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Last post Author Topic: General brainstorming for Note-taking software  (Read 505938 times)

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #200 on: May 15, 2006, 06:20:54 PM »
Hi nevf, good to see you post again.  For those not familiar with nevf, you should read his writings, because he talks about the philosophy behind his designs, which is interesting because a user can follow how an author implements the features in his software.

I've just tried the most recent Surfulater version.  It still looks like Surfulater has the best underlying foundation for being the best note-taking software to date, but there are still things that are lacking, I think.  The reason I say this is because the "engine" under Surfulater is obviously very flexible and can do a lot of cool things, especially being able to change the virtual tree structure.  But there are a few issues that I've talked about before that still make me wish it were a little different.  And I suspect that a lot of what I say is pretty subjective, so please, everyone, chime in and let me know if you agree/disagree with my points:

--Surfulater's edit mode/pencil thing is much better now.  But it's still just a little annoying simply because there IS an edit mode.  I think edit mode should be assumed for all things.  So I should be able to click right in the area and begin editing.  Not even the fraction of the second that I have to hold the mouse.  It should be immediate.  All other outliners and note-takiing software do it this way and I think most of us expect it.  Evernote is immediate, mybase is immediate, all the dozens of regular tree-heirarchy programs are immediate, I think Suruflater should be immediate also if it is to be a note-taking application.

--Basic Interface.  I'm still not a fan of the header columns for every note (title, description, comments, etc.).  I just don't like the space that is used for it and the structure it forces me to have (just listen to my part of the podcast!).  I'd rather have a completely blank slate.  The headers may be good for organizing collected webpages, which was Surfulater's initial purpose, but for notetaking, I think we want just a blank slate.  And nevf was kind enough to make a "note" template for me, but even that had to have a row taken up just for the header that said "note".  I know it's very picky, but still.  For collecting notes, I like the interface to be as compact as possible and just the blank rectangle that is immediately editable as soon as I click on it.

--The scroll design.  Surfulater and Evernote both implement a scroll design.  Surfulater's design is more advanced because it can be sorted many ways, not just chronologically like Evernote.  but I don't think the scroll works for me.  I like to see just the one note that I'm focuse upon.  However, I know that other people love the scroll, and I can't deny it's practical usefulness.  So I'm just being really personal here.  I guess what I'm saying is, I don't like the scroll, but if I had to use a scroll, I like the way Surfulater does it.

--Focus "jumping".  In Surfulater, when you edit a note, the screen jumps to position the note you are editing automatically to the top of the screen.  I find this frustrating.  I'd rather just have the screen stay wherever it is when I decide to edit a note.  This is especially annoying combined with the fact that it is a scroll display, so if you edit something at the bottom of the page, then all of a sudden it jumps to the top, and you kind of lose track of it for a split second.

--Webpage capturing.  This is probably just a problem with me or it should go under the official "bug" thread on the Surfulater forum, but I'll just mention it here.  I've always had a problem having the pictures show up when I capture content from Surfulater.  I always get the broken red "x" icon for pictures, I don't know why.  The same content appears fine when captured in Evernote or Mybase (for an actual example, I just recently tried capturing the frontpage content of cnn.com).  I think Evernote captures webpages the best out of all three programs, I've never had problems with it.  Another thing I like about Evernote's handling of captured webpages is that once the page is captured inside Evernote, it handles like a note instead of still acting like a webpage.  For example, when the cursor passes over a link, it doesn't turn into the hand (where one click will send you to the webpage).  The only way to follow a link is to double-click on it.  Both Surfulater and Mybase do the opposite with captured pages.  It still acts just like a webpage with the one-click hand thing.  I don't like that because once I'm out of my browser, my mentality reverts to double-click mode.  For reference, I also did not like when Windows introduced the web-like one-click mode for the Windows user interface, where everything in Windows acts like a webpage.  I hated that and turn it off always.  I have trouble when people have it turned on their comptuers, and you forget that single-clicking a file will actually open it and if you just want to select it, you just leave the mouse briefly hovering over the item.  That's how I feel with applications that bring the webpage feel to the software.  That's why I prefer Evernotes handling of captured content to Surfulater or Mybase.  I am also positive that I may totally "old-school" in my thinking on this, and there are tons of people who think otherwise.

In conclusion, I love Surfulater, and I love the design that is at the foundation of the program, but I have major trouble committing to it because of several minor, superficial issues.  I really feel a lot of physical space is wasted in surfulater because of the headings and other interface elements.  I know that when I use the typical outliner like Keynote and Mybase, I can fit 3 times the amount of text and content on one screen than I can with Surfulater.  I even feel Evernote is just a tad bulky also, but not as much as Surfulater since it doesn't have any headers and stuff. 

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #201 on: May 16, 2006, 01:06:09 AM »
Just to provide an example of what I'm talking about in my previous post, here are some screenshots of the three programs (Mybase, Evernote, and Surfulater).  I know it's subtle, but it shows what I mean by wasted space.

Notice how in Surfulater, there is a significant (subjective) amount of space being taken up by the headers, borders, and the pencil tool in every field.  In the other programs, there is none of that and only the the content of the note is displayed in that pane, which I like.  I know that the headers help organize the information, but I like the organization to be done elsewhere, like on the tree on the left or in separate panes, but in the actual note pane, I just want to see the note.  I like how mybase makes use of panes instead of weblinks for attachments and other references.  Both Surfulater and Evernote use hyperlinks instead of panes for references and stuff.  I will admit that it is more efficient and faster, but I don't like the visual organization of it.  This is partly due to the fact that i don't like the whole idea of a web-like interface in my standalone applications, in general.  To extend this thought further, I've also always resisted web-based applications replacing my standalone applications, because I just don't like that interface for anything besides browsing.  I hate webmail, and the thought (that mouser has mentioned before) that software will eventually be run from the web instead of actually installing files on the hard drive actually scares me.

Ok, back to the point.  As I said, it's pretty subtle, nothing to make a big hoot about, but notice how I can cram a whole lot more information into the mybase note pane compared to evernote and especially Surfulater.  It's also a scroll vs displaying only one note issue.

OK, I'm done for now.  Nevf, sorry for the criticism, I mean in the most productive way.  And I haven't really mentioned the good parts about Surfulater yet, but there are many and they very much outweigh the little things I'm nitpicking on right now.

thomthowolf

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #202 on: May 16, 2006, 02:49:24 PM »
This is just a thought in passing, but I wonder if Surfulator could allow for turning headers on or off depending on your needs of the moment.  I sometimes like having all the header stuff available, but I would also like to be able to create a sort of "virtual page" that would display my notes one after the other with minimum breaks, organized by the outline on the right.  That would allow for a virtual first draft of whatever I am writing.  That would be cool.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.  - Benjamin Franklin

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #203 on: May 16, 2006, 05:21:51 PM »
thombthowolf, I agree with your suggestion.  It would be nice to be able to turn the headers on and off.  Sometimes headers are nice for the organization they provide, but for general note-taking, I'd rather keep it as compact and simple as possible.  You can see how there are empty fields that just take up space in the picture I posted.  That's why I prefer a blank slate like most other programs would provide.

Also, in Surfulater, the font display is a little different than other programs.  Most programs have a choice of font, font size, but Surfulater also has this font style (like I see on webpage applications) and the font size selection is limited to a handful of choices.  Again, I see this as leaning towards a webpage-like feel rather than a blank notepad-like interface.  For a notetaking application, I prefer having the notepad-like interface.  I don't like the whole "style" settings which change the font size and linespace settings depending on whether it's "normal" or "heading 1" etc.

To me, it still feels like the current version of Surfulater is not yet totally committed to being a true notetaking application.  It is still strongly leaning towards a web-capturing/application capturing/referencing system with notetaking as an afterthought.  Fortunately, nevf seems committed to evolving surfulater beyond this and each version offers significant advances in notetaking.  I'm not nevf, or a programmer, but seeing what surfulater can already do, it doesn't seem too difficult to incorporate the typical notetaking features into.

Spivey

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #204 on: May 16, 2006, 08:38:14 PM »
Hi, I'm new here.  I guess you can see that this is my first post ever to these forums.  I joined because this thread is one I've been looking for, for years.

In describing the Ultimate Note Taking Software several people have been talking about a database engine with a really flexible front end that can be whatever anyone wants it to be (sorry, I know that's over-simplified).  I agree that in many respects this would be my dream software as well.  However, having used Keynote for the past year and a half I have found another approach also growing in my mind.

One interesting feature of Keynote that few other programs have implemented in quite the same way is its virtual nodes.  In Keynote's implementation it is possible for a node on the tree to be a text or rtf file completely separate from the Keynote file itself.  It took me awhile to find a use for this, but now that I have discovered its usefulness it is gradually becoming one of the most important features.  The key benefit is that it offers instant interoperability with other programs without the need for importing or exporting- the content is right there to be accessed.

This has led me in a different direction in thinking about the design of The Ultimate- something a bit more like a virtualizing explorer/viewer program.  Instead of creating a database and bringing whatever I wanted into it, let the file system be that database and use the program to impose whatever forms of order upon it I saw fit.

The key point would be that whatever organizing I did with my data, this would have no effect whatsoever on the actual organization of the files on my hard disk.  An example would be like if the Windows Explorer filetree were completely virtual, and I could shuffle the files and folders around to my heart's content without anything being copied or moved.  Moreover I could save a variety of alternative filetrees and switch between them.  Each would simply be a 'view' I built with a particular organization of a particular set of files I chose to include.  The organizational data would be saved in a file separate from the actual data files being organized.

Of course this would not be a worthy notes program unless it also offered instant access to the files being organized.  For this it would need a editor/viewer pane that instantly opened a selected file without the need to start up an associated application- probably easiest for things like text, rtf and HTML.  New files would also need to be able to be created from within the program.

These are incomplete thoughts still rolling around in my head, but I thought I would throw them out for your consideration.

Rover

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #205 on: May 16, 2006, 10:48:15 PM »
Hey Spivey -  Welcome to the site.  Being that this is one of my favorite threads, I'm glad you like it too.

I've been contemplating some similar thoughts.  As I started out to discuss the database design (in another thread), I wondered why we needed to create a database at all.  What we could do is focus on writing cool extensions for Google Desktop and allow it to search for our stuff.  That is effectively using the filesystem as the database.

My concerns where:
1) Not cross platform.  Sorry, I like linux and I want to move there someday.
2) We now require GDS for our notes... not a self contained package anymore.
3) Doesn't fit with my end game. -- see below

Somewhere along the line, I really think we need a database oriented file system.  Or at least a better hook into the existing filesystem to associate attributes.  Or maybe just a database standard to write applications against.  You start with a nice Note Taking system, add some To Do templates,  a little reminder flag, some date functions and pretty soon you've got a nice PIM.  Best of all, you should be able to link a note to an appointment without having to copy/paste, etc. 

Associating attributes to files is the key to the virtual views you mentioned.  The files have to have some common attribute to associate them and make the association meaningful.  If you can associate attributes to a file, you can create virtual views easily.  (psudocode: select files where attributes contains "vfolder1")

Does that make any sense?  :)
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superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #206 on: May 17, 2006, 12:40:40 AM »
Spidey, great first post!

I thought about your idea, and I really like it.  I'm not a programmer, so I'll leave the technical discussion to the others here, but I'll comment on the conceptual aspect of it.  I love the whole modular approach of what you are saying.  As an engineer, I love when solutions are modular because it offers flexibility and reversibility, which are very valuable building blocks, especially when the are unknown variables that only the future will bring about.

In one of my recent posts here, I mentioned something about starting from the fundamental element, the note, and building from there.  And you took it a step further and explained that the note should be a universal and standardized file, and the notetaking application would basically just be a frontend for managing and organizing the notes.  That's a fantastic idea.  It also will potentially allow users or programmers to build an infinite amount of organizational schemes based on the notes.

I have to sleep now, but as you can see, I'm really excited about the idea and hopefully someone will be able to implement it.  Doesn't AskSam do something like this?  Even if it did, I've tried AskSam at least 3 times and was less than impressed, I could never get into it.

Here are some issues that come to me, I'll throw it out there:
--How do you deal with notes you wish to keep private, or only accessed by password?  If each note is a separate file, wouldn't someone be able to look at it any time, without the use of a program?

--What do you do about captured content?  Like Surfulater, which can capture content from webpages and other applications...how do you incorporate that into a format where each note is a seperate file?


PS.  Rover is just dying for a program that interfaces with Google Desktop Search!  Sorry, but I have no ideas on that.  I feel your pain, though!

Jimdoria

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #207 on: May 17, 2006, 11:41:41 AM »
Welcome, Spivey!

I too toyed with the idea of using the file system as the back end for the ultimate Note Taking software. It does have some excellent benefits, and addresses the interoperability issue neatly. I left it out of my previous posts because they were so durn long already, and because, in the applications where I have seen this kind of scheme implemented, it sucked really bad.

I have to believe that it is due to limitations of the operating system, not lack of smart programmers trying to make it work. Generally, they linked files in the file system with some kind of database (to overcome the limited information available from the file system, as Rover mentioned.) This presents problems with synchronization that are probably not trivial. I won't go into a lot of technical details, but there are issues how the app can track things like files being moved around, brought into or out of the system from outside (i.e. through Windows Explorer), files being changed while the program isn't running, etc. Not to say it isn't doable, but it's probably not as easy as it looks at first glance.

Apps such as you describe do exist. Eclipse is one. It's free and you may want to check it out. Here's a link to the article that first got me interested in it:
http://www.grainge.org/pages/authoring/eclipse/eclipse.htm

Eclipse is not ready for prime time, though. It's a developer's tool and a bit to wonky (IMHO) for general use.

- Jimdoria ~@>@

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« Last Edit: May 17, 2006, 11:43:28 AM by Jimdoria »

nevf

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #208 on: May 17, 2006, 04:37:05 PM »
Another Welcome Spivey,
As Jimdoria mentioned there are some fundamental problems with tracking external files, in particular when they get moved. A more sophisticated OS (than Windows) that kept a history of each files location(s), that could be queried by an application, is needed to be able to handle this.

Several other issues come to mind as well.

First is they whole notion of being able to quickly and easily move your database from one PC to another (think work - home). If everything you need is stored in the one place (a database) this is easy, but not so when there are lots of external files involved. Related to this is the ability (need) to synchronize databases across PC's or share content on an Intranet or Web site. How do you handle these external files in these scenarios.

Second is the issue of the capabilities that can be delivered to edit these external files within the Note Taking application. Specifically can you get all of the features of say MS Word or Excell included in the Note Taking app, or are you better off using the native application itself. And can you get all of the applications you want to use to embed themselves in your Note Taking app, or just a few. And finally are you making the Note Taking app overly cumbersome and complex by having these other applications embedded in it.

If all of these issues could be elegantly resolved then I agree this could be a nice way to work.

In my opinion you are better all around to a) maintain (auto) synchronized copies of your external files within the database, and b) utilize their native applications for editing, except where editing for a specific file type is native to the Note Taking application.

SuperBoyac - I'll reply to your Surfulater comments asap. I'm trying to get a new release out today. 8)
Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #209 on: May 17, 2006, 11:57:24 PM »
Well, now that I've thought about it more, and reading nevf's explanation, I can see the difficulties with having each note be an individual file.  (I know, I'm fickle!)  Anyway, I still like the idea of having a fundamental note element, but whether it's an actual file or just contained and managed within the program itself is another issue.  For the most part, it sounds like it's more realistic to have the program be in charge of it, since the logistics of handling individual files seems to not be practical.

I guess a possible workaround would be very powerful importing/exporting capabilities within the program.  That way, at least a person can be comfortable knowing that he can move his information between programs should he choose to.  Right now, that is not really possible, and commitment to one of these programs is a big issue with a lot of us (at least for me).  Of the programs I've seen, Mybase has hands-down the most flexible/powerful importing/exporting featureset.  THey just have a lot of options to go about it.  I remember that Keynote was pretty flexible also.  The other programs are not so great regarding this yet.

I think good importing/exporting would be almost as good as having individual files.  Programmers, feel free to comment.

Spivey

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #210 on: May 19, 2006, 02:18:36 AM »
Hi, thanks for your comments.  I agree, the file-system-as-back-end approach has many limitations.  With current Windows (I don't know a lot about other operating systems) there are missing pieces that make implementing something like this more difficult and less satisfactory.  It's interesting that the future Windows file system, (the one they left out of Vista) seems to be moving much more in the direction of a database with a virtual approach to organizing files (so Rover, I think your idea of a better OS is coming).  OS X already has hints of this with its Smartfolders, and probably other aspects as well.  It seems that future OS's will be much more like PIMs.

Like Jimdoria and Nevf point out, one of the biggest issues with trying this now is keeping track of files when they are moved from their original locations.  Keynote certainly has this problem.  One slightly mitigating factor is that if the Virtual File Manager (let's give it a name) is the chief way you organize your files, then their actual location in the file system becomes less important and there is less need to move them.  I have other ideas too- more later.

As for moving the data or syncing it between computers, I wonder if this is as difficult as it seems.  There are currently lots of ways of syncing a set of files from one place to another- consider backup schemes for example.  If the Virtual File Manager stored the locations of the files you were organizing within it then it should be possible to use that info to copy or move those files elsewhere.

The issue of which capabilities to include in the viewer/editor is one of the most difficult.  Overdo it and you create so much bulk and slow things down to the point that using the original applications is less trouble.  Under-do it and you are constantly switching to the original applications to do what you can't do in the viewer, so you might as well just use them anyway.  Exactly which capabilities are needed depends on the user, so an approach similar to Extensions in Firefox might be a good way to go about it.  This way each person can decide what is useful for them and what trade-offs are worth making.

I think there are definitely benefits to being able to work on files directly within the managing application.  If not we wouldn't bother with note applications, we would just use the Windows Explorer to arrange a bunch of text files or whatever.  For me the key benefits are speed and avoiding the distractions of switching contexts.  A single interface with my data and the tools I need all at my fingertips is a so much more efficient way of working.

This is getting pretty long, so I'll continue my comments in another post.

Spivey

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #211 on: May 19, 2006, 02:39:18 AM »
Rover brought up the point I left out in my first post- search.  A virtual file manager on its own doesn't fully replicate the most important features of note software, something very much like a desktop search program is needed too.  I don't know whether any existing ones could be recruited to do the job or not, and I think this is probably the greatest weakness of this approach to building the Ultimate Note Software.  Those who know please correct me if I'm wrong, but my guess is that making an arrangeable tree with links to files on the disk is the easy part (by comparison) and that developing an indexing desktop search engine along the lines of Google's is a pretty big undertaking.

Rover also mentioned that the way to make this work is to associate new attributes with existing files.  And like JimDoria says, since Windows is quite limited here we need to store and link these attributes ourselves.  This is where I wonder whether GDS could do the job: we need some way to connect the attributes/metadata we add in our virtual file manager with the files concerned and base our searches on both.  Is anyone here familiar enough with the GDS API and this sort of problem in general to comment on the possibility?

If we have an indexing search application that can work closely with the Virtual File Manager, this should help some with the with the file tracking problem mentioned previously.  With the indexer monitoring when files are moved, added, deleted etc, this info becomes available to the VFM too.  The chief problem I see is knowing with certainty which files are which.  (I'm getting seriously out of my depth here so please blow the whistle whenever you care to! :P) - As far as I know there are no entirely unique file identifiers in the Windows file system.  So what we are left with are attributes like filename, size, location, creation dates, access dates, etc, most of which can change.  With these alone it is probably not going to be possible 100 percent of the time to maintain links between the metadata in the VFM and the files concerned.  Still, it will be better than no tracking whatsoever.

So what do you think?  If we had both a virtual file manager and a closely cooperating search application, do you think it would float?

And now for the hard part! 8) - Is something like this doable by mere mortals, or does it take a Google or a Microsoft?

More coming...

Spivey

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #212 on: May 19, 2006, 08:30:05 PM »
Here's few more specific responses:

Thanks for the Eclipse link, Jimdoria.  The name sounds familiar in this context, but I don't remember specifically what it was.  I'll be checking that out.

Superboyac:
Quote
--How do you deal with notes you wish to keep private, or only accessed by password?  If each note is a separate file, wouldn't someone be able to look at it any time, without the use of a program?
With this approach to organizing I don't think the Virtual File Manager would be responsible for that.  If a file you accessed through it was otherwise password protected (ie: by Windows, or a compression/encryption application) you would be prompted by the OS or the associated program for the password.  A feature of the VFM could be to keep such files open as long as you were using the file manager so that you wouldn't need to re-enter the password every time you switched away from and back to the same note.  If you wanted a whole bunch of files to be password protected you could just store them on an encrypted drive instead.

Quote
--What do you do about captured content?  Like Surfulater, which can capture content from webpages and other applications...how do you incorporate that into a format where each note is a seperate file?
There are already a number of web capture programs that save web pages as HTML and their associated files directly into a Windows directory rather than into a database.  The Firefox Extension- Scrapbook for one.  The VFM would work with these files.

Nevf:
Quote
In my opinion you are better all around to a) maintain (auto) synchronized copies of your external files within the database,..
I think this solves the key problem of how to search file content and your added metadata simultaneously- and this is probably where my idea breaks down.  On the other hand, as far as I can see, the problem of tracking external files still exists- only now it's for the purpose of syncing the internal copies with the external files.


Rover

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #213 on: May 19, 2006, 10:43:19 PM »
OK, even without the explore extension, whatever, there are some things that can quickly search files:
- GDS (it kinda sucks, but it does it)
- dtSearch.  Google them.  They build an index to quickly search everything.
- Novell has a Linux desktop search call Beagle that monitors file write activity so it doesn't have to search/index in the middle of the night (like GDS and dtSearch).

I only mention these because dtSearch can be embedded and used as part of an application so it doesn't take a goodle or microsoft to write something like that.

A quick search of sourceforge found: a lot of dead projects and a lot of GDS plug-ins.

It seems that managing information is a big task :)
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Plasma Man

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #214 on: May 20, 2006, 02:23:19 AM »
Following up on this "Virtual File Manager" idea ... have you guys discussed Soft Gems before? In particular, Virtual Treeview http://www.soft-gems.net/VirtualTreeview/

This project looks like a genuine attempt to develop a fast, efficient and fluid engine for data management / search / recall, based on "nodes". In other words, this kind of engine used within the context of note-taking software, hot-rodded PIMs and the like, could be extremely versatile. I like the idea here - trees that morph into other trees ...

Btw, there is a related site: http://www.mustangpeak.net/ with a demo of List View, based on VTV (or maybe it was was the other way round).

Andre

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #215 on: May 21, 2006, 11:36:41 AM »
- dtSearch.  Google them.  They build an index to quickly search everything.

dtSearch has a long pedigree.  It started as a DOS application.  It's got rather expensive now, at least last time I looked.  I thought it was more an "after the fact" data retriever, rather than an organizing tool.


nevf

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #216 on: May 21, 2006, 04:41:39 PM »
Following up on this "Virtual File Manager" idea ... have you guys discussed Soft Gems before? In particular, Virtual Treeview http://www.soft-gems.net/VirtualTreeview/

This project looks like a genuine attempt to develop a fast, efficient and fluid engine for data management / search / recall, based on "nodes". In other words, this kind of engine used within the context of note-taking software, hot-rodded PIMs and the like, could be extremely versatile. I like the idea here - trees that morph into other trees ...

Btw, there is a related site: http://www.mustangpeak.net/ with a demo of List View, based on VTV (or maybe it was was the other way round).

Andre

Andre, I'm afraid I'm at a loss as to your point here. A Tree is just one part of the puzzle. I can't see any mention of a "fluid engine for data management" when I read their site. BTW It sure would be nice if the site rendered poperly in IE.

FYI my product Surfulater uses a Virtual Tree that I've written. This is a very important core component and enables me to morph the tree quickly and easilly.

This is an excerpt from Surfulater, Under the Hood and Down the Road
Quote
"A tree component that can display information directly from the XML engine. Windows applications typically have to copy information between the tree and its data store and build the hierarchical tree. These processes can dramatically affect performance, especially as trees get larger. Surfulater does not have these performance impediments."
Neville Franks, "Save anything you see on the Web or on your PC" with Surfulater

Plasma Man

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #217 on: May 21, 2006, 09:26:30 PM »
...This project looks like a genuine attempt to develop a fast, efficient and fluid engine for data management / search / recall, based on "nodes". In other words, this kind of engine used within the context of note-taking software, hot-rodded PIMs and the like, could be extremely versatile. I like the idea here - trees that morph into other trees ...

Andre, I'm afraid I'm at a loss as to your point here. A Tree is just one part of the puzzle. I can't see any mention of a "fluid engine for data management" when I read their site. BTW It sure would be nice if the site rendered poperly in IE.

FYI my product Surfulater uses a Virtual Tree that I've written. This is a very important core component and enables me to morph the tree quickly and easilly.

Nevf - I should have included "my interpretation" (OK, maybe reading a bit too much into this one)... I was curious if anyone here has actually played with VT (or similar) with the intention of incorporating it into a Note Taker / PIM, and whether it would work or not. Just following up on the points about possible choices of core components in general - that's all.

Btw, I like your ideas and your concern to develop a product that is focussed and well integrated. “Sometimes people you think are your customers aren’t your customers at all.” Great point!

Andre
« Last Edit: May 21, 2006, 10:06:11 PM by Plasma Man »

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #218 on: May 23, 2006, 01:51:50 PM »
Just to keep this thread moving along, I'd like to mention some of the strengths of the programs we've been discussing.  I do this to fantasize about the Ultimate Notetaking program, and how it will include the
best of all the programs available:


SURFULATER
--The most flexible organizational options of any of the programs.  The tree structure can be represented in multiple ways.  You can have multiple databases open at once.

--Hands-down the most powerful referencing system available.  Linking and cross-referencing is done almost as automatically as can be asked for.  Date & time fields are seamlessly updated properly in articles.  It's apparent that Surfulater has a powerful and flexible foundation (even if I do have several issues with it as far as a true notetaking application).  Surfulater also has some really cool automation features, like creating virtual nodes for completed searches and stuff.


EVERNOTE
--Hands-down the smoothest searching/filter feature I've seen in any program.  It's fast, it's silky smooth, it's the best.  Evernote lacks many basic features, and there are many limitations to how it goes about doing things, including organization, but it's search/filter routine is so good, you almost don't need any organization.  Of course, we know that organization is eventually necessary, so obviously there is still room for much imporvement in the program

--Evernote seems to have the best web-capturing feature of all the programs I've tried.  It seems to be the most accurate and the smoothest.  I don't think I've ever had an issue when trying to capture a webpage or part of a page.  And it's fully editable like a regular note once it's captured without any complicated workarounds.


MYBASE
--Mybase has the most variety and most useful tools as far as a notetaking application goes.  You can do so much with it as far as importing/exporting, editing, referencing, pretty much anything you would want to do with a notetaking application.  Mybase has been largely ignored in our discussions here because it doesn't offer any innovative approach to organization (it just uses a simple tree), but it's tools for notetaking are far above and beyond anyone else's.  And just for that, it remains in the running.


ZOOT
--Zoot is totally outdated to even be included here, but it does have a very interesting take on this whole genre.  It reminds of of Evernote's automatically assigned categories in an email program-like interface.  It has a tree of categories (with powerful automatic capabilities), another pane for the notes in the selected category (where the headers for an email program would go), and a bottom pane to show the note contents (where the email message would be displayed).  It's cool, it's useful, but unfortunately, it's too ancient to use right now.  Zoot also has a very cool search/filter feature.



For the Ultimate Notetaking program, here's what I envision.  Starting off with Surfulater's engine as the backbone of the software and database, using Evernote's search feature and web-capturing abilities, and having all the tools of mybase for the actual notetaking part.  Also, the search feature can be further enhanced by Zoot's influence.

urlwolf

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #219 on: May 24, 2006, 10:47:32 AM »
Hmm, I'm under time pressure for a project... but here is a quick post

I guess the ideal application that spidey suggested can be achieved
by mixing different existing programs.

Here is my approach.

Note that I don't need to insert figures to text often, so this is a text-based
solution. Not much html either.

(1) editor + outliner: VIM

http://bike-nomad.co...vim/vimoutliner.html

This is the fastest way of working with text by far. Vim offers spelling, tab
completion (really key for typing fast ideas), and with the tvo plugin, it is a
wornderfull outliner with different colors for different levels. If you want to
link different docs, then this is also called a personal wiki. I use viki (a vim
wiki) which is really fast. Just type the word in CamelCase, and hit the
shortcut. A new file CamelCase.txt will be created, and you can write to it
inmmediately.

I also use vim to fill any textboxes in opera (mail, and this very same post!)

(2) Search: locate 3,0 beta
Within a doc, I use vim (nice yellow highlighting of all
occurrences, and shortcuts to go to different ones). Across the filesystem,
locate 3,0 beta cannot be beaten.

(3) Html snapshots: Obook for opera (like Scrapbook for ff)

(4) sync and backup: incremental backups with either syncBack or backup4all (now
that I won a license :) ). I have daily backups with no compression, so I can
see different daily versions, and even compare them using Beyond Compare ...
-please mouser, get us another discount for B C :) -

That's my solution currently. total cost: the only pay-for software is the sync
and backup utility. You may not need it... Also, you can show differences in the
notes using vim's own vimdiff and save the B. C. cost. Everything else is free.

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #220 on: May 24, 2006, 03:41:58 PM »
Hi urlwolf, I just wanted to comment a little bit on the direction of your post.  I agree with the things you are saying about the features you are talking about, but I want to point out the big, general perspective here.  Regarding your point about Vim Outliner and it's efficiency, I agree that it is a nice, efficient system.  However, it wouldn't make sense to have that be the text input engine for a general purpose notetaking program, where people are going to be expecting the typical and somewhat standard rtf text toolbar set (font, font size, bold, italic, alignment, bulleted list, etc.).  So to deviate from that right from the beginning would be quirky and unfamiliar to the general base of users, even if it truly is a better way to do it.

I've been intrigued by different text editors in recent years, but a lot of them are very quirky, and wouldn't be practical to put into a general use application.

PS I also love Locate 3 (from brotherS's recommendation).  What would make it even better is if it had the search-as-you-type filter.  But it's still great.

urlwolf

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #221 on: May 25, 2006, 04:09:41 AM »
yeah, I'm not thinking on a final monster-application that borrows from each of these... I'm just posting what I do right now, in case it is of any use. I just don't care about rtf, images, etc, that's why a text-only outliner with lots of shortcuts works for me.

Actually, with my 'system' in place, I don't feel the need to test any of the applications described. Do you think I'm missing any fundamental functionality?

superboyac

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #222 on: May 25, 2006, 09:56:57 AM »
yeah, I'm not thinking on a final monster-application that borrows from each of these... I'm just posting what I do right now, in case it is of any use. I just don't care about rtf, images, etc, that's why a text-only outliner with lots of shortcuts works for me.

Actually, with my 'system' in place, I don't feel the need to test any of the applications described. Do you think I'm missing any fundamental functionality?

Not really, sounds like your system covers pretty much all the bases.  I'm also using a mixture of software (including Locate), as part of my own system.

If you read my posts in the beginning of this thread, you'll see that part of my goal was to see if we could come up with a complete notetaking solution in one program, but after all these discussions, you can see how complicated it actually is.

Jimdoria

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #223 on: May 25, 2006, 04:57:42 PM »
It's definitely non-trivial.  :-\

Hi, Urlwolf, welcome to the thread. Your comment about text notes bing all you need is the perfect illustration of how hard this problem is. What works for you would never work for me. I use OneNote and find its layout and drawing capabilities restrictive because it doesn't have full set of drawing tools the way Word does.

I think the idea of rolling a file-management system into the app is the bank safe that breaks the camel's back. Sure it's doable - but I think realistically the cost is too high. Better to stay focused on the core principles. My personal version of these would be:

  • Speed - The app must be highly usable for both mouse-centtric and keyboard-centric users. Extra keystrokes and mouse clicks must be all but eliminated. Common functions must be riduculously easy to access.
  • Flexibility - The app must be highly configurable, to the point where it can actually have different UIs for different users. This is the only way you are going to come up with something that will satisfy everyone form the "text only" users to the "lots of pictures and layout" users. Ideally, the app should make it possible to visualize information in ways that are not possible with existing tools or even UI metaphors. The idea of templates or canned designs must be part of this, though, so you don't have to assmble the app prior to using it. The UI should allow tweaking and refinement over time.
  • Interoperability - Nobody uses ONLY a note taking program, and the program shouldn't act as though it's alone in the world. Other apps should be able to access its metadata. It should play well with the OS. It should not require a proprietary API to get working with other tools.
  • Portability / shareability / synchronizability - If I use the app at home and at work, there should be some smart way to move my info around without creating headaches. If I want everyone in my office to run the app, users should be able to share data without a lot of headaches.

I think the last item, while desirable, is a pretty tough nut. We might want to wait a LONG while before adding it in (Version 4?) but the architecture of the app should be in place to support it from the beginning.

BTW - I'm all in favor of using old-fashoned concepts wherever possible. F'rinstance, I'd like to see a substantial set of command line parameters for the app, almost to the point of it being like its own API. This would solve a lot of problems. If you could pass the app a unique ID on the CL and have that note come up, you could easily make desktop shortcuts to individual notes, gaining a lot of file system functionality for very little cost. If the app could return detailed information based on CL queries (or via a scripting library) it would be that much easier to make it interoperable with existing tools.
- Jimdoria ~@>@

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don't.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2006, 05:07:36 PM by Jimdoria »

actitrend

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Re: General brainstorming for Note-taking software
« Reply #224 on: May 25, 2006, 10:56:52 PM »
   WE NEED A TEST RULES...   


   As the discussion goes here (and I saw the discuusions in the other forums) I can suggest a test rules.... To understand better what application is better we need to test them by same criteria (test points)..... Anyone could suggest these points to test.... then we can build a whole test.... then run it on different applications to see how good they are.... What about it?

   All these words (Speed, Flexibility, Interoperability, Portability / shareability / synchronizability).... are just words.... they can not be used as a judge criteria.... I believe it's better to provide real-life, frequently used tasks to understand what is good and what is bad in particular application....

   Personally I am the author of TaoNotes http://actitrend.fre3.com and I want it to be tested as well.....

   Vadim