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Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software? 170

Posted by timothy
from the unexamined-life-not-worth-living dept.
netdicted writes "At the very outset of my career the importance of keeping a daily journal of activities and notes was clearly evident. Over the years I've always had a college ruled composition notebook nearby to jot down important ideas, instructions, tasks, etc. Putting away the rock and chisel was not optional when the volumes grew beyond my mental capacity to successfully index the contents. Over the years I've tried countless apps to keep a digital journal and failed miserably.

In my mind the ideal app or solution is a single file or cloud app where I can organize personal notes on projects, configurations, insights, ideas, etc., as well as noting major activities or occurrences of the day. My original journals saved me on a number of occasions. Unfortunately my tenacity for keeping one has suffered from a fruitless search for a suitable solution. Currently I'm experimenting with Evernote and Tiddlywiki. They approach the problem from two different angles. What do you use?"
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Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?

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  • The Luddite Answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:04PM (#46800747)

    Dear Slashdot, I'm afraid that years from now, my nuggets of wisdom will be lost, and I will not be able to find the appropriate pithy thought to properly respond to a Slashdot Troll... What ever shal I do?

    Dear "Netdicted", first of all, your screen name for some reason reminded me of getting my cat neutered. Second, unplug. There is more to life than a 24/7 high speed connection. Third, consider your follow-on. Your children and grand children will not be able to read your e-diary, and writing things on paper long-hand will help you stave off Alzimers. In other words, keep writing in your Moll Skin, it's really the hippest and most practical way to go, and will leave something for your kids and grand kids to enjoy long after you are gon. Seriously.

    Snark aside, work out a system of indexes - electronically in necessary, but please continue using that old "buggy whip", a pen and paper.

    Excuse me now, I have to mow my lawn.

    • I tend to agree with sticking with Moleskin(sic) - preferably 8 1/2 X 11 size --- nonruled (blank). I've tried electronic logs - I've tried electronic drawing apps (e.g. Papyrus on a Nexus 7 Android system). The main problem for me is not only do I want to write in it - but I find freeform drawing to be more helpful in conjunction with the writing. The Nexus pixel sizes for drawing where too coarse - and while you can zoom in and out -- the drawings always ended up looking odd - and took longer than jus

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It works. Runs on my laptop, server, and tablet!

    • Org mode (Score:5, Informative)

      by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday April 20, 2014 @04:37PM (#46801179) Homepage Journal
      http://orgmode.org/ [orgmode.org]
      • Seconded!
      • by Aighearach (97333)

        I've been using emacs for 15 years for all my software development.

        That said, orgmode doesn't look very useful. If you're wanting note-taking software that specifically allows formulas to be written in lisp, then it is surely the way to go. Or if you not only use emacs, but also use emacs for things other than editing, then perhaps it is just the nerdy tool for you.

        I don't think I'd put it in a list of tools targeted at professional journalists for taking notes, though.

        TuxCards, dokuwiki, freemind, freeplan

        • The genius of org mode is that the only key you need to know is TAB.
          Whether it requires too much emacs affinity to be useful to the non-nerd is a point well-taken.
      • Orgmode is also the most useful note taking tool I've found. Of course, it helps if you're OK doing it in Emacs. I will point out, though, that many people learn Emacs simply so that they can use orgmode - it's that useful. If I had to guess, I would say that since 2008, more people learned Emacs to use org mode than for any other reason.

    • Back when I had a Psion 3A organizer, it was a great tool for taking notes on, though eventually the hardware died.

      After that I used a series of Palm Pilot versions, which weren't as good - graffiti was slower than typing, and the text file editor could only handle notes up to 4KB, so I had to start new ones roughly monthly (though at least they did sync with Outlook pretty well.)

      For the last decade or so I've been doing most of my work on Windows, so I just keep a Notepad text file open on my laptop al

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've kept it relatively simple over the years.

    I have a text file where I keep a daily log of sorts. My time is charged directly to the customer of the project I'm working on, so the main purpose in this log is to keep track of that (we have a system for entering our time, but it sucks, so I like having my own records) and keep additional notes about what I was doing that day (the system where it ultimately gets entered only cares about the numbers).

    Project specific, I usually create a specific directory per

  • OneNote is very good (Score:5, Informative)

    by lucm (889690) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:15PM (#46800807)

    A lot better than Evernote, and now it's free.

    http://www.onenote.com/ [onenote.com]

    • by ericloewe (2129490) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:37PM (#46800915)

      Agreed. OneNote is perfect for note-taking. With compatible hardware (tablet with N-trig or Wacom digitizer) you can even get the best handwriting experience this side of paper. Naturally, it works just as well with keyboard+mouse.

      The Windows Desktop version (which is the only one I regularly use) has some pretty random bugs when drawing shapes with the built-in tools (it may be limited to high-DPI displays, though, since it looks like a bad coordinate transformation - and it only happens occaisonally), but is otherwise stable.

      Like all Office applications, it might be good to spend an hour or two learning the ropes instead of diving right in.

    • by meeotch (524339)

      +1 for this. Though I'm sure nobody around here wants to hear about M$ products. "LALALALALAproprietaryLALALALALAwalledgardenLALALALALA".

      I haven't tried Evernote, but only because I skimmed through the site, didn't like the formatting options, and since I've been using OneNote, I haven't felt the need. It did seem like Evernote had more options for grabbing stuff form disparate sources.

      I also haven't tried OneNote 2013, because I don't like subscription software. (LALALALA) But OneNote 2010 has been pre

      • by meeotch (524339)

        Ha - forgot to finish point #3, and renumber point #4. Like I said about editing my notes...

        Anyway:
        3. There are some stupid hotkeys that I find myself accidentally hitting all the time. Like "New page" and "New Section". I don't believe you can change them - though I assume you could steal them with AutoHotkey.

      • by ericloewe (2129490) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @04:46PM (#46801209)

        OneNote 2013 is now free, so there's no reason not to upgrade.

        As for equations, just hotkey the Office equation editor - it even accepts a lot of LaTeX syntax - which is a lot more intuitive than most shortcuts from that add-on.

    • by unixisc (2429386)
      I found OneNote useful as well, ironically, only thru my Windows Phone. When it first appeared on my PC as a part of an Office installation, I had no idea of what to do w/ it. But on my phone, once I saw templates like shopping lists, travel plans & so on, I was hooked. Now I use it on my phone all the time. From there, my usage on the PC has also gone up, thanks to OneDrive.
  • paper...pencil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sooner Boomer (96864) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <rmoob.renoos>> on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:19PM (#46800831) Journal

    I've been working on a research project in Chemical Engineering for the past 5 years as a consultant. I struggled, like you, to find a technical solution for a professional journal. I had to settle for fifty cent spiral bound notebook and pencil (I found a neat plastic case to keep them in). No other solution could provide me a way to easily keep a written ledger of text and numbers, draw diagrams, schematics, and allow me to easily edit mistakes. When the notebooks were full, they went into a three-ring binder. Searching through the pages of the binders is fairly easy, especially since *I'm* the one that wrote the notes.

    Don't over-think the problem.

    • This. No software can trounce the flexibility of a pen and a pad of paper. If you're that obsessed with digitising it, get a scanner and save the scans as PDF's
      • Well, a tablet with a digitizer (Think Surface Pro) can do pretty much all sorts of notetaking typically done with pen and paper. It helps organization immensely.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Big advantage paper has is you can spread it out.

          I don't think I've ever been in the design of anything non-trivial where we didn't eventually end up with 3 or 4 people in a room with a big table just covered in paper with hand written notes/diagrams/whatever.

      • Hmm, the problem I find is that when notes start getting too copious it can be difficult or almost impossible to find a particular bit that you were looking for, especially stretching over years. If pen and paper notebooks came with an automated search function I'd be happy!

        • The automated search thing uses the wiggly bits at the end of your hands and the lookey bits on either side of your nose. Sorry, not trying to be snide, but the things I'm usually searching for 1) were written by me, so when I get close to the proper page, my memory kicks in and I usually remember where stuff is*, and 2), I'm usually not searching for an individual search term. If something is unique, I can usually get close enough to find it by flicking through a few pages. Weekly/monthly/quarterly repo

        • What I'm using is Evernote plus a Livescribe Sky pen. You write your notes in a notebook (yes, it has to be one of their notebooks) but a copy of the page (searchable if you use Evernote Premium and write halfway legible) is stored as a note. Plus audio can be recorded at the same time and is associated with the text being written at the same time. I've tried the Echo version of the pen and it requires Adobe reader to take hear the audio. Don't like it as Adobe reader is nothing but a big self contained

          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            You can get notebooks/pads with markings in the corners and an accompanying Android/iOS app that lets you scan them with the camera. The marks help the software neaten the photo up. Works well with erasable Frixxon ball pens.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            I use an Echo (bought it before the Sky came out), and I'll echo all the above. I periodically export my evernote data and save it in case the service goes down.

            With the Echo you're not limited to Adobe to listen to the recordings - you can also listen to them with the supplied client software. The Sky does not use client software as it just directly syncs to Evernote.

            The only thing that makes me nervous about the Sky is that it is dependent on an outside service. In theory my Echo pen will work 10 years

      • by kbrannen (581293)

        If I was taking a class (or whatever) with a high ratio of drawing to text, then I'd agree. However, I'm rarely in that situation; most of my notes are text only.

        I can type faster than I write, even with abbreviations (which I can do while typing too), and my handwriting has decreased over the years, so typing is almost manditory unless I really slow my handwriting down, which is the opposite of what I need to do while taking notes when someone else is speaking.

        That's how it is for me, perhaps your situatio

    • Spiral bound is nice as it lays open and flat, but the spiral part doesn't weather well. For the last couple years I've been using a Whitelines squared hardcover notebook [amazon.com] and a Lamy fountain pen/a. If you're gonna be using it for the next year or so, you might as well get decent stuff. [amazon.com]
      • My notebooks weren't always spiral bound, sometimes they were the kind with the bound backing (I bought several of whatever was cheapest at the beginning of each semester). When whatever form they were, got full, they went into a 3-ring binder (including the covers which have beginning-ending dates, phone numbers, and other important info). Almost all of these (college ruled) notebooks are also pre-punched, so I just carefully remove the pages.

        I started using expensive refillable mechanical pencils. Afte

        • One of the other functions notebooks occasionally fill is as evidence in patent hearings. If that's a consideration, pencils are a no-no because things can be changed. Yeah, I'm at the "get off my lawn" age these days, but best practice for patent cases is still bound notebooks, numbered pages, ink. If you screwed something up three days ago, you don't erase and fix, you redraw on a new page with the current date and refer back as "corrects version of this on pg 23." For personal use, that's overkill.
    • i have kinetic memory, my body knows where it put something, even when i cannot remember a thing.

      there is no substitute for writing it down, i find, and typing is definitely not writing, does not have the same effect.

      the only digital solution that almost worked for me was a pen tablet, and perhaps now that our invention has come full circle, and we're back to scribbling on stone (well, sand) tablets again, i may finally lose the pen and paper..

      but not yet - paper can be recycled - and as far as i know this

    • by fermion (181285)
      Keepping a notebook is critical, and for most application pen and paper is good enough. I learned that when I was young and working in small business and research. Everyone had a notebook. Some just a spiral bound notebook. Some a real research notebook. Many a Franklin planner with yearly storage cases. I myself keep many various notebooks around that I jot notes in.

      Which is to say that not everyone has the same solution, and some find electronics notebooks useful. My main problem is that most electr

    • Plus . . . I haven't seen a Snowden press release yet that the NSA has technology for snooping in pencils and paper. When they come knocking on your door, you can eat your notes. A USB stick will not digest.

      Maybe there is some kind of edible rice based paper that would dissolve quickly in the stomach . . . ? In old spy movies, folks used to munch down secret notes all the time.

    • I do this. Also, once every year or two, I scan all the pages and make a nice pdf file of each volume. I put bookmarks on pages that I think I may want to look up quickly (often these correspond to physical bookmarks such as little sticky notes) and also bookmark start of month or start of new project. My bookshelf, with 5 linear feet of notes over the years, fits on a thumb drive. In practice, I typically look up things in the pdfs rather than the physical notes. I intend to dispose of the physical no
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      I have a livescribe pen, which I use for exactly the reasons you state. It requires special paper, but the cost of the paper is cheap compared to the time I spend writing on it.

      It captures everything written and can output in PDF, and can also do correlated audio recordinds, export to evernote, etc. Since it captures the path and not just the resulting image the OCR should be better than for scanned handwriting.

      If I had a pen-based tablet I could see going electronic, but I doubt I could do handwriting on

  • I use tuxcards [tuxcards.de]. I used gnote for quite a while but I find tuxcards makes it easier for me to visualize what I have.

    I don't keep huge piles of notes in it, though -- mostly things like to-do lists.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Search-able and simple simple text is cross platform and easily copied and pasted. It acts like your "College ruled" notebooks and a single file could hold all. And, using the search mechanism you could search for a word or a date. The discipline you need is a really simple format: date first, topic or keyword and then just type. End with a signature, initials, keyword or "to do" note or phrase.
    Why make it harder?

  • I am in fear of the flames now, but I started using OneNote around three months ago and I swear, it is the best note-taking system that I have ever used. I would go so far to say that it might be the best program that Microsoft has on offer. Very flexible, very easy to use, and the cut and paste feature really makes it useful. There you go....And they are giving it away free.
    • OneNote is great, except that it needs a computer to run on. A good pen and notebook can be much lighter/cheaper/faster for jotting down a note and will give you great battery life to boot!

      I agree though, if you're in front of the same computer all day OneNote is a truly excellent program.
  • I've gotta go with the hive mind here as well. I do most of my note taking on pads of paper, then throw those pages into physical folders, and then those folders into a filing cabinet.

    On the computer side, a folder with the name of the project/task/whatever to dump digital stuff related to it.

    Old fashioned, sure.. but it works.

    • "On the computer side, a folder with the name of the project/task/whatever to dump digital stuff related to it."

      I also always use filenames like 20140420.txt. Graphics get names like 20140420.jpeg. Search with grep, back up with rsync, remote access via ssh. This works for me because (1) most of my notes are text and (2) keeping the material readable for 10 years or longer is a requirement. Take notes by hand in meetings and transcribe later, which means I rewrite them into English while I still remember

  • notepad (Score:5, Informative)

    by 50000BTU_barbecue (588132) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:26PM (#46800867) Homepage Journal
    Seriously. Just put .LOG on the first line of the file and every time you open it Notepad puts the date and time.
    • a rare moment when someone posts something potentially useful and not well known on /. kudos

    • by cbhacking (979169)

      ... Holy crap. There is an actual *feature* in Notepad beyond the bare minimum required for a GUI text editor?

      I'm quite honestly astonished. I generally assume Notepad has no meaningful features at all. Tested though, and it worked. You don't even need to use a particular extension (or at least, both .log and .txt work); looks like it just checks that first line.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Wow ... so, are there any other things like that it does? I must confess, this is the first I'm seeing this.

  • from OmniGroup.com or a similar outlining app.

    Text, images/screen shots, linked files, audio, all in an organizable outline format meaning I can keep a years worth of notes searchable and displayable in a small window.

    The text is kept in normal Mac format, so Spotlight can easily search all OO files for a specific text item.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @03:39PM (#46800931)

    Microsoft OneNote.

    Done.

    • by plazman30 (531348)
      Once your stuff it in OneNote, there's no easy way to get it out. Personally, I hate the UI. I'm using Tiddlywiki till something else wows me.
      • by kbrannen (581293)

        Once your stuff it in OneNote, there's no easy way to get it out.

        Seriously? You haven't found the export (save as) feature? They give you Word, PDF, XPS, and MHT formats. If it all goes bad for you, you can always copy-n-paste it out. It's not hard to get info out of OneNote. If you're trying for mass export, as in you're trying to move away from OneNote, I believe they also provide the API so you can write your own export filter (haven't tried it though).

  • I used to use organized .txt files but switched to DokuWiki.

    https://www.dokuwiki.org/dokuw... [dokuwiki.org]

    Now I can access notes from all of my devices and share them easily with associates as well.

    I tried Evernote, MediaWiki, Atlassian's Confluence and a ton of other options but DokuWiki is the only solution I have found that makes managing a notebook easy, fast and enjoyable.

  • Rsync [samba.org] your CherryTree [giuspen.com] file, or sync with whatever cloud storage solution you use, Google Drive, Microsoft NSAAS, whatever.

    It's a bit limited for complex things, but it worked for some students I know tracking the majority of their note-keeping needs. Stopped using 3rd party solutions since I eat my own dogfood, and now have notes integrated into my distributed versioned whiteboard / issue tracker / build & deploy & test product. I have issue/note/image annotation plugins for coding with Netbeans,

  • Your notes can be as detailed or as slim as you want. This is some pretty good project management software.
  • I have used OneNote for years, but take a look at Freemind [sourceforge.net]
    I like using it specifically when laying out a working outline for a theme paper, a programming problem, etc.

    It allows Visual / Org-chart and outline display of notes. not just tabs. Easy to re-arrange and show different ways. Import and Export to HTML & XML. Superneato.

  • by spasm (79260) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @04:19PM (#46801081) Homepage

    I've been writing ethnographic field notes for about 15 years. I had a couple of phases of trying to do this electronically, but the notes from each of those 3 month experiments are for the most part now lost or at least difficult to access - proprietary formats, failed backups, accidental deletions, you name it. Whereas the paper notebooks are sitting on my bookshelf beside my desk. For one project I chopped the spine off the notebook and dropped the pages into a bulk scanner before perfect-binding the notebook back together again, but the resulting physical notebook is a bit more delicate than I'd like. But I do like having an electronic version, both for backup and so I have a copy available when I'm away from my bookshelf. So these days I photocopy each notebook and drop the photocopies through the scanner (and more recently I've been able to have a student or an intern do it, but for a task I only needed to do every three-six months it was never that onerous to begin with), storing both the photocopy and a copy of the pdf offsite. I've played with various indexing schemes over the years, from leaving the last dozen pages blank and writing a single-line description of the contents of each page as I filled it (2002-03-21: key informant interview, ER doctor, hospital xxx), through to embedding metadata on relevant pages of the pdf to make it searchable (my handwriting is way way too bad for ocr to have any utility). But the 'write the index on the last few pages of the notebook as you go' method has been the simplest and most robust, and it rarely takes long to find anything, even with 30 or so notebooks on my bookshelf. And picking up an old notebook every few months and just reading or skimming through it is often a worthwhile exercise, reminding you of ideas and streams of thought and research context in ways that simply searching for something you already know is in there never can.

    As an additional benefit, I've always found making notes in a notebook to be less intrusive in meetings or interviews than typing or using a stylus on a tablet (although changing social norms may make the latter less intrusive eventually), and the act of writing to be less intrusive to my own thought processes than typing (maybe just because no red squiggly lines appear under my notes as I type, or text reflowing, drawing the eye as it does so), but that might just be me, or I might just be showing my age.

    • by jittles (1613415)

      As an additional benefit, I've always found making notes in a notebook to be less intrusive in meetings or interviews than typing or using a stylus on a tablet (although changing social norms may make the latter less intrusive eventually), and the act of writing to be less intrusive to my own thought processes than typing (maybe just because no red squiggly lines appear under my notes as I type, or text reflowing, drawing the eye as it does so), but that might just be me, or I might just be showing my age.

      I always use the computer for taking notes in meetings. I can type at over 200WPM and my handwriting is painfully slow in comparison. I used to do transcription work to pay the bills through my days at the university. I could quite literally record every word of a meeting if I wanted to. I find that its easier to follow the meeting if I make a quick electronic note and then return my attention to the person talking. It's important to have the right keyboard for this. Many people like their MX keyboard

  • Writes like paper
    Syncs to evernote
    Saves everything to pdf and can easily be printed for paper archival

  • I use this: Freeplane [sourceforge.net]

    It's not the right tool for long verbose text, but for collecting ideas and arranging them together it works well. I tend to think of it as a free-form web page. A few key things:
    - It is portable, at least I run mine off a USB flash drive. This is a key feature, if it were not so then it wouldn't get used. It's not "cloud" but then I think of this as being better than a cloud version, as it does not require network, and you don't have to worry about cloud security.
    - It can support l

  • If you're just looking for a laundry list of note-taking apps, I'm sure Google can help. If you want real advice you need to provide more information. You're obviously in the habit of taking notes with pen and paper, so why have you failed miserably to keep a digital journal? What part of it doesn't work for you? Your list of requirements is missing that bit of information. You want a "single file or cloud app where I can organize personal notes on projects, configurations, insights, ideas, etc.,". Well, t
  • I use Evernote. But I don’t trust it.

    I use Evernote for most of my digital notes stuff. I like the syncing feature which keeps notes on my mac, smartphone and tablet in sync.

    However I don’t trust it for really important long-term stuff. Really essential stuff, such as long writing projects, articles, essays, important letters or digital journals go into textfiles that are in directories covered by redundant backup/archive mechanisms on detached portable HDDs with filesystems that can be read wit

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      It's easy enough to export Evernote data into a directory full of HTML files. I dump mine into the git repo I keep all my important files in. That even keeps formatting and linking, which is a big improvement over most text file oriented solutions. If you're more of a fan of wiki style for that, you can use something like Markdown conversion. [github.com]

      The main tie-breaker reason I ended up at Evernote is full read and write access to the repository on my phone. The days of losing an idea when I'm wandering around

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I'm on the same page as you. I use evernote for the cloud convenience, and it gets me automatic backup of all my documents for free.

        I periodically dump everything locally. I usually use their xml export format, figuring that if they ever went out of business suddenly somebody else would come up with a way to transform it. In the more likely case that I have a sense that they're going out of business I can export to html as you suggest, but as a backup format a tree full of html isn't ideal.

  • Only slightly offtopic: Here's a similar use-case and how I solved it. The problem is 'collecting' job ads efficiently to spend my time applying for.

    Requirement: Avoid redundant re-reading of the same stupids ads over and over, (so alway view ads boards by date, most recent ads first; and maybe use 'email search by date filters' too). Also, I want to avoid applying with recruiters as much as possible by applying only directly to firms whenever possible, etc.

    The Scrapbook extension allows me to quickly selec

  • What you call "notes", the local prosecutor calls "evidence". Something you write that might seem totally harmless to you - "today I spent three hours daydreaming about putting bleach in my idiot boss's Diet Coke" suddenly becomes damning when presented out of context to a jury, after someone put bleach in your boss's Diet Coke and he wound up in the hospital.

    I have been keeping a plain text log for the better part of two decades. They are just individual text files, one for each day, with titles like 2014-
    • by greg1104 (461138)

      I don't expect encryption to save me here in the US, not the way key disclosure [wikipedia.org] law is going so far. There's no perfect solution possible here, and the trade-offs in only having a local copy aren't so great. You have to transport the data over a network to get real redundancy for your notes, which is one of the most important things electronic notes do better than handwritten ones. Recent news has shown in so many ways that you can't expect network privacy either.

      I'm skeptical of people who believe their

    • by Tool Man (9826)

      What you call "notes", the local prosecutor calls "evidence". Something you write that might seem totally harmless to you - "today I spent three hours daydreaming about putting bleach in my idiot boss's Diet Coke" suddenly becomes damning when presented out of context to a jury, after someone put bleach in your boss's Diet Coke and he wound up in the hospital.

      I have been keeping a plain text log for the better part of two decades. They are just individual text files, one for each day, with titles like 2014-04-20_sue_party, a date and a quick description of anything unusual. The encryption mechanism has changed, but right now they are all stored on a Truecrypt volume. A vanilla search only takes a minute at most.

      I'll chip in with a combination that works for me. This may or may not overlap with the OP, but YMMV.
      Anyway, I want to be able to have access to my data in multiple places, including mobile. On the other hand, I also expect a certain control over my data, including the ability to encrypt (and still have access).

      Org-mode has some support for iOS and Android apps, including syncing to a central location via Dropbox or WebDav. Encryption is available too, using the OpenSSL command-line tool IIRC. WebDav is als

  • I grew up right on the cusp– I learned to print and write cursive in grade school but I always had bad penmanship and started typing papers on a word processor in middle school. Got my first computer in high school. So I am more comfortable typing than writing by hand, and Im sure anyone younger than me is going to be even more so. I can understand why so many people suggest you type your notes- it does present zero barrier to entry, and no compatibility issues, but its the WORST format by far for sea

  • I went from keeping a simple and cheap paper lab notebook to just using MS-Word. Paper notebooks were fine in the olden days, I could tape in tables or diagrams from books. But paper is hard to search and organize and move from desk to desk and job to job.

    I simply keep an MS-Word (or Google Docs) file where the document starts with several tables, such as charge codes, assigned staff contact data, assigned staff current assignment, and a To Do List.

    Then I have a current to past date order where each date

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @07:39PM (#46802075) Journal

    The best system i found are plain text files for the really important things, in a year/month/day directory structure. Store it locally on a usb stick and use an arbitray sync tool or version mangement to sync between your devices.

    Searching these is easy.

  • by helixcode123 (514493) on Sunday April 20, 2014 @08:12PM (#46802203) Homepage Journal

    I use Emacs with "Org Mode". It lets me collapse each day's information to single line, but all of the information can be searched like a normal Emacs buffer and expanded as needed. You even get the handy table formatting. If you need to output sections they can be rendered to PDF, HTML, etc.

  • I do that with vi, find and grep on a collection of plain text files. It works rather well.
  • I mostly use OneNote (was using Evernote for shared stuff, but am transitioning that to OneNote now that it's free). The biggest problem I run across is permanency. If you write something on paper, it's pretty much permanent (unless the ink fades or the paper turns to dust). If you write something in OneNote, then later accidentally select it while typing something else and don't notice it, it's gone. For shared notes, if someone wants to cover up a problem, they could simply delete someone else's remar
    • by ray-auch (454705)

      Immutability and retention are an issue with all digital information outside a properly configured and standards-compliant electronic records system - and even then there are limitations.

      OneNote can get close enough for most purposes however - it can be configured to auto-backup to any location at configurable time intervals. Use file-history, time-machine, rsync, etc. from there. Zip, digital-sign and timestamp the backups and store in your records management system or file directly with multiple sets

  • I started using desktop wikis for writing down my notes. Right now I am using Zim.

    Bonus: You can read and edit the files with any text editor as it's just mark-up.

  • It's a FOSS cross-platform personal wiki. It has all the advantages of wikis without the bothersome markup language. It is best parts of being able to link notes together mixed with a simple rich text editor.

    Simple and Easy to use.

    • by plazman30 (531348)

      The problem I have with Tomboy Notes is the lack of consistent cross platform releases. The Mac version is pretty old, compared to Linux, and not every release gets a Windows build.

      I use all three platforms and need my solution to sync across all three.

  • by horza (87255)

    The best app I have come across for storing ideas is KeepNote [keepnote.org]. Free and cross-platform, though it could do with a few more features. OneNote seems not bad for storing recipes etc, but is obviously unacceptable for storing personal data.

    In terms of PIM, this is not really the same as OP was asking as most of them are calendar/to-do based. I've tried every single ones of these, and have found MyLifeOrganized [mylifeorganized.net] to be the best. One of the few apps I've been happy to pay for. Microsoft Windows only but works under

  • https://labnodes.vanderbilt.ed... [vanderbilt.edu] has the ability to keep track of resources and share them with other researchers. They were working on notebook functionality before I left, but it doesn't look like that has been implemented yet.
  • Over the years I've always had a college ruled composition notebook nearby to jot down important ideas, instructions, tasks, etc.

    For me, I have never seen any of the technology solutions to have ever gotten better than this.

    In terms of flexibility, robustness, availability, and the lack of the need to fiddle endlessly with technology which almost does most of what I want (but with more effort)... I will stick with my black hard-cover lab books. It's independent of my employer, my time zone, what kind of p

  • I use TaskPaper. It's just slightly more than plain text, offering some automatic (and fairly unobtrusive) organization. I keep one text file for one year, and then start a new one.

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