Yesterday, I linked to Gabe from MacDrifter's post on his method of taking plain-text notes. For over a year, I never really felt that I had to take digital notes. Sure, at work, that was different. I use Evernote exclusively for notes. However in my personal life, I never didn't have the need.
For things I needed to remember, they fell under one of the following scenarios:
|Type of Information||Location|
|Information that was found on a webpage||Stored in Pinboard|
|Information pertaining to a project||Stored in the notes section of an OmniFocus task or project|
While that worked out well for a while, new ventures had required me to take meticulous notes — faster. A lot of them too. At first I tried keeping them in Evernote. However, there was something about the beefiness of Evernote combined with the fact that there were all different types of notes and files in there that made it seem distracting, weighty, and noisy. In other words, it felt like a scrap book in stead of a notebook in which all it contained was handwritten notes.
This also led me to try other venues as well. I tried wikis (via Trunk Notes) as well as Pinboard's note feature1. So naturally, I go back to the old "tried and true".
Plain-text and Rockets
I had implemented plain-text notes before — and to be honest, I forgot why I stopped. There wasn't anything wrong with them, I just stopped — for some reason. However, plain-text notes seemed to be the perfect match in terms of speed, retainability and search.
However, the app that I used before for plain-text notes, nvALT, had moved on to bigger and better things. It became the powerhouse that runs Gridwriter. But I couldn't shake the feeling. nvALT had everything that I needed in a note taking app:
- In-Document Searching
- Dropbox Support
So I tried figuring out a way to get the nvALT experience without having to resort to hackery.
The answer was simple — Notational Velocity.
Since nvALT is a fork of Notational Velocity, the main experience exists in both apps. Of course I lose a lot of the magic that David Halter and Brett Terpstra implemented into the app, but they were things that I manage to be without. I didn't really need the Markdown integration that nvALT has, as I rarely style my notes. And even if I did, I can still write in Markdown and have ⌘⇧+E open up a preview in Marked.
My note taking strategy would be similar to how I would write in a Field Notes notebook — sometimes vague, sometimes detailed. Sometimes a line; sometimes a paragraph. But the most important key, in my opinion, is the file name. Inspired by Merlin Mann's file naming technique I have a three-part strategy to naming.
- The date: 2012-08-21
- The "tag": .notes (I also use .contact, .recipe, .project, .gridwriter)
- The keywords: writing-ideas
Put them together and you have:
Within that file name I have all the filtering aspects I need: a date, a tag or type of note, and keywords.
Then I round all this up by implementing it with the iOS counterpart. For this task, I would have to implement my good pal, Notesy.
In other words, I have the same plain-text notetaking workflow I had before — this time with double the rockets.
Update: To clarify, the reason why I don't use nvALT for notes is because I have it pointed to a live Dropbox folder. That Dropbox folder also gets synced up to the Gridwriter server — and if all the metadata is correct, my blogging engine generates a static HTML copy of that Markdown file. So in retrospect, if I were to put anything else in nvALT, it would end up on the web server. nvALT is, simply put, the "CMS" for this site.
To be honest, I really liked keeping my notes in Pinboard. However, I knew that I was forcing it to do something that it wasn't meant to. ↩