Going minimalist with my note taking tools has been a fantastic boon to my work flow. Using applications and tools that let me access my data set of files, without taking them over and making my work flow conform to the needs of those applications, has removed a whole set of steps, perhaps most importantly the one between capturing ideas and processing them to finished work.
Here’s what I’m doing now:
My basic item for note and thought collection is a scrap of text file.
- I had been using rtf’s, and before that rtfd’s, but the value of rich text, now that I have learned a bit of markdown, is gone. When I need to gussie up some text for presentation, I can do it at the time of printing or publication.
- All my text files, along with my pdfs, and any stray image files I may use for recording events, are named based on my file system infobase.
- So far I am not using the title and tag metadata functions of multimarkdown, but it’s nice to know there there if I ever need it.
I’m using a single data folder in Documents, my SimpleText folder, for current notes – Current is the key concept.
- It’s so easy to drop a text clip, link or file into Notational Velocity and then come back to it later to expand, update, revise (or drop) it.
- I let Notational Velocity save its data as separate text files, targeting the SimpleText folder. This is where all my WriteRoom iPhone notes reside. as well.
- When I’m working on a piece of writing I’ll dump it in this folder so it’s available no mater what device I pick up. When it’s done or ready for printing it comes out and is filed.
- For the time being the bulk of my other notes are in other separate folders, along with pdfs and some image files. Why? I don’t want to overtax the free service Jesse is providing, and it gets hard to find current items in WriteRoom iPhone without more sorting options — ascending vs descending — but slowly, as I feel more confident, files are collecting in Simpletext.
- I have a folder called Topics, with a few dozen sub-folders, holding article pdfs, txt files, remnant Office documents, and the old rtf/d’s I’m too lazy to convert to text. These sub-folders act as a single topic tags leting me find like material over and beyond the file name tagging I do in the infobase system.
- I also have a folder for Writing, Commerce, Administration, and Organization. All items in these document-root folders are coded in the infosystem pattern. That lets me do cross folder searches either chronologically (What was I doing holistically in January of 2009?) or by type (List all unfinished writing, or all submitted work) Almost all my larger writing works are in Scrivener files.
- SimpleText and Notational Velocity are becoming a working repository of my unfinished ideas and notes. The best metaphor I can come up with is a pile of papers on a desk, vs the ones in a filing cabinet. I rummage through them, add to them, edit, combine, synthesize, and then commit them to one of the other folders when they are either finished or I become bored with them.
- Notational Velocity was designed to act as a comprehensive repository of note data. I don’t know if that will ever work for me just that way. My data set is very large and diverse, and composed of items other than text. I also find value in wandering through my folders. They remind me of categories and topics. But we’ll see. I dream about targeting my whole document folder with NV one day and having access to all my text files in that cool easy to sort and edit way. (Don’t worry Jesse, I’m not going to throw all that stuff at SimpleText any time soon. I could almost hear him crying up there in Maine.)
I search and edit the SimpleText folder with Notational Velocity, and pop the items up into WriteRoom with QuickCursor for more extensive edits.
- I have QuickCursor hooked up to a keystroke shortcut so I can edit everything in WriteRoom full screen mode.
- Bean lets me do more complicated edits or post processing to make things pretty.
- Even though every app now has a full screen mode, there is still something elegant and well defined in WriteRoom that makes it my drafting tool of choice. With QuickCursor, WR becomes a utility editor for (almost) every thing I do on the Mac.
To organize stuff I use TaskPaper files saved in SimpleText.
- I have TaskPaper files for my 2010 Life Plan, Current Agenda, and a list of ideas for things to do and places to eat around the city. I love TaskPaper, and I’m sure I’ll add more files over time.
- I can reference or edit them in any WriteRoom/Text editor, and in February now I can edit them in TaskPaper for iPhone.
- TaskPaper feels deceptively simple, but it also feels like it will be extensively powerful as a foldering and organizing tool. Even though it does not fold, as many outliner apps do, it hoists, and acts as a very elegant idea organizer. I’m sure we will all use it as a todo list manager first but eventually those powers of text manipulation will find other uses.
- Here’s a great review of TaskPaper for iPhone
Getting all this data into SimpleText makes me extremely mobile.
- SimpleText syncs my data to and from all my machines. I can access it from any of my Macbooks, iMacs, the web, or my iPhone, and I don’t have to think about it.
- I don’t have to do any processing to go from idea collection to idea synthesis, it’s all in the same system. Before, there was always the PITA process of transiting from flaneur to writer, now they are one and the same act; in other words the technology is doing what it is supposed to do.