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General brainstorming for Note-taking software

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Adding to rjbull's previous comment... one of the reasons note taking software programs started using a tree-hierarchy is because it is convienient and is a good way of displaying data.  There will always be a need for rigid tree structures.  It's just that they should be supplemented with filters etc.  I think a filterable tree structure would be a great complement.

Ways of finding data:
- You know what you want and where to find it
- You know what you want but not where to find it (search)
- You dont know what you want and you dont know where to find it (browse, bookstores are great for this!)
- You dont konw what you want but you know where you want to look.

Trees are good for the first way.  Filterable trees would work for most of the other ways.  Combine the two and you have a very powerful program.  The idea is not to give up on structure, but to allow multiple ways in the SAME program.


- You know what you want but not where to find it (search)
-kfitting (March 16, 2006, 08:48 AM)
--- End quote ---

That's where I usually am.  Much of the text is short items, a few paragraphs.  It can be anonymous, or have up to several authors and corporate affiliations, and one or several journal references (e.g. when the same news item is printed in several magazines).  So I need a database, but one that's much more freeform than usual.

I rarely need structure  8)

Right, but dont forget outlines!  I did my college papers in Keynote... I dont want things floating off somewhere.  I want them where I put them.  The idea is to have both styles in the same app.  I understand and heartily advocate the database concept (see previous posts here, some in the CHS forum, and the Tranglos forums), But I dont want to lose structure in the process. 

What we need in this type of program is everything and the kitchen sink... and to be able to please everyone... and to be able to know what you meant rather than what you actually typed... and...  ;)


PS - theoretically you could achieve the rigidity superfluous to the user.  All you have to do is make the user think that he has the ability to have ultimate control over the tree.  In the background, maybe it's just a filter that only accepts those certain nodes... it doesn't matter as long as the user can be blissfully unaware!

I don't know, after 3 pages of this discussion, I've become convinced that the typical tree-heirarchy system is definitely NOT the way to go.  That's not to say that there isn't something that looks like a tree anywhere in the program, but the underlying foundation of the program needs to be freed from that restriction.  Look at the programs I've mentioned recently:  Surfulater, Zoot, and EverNote.  All three of these have done away with the traditional tree-heirarchy system.  However, in all three, there still is a tree in its organization somewhere (whether they're called labels or categories or whatever).  The main point is that even though it LOOKS like a tree, doesn't mean it's restricted to that format.  The tree is restrictive because one note can only go in one location.  In all three of those programs, a note can located in several places, depending on how it is categorized.

So, when I say let's forget about the trees, it could still be done in a way that is transparent to the end user, if they still want to use the traditional format.  Those 3 programs prove that this is already being done.  We are trying to add funcionality without taking any away.  Like kfitting said in his PS, it's fine as long as the user is "blissfully unaware"!  I like that!

I'm coming in a bit late to this conversation, but I was surprised to see that with all the discussion of tools old and new there hasn't been more mention of InfoSelect. From what I recall this was the product that spawned the whole outliner/notes application genre. (Or at least the grandson of the product. Tornado Notes for DOS was arguably the first outliner/indexed organizer, and InfoSelect is the suped-up Windows version.)

I've toyed with the idea of getting InfoSelect over the years, but I can never quite get past how breathtakingly expensive it is. However, it has a lot of features that I think are pretty useful and unique. Many of these are PIM features like ticklers and reminders, and so are probably not germaine to this discussion.

But it also has a couple of things that really set it apart, AFAIK. One is the ability to create grid-style notes and form-style notes. A lot of times I need to store tabular data, and busting rows & columns down to plain text qucikly becomes a headache if you've got to do any editing or maintenance of the info. And the ability to create notes that are like mini database forms is also great. Outliners work well with unstrucutured data, but there's no reason they shouldn't handle structured data as well.

Their implementation of "hot spots" is also interesting. These are essentially mini-tabs for selected category sub-items that appear at the same level as the parent item in the category. So you can move items to frequently used sub-folders withouth having to expand the folder that contains them.

It's a shame this app is still stuck at the high end of the price range. On the one hand, it does so many things I can see why they charge so much for it. But on the other hand, when a product like Surfulater can be had for less than $50, it makes you wonder whether it's worth it.


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