Getting Ready for PlainText

I’ve moved almost all my notes out of my SimpleText folder. A few seasons ago I put them all in there when Hog Bay launched its free syncing service to support WriteRoom and TaskPaper for the iPhone and iPad. I did it because I thought I’d be notating and editing all sorts of items in the newly freed, on the go, mobile existence of the “i” revolution — no need for a heavy laptop for me. I was wrong.

All that’s left there now are my TaskPaper agenda files. But all the notes, which number in the thousands, I’ve moved them to a folder named ‘NoteBook’, this all in anticipation of Hog Bay Software’s imminent release of PlainText for the Apple mobile platforms of iPhone and iPad. The NoteBook folder is in my DropBox path, so it syncs along with all the rest of my datasets, and when PlainText is released I’ll be able to edit them when I’m away from the my MacBook Pro or iMacs.

While I had all my text files over in SimpleText I learned a few things. The day to day experience of mobile computing versus using what amberV calls, “proper computers” is telling. I learned that the contextual environment of mobile computing is vital when you think about what data needs to be synced where. You don’t just want everything everywhere, you have to make a choice between mirrored data and data interoperability. You don’t want the first and you can’t have both.

When I’m using a mobile device I rarely need access to ‘all’ my notes in a fully editable mode. I’ve found the iPhone/iPad really is best just for note origination. It works best when it function just like the stacks of 3×5 cards that I keep squirreled away by my usual reading place. I’m not likely to pull up a note and edit it when I’m out and about, but I sure am going to jot some stuff down, maybe add a bit later on before I get home. WriteRoom for the iPhone, and TaskPaper for the iPad are the perfect places to do that.

When we went to Italy this summer the only computing device I took was my iPhone. I wrote a tone, all creation, no editing, no revision at all, just image and emotion capture, just pressing forward with new text. (all in WriteRoom) When I got home I assembled all the snips using Scrivener and found I had some excellent material. And boy was it wonderful to not be weighed down with excess equipment.

This “current pile” of files that reside on my mobile devices, I name with the first codes of my filling system. Daily records get R1-, an overheard conversation gets T1-, a brilliant idea for a non-fiction essay gets a T2- and so on. I come back to them during the course of the day and add to them. The date gets left off. When I’m done with a note, in what could be a day or a week, I add the date (yymmdd) and this commits the note to the pile of the infobase.

At first, leaving off the date was a compromise. The small screens of the mobile devices required it. Later I found this uncommitted/committed switch (undated/dated) was a nice way to sort up my undone work. Undated files beginning with R1- or W1- float to the top of an ascending file name sort order. The unfinished stuff is allays on top.

This works well for my Reader’s Journal also. I tend to have my iPhone nearby when I’m reading and it’s easy to append some ideas to N3- files (this is my new code for Book Notes) I go there rather than firing up the laptop, or jotting them in the margins where they are doomed to the near certainty of eternal non-transcription. I once kept these in SimpleNote, but I prefer the WriteRoom interface. (Kindles are great for this annotation function, alas, I’m finding more and more crucial canon books are not available for the Kindle, or iBooks, at least not yet. Does that get me insane that the publishing industry can’t comprehend a consumer demand curve? Yes, but the reading still needs to be done.)

So what remains on SimpleText are my TaskPaper files (Current agenda, List of call numbers to pull at the library, New restaurants to try, One year plan, Long term Plan, LitCrit Agenda, Notes for specific projects…) and these “on the go” notes, maybe a dozen or so at most.

I’ve found that the totality of my infobase is still accessible via DropBox in the odd instance where I really need a file, and I’ve marked a dozen or so as DropBox favorites so they are available off-line. These are often rtf’s that include tables, something that a text based system just cannot handle, and they are all that remain of some data I just could not get into a txt file.

On my ‘proper computers’ I am running Notational Velocity against the singular NoteBook folder, and will someday run PlainText. The whole thing syncs with DropBox (I’m using the 8.91 forum beta build and it’s flawless)

I was really jazzed when I found out that NV allows for saved searches, kind of. Bookmarks in NV save search results as well as the bookmarked file. Without too much heavy thinking you can set up a bunch of searches that pre-configure the contents of NV for different contexts, solving one of the big issues with the application which is how it deals with ever increasing data stores. Scrod’s post on this well hidden function is here. Once I figured out exactly what he was saying, the lights went on and I made a bunch of index files with imbedded searches, and it extended the functional range of Notational Velocity dramatically.

So the gist of this is, I’m using my mobile devices for origination not editing. DropBox is becoming the core backbone of my data transfer and synchronization function. Notational Velocity is the dataset manager for the infobase. WriteRoom and TaskPaper on the mac side are still as fantastic as ever (especial TaskPaper which is a writer’s versioning dream) and on the mobile end, Jess’s apps will be even more functional as he hooks them into DropBox.

More articles from Dougist on WriteRoom, TaskPaper the InfoBase and Writing Productivity

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One Comment

  1. Felix Martinez
    Posted December 1, 10 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I am curios to know how it is going with your PlainText implementation? I also moved all my notes into PlainText from Simplenote but find it lacking because National Velocity; my savior; does not work with PlainText. It can’t subfolders. Curios to how you are manipulating and creating notes on a desktop. Thanks.

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