1. 92

I don’t care how unusual it is as long as you briefly describe the workflow. I’ve been through so many different applications and services and stuck with absolutely none of them that I would even try LibreOffice Calc if you can describe a compelling approach. Offline and open source are big bonuses and I don’t mind spending hours in a config file.

I also posted about this on Mastodon and got some interesting suggestions but I’m curious what people here use.

  1. 31

    I have recently gone down the rabbit-hole of note-taking apps, since none of them seem to meet my criteria:

    • works offline with my local files (ideally in a human-readable format, if not compliant Markdown)
    • excellent math support (see my prosemirror-math extension for an example)
    • wysiwym (this is crucial for documents with lots of math)
    • support for tags + bidirectional links, for easy categorization and interlinking between notes
    • citations
    • custom css themes
    • free and open source, for extensibility

    Here’s a summary of the different workflows I’ve tried over the years:

    • Initially, I simply took notes on paper. Writing math was easy, but it was too difficult to stay organized or to make changes later.
    • Next, I switched to a system where I’d take rough notes on paper, then polish them into a nice LaTeX document with overleaf that I could reference later. This works out well for some things, but when I’m writing LaTeX I feel to pressured to make everything look pretty. This also isn’t ideal because of the lack of links, difficulty inserting images, etc..
    • For a while I used Jupyter notebooks, since they enable a nice mix of code / math / markdown. Eventually it just grew too cumbersome to start a notebook server every time I wanted to write. (however, these days I think notebooks are built into VS Code–so maybe it’s better).
    • Next, I started using Typora for rough notes, and I’d eventually synthesize the most important ones into a LaTeX document with Overleaf. This was fine, but I had a lot of trouble with organization. Typora doesn’t support anything like tags / wikilinks.
    • Next, I started using OneNote to keep a daily work journal, in linear order. If I’ve forgotten something, I can usually remember what else I had going on the same month/week, so having everything in a linear order really helped when I wanted to search over my past notes. It also helps remind me of my thought process when I go on a long depth-first tangent.
    • Unfortunately, OneNote has terrible math support. So at this point, my notes were spread betweeen paper, OneNote, Typora, and Overleaf. I had no idea where to look for the most “up to date” version of anything.

    When the pandemic started, I found myself with a lot of free time, so I decided it was time to make my own note-taking app called Noteworthy! I’ve been using it exclusively for my notes the past 3-4 months and it’s almost ready for public release!

    In the process of making Noteworthy I’ve been inspired by all the other great note-taking apps out there. Here are just a few of my favorites:

    • Typora, a nicely polished Markdown editor – has the best support for math input I’ve seen
    • Obsidian, a split-pane Markdown editor focused on bidirectional linking
    • Zettlr a Markdown editor focused on publishing / academics
    • RemNote converts your notes into spaced-repetition flash cards, similar to Anki
    • foambubble, a family of VS Code extensions to help search + organize your notes
    • logseq, a GitHub-hosted alternative to Roam
    • Neuron Notes a neat Zettelkasten system written in Haskell, based on GitHub repos
    • R Studio includes an awesome Markdown publishing experience, similar to Jupyter Notebooks
    • (coming soon) Athens Research, an open-source alternative to Roam
    • (coming soon, made by me) Noteworthy, which aims to be an extensible, open-source alternative to Obsidian and Typora, with a focus on wikilinks and excellent math support

    Some honorable mentions:

    • Dendron, a hierarchical note-taking editor based on VS Code
    • kb, a minimal text-oriented command-line note manager
    • Notebag a minimal Markdown app with tag support
    1. 4

      I would add to your list Joplin, which I’ve had very good experiences with. I think it ticks a lot of your boxes, and it also has quite good mobile support which can come in handy.

      1. 4

        I can’t believe I left out Joplin! It’s multiplatform (mobile. pc, terminal) has more features than practically every other note-taking app out there.

        It’s been a while since I last tried Joplin, but I think I remember choosing not to use it for my own notes since it uses split-pane (code+rendered) editing instead of wysiwym, which isn’t ideal for notes with lots of math. I believe there’s also no support bidirectional links, but I could be misremembering.

        1. 4

          I currently use Joplin, which works decently well for me. I have a few complaints about it: it’s a heavy Electron app that doesn’t exist in my distro’s package manger, so I have to build it from source. I don’t like the distinction it makes between “notes” and “notebooks” - I wish that notes could have arbitrarily-deeply-nested children, like some other notetaking software I’ve used has had. I do appreciate that it has a mobile app, but I’ve run into a few useability nits inputting text in that mobile app. And I wish there was a browser version.

          This Noteworthy project looks interesting, and if can solve some of these problems better than Joplin, while still doing everything that I do like out of Joplin, I would consider switching to it.

          1. 4

            I wish that notes could have arbitrarily-deeply-nested children

            A quick skim of the Joplin site didn’t really make it clear what a “notebook” is – are you just talking about being able to easily define hierarchies of notes? Or do you mean a full-on, infinitely-nested-list style app like Athens / Logseq / Roam, where every list bullet is considered to be a separate note? And where all the notes are connected as a big graph?

            With Noteworthy, the goal is not to impose too much structure on your notes – you shouldn’t have to change how you think just to work with a new app. I decided that an approach based on tags would give the most freedom, similar to how Obsidian does it.

            • (done!) Include tags anywhere using [[wikilink]] , #tag, or @[citation] syntax.
            • (done!) easily search for all documents referencing a specific tag
            • (done!) By default, filenames are tags and tags are filenames! Each file can additionally define a list of aliases, which allows for e.g. an abbreviation and its expansion to point to the same file.
            • (planned) define your own tag hierarchies for easier search / disambiguation
            • (planned) use logical operations (and/or/etc) in tag searches

            I’d like to experiment with a Datalog-esque syntax for tag search as well. Roam and Athens both use Datalog internally to facilitate searches, and I believe it has worked out well for them. It would be super cool to expose some kind of tagging system based on predicate logic to the user.

            This Noteworthy project looks interesting, and if can solve some of these problems better than Joplin, while still doing everything that I do like out of Joplin, I would consider switching to it.

            What would you say are your most-used features? Regarding Electron vs native vs browser,

            • Noteworthy is an Electron app, and I’m trying to keep it as lightweight as possible. This is mostly by necessity, since projects like KaTeX and ProseMirror have no native counterparts, afaik. I’ll happily re-write it if an alternative emerges – I’ve been following React-Native and Rust GUI for that reason. I also plan to delegate some of the heavy lifting to Rust programs like ripgrep.

            • Browser version – I can definitely imagine Noteworthy running in a local server, accessible through a browser.

            If all goes as planned, there will be a public beta of Noteworthy in a couple months, where I’ll try to gather feedback about what’s working / what’s missing. Keep an eye out :)

            1. 1

              In Joplin a notebook is a collection of notes, which map to single markdown files. Notebooks can be arbitrarily nested, but a notebook can only contain notes, not have raw text associated with it. So there’s effectively two types of node in the tree structure it exposes to you. I would prefer it if you could have a tree of notes, all of which contain text, and may or may not have any kind of nesting under them.

          2. 1

            IIRC, they have an editor that lets you edit the markdown as it is rendered (one pane). I think this feature is still experimental though.

            I’m not sure what you mean by bidirectional? In the sense that linking from node A to note B also creates a back-link in note B to note A? That’s not a thing in Joplin to my knowledge.

            I’ve got the skeleton of a graph viewer inspired by Obsidian which talks to Joplin over it’s REST API, but it’s not currently working and I haven’t had the time to finish a PoC yet. I’m far enough into it to determine that creating such a companion app is definitely do-able – Joplin’s API is quite nice.

        2. 1

          This is a great resource, thank you.

          1. 1

            I think org-roam fill all your checkboxes.

            The author answered in this thread here

            1. 1

              I haven’t personally tried org-roam due to a phobia of emacs, but it looks like a great alternative to the other roam-likes. One thing that’s not clear – does it support some kind of instant math preview?

              1. 2

                Due to how ridiculously extensible emacs is, you can be certain that the answer will be “yes, with some elisp”.

                1. 1

                  and if you want a packaged solution, org-fragtog :)

          2. 21

            I am a big fan of having a paper notebook and a nice, hefty, metal pen. The ability to rapidly intermix text, drawings, and sketches is underrated.

            EDIT: For the record, I really like Machine Era pens. Solid metal and made in the USA, with easily refillable ink cartridges.

            1. 4

              After trying multiple systems on my laptop or smartphone, I always fall back to my notebooks and a foutain pen. The only thing that I miss is a way to easily record some url or reference. I thought about creating my own url shortener or find a mini printer to print sticker with QR code.

              Intermixing different kinds of inputs (text,drawings,sketches,ddiagrams) is the really what I miss the most when I tried any numeric system.

              1. 1

                I recently had the same idea about a link shortener and so I made one! It doesn’t have much in the way of documentation but it was literally a two hour project and it’s only 50 lines of Go so I think you should be able to get it running really quickly. It uses autoincrementing numbers so the links are always very short and easy to write down (also spell out to someone, remember etc.) I hope you find it useful! Here’s the repo: https://github.com/k2l8m11n2/s

                1. 1

                  That’s nice ! What kind of input method do you use? Sending HTTP request via a web interface or CLI? I will definitely look at it longer, thanks!

                  1. 1

                    The interface is the simplest one I could think of: you GET (or just enter in your browser) https://shortener.example.com/https://some-cool-link.example.net/fun-link-stuff and you get back a number (starting with 1) that you use like so: https://shortener.example.com/1 which redirects you to https://some-cool-link.example.net/fun-link-stuff! I hope this example was clear enough, feel free to ask if you have any questions.

              2. 4

                If you like hefty metal pens, but European ones, I cannot recommend enough Caran d’Ache: https://www.carandache.com/us/en/ballpoint-pen/849-popline-metallic-black-ballpoint-pen-with-holder-p-10214.htm

                This kind of pen can go a long way.

                1. 6

                  So once upon a time I spoke French reasonably well and I was trying to translate “Caran d’Ache” and now I have a headache. Turns out it’s actually a French-ish spelling of a Russian version of a Turkish word.

                  1. 4

                    Yes! Even for native French speakers, it feels very French, except Caran doesn’t mean anything (Ache could be a city or whatever).

                    Fore those wondering the meaning:

                    Caran d’Ache means pencil in Russian and has its roots in the Turkish word “kara-tash” which means black stone, in reference to graphite.


                    1. 7

                      Caran d’Ache means pencil in Russian and has its roots in the Turkish word “kara-tash” which means black stone, in reference to graphite.

                      Interestingly, I come from a country where fountain pen are mandatory in school. We speak arabic, and everyone called the fountain pen “cartouch”, which means bullet or cartridge. It’s also funny because the cartridge really looks like a bullet. There’s also a close relation with lead. I thought it was an anglicism but now I’m learning it might actually comes from the ottoman era.
                      Language is fun.

                      1. 1

                        Interestingly enough, in French cartridge is also called “cartouche” which is very similar!

                        I’ve tried to find more on the source of the work, but the best I could find was:

                        Borrowed from Italian cartuccia, a diminutive of carta, from Latin charta, from Ancient Greek χάρτης (khártēs) — https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cartouche

                        Which is related to the paper that was used for cartridges (in firearms).

                        I wonder what’s the link with pens beside the ink cartridge…

                      2. 2

                        A “Crayon of ash” perhaps?

                      3. 2

                        Oh, right. Карандаш. But it means pencil, so it’s a little bit weird. Does French pronunciation has anything to do with the Russian one? :D

                        1. 2

                          I decided to leam the Cyrillic alphabet a while back because I noticed there are a lot of shared/borrowed French words in Russian and I was going on a visit to Russia. It was really handy. I know a little French, and no Russian, but I could actually read a lot of words on signs. I got the notion from ресторан = restaurant.

                    2. 4

                      I like rotring pens.

                      1. 1

                        Have you ever had a problem with them leaking? My partner uses those, as the line quality is beautiful but after a while, every one she has had has started to leak and needs to be cleaned out.

                        1. 1

                          No, I haven’t had trouble with mine leaking. I mostly use the ball point pen though. Nothing fancy.

                      2. 3

                        In some previous variant of a similar thread, one fellow lobster got me addicted to discbound notebooks [1] [2] [3]. I heartily recommend checking them out for anyone using paper for work notes. They’re an absolutely ingenious invention, I’m surprised they’re not better known and more popular. I mean, I don’t guarantee they’ll fix all your life problems and smooth your wrinkles, but they have many benefits with not many flaws, and I think everyone should know they exist, so that they can choose them as a tool at will.

                        1. 1

                          What type of paper do you use? Ruled? Grid? Some of my physicist coworkers use a dotted grid-style that I’ve been thinking of trying out

                          1. 4

                            I use a dot-grid notebook for a daily bullet journal and all my notes. I can’t go without some horizontal true north or else I start to slant everything downwards, haha. I recommend the Leuchtturm1917 or the Rhodia Dot Web notebooks if you’re curious.

                            1. 1

                              I’ve been using ruled Moleskine notebooks also with my variant of bullet journal. I also have the same slanting problem, but I think dots would be sufficient. I’ll check those out, thanks!

                              1. 2

                                I found out that dotted paper is the more versatile and my newer notebooks all have some. For example, I can easily draw a chess board when I am working on my chess or write straight or diagram almost properly without any rulers when needed.

                                I have some grieves with the quality of paper is my moleskine that vary so much between notebooks especially with foutain pen ink. Some bleeds too easily, some feathers ans some are perfect with the same ink, foutain pen and nib.

                            2. 2

                              I prefer lined since I write more than I draw and I’m not good at writing on unruled or dotted paper.

                          2. 18

                            Rather than just saying “org-mode” like normal, here’s how I use it.

                            I keep two files, one inbox and one as a “brain”. When anything new comes in, I use org-capture to capture that as a todo entry and store it in the inbox. I have two states: TODO, and EXPEDITE.

                            My main file looks like this:

                            * OKRs - my planned objectives; anywhere from 3-8 projects below this header
                            * Unplanned Work - things that I did/need to do that aren't what my performance is measured on ;)
                            * Tasks - work tasks that are one-off'ish ("security training", "get a new Yubikey", (..))
                            * Personal - personal tasks that aren't work, but need to happen during the day

                            First thing every morning, I:

                            • Get to inbox.org zero: everything gets refiled into the appropriate place, with a scheduled date associated to it as needed. If I have a hard deadline, it gets that too.
                            • Look at my org-agenda for the day: do I have anything scheduled or any hard deadlines? If not, I decide what to work on that day and pull them onto the agenda. Also, if I have any more than 1 task tagged EXPEDITE, it’s time for a conversation around urgency and priorities :)

                            After a five minute break to get a coffee, I pick my first task and call org-pomodoro to clock in and work. After the bell dings I take a five minute break, then jot down some notes on what I worked on (if needed) and repeat.

                            At the end of the day, I try to reserve ~30 to go through my email and handle that, inbox zero style. Anything that needs more than two minutes of thought is captured in my org-mode inbox for tomorrow morning.

                            I like this because it’s a workflow that evolved to fit how I think and operate – but you will like org-mode because it can evolve to fit how you think and operate.

                            1. 4

                              I don’t know what I’d do without org mode. It’s basically like markdown + jupyter notebooks + time tracking + outlining + presentation tool + diagram tool all in one human readable file. Add tramp-mode on top of it to unlock more power. I just wish I could better use it to collaborate with non-emacs loving team mates. As it is it has to remain a personal tool. Publish only.

                              1. 2

                                I would love to discuss and show our different systems to eachother.

                                I also use org-mode, using deft as something akin to a zettelkasten, and a gtd.org and work.org file for personal and work headings respectively. https://codemac.net/gtd.html is the current description, but I’m still writing it up.

                                1. 2

                                  So my org-mode strategy is just a few capture templates, and a giant org note file of crap.

                                  I’ve been trying out org-roam/gkroam to see how that might work for a lot of my one off “i have a thing to record” notes that I can eventually come back to later (via an org-habit to periodically look at things of course!).

                                  Honestly org-mode is such an insane thing on its own, I’m curious how every emacs org user uses it, it seems so good at being adaptable to your specific flow that I doubt any two users will be similar, but guessing we could all use inspiration.

                                  1. 2

                                    it seems so good at being adaptable to your specific flow that I doubt any two users will be similar

                                    This is exactly what I did wrong the first time I started using org mode: I found one of the awesome and exceptionally in-depth guides and followed it to the letter. But I never used the system it lead me to build because it wasn’t how my brain wanted to plan tasks.

                                    The Lisp curse – everything is possible so everyone does it their way – strikes again ;)

                                    1. 3

                                      Lol yep, always gotta start from ground zero, not the top of the mountain. I know EXACTLY which guide I think you’re alluding to, and that things full of ideas, but my god is it more than I really need out of my notes. Tracking time in org is neat but i’ve never gotten any use out of it besides the agenda. Maybe the timers that act like pomodoro timers, even then i just use my phone generally.

                                      1. 2

                                        But it’s not a curse in this context! You should do your personal notes your own way, and org-mode lets you do exactly that.

                                        The “curse” is that Lisp lets you write programs in a personally customized way, and in a shared codebase that can be a problem. Here, it works great.

                                2. 12

                                  After trying a bunch of stuff, I’ve just started forgetting things.

                                  It sounds dumb, but when you focus on the things that truly matter to remember and understand that there’s some stuff you just won’t know next week, it allows you to focus on the parts of your life/job/technology that really matter and understand what you can and can’t just figure out on the fly. I’ve found that having taken notes isn’t really as helpful as the process of taking notes, which is only useful because it forces you to think about what you’re trying to remember and how to process the information. If you can train that mindfulness for the things that matter and understand how to find the information that matters less, you don’t really need to keep notes anymore.

                                  1. 3

                                    The real value to taking notes comes in the processing stage - when you go back and condense and synthesize your notes into your own words and opinions on the subject later on, after you’ve watched the lecture or read the book or whatever. This is always when I have my biggest “connection” moments from notes.

                                    1. 1

                                      I noticed that whether or not I take notes, within several weeks or months of having worked on a project, the minutiae are already forgotten (and re-reading notes written during the project are equally incomprehensible).

                                      So I treat note-taking as a process, rather than a permanent thing. The notes exist alongside the project, and finish with the project. The completed project is the only testament to the notes having existed.

                                      1. 1

                                        So from my perspective that’s one aspect of a notes database’s usefulness - maintaining project context, but to your point that’s only useful up to a certain degree and then some amount of context is GOING to be lost, so the key is understanding that and trying to focus on what breadcrumbs you’ll need to rebuild the detailed mental context should you need to go back.

                                        What I find my notes DB much more useful for personally is all the useful bits and bobs that I’m NEVER going to remember because their utility is applicable to a very narrow sphere of opportunity.

                                        Some random entries from my personal notes file:

                                        • How to burn a CD/DVD on OSX with only standard tools
                                        • Cheat sheet for git bisect
                                        • How to check out a pull request from Github to your local workspace

                                        That sort of thing. These aren’t associated with a given project but when I need them again, I’ll be able to find them trivially because (for my setup) all Joplin notes can have tags associated with them and I use that feature studiously.

                                      2. 1

                                        After trying a bunch of stuff, I’ve just started forgetting things.

                                        This, plus searching for things. I’ve never really taken notes in any context. I don’t find summarizing things all that useful… I feel like maybe I should since it’s so popular, but in reality info is pretty easy to find again 80% of the time…

                                      3. 9

                                        I use Sublime Text and markdown. I love it too much to move to anything else as markdown is portable (means I can write my own tools for it like this Alfred workflow).

                                        My wiki open sourced: https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/knowledge

                                        Rendered with GitBook: https://wiki.nikitavoloboev.xyz

                                        The GitBook part I’ll probably change soon as I want to customize the rendered output more. But using GitBook is nice as I don’t have to tinker with tools and can just focus on the content so I’d recommend it.

                                        This thread might be of interest to you asked 2 years ago :)


                                        1. 3

                                          Something that isn’t covered (as far as I can tell) in your wiki but I have been wondering for a while (i’ve seen your wiki a few times on this site): What is your workflow for getting things into the wiki and isn’t it a bit “out of the way” to open up sublime and run git commits? Do you use other tools to help you get data into the wiki? How do you quickly insert new links into the wiki from sublime text, do you just search the entire thing for relevant keywords? Also, how do you get the notes to link to each-other to create the graph you have on the front page?

                                          Overall, it’s a really intensely thorough wiki, but I’ve been wondering what goes into maintaining it?

                                          1. 4

                                            What is your workflow for getting things into the wiki and isn’t it a bit “out of the way” to open up sublime and run git commits?

                                            Opening a file takes 2 seconds at most. o+a will activate search wiki files alfred workflow. Then type few characters of the name, return. Then Sublime Text opens instantly with vim mode. Do search & add the thing. If it’s a link there is a macro that will take current safari URL & construct a link for me so again 2 seconds max.

                                            Running git commits is 1 second. Press backtick+v and https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/gitupdate runs and everything is commited.

                                            Do you use other tools to help you get data into the wiki?

                                            Nope. Everything was added in the manner outlined above.

                                            How do you quickly insert new links into the wiki from sublime text, do you just search the entire thing for relevant keywords?

                                            Here is a screenshot of KM macro that will insert a link as a dashed point. Pressing G in vim mode will go to bottom of file where # Links are.

                                            how do you get the notes to link to each-other to create the graph you have on the front page?

                                            The graph is made with Obsidan. As for interlinking notes inside to other notes, I use manage notes workflow. The workflow also includes the search for files outlined above.

                                            I’ve been wondering what goes into maintaining it?

                                            Lots of time. I am slowly building tools to extract insights from the wiki, notes, links etc. I plan to do a little article/course on maintaining wikis with similar setup.

                                            p.s. I love how extending the wiki doesn’t mean me writing into it everything. I can just link instead, like in this commit I made just now.

                                        2. 9

                                          Joplin because:

                                          • It’s Markdown all the way down. My brain runs on Markdown so I can mark up my notes with zero additional cognitive load
                                          • It supports a ton of different back ends, including straight filesystem or WebDAV which is what I use. That way I can maintain my own notes store infrastructure, and bonus point - I have a parallel notes universe for work since they provide a WebDAV destination behind my cloudy overlords firewall :)
                                          • Totally cross platform - Linux, Mac, Windows, IOS, Android
                                          • Super flexible access - GUI client, command line text based, whatever
                                          • Super capable export so I can easily send notes to people in PDF, HTML, Markdown and a bunch of others

                                          I’ve migrated on and off a hundred note taking systems through the years and this is the first one that’s truly STUCK over the long haul.

                                          1. 2

                                            Doesn’t Joplin use some binary format for storing the notes? I recall that’s the reason it fell of the list for me, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

                                            1. 1

                                              Don’t know don’t care. It exports to everything I need and lets me store my own notes on my own infrastructure.

                                              Why are you looking to go behind your note taking software’s back and pry out the contents of its database?

                                              Sounds like you just want an editor + Markdown.

                                              1. 2

                                                Because one day you might want to move to another note taking app, and might not want to lose your notes in the process.

                                                1. 2

                                                  So export them. Joplin provides export in a bunch of different formats.

                                                  Honestly though, it sounds like what you really want is an editor with Markdown support and some way of making your filesystem universally accessible, possibly with a web interface. There are tools around that will do that.

                                                  1. 1

                                                    Eh, ‘export’ isn’t always a 1:1 thing, there could be data loss in the process (even if just style/formatting text changes). Is there a way to bulk exports all things in it at once?

                                                    1. 3

                                                      First, I’m not trying to sell you, so I think I’m gonna give up on this thread after this :)

                                                      However, yes you can export all your notes, and you can export them as JSON so if you’re worried about data loss that isn’t a thing.

                                                      For me accessibility is king. The fact that I can grab my iPhone and have access to any of my notes in 2 clicks means EVERYTHING. Your equation will be different. But like I say, just use an editor and Markdown, and there are a ton of tools that will make that easaier/better - in fact I see some @srid is suggesting in the very next comment!

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I’m not looking for you to sell me on it, I was just challenging your ‘why would someone care how it’s stored on the backend’ notion. That’s neat it can export all in json.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          Yup there’s also an API and a CLI. I’m writing a cron job to do automatic JSON/Markdown exports.

                                          2. 9

                                            I stick to plain Markdown lifes, because I hate the thought of having to change note-taking apps every year. Notes should be future-proof; they should last a lifetime.

                                            My public notes – https://www.srid.ca/ – is basically just a directory of Markdown files, each linking to one another using regular Markdown links (or [[..]] alias).

                                            This was the goal behind my creating Neuron, as well as the web app Cerveau which I use to edit the above site among others. If I’m editing locally, I’ll use the VScode extensions listed here.

                                            1. 3

                                              I stick to plain Markdown lifes, because I hate the thought of having to change note-taking apps every year. Notes should be future-proof; they should last a lifetime.

                                              That’s an excellent point. I think I’ll start doing a global export of my Joplin DB to markdown on the regular and see if I can automate that.

                                              1. 1

                                                This is why I stick with Markdown and a file-agnostic editor like Obsidian or Zettlr.

                                                1. 2

                                                  What does file-agnostic mean?

                                              2. 9

                                                I built Org-roam, which i had initially intended to be a simple layer on top of Org-mode that added backlinks to regular Org-mode files. A bunch of tools such as org-roam-bibtex and org-roam-server have since been built by community users to work with citations and provide a graphical overview of the notes. My notes are automatically published via netlify here.

                                                Org-mode is unparalleled as a plain-text system, which beginners can use as a simple outliner, and power users can use it to build complex workflows (GTD, literate programming etc.). It’s simply a gift that keeps on giving.

                                                1. 2

                                                  Thanks jethro for org-roam. It’s been a few months now that I use it daily and I really love it.

                                                  As far as I can tell, this is the ultimate note taking tool.

                                                  Along the rest of org-mode (org-agenda, org-capture, etc…) this is a life changer tool for me.

                                                  1. 3

                                                    you’re welcome!

                                                  2. 1

                                                    After hearing about org-mode and org-agenda for a while and then org-roam yesterday, I’ve finally decided to dive into Emacs. I’m starting from the basics with a vanilla installation and reading through a few people’s config files and the docs before I attempt to use org-roam though; I’ve heard it’s a challenge to work with.

                                                    My notes are automatically published via netlify here.

                                                    That’s incredibly similar to what someone sent me yesterday, which was the final straw that convinced me to try Emacs. Is the output a template from a specific package or something you’ve created yourself?

                                                    1. 3

                                                      As a new user I was glad to start to use emacs using a configuration framework like doom-emacs or spacemacs. In fact, after a few years getting used to emacs I now believe that doom emacs make a better job than I could ever do myself to create an emacs configuration.

                                                      That being said, let just say that diving into org-mode was probably one of the best use of my time, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I’m starting from the basics with a vanilla installation and reading through a few people’s config files and the docs before I attempt to use org-roam though; I’ve heard it’s a challenge to work with.

                                                        It’s hard if you fight it, easier if you are ready to learn – seeing that you have the right stance, you’ll probably be fine.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          I’m starting from the basics with a vanilla installation and reading through a few people’s config files and the docs before I attempt to use org-roam though; I’ve heard it’s a challenge to work with.

                                                          Yes it is. Emacs is a complex beast, and so is Org-mode, and Org-roam, it really does take some time to get used to. Maybe this guide can help you: https://github.com/nobiot/Zero-to-Emacs-and-Org-roam

                                                          That’s incredibly similar to what someone sent me yesterday, which was the final straw that convinced me to try Emacs. Is the output a template from a specific package or something you’ve created yourself?

                                                          That’s my hugo theme, cortex, which that website in that link had modified for use directly with org-publish. I had since taken some of the modifications (javascript, mostly) and placed them back into my theme :)

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                                                        I have absolutely fallen in love with running https://www.bookstackapp.com/. I put any notes and everything i might need in the “future” in it. The search finds what I’m looking for, and the mobile web frontend allows me to travel with it too.

                                                        This docker image made it insanely easy to get going: https://hub.docker.com/r/linuxserver/bookstack.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          bookstack looks awesome. I can’t believe it’s not more popular.

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                                                          without a doubt…

                                                          • free and OSS
                                                          • plain MD
                                                          • sync via Dropbox or other cloud storage solutions
                                                          • Linux/Win/Mac Desktop clients
                                                          • Android client
                                                          • export to MD & PDF
                                                          • organized in notebooks
                                                          • tags
                                                          • quicksearch
                                                          • dark theme
                                                          • can use my favorite text editor to write notes (Sublime for me)
                                                          • encryption (if that’s what you want)
                                                          • webclipper with extensions for Firefox, Chrome etc. (save screen shots, webpages etc. directly to notebook)
                                                          1. 1

                                                            Yay another Joplin fan! It’s been a life changer for me.

                                                          2. 6

                                                            I found that, for me, the most important thing was simple. I obsessed over all sorts of tools, vimwiki, org mode, etc. In the end I realized the most important thing to focus on was portability. I need a system that works anywhere, and I can trust will be around for a long time.

                                                            My basic system is .md files in SyncThing. On my desktop I edit them with Vim, on my phone I edit them with Markor. I don’t organize particularly. I group some things into top level pieces (e.g. technology, home, etc.) but there’s no real system.

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                                                              That’s more or less what I do. I have been planning to add them to SyncThing too as currently they are spread between different systems. I just have a directory with a bunch of plain text files. Once a file gets beyond a paragraph or two, or just a collection of links, I start writing it in Markdown. At various points I’ve felt like I should be doing more, but every alternative system I’ve looked at feels too complicated. The important thing for me is writing, and there should be as little friction as possible (so it doesn’t get much easier than simply opening my text editor) and with plain text I’m free to format it however I like (though I do try to keep it organised). Whenever I want to look something up I just grep the directory.

                                                              I saw the other post about ‘just forgetting things’, but I don’t think that would ever work for me. A lot of my notes are on how I solved a problem, or compiling a bunch of separate material into something concise and coherent. I can’t just ‘look that up’ again next time I run into it, unless I want to repeat the whole process again. And really, the whole point of writing notes for me is to get things out of my head so that I can focus on other things. I don’t refer back to my notes often, but when I do they’re a life saver.

                                                              I do often write paper notes too, but generally only for quick to do tasks or temporary lists, and sometimes while I’m trying to conceptualise an issue. I think they’re great for that. Ultimately, the less specific tools I have, the better. Otherwise I might need to start writing notes on how I use my note taking tools!

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                                                              Hand-written notes on the reMarkable. No eye strain, so I can study on it for hours at a stretch comfortably. Zero distractions; it doesn’t even display the time, so I’m sometimes making study notes until 2a.

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                                                                Are they going to support existing models once the new version is out?

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                                                                I started with Roam (https://www.roamresearch.com/) a couple of months ago. Have been very happy with it.

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                                                                  Anyone put off by the $16/mo price tag should keep their eyes peeled for the release of Athens Research, an open-source alternative to Roam. The Athens team also has a discord where you can nerd out about note-taking.

                                                                  There’s also logseq, which works with a GitHub repo.

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                                                                    About a month in myself and am committing to just sticking with it for at least a few months.

                                                                    Edit: so far it seems like a pretty decent do-it-all app that I use more or less exclusively for this kind of stuff. I think once I accept and get used to the lack of structure, it will mentally freeing.

                                                                    edit2: I haven’t watched all of them yet, but I’ve been going through these videos, probably good for both people who have no idea what it is as well as people just sort of improvising thus far: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHzuPptZRe4

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                                                                      I watched all of that video series right after starting Roam. It has been a big help to me, not just for the structure it provides, but it also gave me a lot of ideas about how to use Roam that I wouldn’t have thought of myself.

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                                                                    I’m using the desktop wiki Zim. It’s a local app (python + gtk), uses text files as storage and optionally commits all changes to version control. I think it’s been around for quite a while, at least I remember seeing it already many years ago. It is still actively maintained though.

                                                                    I only started 2 months ago, but so far I’m very happy with Zim and the way I use it.

                                                                    I try to use it to keep notes about everything I read (papers/books/articles) or talks I watch, about software I use or plan to use, about ideas for projects I’m working on (or plan to work on) and everything that I figured out or learned that isn’t otherwise trivial to lookup again for me.

                                                                    I didn’t plan ahead on how to structure it, as overthinking this is where my previous attempts failed, but instead try to be liberal with crosslinking everything. (I think that’s the idea behind a Zettelkasten, but I never read enough about that approach to know whether it fits what I’m doing.) Zim makes it easy to rename and move articles, including changes in hierarchy, so I can always add more structure if needed. So far I’m using Papers:* Books:* Talks:* Projects:* Software:* and everything else is at the top level.

                                                                    Most things I add with a bit of delay. I have a repeating TODO task every 3 days to do wiki maintenance. I use this to transfer browser/twitter/etc. bookmarks into the wiki, including short notes. Check if I read any papers that I didn’t add yet (if the paper has important stuff for me I usually add it right away), or if I have had any ideas that I should add to not forget about. Also some general cleanup and going over items I marked as TODO within the wiki (there is a Zim plugin that lists those).

                                                                    There is also a Zim plugin that integrates with Zotero, which is the software I use to manage all the papers and books I read. The integration is nothing fancy but allows direct linking of everything in Zotero.

                                                                    I’m not too happy with the LaTeX plugin for formulas, I’ve been using unicode symbols and super/subscripts instead, but I might just try to write a better LaTeX formula plugin should I need that.

                                                                    So far in these two month I added 128 pages containing 263 links and 15298 words in total (a bit of gamification always helps :D). I’m already making good use of it and it really annoys me if I want to revisit something I did just before I started using this setup, knowing how much easier it would be if I had started earlier.

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                                                                      I have been using zim for 11 years. I recall there were aimilar windows programs that predated markdown, or even wikis, used for note taking that were usually referred to as outlines. But zim is the first I used.

                                                                      It saves notes in plain text files with a format similar to wiki syntax / markdown. This is important in case the software gets abandoned. At one point I had my files on Dropbox, currently I have them on mega.co.nz and install it on all my computers.

                                                                      I browse the tree every now and then, but mostly use the search. But the tree structure still gives context of what belongs to where. For example, each new job I have, I create a root node. And have an extra one called “personal”.

                                                                      Before that, back in the 2000s, there was this note taking app that came with gnome 2 called Tomboy. Integration with gnome desktop was flawless and I could create or search notes without taking the hands of the keyboard, using gnome2 launcher “deskbar”. Unfortunately, this was a casually of the move to gnome 3, and much of this was discontinued. Tomboy notes were saved in an custom html like format which was not portable at all. This is one of the reasons why I picked zim. A more portable format, in the end it.a just text files, any editor will work if need be.

                                                                    2. 5

                                                                      Paper notebooks and VimWiki.

                                                                      It’s due for an update since I’ve changed things up a bit in the last 6 months, but I have a notes-on-notes breakdown of what I use/do.

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                                                                        This is all what I use personally, as what I use at work is dictated by forces outside of my control.

                                                                        Fisher pen and paper for notetaking during meetings, while researching, watching videos, etc

                                                                        Stuff from there is then migrated to one of the following:

                                                                        Ulysses for writing blog posts/drafting emails/etc

                                                                        Notion as a wiki/knowledgebase

                                                                        Todoist as todo/chore chart/kanban

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          YES i also use the fisher ag7. Love the damned thing. I don’t think the cartridges writes as well as some other pens, but I just enjoy the feel too much to stop writing with it.

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                                                                          I use Simplenote for keeping text notes; nvALT on my laptop for syncing with that. These mean I can write down an idea from anywhere, regardless of which device I’m on. I’ve used this as a scratchpad, to-do list, shopping list, and more.

                                                                          Note on security: While there’s SSL for transit, the notes aren’t; Simplenote has the unencrypted notes. I think.

                                                                          About: nvALT / Notational Velocity: Start typing and it searches your notes, hit Enter and it will make a new note. It can save each note to its own file, giving options for backup and export. The source code is on Github.

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                                                                            I tried this approach for a long time but never really stuck swith it. The secret sauce this approach lacked FOR MY NEEDS is tags.

                                                                            If I can’t tag a note, I can’t easily search on it and get the hit I need reliably enough.

                                                                            Glad this is still working for you!

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                                                                            To many, and they’re messy. I hate them all a little bit. I love them all a little bit.

                                                                            • Paper - drawings, time blocking when it’s useful, lists I want to refer to in the very short term (maximum resolution of a day or so)
                                                                            • Google Docs - easy to share and collaborate
                                                                            • TiddlyWiki that I call my “manual” - I make process notes and such about clients, operations, and tidbits that are useful for my role. if I were to leave, I’d hand this off so my replacements wouldn’t have to feel entirely in the dark about the once-in-six-month thing I did that I forgot to tell them about before I left.
                                                                            • TiddlyWiki that I use as my “lab notebook” - easier than paper to copy/paste and use urls and code snippets, handy place to process conversations and notes on things
                                                                            • Google’s “Tasks” integrated to calendar and Email for things I need to follow up on
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                                                                              I currently use and love Notion. I really love the hierarchical nature combined with wiki-like links and data tables. It’s also slowly replacing Pocket as a truly-persistent storage of pages I care about reading (and linking to) later.

                                                                              I’d previously used Markdown files in Dropbox edited in Emacs or Byword (iOS markdown file editor app that could access Dropbox), TiddlyWiki (also stored in Dropbox), and Evernote.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                Yeah, I’ve been using Notion for a few months now. It’s pretty good. I’m super excited about the backlink support they recently added. I had been making heavily inter-linked notes and now everything got magically way more useful!

                                                                              2. 2

                                                                                I dogfood my own system, which allows me to build knowledge trees which are, at the base level, easy to read and parse text files.

                                                                                I added a “dev_mode” flag to it which also allows me to use it as its own bug tracker and for its own project management. :)

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                                                                                  I have two notebooks and a couple of nice pens. One notebook is my day to day engineering log and is a reasonably priced square ruled A4 pad, the other is a soft leather bound A4 pad with nice cream pages that I might have paid too much for.

                                                                                  I keep a few pages of paper around to note take on and then draft those up in my engineering log, along with the plan for tomorrow. Anything that warrants an additional drafting gets lovingly written into the nice pad.

                                                                                  I have tried to replace this with digital solutions, nothing else has stuck so far - which is sometimes frustrating because I can type at almost the speed of my thought but only write with a pen to paper at about half the speed if i’m pigeon scratching.

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                                                                                    I’ve been using a paper notebooks, switched a notepad instead. (with a uniball air pen)

                                                                                    I tried many apps, on my mac & on my ipad but I’ve found that i only consistently take notes and keep them updated if they are visible in the right context.

                                                                                    For things that need to be looked up, i have a folder with spreadsheets and documents.

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                                                                                      I used to use OneNote, and really liked it, particularly for the pen, tags, and structuring, but being on Linux makes it way too much friction. I can’t stand the entire category of “just sync markdown lol” because it is insufficient for so much. If only I could get into Emacs for org…

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                                                                                        I’m on OneNote for work because data is ‘locked in’ to the company and you can’t just run what you like. But I do like OneNote.

                                                                                        I use it mostly on MacOS. There is a web version so you may find that works for you on Linux if there is no (good) desktop client.

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                                                                                        For personal life, I just make text files.

                                                                                        For work, I like Trello for kanban. For shared documents, Google Docs will do.

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                                                                                          I’ve been through so many I’ve almost lost track. However I ended up on StandardNotes for over a year, and only recently took up Obsidian for bidirectional linking. There are items I like better about StandardNotes and would happily switch back if they implemented linking between notes.

                                                                                          My must haves are:

                                                                                          • vim keybindings
                                                                                          • Markdown support
                                                                                          • Searching
                                                                                          • Tagging
                                                                                          • Tree structure support / organization
                                                                                          • Linux support

                                                                                          Some nice to haves:

                                                                                          • Syncing (can live with plaintext DB that I can use git with though)
                                                                                          • Encrypted on disk (this is borderline a must have…but with a private self hosted git repo its not a deal breaker)

                                                                                          A couple others I’ve tried over the years and stuck with for longer than a week (meaning they were decent):

                                                                                          • SimpleNote
                                                                                          • CherryTree
                                                                                          • OrgMode
                                                                                          • Vimwiki
                                                                                          • MiniDiary
                                                                                          • Evernote
                                                                                          • Laverna
                                                                                          • Turtl
                                                                                          • BoostNote (I really liked this one)
                                                                                          • Joplin
                                                                                          • QOwnNotes

                                                                                          I think I’ll always be in search of the perfect note taking application for me!

                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                            I use org-mode, or simple markdown files for short and self-contained notes. However, if I have a large project that spans a long time (language learning, history notes, etc.) I actually use a local instance of gitit. It’s nice to have a dedicated interface with search and so on, and you can edit pages in your text editor of choice as well.

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                                                                                              Ha, just yesterday I blogged my workflow. In short, I use TiddlyWiki and a Zettelkasten-inspired process.

                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                I use org-mode for exocortex. I recently switched from workflowy. For notes I write in markdown and use a simple date-based filesystem naming structure. (Edit to expand) I keep these in git repos (one personal I call “exocortex” and one for work). I sync them across machines with simple but highly-dialed shell scripts and aliases. I supplement this with Audio Recorder from F-Droid on android as my quick voice-memo inbox system. As part of my morning routine I transcribe audio memos into my exocortex. For taking notes I have a function key I can hit that pops up a quick dialog to append a simple 1-liner note without interruping my flow. I also have a hotkey that pops up a semi-transparent vim session at the end of today’s notes file if I want to take notes on a meeting, etc. I have several simple but highly-dialed supporting scripts to read through a full journal, search a journal, append from scripts, etc.

                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                  I’d like to stick to paper, but I get frequent hand cramps that make writing things by hand a bit of a pain. As a result I ended up making my own solution using Pandoc which allows me to write in Markdown and place LaTeX where ever I need it.

                                                                                                  It’s nice as I can type as I regularily would, and throw math / code blocks / diagrams into the mix. I use VIM with a few plugins related to writing prose, snippets for quickly inserting complex environments when I need them, and handling LaTeX. I’ve written a few scripts that I use on the daily to help manage my notes for school, create a new lecture file for the class I’m in, auto compile any document, and take screenshots similiar to how OneNote does them. I’ve including a bunch of extra LaTeX packages, custom macros, or whatever else I need.

                                                                                                  I sometimes feel I’ve gone overboard, but it all comes down to the following:

                                                                                                  I tailor the editor to how I take notes, not tailor how I take notes to the editor

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                                                                                                    I like Trilium Notes for note taking, personal wiki, external brain, and content management system!

                                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                                      Since none of the existing tools fit my requirements I also went down the rabbit-hole and wrote my personal note server. What I didn’t like about most existing solutions is that they either had too many bells-and-whistles or they were completely CLI based. In the end it took me about two days of writing code to get it to a point were I was happy using it.

                                                                                                      The tool is a small self-contained Go webserver using a encrypted SQLite database. The service provides:

                                                                                                      • markdown input (including emoji shortcut support, e.g. it renders :joy: as 😂)
                                                                                                      • full text search (this is the most important feature)
                                                                                                      • a super basic javascript-less web interface that only contains a form for writing or editing existing notes and that shows a list of all existing notes grouped by day

                                                                                                      I should open source this 🤔

                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                        If you do, post about it here or let me know; that sounds very interesting!

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                                                                                                          It took me a couple of days, but here is the open source version of my note server: https://github.com/klingtnet/notes

                                                                                                          There are no installation instructions for macOS (but at least prebuilt binaries), so if you own an Apple device I would be happy to receive a contribution that adds some documentation and preferrably a launchd script.

                                                                                                      2. 2

                                                                                                        Basic things (Todo, grocery lists, random ideas I have on the bus, etc) I use a bespoke online Todo thing I made a couple years ago while starting out with rust. someday I’d like to release it, but it works well enough for me that I haven’t polished it to completion, and it really doesn’t do much that more professional ones don’t, so I haven’t bothered

                                                                                                        Complex things I want to remember, I use TreeSheets http://strlen.com/treesheets/ with the files stored on OneDrive. I wish there was a mobile version

                                                                                                        Brainstorming/freeform/design sorta stuff I use onyx rollerball pens and an MR6 quadrille notebook. Usually when I feel something is concrete it gets translated into a TreeSheets cause I have several notebooks strewn across various places and I never remember what is in wich.

                                                                                                        Most projects end up with various bits in each mode, and let’s be real, some information gets lost. I’m not the most organized person.

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                                                                                                          I’m currently looking into TiddlyWiki + Stroll + markdown plugin for this.

                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                            I can vouch for TiddlyWiki + Stroll!

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                                                                                                            I don’t take too many notes, per-se, but I do make tons of sketches and diagrams when working through a problem or designing something.

                                                                                                            I started with using a Moleskine grided notebook, and that served me really well, but after a while, I noticed I wanted something quicker and “less permanent” than sketching in the notebook. I picked up making small drawings on post-it notes since I was also using them to schedule out my week with tasks.

                                                                                                            This worked really well except now I had a mess of post-its with various drawing in various states all over the place. I was considering going back to the notebook, but after finding out that the ReMarkable tablet could be hacked to run Debian Linux without man hoops to jump through, I bought one to give it a try and was incredibly impressed.

                                                                                                            Drawing on the eInk tablet has been incredibly wonderful. I don’t use any of its cloud features, and will eventually look at doing personally-managed backups with my homelab. I’ve found I’ve also started using it for jotting down random todo lists and notes, and it’s been quite nice.

                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                              dokuwiki for stuff that is “secret, but not really secret” (aka password protected, not encrypted) and where I want quick and easy access to on every device that can do HTTP.

                                                                                                              complete chaos for everything else

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                                                                                                                I use a combination of a paper notebook using my flavor of the Bullet Journal method and Notion for digital notes. For some code documentation, I use plain markdown files in a git repo.

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                                                                                                                  Right now I’m trying org-roam and neuron.

                                                                                                                  I would love to have mobile support for org-roam. Many tools with mobile support are web based, but you often can’t use tools like plantuml or graphviz, which I find really useful in my notes. Maybe wasm will help with that eventually.

                                                                                                                  I guess the holy grail for me would have:

                                                                                                                  • plantuml, graphviz and futures tools support
                                                                                                                  • mobile support
                                                                                                                  • works offline
                                                                                                                  • free and open source
                                                                                                                  • basic stuff (tags, sync, bidirectional links)
                                                                                                                  • maybe: encryption
                                                                                                                  • maybe: a way to collaborate with other people
                                                                                                                  • maybe: a way to export to a web page but only my “public notes”
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                                                                                                                    I use the python static site generator pelican and a search plugin. My content is written in markdown, works wonders.

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                                                                                                                      Here are the systems I use at work.

                                                                                                                      • I document issues, workarounds, and processes for technical support in our knowledge base.
                                                                                                                      • Developer documentation for the apps I write is in a special purpose wiki.
                                                                                                                        This includes libraries used, internals, user information, etc.
                                                                                                                      • I have a OneNote notebook that supports my work on our document management system.
                                                                                                                        It’s shared with the rest of the DMS support team.
                                                                                                                      • I write up DMS processes in Word documents in our DMS.
                                                                                                                      • Install instructions for my applications are Word documents stored in our DMS.
                                                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                                                        I use StandardNotes all the time but am now attempting to move most of my notes to actual paper and a solid mechanical pencil. I recently noticed my handwriting has degraded to a point where I can barely read it; so re-learning (one week later it really does help).

                                                                                                                        Also find actual writing is much better for recall, and it’s a nice break from the screen - highly recommend!

                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                          For notes, I use Tot. It doesn’t let me have more than seven files, which is about right for scrap notes. By the time I fill up, there’s at least one file I should save to someplace permanent.

                                                                                                                          At the other extreme, I keep a projects folder structure full of notes and other files. Project folders are grouped into year folders for the year they began. I keep active projects in my macOS Dock and often drag notes, screenshots, and links in to save them. If I want more organization than that basic structure, I make subfolders, but that’s a per-project decision; I don’t need to have the same pattern in each one. You might think you need an app like Evernote to make these things organized and searchable, but file systems are kind of meant for this and they do it well enough for me. When a project is no longer current I just drag it out to unlink it, but the yearly archive stays organized. It’s nice to browse back and see my creative life story.

                                                                                                                          That’s separate from my source code checkouts folder structure, which I group more or less like GitHub URL paths.

                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                            I’ve used more than one thing. In the past, I’ve used org-mode, an online outline tool I forget, vimwiki, two of my own note tools, and most recently, Joplin. My main beef with Joplin is that the sync via pushing files to Syncthing seems like it loses notes. The big problem I have is that I want a solution that lets me capture on Mobile and review on Laptop. The means that a lot of note tools don’t quite cut it.

                                                                                                                            At this point, I’m not in a place where I need copious notes in my day to day, the the pressure for a good solution isn’t super high. I’ve supplemented with a to-do list app on my phone, and a financial tracker of my own design that is holding up well.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              Bullet Journal was a life changer for me. I use the official Bullet Journal journal. It costs a bit more but it’s got reminders of how to use the system which is helpful. I tried a million different organizational methods. BuJo was the only one that stuck.

                                                                                                                              I use a Pilot Vanishing Point which is like having a ballpoint pen with a fountain pen nib. I love it. Its not a pen to baby: it gets scratched up and stuff. Mine certainly has a “patina”. It’s a workhorse, not an artifact.

                                                                                                                              I use Google Calendar, and Gmail, but things I need to do go in the journal. I also plan ahead and write down the meetings I have the next day in the journal anyway, so I feel a bit more prepared and less surprised by “oh I have that today?”

                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                Each project I have usually has a NOTES, MUSE, SCRAP file that contains markdown of things that are (respectively): slightly helpful for self; inspirational ideas to jot down; a glorified quick copy/paste board.

                                                                                                                                My boxes/laptops have a non-project version of the same that is more zoomed out and macro.

                                                                                                                                Don’t think I’ve deviated from this in a good long while.

                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                  Recently: a piece of paper. One per week. I create 9 sections. Top left contains the week number. The rest Mon to Fri. In the remaining sections I write some bigger themes for the week.

                                                                                                                                  I’ve tried all apps and tools and paper is what seems to work the best for me personally.

                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                    orgmode. It’s just so good. Highlights that I’ve benefited from include:

                                                                                                                                    • Tables, which can have formulae, which in turn can be Lisp.
                                                                                                                                    • HTML and PDF output for sharing (even to the extent of generating company-branded PDFs with fonts, logos, etc.).
                                                                                                                                    • Tight integration with email courtesy mu4e.
                                                                                                                                    • Time tracking.
                                                                                                                                    • Agenda and calendar generation.
                                                                                                                                    • Embedded source code that you can evaluate within the document (!).
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                                                                                                                                      I have used a lot of things for notes, including years with org-mode, but recently I’ve settled on Bear.app, it supports a subset of markdown (they’re working on a more featureful editor), and syncs well with my iPhone.

                                                                                                                                      Usable Mobile syncing was the main reason I moved from org-mode to Bear + Things. I still really miss the ability to intermix notes and TODOs in org, and despite how daunting it could be to get a good org agenda config, nothing else is as powerful.

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                                                                                                                                        I’ve also recently started taking more notes. My criteria is:

                                                                                                                                        • Everything is accessible on all my devices
                                                                                                                                        • Easy to use
                                                                                                                                        • Markdown-ish
                                                                                                                                        • Robust linking (back-linking would be nice)
                                                                                                                                        • Reasonably future proof

                                                                                                                                        As of the last time I looked, Notion is the only service that I could find that satisfied all of these. Just text files don’t do it for me, because I want to be able to make changes easily on my phone as well as on my computer. Trying to manage stuff with git on mobile was making me not take any notes.

                                                                                                                                        I want to be able to keep my notes forever, so my backup plan for if notion goes out of business is to use obsidian to back everything up to markdown files. But so far Notion has been great, they were able to fix a bug I was having in about a week, so that’s nice.

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                                                                                                                                          We use Neuron (mentioned in the product list). Neuron has most of the desirable features itemized in requirement lists. In addition, the linking feature - where relationships among “zettels” are built-up over time - is what sold us on Neuron. When used with your favorite MD editor, integrated with GitHub repos, and deployed on a static server, it’s an amazing and productive environment. GitHub repo integration enables our team to author ideas and templates. It is particularly useful for ‘cheat sheets’ and similar structures that get formalized in design documents over time.

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                                                                                                                                            • paper for brain dump/ quick sketches. I use a cheap papermate flair M (buy in bag of 30) and a floppy large moleskine.

                                                                                                                                            • org mode for personal/work/zettelkasten, time tracking, etc. Clearly all notes about what needs to get out of the paper. I Found that the time invested into learning literate programming and plantuml is paying back in spades.

                                                                                                                                            • organice and beorg on mobile. Sometimes apple notes if i need to draw.

                                                                                                                                            • due to pandemic, instead of a whiteboard, I’ve landed on one-note for discovery sessions. I like that is collaborative and shareable.

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                                                                                                                                                I’ve tried a lot of different note-taking apps, but Apple Notes is the one I keep coming back to, personally. Over the past 5 years it’s added a lot of new features that make it a really good all-purpose note-taking app.


                                                                                                                                                • Everywhere. Automatically sync’ed across all Apple devices (See cons)
                                                                                                                                                • Text formatting helpers like checklists (handy for grocery shopping)
                                                                                                                                                • Secure: (OK, this one is personal. Like, how much do you trust Apple? Personally, I trust them to keep things secure, so…)
                                                                                                                                                • Quick: Open Notes.app, hit the new note button, and go.
                                                                                                                                                • Image and PDF support. This is where all the text-only apps fall down. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
                                                                                                                                                • Easy-to-use. Everything else here that is not a commercial solution requires a lot of mental overhead to get and keep all the features above up and running. It’s maybe not a lot, but more than I want to spend on my note-taking app. I found even the overhead of keeping a separate vi window open was too much for me. Maybe not for you, but for me, note taking has to be simple


                                                                                                                                                • Apple: There is a notes interface in icloud.com, but it’s … klunky. I can use it on my Linux desktop, but I wouldn’t want to use it on an Android phone.
                                                                                                                                                • Propietary binary file format (I think): You can export notes as HTML docs, but…
                                                                                                                                                • No version history: I can’t look back and see what content the note had 2 months (or years) ago.

                                                                                                                                                These are big cons, but the Pros outweigh them. It’s the only note-taking system I’ve ever successfully used, so I still use it.

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                                                                                                                                                  text/plain and image/svg for me.

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                                                                                                                                                    I used a self-hosted instance of Dokuwiki for about 10 years. It definitely owed me nothing but earlier this year I went on a hunt for a replacement because I wanted something that was:

                                                                                                                                                    • just as lightweight as dokuwiki
                                                                                                                                                    • supported an editor that offered:
                                                                                                                                                      • an editing area that takes up the whole browser window, instead of a little textarea
                                                                                                                                                      • markdown wiki syntax
                                                                                                                                                      • syntax highlighting
                                                                                                                                                    • just a wiki, did not try to impose someone else’s note-taking structure on me
                                                                                                                                                    • written in a language I can grok (so no Javascript or Ruby, for example)

                                                                                                                                                    I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill, so I wrote my own last spring. It’s been working amazing so far.

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                                                                                                                                                      Homegrown application that just generates a xxxxxxx.md file in a directory for me (~/drafts/) and lets me start writing. I use wiki style links to link things together and sometimes rename files so they have titles that make sense. But basically my workflow is:

                                                                                                                                                      1. draft create
                                                                                                                                                      2. Write notes (put some optional metatdata in toml at the top) using $VISUAL
                                                                                                                                                      3. rinse and repeat.

                                                                                                                                                      Use grep to search for stuff. I have one file that I use frequently: TODO.md the rest are mostly just random numbers with an .md extension unless they are important enough for me to actually give a name to.

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                                                                                                                                                        I use FreeMind, a desktop Java program which stores formatted text in a collapsible tree structure.

                                                                                                                                                        What’s great about collapsible nodes is I can hide or reveal as much information as is currently relevant. When everything is collapsed I have a vast array of topics in view, but I also have the space to store plenty of details in a hidden node. Sometimes I copy paragraphs or even entire pages of info into a node.

                                                                                                                                                        When I am consuming and organizing information, typically I will create a title node and file it under the appropriate topic. Then I will create a few subnodes summarizing the main points. Detailed information goes under the subnodes.

                                                                                                                                                        I find this is a great way to organize information about my projects as well as academic subjects. Color formatting helps recognize topics vs titles at a glance, and makes it fun to look at.

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                                                                                                                                                          Nobody has mentioned https://www.getoutline.com/ it but haven’t tried it out. Hoping it will be as good as Notion so I can ditch it. https://paperwork.cloud/ is also attractive.

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                                                                                                                                                            Also, I’m very happy that this discussion lives on.