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General brainstorming for Note-taking software

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Every time I come here I get introduced to something I have not seen before.  Thanks web_stalker for the great referrals.  I will try them out and report back.

Is this the longest ongoing thread of all time?  ;D

Seriously, though it does speak to a strong desire that some of us have to replace our brains with technology.  At least the memory recall part.   :Thmbsup:

With all of this need, surely someone somewhere has developed the perfect note taking/searching/organizing software.  :P

Yeah, there's lots of good information in this thread.  There are a few other long threads on this subject around the internet also, but this is the only one that looks at the genre in general, the other ones are more specific to a certain software.

John Buckham's been mentioned here a couple of times, since he has a webpage summarizing the different outliners available (although it's a bit dated).  I recently tried Jot+ which he calls the best two-pane outliner, but it's nothing special.  It's standard stuff, tree-heirarchy, maybe it's a bit more user-friendly than some others, but there are no ground-breaking features there.  Mybase really is the best in that category that I've seen so far, it wipes the floor with Jot+.

Here's something I want to do when I have the time, put together a graphic that takes the best parts of the existing elite notetaking programs, and combine them into one perfect notetaking utility.  Kind of like Frankenote, or "The Ultimate Notetaker", or "The Amalgamation" (I'm not even sure if that's a real word).  I'd like to do that someday, but I can't commit to it yet, and mouser is still waiting for me to do the addressbook review.  I wish I had a secretary to do my non work related tasks.

Wow, this thread is STILL going!

I've tried out a number of the apps I've seen mentioned here. When I first encountered this thread, I was using KeyNote. I liked it because it was free, and because it had a nice basic feature set, and because it was free. However, I didn't actually find myself using it that much.

I tried Surfulater and I did like the way it worked, loved its handling of web content, but I found creating original information with it a bit cumbersome. And then the trial ran out. I felt my ability to evaluate it was hampered a bit by not being able to create my own file - I always had to kind of work around the canned content that was in there. I guess that this is the trade-off with offering an unlimited-time trial version, though.

I've got Evernote installed now, but other than some initial futzing I haven't really been using it.

What I actually AM using is One Note. (Which is scary, 'cause when the trial runs out, it'll cost me more than the others.) OneNote has some serious shortcomings, and I have almost zero confidence that MS will continue to support and refine the app for very long. As always, unless it's Office, Windows or IE, you embrace an MS product at your peril. But I suppose we'll see.

OK, well, that's a fair amount of blathering, but it's background for the question I'm asking myself, which is WHY did OneNote win? What compelling feature does it have that makes it usable (for me) the way the others are not? I've come to the conclusion that it's not organizing or searching the information - ALL the programs can do this very well, even if not equally well or in the same way. No, it's PRESENTING the information where OneNote excels.

I'm a very visually-oriented person. While all the programs give me the ability to structure information STORAGE in a way that suits me, only OneNote gives me the ability to structure information PRESENTATION easily. Its interface is almost like a desktop publishing program - you can position multiple blocks of information on a page, whether they are text, tables (sort of) or pictures. Re-arranging things is easy and quick (although often frustrating, as the program often thinks it's smarter than I am and it's "guidance" actually hinders me while I'm working. Another common M$ flaw.  ::))

I have about a dozen pages in my OneNote notebook, broken down by the projects I work on plus some general purpose categories such as Reference. The page I "live on" is the To-Do list page for the project I'm most involved in at work. On this page I have four different checklists (which are super-easy to do in OneNote) that I keep updated. As things are done, they get moved to another "completed" page in the same notebook. If I need to annotate an item, either with text or a quick image, I can add that right on the page and draw a line between the two, or juxtapose them visually. The important thing is, I've been able to create a single view that organizes several different categories of info. I don't have to hunt through a tree or even search - it's just there, all at once, in my face. I can print it off to take to meetings, or just to archive as a snapshot of what I'm working on.

Evernote's "single chronological column only" layout feels a bit like a straitjacket to me, even with the great filtering they offer. And with tree-based metaphors, the display of info is always modal - I might be able to quickly and easily find the four nodes that contain info I want, but then I can only look at those nodes one at a time. OneNote has some of the best features of "sticky notes" type organizers, but wraps them in a more consistent and manageable interface. And now looking back, I recall that this was one of the most appealing things about Info Select - the information was displayed in discrete chunks that you could arrange and re-arrange to your liking.

Ok, that's enough of a rant for now. But it occurs to me there's been little discussion about presentation in this thread. I know some people will see this as a non-issue or even an anti-issue, but for me I think it boils down to being THE issue. It turns out I'm not willing to live with inflexible presentation, no matter how good the organization behind the presentation might be. Does that just make me shallow?  :-\

I mostly agree with Jim, except for OneNote's shortcomings. It's a great program in so many ways, and Microsoft will push it because it's also a great tablet app — how many of those are around? I like OneNote because of its flawless outlining abilities and its ability to export its content to readable, formatted text in other programs. That's very rare, and saves a ton of time. If I'm correct, I think OneNote is the only original program Microsoft has created since 1997 (not counting InfoPath).


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