people already have a great way of managing information that I am missing.