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Author Topic: General brainstorming for Note-taking software  (Read 391985 times)
superboyac
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« on: February 07, 2006, 11:55:17 PM »

I don't know if this is a good idea, but I wanted to start a thread where we can all just brainstorm about note-taking software.  Anything you want to say, wishlist of features, what you like about existing programs, what you'd like the ideal program to do.  I know a lot of us would like to see a good review of this genre done here at DC, and we all know how hard that would be to accomplish, so maybe this thread could be a place where ideas can be collected.

In my opinion, it would be absoutely impossible to do a traditional review where we'd pick a couple of programs as the "best in this category.  Everyone has different needs for this type of software.  I think the review will ultimately have to be such that we subcategorize the software out there and say, "Well, if <this> is what you're trying to do, then <this> is the best software for it."  So, different programs can be categorized as the "best" depending on what specific task is trying to be accomplished.  There's no way we can collectively pick one program as the ultimate.  Heck, if it was just me, I can't even say which program is the best for me!
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mouser
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2006, 12:41:02 AM »

i could not agree more with your assessment that this category needs a different approach - the approach you say sounds right to me - though this is actually a direction we are moving torwards in our normal reviews i should point out.

in fact it may be even impossible to do a "if this is what your trying to do, this is the best", and it may just be more sensible to try to do a good comprehensive review where each program is basically taken on its own merits, with a BIG table of features to compare so people can see which ones have the features they want.

with at the end maybe a round up of "favorites".

we could try something unusual like:
ok what if we broke it up into like 3 stages:
stage 1 - identify good apps in this general category
stage 2 - start building the feature table
stage 3 - write some basic text about these kinds of tools, etc
stage 4 - get a bunch of people who use these tools to write a couple paragraphs on which is their favorite tool and why.

just an idea..
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rjbull
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2006, 03:47:58 AM »

While there's an overlap, I assume this is separate from outliners in the Keynote or ECCO senses?

My first thoughts:

1)  Indexed, for fast retrieval
2)  Boolean searching, for precise retrieval
3)  Keyboard driven, or rather, everything readily accessible by keyboard
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mouser
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2006, 04:00:56 AM »

i think we are talking about keynote style programs.

in fact i would RESTRICT this review to HIEARCHICAL note taking programs.
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mouser
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2006, 04:03:02 AM »

can i make strong request that part of this review involve formulating some attempt to describe what the "ideal" hierarhical note tool would look like, as with my new codebase i've been working hard on, i want to give this category a real try.  the keynote2 disucssions may be a good starting point.  but it would be useful to have a kind of prioritized blueprint..
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rjbull
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2006, 04:30:59 AM »

I wish the terminology was a bit clearer...  I think of programs for saving and retrieving text notes, something of particular interest to me, as not necessarily the same thing as tools for organising information into structures.

Mouser, are you really sure you want to give this category a try, given just how many there are out there already, some of them very good?  Especially with Keynote's author's exhaustion  in mind?
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kfitting
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2006, 05:52:03 AM »

Sorry, I cant resist this discussion!  A couple of things I've thought about:

- rjbull: I think (heh heh, cant get away from individual preferences in this genre!) that the ideal app would combine the ability to quickly take notes with the ability to go back and assign them a structure.  I'll explain below somewhat.

- mouser: I somewhat agree with rjbull.  There are quite a few of these on the market and several more already in development.  At some point the number of import/export routines becomes too big!  I dont think it's a horrible idea, but if you want to take this genre on, it's going to mean a LOT of work.  As you and rjbull mentioned, look at the discussions involving keynote 2... look at our own discussions here.  This is almost a full-time genre. 

- I imagine these types of programs as vast data storage devices with a nice front end so the user can think of things in terms he/she is used to.  People are familiar with trees and document formatting... that's why Keynote took off.  The hardest part would be to get a sophisticated enough backend with an easy and intuitive frontend.  It should be easy to shove data into the system.  It should also be easy to retrieve it and relate it to other things.  The importance with the relation is that I dont want to have to type  (or copy/paste) the same data two or three times.  Virtual nodes come close to this idea in Keynote, but filterable/ folderable nodes/tabs really are useful here.

- Hyperlinks.  We just had a somewhat interesting discussion over on the the novo libera forum about hyperlinks.  They should have a priority.  They also should minimize the need for user interaction if the user rearranges folders.

- I recommend looking at the Keynote 2 forums (http://www.tranglos.com/forums/phpBB2/), the novo libera forums (http://novolibera.proboards80.com/), the neomem forums/blog (http://neomem.org/blog/), and the TreeDBnotes forums for ideas. 

In particular, novo libera is setting some pretty lofty ambitions.  Read the second post by the author (Tim Penrose) on this thread: http://novolibera.proboar...lay&thread=1132771000 

Kevin
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superboyac
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2006, 05:49:00 PM »

So I tried Surfulater, and (sigh) here we go...yet another good notetaking program.  Surfulator is basically a notetaking program with the ability to capture webpages, which is great.  However, like all other programs in this genre, there are several other programs that do just about the same thing.

Both Mybase and Evernote are also notetaking programs with the ability to capture webpages.  I would say that Surfulator is 90% identical to Mybase, because Evernote has a unique, quirky navigation style.  Between Mybase and Surfulater, I would choose Mybase, because it has many more poweruser-like options.  For example, you can password-protect any branch of notes, and it has several plugins that powerusers will definitely find handy.  Mybase, in my opinion, is a very promising program in this notetaking genre, and I am surprised that people don't talk about it as much.  Unfortunately, the development of Mybase seems to be extremely slow, and there are a lot of features missing.  However, if you ask me, I would put my money on Mybase as far as which software will eventually be the leader in this complex genre.  Although, now that mouser says he is going to redo CHS, I'd also put my money on that.

But back to Surfulater...like I said, it has a lot of overlapping features with Mybase and Evernote.  And if you like Surfulator a lot, then I don't see why you wouldn't like Mybase better.
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nudone
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« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2006, 01:45:55 AM »

sounds very encouraging. i'd never heard of mybase nor evernote. i was certainly impressed with surfulater but after some use i do miss features that i would have thought basic requirements.

thanks, superboyac, going to download mybase right now...
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« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2006, 03:47:14 AM »

I am a registered Surfulator user, but am keeping my eyes open for new developments in the genre.  From the forums previously mentioned, another possible early contender is SEO NOTE at http://www.seonote.com/
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superboyac
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« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2006, 12:11:07 PM »

There's something wrong with Mybase's  advertising.  I'm surprised at how few people even know about it, and it's one of the better programs out there.  I think a lot the Keynote aficianados should gravitate towards Mybase more so than other programs.  The reason why I stumbled across it was because I was looking at webpage capturing programs at the time.  After I came across it, I realized that a good notetaking program should have a robust web-capturing capability, since there are a lot of little bits of information on the web you'll want to save.  Now, there are several programs doing this, including Surfulator and Evernote.  But I think in addition to the webpage capturing, Mybase's notetaking features are the most advanced and powerful.  (By the way, Mybase has just released a 5.0 test version, available on their yahoo group; they seem to have added several features that people like me have been asking for).  Surfulater, as far as I'm concerned, seems to be simply Mybase with fewer features.

Now, Evernote is similar to these two in that it can take notes and capture webpages, but that's where the similarity ends.  Evernote is a completely different animal than anything available, and it's very subjective as far as if it's good or bad.  The bottom line for me is...it's very interesting.  Evernote has completely done away with the tree structure of keeping notes.  Instead, you can lump notes into categories and subcategories (sort of like a tree structure).  The interesting part is that besides being able to place notes in categories manually, there are ways to do it autmotically.  For example, if your note contains the word "donationcoder", you can set up a category in such a way that it will automatically be included in that category.  Now, the automatic category feature has very limited detection parameters right now, but you can see how promising this can be as they add more powerful parameters to it.  The other extremely useful feature of Evernote is the fast filter-as-you-type search.  It sits at the top of the program and all you have to do is start typing in it, and it will filter the massive list of notes in real-time until you are left with the few notes that include the word that is being typed.  Not only will it actively shorten the list of notes, but it will also highlight the search word (or characters).  The other quirky feature of Evernote is that it chronological "tape" navigation.  There's a pane at the left side of the window which.  The program keeps track of the date and time the note was entered, and if left unfiltered, the notes are displayed in chronological order.  In fact, there is no other way to really organize notes.  Even once they are organized in categories, the notes displayed will be in chronological order.  So it is a little "inflexible" with respect to that.  But then again, Evernote is approaching this notetaking software with a different philosophy, so it's simply not meant to be used in the traditional manner.
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nudone
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« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2006, 02:36:08 PM »

i'll admit i've not spent a lot of time with mybase, just a quick click through it, and i'm wondering does it allow editing of captured web content?

i thought the features in surfulater that allowed editing and amending extra notes to captured webpages was/is very handy.
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superboyac
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« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2006, 05:05:17 PM »

i'll admit i've not spent a lot of time with mybase, just a quick click through it, and i'm wondering does it allow editing of captured web content?

i thought the features in surfulater that allowed editing and amending extra notes to captured webpages was/is very handy.

Interesting...I don't think Mybase can do that, but I'm not sure.  I know this, though.  For each note, Mybase has a text part of the note and a webpage part, so even when the webpage is added, some text notes can be added to the same note, although it's not integrated in the webpage itself.  I would say this is one feature where Surfulater gets the nod, but, again, I'm not sure yet.
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« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2006, 06:14:25 PM »

my my my, how did I not try this program before now?

1.  is there a way to dock the search results window on the right like in Keynote?  I found that to be much more useful. (a can't seem to move this winodw

2.  also what about having tabs within each document file?  is this available or planned?

3.  what about import/export functions?

where is this yahoo group you spoke of superboyac?
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superboyac
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« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2006, 07:17:44 PM »

Quote
my my my, how did I not try this program before now?

1.  is there a way to dock the search results window on the right like in Keynote?  I found that to be much more useful. (a can't seem to move this winodw

2.  also what about having tabs within each document file?  is this available or planned?

3.  what about import/export functions?

where is this yahoo group you spoke of superboyac?

Like I said, for some reason, no one knows about Mybase.  The word hasn't spread, I guess.  But to answer your questions:

1)  No, I don't think there's a way right now to dock the search results like Keynote (which is cool).  However, I just tried out the "test" version 5, and it seems like the author has completely redone the search method.  ALthough it's really buggy right now, here's what I can tell:  He's implementing the search-as-you-type filter feature (YES!) so that be able to override the feature you are asking for.  This new search feature autmotically generates a list of search results as you type, and I can't tell for sure, but this window may or may not be dockable.

2)  A lot of users have asked for this feature, and the author has decided not to do multiple tabs.  His reason for it is this (and it makes sense):  In version 5, he is going to allow having multiple database files open at once, and each file will have it's own tab.  So, funcionally speaking, you will be able to use it exactly the same way as Keynote's multiple tabs, only in this case, each tab is a separate file.  He said that being able to do multiple files AND multiple tabs are not only redundant, but would also be an organizational nightmare (and I agree with that).

3)  Mybase has pretty good import/export cabability, I know there is a special add-in for it.  I was able to bring in my AZZ information into it, using some kind of rtf export feature.  Can you import/export from Keynote?  I think so...but I don't think it's a direct method, I think a few steps might be involved.


The yahoo group for it is this:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MybaseForum/
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« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2006, 05:17:46 AM »

Folks I'm a bit late to the party here. I'm afraid I've got my head down working on the next important chunk of Surfulater functionality, and haven't visited DC as often as I need to.

I've never really considered Surfulater to be a Note Taking program, however folks are certainly using it for that. I consider it a tool to collect, organize and locate lots of information. This includes information from the Web, other Windows applications, Files on your PC as well as information you create by hand. I certainly have no intention of going head to head with MyBase or the like.

MyBase has been around for quite some time. Whether it is successful or not I wouldn't know.

There is lots happening with Surfulater and lots to do. If you want to see it cater better for your needs, then please stop by our Forums or shoot me an e-mail. I try to keep an eye on various forums, web sites etc. but there is only so many hours in the day, and lots of code to write.

FYI the next release will have specific support for Bookmarks with the ability to Import from various Browsers and other Bookmark applications. It is looking good so far.
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superboyac
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« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2006, 10:43:48 AM »

Hi nevf, I hope I didn't offend you with any of my comments...

Let me ask a couple of questions:
1)  Could you provide a more detailed description of what Surfulator is specifically designed for?  It would help us sort out it's role among all these information collection programs.

2)  Just like you didn't intend Surfulater to be a note-taking program, I don't think Mybase intended to be a web collection program, until their web capture plugin came out.  So, even though it was not intended, now it's there, and we (as users) are in a place where we see two programs with a similar featureset.  So we need to know what distinguishes one from the other.  This will help users pick the right program for themselves.
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Rover
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« Reply #17 on: February 25, 2006, 10:42:55 AM »

Just adding to the confusion discussion here.
Freemind is a mind mapping/note taking application. http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/
I think the concept deserves consideration if only for understanding how to think about designing UI's.  What we really want is an application that works the way we think.  I'm not saying these guys have nailed it, but I think they started with a good perspective.  Wink
« Last Edit: February 25, 2006, 11:49:06 AM by brotherS » Logged

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brotherS
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« Reply #18 on: February 25, 2006, 12:20:13 PM »

Wow, AWESOME find! I immediately installed and tested it, and while it's not perfect (but hey, it's freeware!) I was able to create my first digital mind map without reading any instructions!

I really don't like mind maps on paper, there it's way harder to fit in something later Wink

If anyone here never heard of mind mapping before, check the video on http://www.mindjet.com/de...anager_pro6/quicktour.php (several languages available) or read about it on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_Mapping
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Rover
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« Reply #19 on: February 25, 2006, 12:45:35 PM »

cheesy BortherS, Glad you liked it.

The whole mind mapping/note taking started me thinking about what I really want out of this type of software.
I think I want topic association vs. categories.  The difference is subtle. 

To me categories are centered around database thinking and the need to make binary (true/false) relationships between an item and a category.  While I understand this need, my brain tends to assocate items with a topic (category) on a graduated scale.  I'm not sure how you develop an interface that let's you do that easily.

Some of the super searchers may do that based on content.  Google does it to some degree with it's engine.  Google for complete failure and several articles about Pres. G. W. Bush show up.  (No comments please)  The reason is that there are a lot of articles written about Pres. Bush and some of them call him and or his efforts a complete failure. (Again, please do not comment on this; not a political discussion forum) Once these articles are indexed by Google and start getting hits, they go up in rank on the results page.
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brotherS
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« Reply #20 on: February 25, 2006, 12:54:09 PM »

The whole mind mapping/note taking started me thinking about what I really want out of this type of software.
I think I want topic association vs. categories.  The difference is subtle. 

To me categories are centered around database thinking and the need to make binary (true/false) relationships between an item and a category.  While I understand this need, my brain tends to assocate items with a topic (category) on a graduated scale.  I'm not sure how you develop an interface that let's you do that easily.
When I read this quoted text I immediately had to think about Google Mail! Anyone else?
Not sure if you are a user yet - they dropped the "put everything in its own folder" principle (that had been around for more than a decade) to come up with labels. You could just put several labels on an email, I like it a lot!

Btw, my nick is still brotherS cheesy
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« Reply #21 on: February 25, 2006, 10:37:28 PM »

The whole mind mapping/note taking started me thinking about what I really want out of this type of software.
I think I want topic association vs. categories.  The difference is subtle. 

To me categories are centered around database thinking and the need to make binary (true/false) relationships between an item and a category.  While I understand this need, my brain tends to assocate items with a topic (category) on a graduated scale.  I'm not sure how you develop an interface that let's you do that easily.
When I read this quoted text I immediately had to think about Google Mail! Anyone else?
Not sure if you are a user yet - they dropped the "put everything in its own folder" principle (that had been around for more than a decade) to come up with labels. You could just put several labels on an email, I like it a lot!


By the way, this capability is at the heart of Evernote.  What they call categories are actually tags.  Any note can have multiple categories associated with it, and they can be manually or automatically assigned.  This gives you incredible sorting and finding capabilities. much like google mail.
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superboyac
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« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2006, 10:45:07 PM »

Yes, BrotherS, I thought of what you said about Google Mail when I read the description about FreeMind.  (and I remember your passionate posts on the subject when I was migrating my email to the Bat!)  FreeMind is a cool program, I was just playing with it.  I don't think it falls into this notetaking category, but it is a nice program.

I think mind mappers and notetaking are distinctly different subjects, and as such, I think we can rule those kind of programs out of the notetaking category.  I mean, there's so much gray area as it is about what kind of features should be included in a good notetaking program.  Mind mappers like Mind Manager and other programs serve a different purpose, in my opinion.  however, I think notetaking programs can benefit from some of the creative ways that mind mappers organize information, just like brotherS and Rover mentioned, about using labels instead of categories.  There have been a few programs that have done this and it's interesting to see how it plays out when you amass large amounts of information.  For example, EverNote uses labels (or categories) instead of the typical tree/folder heirarchy, and that presents an alternative to notetaking programs.

I wonder if it would be useful or even practical to combine the typical heirarchical system with the labeling system somehow?  Or have both options available in the same program?  Does anyone think that's even possible, without causing mass confusion, or a breakdown of the organizational system?

(PS thomthowold just mentioned what I said about Evernote while I was typing, so excuse the redundancy)
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« Reply #23 on: February 26, 2006, 12:44:33 AM »

brotherS: so sorrry for the type-o.  I enjoy your postings a lot.  I would hate to think I havve offended you smiley
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« Reply #24 on: February 26, 2006, 03:10:57 AM »

I wonder if it would be useful or even practical to combine the typical heirarchical system with the labeling system somehow?  Or have both options available in the same program?  Does anyone think that's even possible, without causing mass confusion, or a breakdown of the organizational system?
Possible? I think so...
Useful? Not sure... but then it's never easy to come up with something that's new *and* working perfectly at the same time smiley


brotherS: so sorrry for the type-o.  I enjoy your postings a lot.  I would hate to think I havve offended you smiley
No harm done.  Grin
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