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Last post Author Topic: I'm thinking of going primitive, with discursion into zettelkasten  (Read 109880 times)

Dormouse

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Just a look at a few quotes where Rizvi explains his move from zettelkasten to PARA. I think it contains a number of common misconceptions of the zettelkasten system.

I love reading. But retaining what I read tends to be a challenge. I usually walk away from a book feeling good but with only a faint idea of what was in there.
Herein is I think the core of his problem. Zettelkasten is specifically not about retaining the content of what has been read - it's about retaining thoughts about the content.

Its core idea is to create atomic notes, where each note is about exactly one topic (not more than a few paragraphs tops)
By definition, something that takes two paragraphs is more than one thought. Two paragraphs will also contain associations that make the note cumbersome to use.

If you take a lot of notes, the stream of incoming notes can quickly leave you overwhelmed.
The idea was being selective, both in what was read and the notes taken. They had to be worthwhile and had to be separate. There shouldn't be an overwhelming stream.

The key here is that the linking process groups relevant notes together.
I suspect linking to have been less important than many advocates claim. Linking was hard to do with his technology, so he went to great effort to describe his method. He may have believed that the process of having a thought was obvious and didn't need description. Linking was essential, but I don't think it was the key. That was in the process of recording the first thought and then refining it.

And then some comments on PARA

By creating purpose-based folders and putting all notes related to that purpose inside it, we’ve created a new way to group relevant notes together.
This is just the old tagging/folder dichotomy.

How do you reference old notes? When you start working on a new project (like a writing assignment) you search the relevant folders and pull out notes that seem relevant to your task.
Effectively doing the work from scratch when the original thought is no longer in your mind.

His justification is that it avoids the useless work of making notes which are never used. Avoiding Luhmann's recommendation not to do useless reading in the first place.
He also never picked up on his advice to only work on what interests you at the time, and to move on if the interest drops.

Dormouse

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And here's the start to Forte's description of his PARA system
A Project is “a series of tasks linked to a goal, with a deadline.”
An Area of responsibility is “a sphere of activity with a standard to be maintained over time.”
A Resource is “a topic or theme of ongoing interest.”
The last A is for Archive

I did read more of the first article, but I certainly wasn't going to pay to read the second. In fact, I'd have to be paid to read it and a substantial amount at that.

Dormouse

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I was looking around at websites and reviews to see if I could find helpful ideas. I started by looking at writers' sites. That was a depressing experience.  Simple storyboards and a host of self-inflicted hamster wheels. Had a quick look at researchers, but found nothing there either. Nor in corporate business-type sites but that wasn't a surprise because I'd expect them to be very focused on project management. So it will take some time to really sort myself out.

Then thought I'd better check that it ticks the needs I'd identified during thread - especially since it was a rather sudden change of direction.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2020, 11:45 AM by Dormouse »

sphere

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So I have read Rizvi's post and I am familiar with PARA...  I had some comments- Which might be misplaced because I have not followed this thread entirely.   This person strikes me as someone who is also on a search for the perfect way to organize their notes and learn.  I can respect that. 

Just a look at a few quotes where Rizvi explains his move from zettelkasten to PARA. I think it contains a number of common misconceptions of the zettelkasten system.

I love reading. But retaining what I read tends to be a challenge. I usually walk away from a book feeling good but with only a faint idea of what was in there.
Herein is I think the core of his problem. Zettelkasten is specifically not about retaining the content of what has been read - it's about retaining thoughts about the content.

As I mentioned, I used something similar to zettlkasten.  It was all about the process.  In it you would initially accumulate alot of cards- with different types of information (ie historical dates, themes, epiphanies, ideas, connections, future readings etc etc). During this part of the process you might have an aim for your work- which would determine your approach to the cards. However this was just the first part.  It was in the Sorting, adding additional notes, refining the notes, rewriting the notes or otherwise  interacting with the notes that you could develop your ideas and more.  It was very time consuming,  and it was sometimes hard to know how many note cards were too many note cards:)  In the end it would be very dynamic. A note with a historical fact was destined to become a flash card simply by writing a question on the back of the note.  Other notes could be arranged based on the themes to make up sections of a paper. 

There is an older program called Writers's Blocks https://www.writersb.../wb5trialrequest.htm
It allows you to play around with trello like cards of information with the aim of arranging them into sections of a paper. In my opinion, it is too singular.  I wish there was a capture the information in some sort of system and play with the information- interact and develop it.  This aim of writer's block dominates the type of play one is capable of with the note cards. I want more.

Another program that comes to mind is AZZcardfile https://www.azzcardfile.com/  A number of years ago I was pretty happy to see there was work on an android application.  There were a number of ways to export the cards and I thought about exporting and then importing to something like Writer's blocks.

My issue is that I really want to be able to include video and audio in my system.  I want multi-media.  I do not want to link to a youtube video and that is what most systems do.  Nearly All of my links from the earlier years of the internet are broken which is very sad.  I also cannot use a system like trello as I am not in control of the data.  I cannot have my data in the cloud.  There are self hosted trello alternatives- through nextcloud etc that I have not explored.
 

Its core idea is to create atomic notes, where each note is about exactly one topic (not more than a few paragraphs tops)
By definition, something that takes two paragraphs is more than one thought. Two paragraphs will also contain associations that make the note cumbersome to use.

I sometimes want to capture concepts in my notes.  Which can be as many as 4 paragraphs to explain:)

If you take a lot of notes, the stream of incoming notes can quickly leave you overwhelmed.
The idea was being selective, both in what was read and the notes taken. They had to be worthwhile and had to be separate. There shouldn't be an overwhelming stream.

This is difficult.  I find the easiest way to limit what I am taking notes on is by focusing on what I am aiming to produce. However,  this often means I need to go back and revisit a resource- if I later on I need to produce something different. 


sphere

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...I started by looking at writers' sites. That was a depressing experience.  Simple storyboards and a host of self-inflicted hamster wheels. ....

"Self inflicted hamster wheels" 

I cannot agree with this strong enough- though I have not looked deeply.    I am curious if you looked at liquid Story Binder?
It seems like it might have the best  trello card system with their story boards...  You can see below...  not sure about the hamster wheels...
https://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/XE/Screenshot6.jpg


I have not had a chance to check out Wavemaker any more deeply.


If zotero or civita (spelling) had a way to export notes and highlighted text to some sort of note card, that would be awesome.  What is nice about these applications is they can pull metadata from sources. The aim of these utilities are to site sources when writing and not (to my knowledge) processing and refining the information you collect.

Dormouse

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So I have read Rizvi's post and I am familiar with PARA...  I had some comments- Which might be misplaced because I have not followed this thread entirely.   This person strikes me as someone who is also on a search for the perfect way to organize their notes and learn.  I can respect that. 
I agree. I interpret his problem as arising from a misperception of zettelkasten. I wasn't surprised at the misperception because it seems to reflect common beliefs.

He suggests he has a problem with remembering books even immediately after reading. Maybe PARA will help. I know little about it apart from a dislike of the way it was being sold.

Personally,  I think overloading with facts is a misconceived target for many - in general those who are good at do it with little effort, and facts can usually be obtained with little effort. Ideas are different because, by definition, they fit with the way you think.

My guess would be that if Rizvi had reflected on Luhmann averaging 8 notes for a working day and that his whole working life was based on similar material then he wouldn't have seen it as a good fit for him in the first place.

Dormouse

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As I mentioned, I used something similar to zettlkasten.
It certainly sounds like a very similar process.

Dormouse

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There is an older program called Writers's Blocks
That's an interesting one.  I know I've heard of it but had never probed further.  I'm not sure I'd look much further than $149.99 with $119 to upgrade. Google Keep can be used in a very similar way (feeding into Docs) and is free and works on all devices. And Scrivener 3 offers more functionality at a much lower.

I like corkboard functions. It's what first attracted me to Scrivener. But they're not enough on their own.

Probably good I didn't see it years ago or I might have dropped the $150 on it, though it may have been even more expensive then.

Dormouse

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Another program that comes to mind is AZZcardfile https://www.azzcardfile.com/ 
I'm not sure about the index card analogy. It looks just like an outliner. Am I wrong?

Certainly outliners were my main tool for actually writing for a long time.

Dormouse

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I sometimes want to capture concepts in my notes.  Which can be as many as 4 paragraphs to explain:)
Luhmann would just say you should split them into separate thoughts. But really that's simply to aid the flexibility and specificity of links - if you don't need that there's no point.

Dormouse

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I find the easiest way to limit what I am taking notes on is by focusing on what I am aiming to produce. However,  this often means I need to go back and revisit a resource- if I later on I need to produce something different. 
I think Luhmann probably only made notes with publication in mind. That explains the emphasis on perfecting the prose and his repeating sections in a number of publications.

And you can only have the thoughts you have at the time.  Reading anything again is likely to produce different thoughts.

Dormouse

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I am curious if you looked at liquid Story Binder?
Oh yes. I remember struggling with it over a decade ago.  Feature rich but one of the least integrated programs I have ever used. I don't think it ever attained drag and drop.

I don't think it's been updated for a decade or so. He took down the forum years ago.

I have licence somewhere but wouldn't recommend it to anyone today when there are much better options. I hadn't come across Writers Cafe until a few years ago. Similar vintage,  hasn't been updated for years, fewer features but you can see that it actually functions well as a working tool.

sphere

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Another program that comes to mind is AZZcardfile https://www.azzcardfile.com/ 
I'm not sure about the index card analogy. It looks just like an outliner. Am I wrong?

Certainly outliners were my main tool for actually writing for a long time.

It might be the connection was not there. In its day it was a pretty powerful database.   What was nice is it allowed you to put a variety of information on a card in a free-form way- much like you would put information on an index card.  Looking at the images of the new version it looked like it was possible it was moving in a free form direction that embraced the touch interface on android. 

Again the connection might not be there.

sphere

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I am curious if you looked at liquid Story Binder?
Oh yes. I remember struggling with it over a decade ago.  Feature rich but one of the least integrated programs I have ever used. I don't think it ever attained drag and drop.

I don't think it's been updated for a decade or so. He took down the forum years ago.

I have licence somewhere but wouldn't recommend it to anyone today when there are much better options. I hadn't come across Writers Cafe until a few years ago. Similar vintage,  hasn't been updated for years, fewer features but you can see that it actually functions well as a working tool.


There you answer a question for me.   I was curious if it gained drag and drop.   When I discovered it I was surprised as it looked ahead of its time.  If I remember right Writer's cafe was almost like a separate writing environment.  I have a license but have not tried it yet. Again my use case is different.  I am looking for something that handles multimedia locally but syncs to a tablet/smartphone without use of a third party cloud service. 

sphere

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I find the easiest way to limit what I am taking notes on is by focusing on what I am aiming to produce. However,  this often means I need to go back and revisit a resource- if I later on I need to produce something different.
I think Luhmann probably only made notes with publication in mind. That explains the emphasis on perfecting the prose and his repeating sections in a number of publications.

And you can only have the thoughts you have at the time.  Reading anything again is likely to produce different thoughts.
I agree, though I have not read much on his system.  The aim of one's work is pretty important.  So yeah publication.... My guess is that his system was also bolstered by a general mastery of the subject and material.

Dormouse

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I also cannot use a system like trello as I am not in control of the data.
I haven't checked, but I think you can set Trello up so that it only holds links to data you hold on your computer. That gives you control of your data  - but you would need to be careful about what you put on the cards.
I'd prefer it not to be web-based but I can live with it and it would hard to make the cross device multi team functions work in any other way.

Dormouse

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The aim of one's work is pretty important.  So yeah publication.... My guess is that his system was also bolstered by a general mastery of the subject and material.
I'm sure.
For myself, if something is just an idea, I will write it in the form that makes most sense to me.
If I see it being published, i will try to form words suitable for that publication. Little extra work for me since I can't help think options for phrasing.

Dormouse

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Thank you everyone for your ideas, advice and discussions.  :Thmbsup:  :-*
It's been a long journey, but I think Ihave reached a destination that will work - and if it doesn't I should appreciatee the issues and alternatives. It feels as if we have delved in every nook and cranny and levered boulders to see what might be lurking beneath.

The system isn't one I ever imagined, and there are aspects that aren't ideal. I haven't eradicated dependence on databases, but all my own data sits free and accessible and dependence is reduced to tags and links in one program only. Workflow should be smooth and simple as against a rather Heath Robinson set of steps for a pure document approach, and it copes with fragments and snippets that aren't so easily coped with in pure documents. And its accessible on all devices and OSs - though that's through a web base.

The workflow is incredibly simple. I spend most of my time in a text program - any text program - writing, and spend most of my playing and working out time in Trello. Using specialist programs (mindmaps, spreadsheets etc) whenever I want.

If I'm reading and want to make notes or take quotes, I do that in a text program. I can switch around as often as I want. If I'm thinking of ideas or jobs in the garden, then they can all go in too. New line for every new think. Periodically, probably when I'm gettingfed up with doing that, I will copy them all and paste into Trello as separate new cards; that bit should take less than a minute.

The Trello housework is about linking and tagging and then I can move cards around and play and think, maybe, of new ideas to be written as above.

Pure writing again done in a text program - possibly the same one but maybe not. A Trello card will contain links to the document.
The system works as well for researching medication, planning holidays or evaluating anti-flood products as it does for writing and research.

I have the same continuous workflow whatever I'm trying to do.
All my data, including the content of the notes, is held in documents independent of any database.
The only things held only on databases are the tags and links and the structured relationships between cards. I'm hoping that Trello is big enough and stable enough to outlast my need for it. Plan B is to use CSV exports to switch to anouther appication or find another way of managing.

I will report back on progress and snags.

EDIT addition - just to point out that I will do initial tagging when I first write note, which should make recovery a bit easier if Trello fails.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 02:34 AM by Dormouse »

Dormouse

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I did an evaluation of the extent to which this system meets my needs as expressed in the thread above and it feels positive. Very long post, so I've hidden in a spolier.

Spoiler
I want to control what stuff is local and what is on the net. I want to control access. I want to be able to use my stuff on Linux, Android, iOS. Maybe even Mac. I want to be able to work on all my devices. I don't want my workflows constantly disrupted by software updates or bugs.
It just about does this.
All devices,  tick.
Control what is local - not so easy, but that's down to switching to Android; possible but more effort because the default is web.
Undisruptable workflows. Not under my control but likely to happen in practice - too many paying corporates depending on stable workflows.

I appreciate the advantage of database based programs, which is why I have stuck with them and tried and bought so many. And I don't discount using them. But I'm considering having them only for an active use rather than stuff in general.

With files, I can use virtually any program to create them, and to modify them; I can use them on all devices, access them from the internet and never have to worry about import or export.
Probably does tick this. Everything in files and documents. Trello is just an active working bit. But it is very core.

One other thought I had, triggered by some zettelkasten reading, was the possibility of being more productive if I was working with fewer programs and more simply focused on files and links. Working on files, it's easy to switch to a different program for a particular feature (and back again) without disruption. Trying to do that with database programs is definitely not like that. It leads to doing one set of things in one program and another in another etc. And there's permanent feature dissatisfaction.
Does tick this one.

I remain not even slightly persuaded of the need to go full Markdown though.
I feel as if I might have stumbled on to a very slippery slope and am gathering speed, with Markdown the next bump in the road, and no clear idea of an end zone.
And so it came to pass.

my view of zettelkasten is that it is a workflow with a process that aids remembering and thinking. Index cards are incredibly flexible.

I recognise a number of key concepts:
Atomicity. One thing, free standing.
Linking. I appreciate the types of links: direct (card-to-card), positional. Also that cards can be removed and mixed and used with a group of other cards and then replaced exactly where they came from.
I think it does this too.

Each card is for a thought, not information - information is external in the sources.
And definitely offers this.

I can see that his system meant that he collected his thoughts when he was reading in a format that made future thinking and use easier. When he was working things out, he played with his cards, making new ones when he had new thoughts. And when he came to write something up, he just went through the selected cards and wrote them out. Simples.
-
Dormouse link=topic=48938.msg433261#msg433261 date=1572036464
And this.

I want to keep folder structures as simple as possible.
That's entirely possible.

Initial system plan (file based & text, not necessarily zettelkasten).

Two top level folders – General and Local. Identically named subfolders.
General to be available to other devices through Dropbox or equivalent. Local not.

Next level:
Thoughts (as in zettel, because I can see that it’s a good idea)
Sources  (including facts I record or material I devise myself)
Writing (any output using material in the first two). To include an In Progress folder (I’d intend to use this to temporarily copy files I’m using, and anything used to help organise my thoughts.
Temp (for new documents that may still need tagging/renaming/allocating).
Redacted.
There's no need for folder organisation because all related functions are managed in Trello. Only exception is local stuff.

For me it's all about workflow. My understanding of the zettelkasten process produces high easy output that will allow me to keep my eye on the ball all the time (and should be effective whether it is really zettelkasten or not). That will mean quickly producing and saving new documents. I think everything else can be done later as a batch process, but, if not, it has to be something I can do without thought because otherwise the workflow gain has gone.
The Trello system is super good for workflow.

Luhmann went into an office and did his academic stuff - I do many things (and quite a lot of quick switching) and I can't see why the system would not work for anything that requires thinking. Creative writing, building a garage, organising holidays. One input system is so much easier than working out where everything should go.
Absolutely.  Trello system does this.

I think that some of the key zettel principles for this are:-
That you have a single integrated workflow, that you become expert in using
That notes have to sustain repeated iterative processing, potentially with new notes for new thoughts. If information/thoughts/notes aren't worth this degree of processing, then they don't deserve to be in the zettel.
The processing should produce growth in your understanding, but will also duplicate that understanding in the zettel
Which means that you can go away from that part of the zettel for ten years and still pick up from where you left off, long after you will have forgotten most of the detail of what you had learned
Trello system should work well for this.

I intend to put everything in - creative, practical, academic - and I cover many fields. My potential productivity gains come from having one system for everything.
Trello should do this particularly well.

I've not decided what to do about snippets.

The defining feature of a snippet is that it is short. And individual snippets are disparate and unconnected.
It could be a brief description
An interesting word usage
An interesting fact
A nice phrase
Ideas
Overheard conversation
It could be something I've written myself or have read.
I'm not happy with my webclip and snippets system.
This is what ultimately broke the pure documents approach. Trello should handle this  well. Something much easier done in a database system.

One of the things that I have noticed in this process is that the user interface suiting me is much more important than features. There's a minimum feature set, but otherwise it is the user interface all the way.
And the visual approach of Trello suits me well.

Trello, for example, will probably go even though it's a good personal fit.
Strange how quickly things change.

Paradoxically I can envision the possibility of using Evernote more not less. It's quite good at merging notes for saving into documents.
No longer need to merge notes.

In my mind, the zettelkasten works like having my own room in the Bodleian, with my current activities laid out on a large table in the middle, surrounded by small bookcases with the books needed for immediate references.
If I want more, or am moving on, then I can wander round the main library collecting books and other materials as I need. And if I need to do a detailed trawl into less familiar materials, I can ask the librarians to bring me stuff that might be relevant from the stacks.
Should work well.  Tags will be manual, but I'd started tending in that direction anyway as it seemed less effortful. Many options for document search.

Two things struck me that could be enhancements to a zettelkasten program/process for some people for some usages.

Coloured or labelled links like spider diagrams or mind maps.
A limitation is that it imposes a consistency in the use of the concepts behind the links.
Doesn't suit my approach but would really help some.

Tiny notes attached to other notes.
I use stickies attached to documents, but the method is irrelevant.
These mostly arise from subconscious thinking, or something read in passing, rather than deliberate cogitation. Small thoughts, nothing complicated, so if I'm developing a character it might be 'Douglas Firbrae' or 'red hair'; I'm not going to actively think about it at the time - probably actively working on something else - but I don't want to lose the idea and I need it to be where I need it when I do actively work on the topic.
I think even this should be possible with a variety options.

No system copes well with independent small thoughts and small notes. Database systems work best (The Journal is okay). I simply combine them to create documents to put into the archive. Time will tell whether this is effective. I think it will work where the combination is on a single topic, but thoughts aren’t always like that.
And the Trello system should cope fine.

— 16:57 —
 


tomos

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I did an evaluation of the extent to which this system meets my needs as expressed in the thread above and it feels positive. Very long post, so I've hidden in a spolier.
I haven't read your long-post spoiler yet, but just wanted to say this has been a very entertaining thread. And if you ever publish something for the general public Dormouse, let us know, because what you've written here has always been a pleasure to read.
Thanks!
Tom

Dormouse

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Programs I'm redacting include:
Notezilla. No dark mode, windows centric,  doesn't work on Android as well as I remember. A pity because there's no clear alternative; in practice,  I'll probably just have another device near me and refer to what I need on that.
The Journal. Windows only. Some of the purpose taken over by Trello. Diarium is a reasonable alternative and works on Android as well as Windows.  iOS too iirc. Will also import .enex files. I may decide to write my notes in it, periodically saving to documents - that would give me the advantages of a journal for accessing them.

I'm snoozing the following:
Tagspaces. I'll do tags manually. Files may not be tagged.  I may have to bring it back, but using it takes quite a lot of time.
DocFetcher  - I don't think I'll need it very often. Windows only.
DoogiePIM - Windows only. Has some advantages for editing,  but I'll not address that until I need to. Epitome of a database approach,  though I'd have to say that I've found the database rock solid for over decade. I might use it for email archiving.
Squid  - I really like it  but there's no dark mode. I'll probably use OneNote as the most frequent substitute.

And semi-snooze:
YWriter. I very rarely use it in practice because its best use case (which I'd define as the type of books Simon Haynes writes) isn't a good fit for me.

For writing on Windows, I will use WriteMonkey, but will purchase the Scrivener upgrade.
Not sure about Android.  Pure Writer, Markor, Joplin. Pure Writer works well for something like a book. Jotters, SimpleNote. I've no need to hurry to a final decision because they are all interchangeable so long as I remember to backup any databases into standalone documents.

I will continue to use Evernote and OneNote but avoid locking data in them.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2020, 05:03 AM by Dormouse »

sphere

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Diarium...  how do you find it?  Does it not lock you in?  It looks like it can export to word if you by the pro version.  It also looks like you can record audio notes.
Would be curious about your thoughts on it- what you like and dislike

Dormouse

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Diarium...  how do you find it?  Does it not lock you in? 
No lock in. You can export entries for a date range to text or word. Including tags etc.

It seems ok. I don't like the Windows version much. Ticked my essential boxes. I always buy the pro versions to evaluate on Android once I've decided to check an app in detail because I might otherwise misunderstand how it would work for me.

Diaro is similar but doesn't have a Windows version.

I only appreciated advantages of a journal app in this process after my brief time using The Journal. But they're a good fit for note entry.

Dormouse

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I did an evaluation of the extent to which this system meets my needs as expressed in the thread above and it feels positive. Very long post, so I've hidden in a spolier.
I haven't read your long-post spoiler yet, but just wanted to say this has been a very entertaining thread. And if you ever publish something for the general public Dormouse, let us know, because what you've written here has always been a pleasure to read.
Thank you!
I'm afraid my pace has been glacial in recent years.
Pushing a boulder up a hill with your nose is never easy,  but twelve boulders are even harder. At least now I'll just be pushing them up the same hill.

Dormouse

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There is an older program called Writers's Blocks
Google Keep can be used in a very similar way (feeding into Docs) and is free and works on all devices.
And OneNote can have many writers blocks on a page.
Always seemed that OneNote should be an ideal program for writing. Tried it often but never found it so. Not even close.
Needs better text editor,  some writerly tools, more options for the display of textbooks on a page and controls for sequencing the boxes into a document.