My notes are plain Markdown files, managed by neuron and stored in a Git repo. Typically I edit them in Cerveau. Disclaimer: I’m the author of both. :-)
My entire site https://www.srid.ca/ is also published from my public notes by neuron.
I feel like the odd one out here. I know that digital notes “must” be better (grep! Backups! Encryption!) but I just cant get away from a physical notebook.
I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I can draw/write anything in any way, or if it’s the fact that clicking away on a keyboard in a meeting feels more disengaged than jotting in a notebook- or whether I’m just too slow to think or how to lay out information in the best way for digital representation. But I’ve never found a note taking tool for a computer that beats pen+pad for me.
I too take notes in my notepad. Then I might take a photo to avoid losing my notes. Many notes are on math and I like to draw diagrams to understand stuff and digital notetaking sucks for this.
I take notes with this little page I made: https://averyn.net/paper.html
It’s got a title field and a content textbox. When you change the title of the note the page title changes. You then save the note by saving the entire page. I like it because it lets me take notes in the browser, while keeping my data offline.
I think that there are two competing views on the point of a notebook. Are you using your “notebook” (in whatever physical or digital format you choose) to write down notes during meetings and conversations, or is the primary purpose of this notebook to draw flowcharts and get a basic idea for the program you’re writing? The linked article talks about both uses but does not distinguish between them.
I think that digital notes (Markdown files, OneNote, Notion, Org mode, etc.) are a very solid way to write down things that you might need to remember later. Digital notes are hugely advantageous for use as a knowledge base since you can efficiently search and categorize huge amounts of information. Most people can type way faster than they can handwrite, allowing them to keep up with fast speakers using bullet points and abbreviations without any trouble.
That said, writing things with a keyboard is inherently very rigid and structured, which is both the great advantage and the great disadvantage. For ideation and project planning, complete flexibility in the way that ink is laid out on the page is a huge advantage, especially for people who like to think visually. You can easily draw a flowchart in the middle of a bulleted list without fighting any computer program. An iPad app like Notability with an Apple Pencil might be a good middle ground between digital note-taking and handwriting on paper, since it uses machine learning to transcribe handwriting for search purposes. However, paper is always going to be the much simpler and less clunky solution than anything involving a computer or tablet.
For meeting note-taking and knowledge base purposes, there is even some speculation that the inherent spacial representation of ink on paper allows people to recall content they write on paper better than content they type, since the physical position of a piece of information on a page helps the brain recall content better than without that extra bit of information. This might have something to do with the way that the human brain evolved. At the same time, easy digital search might be more important than recall for people with huge swaths of information to write down.
For those reasons, I think that both typing and handwriting have a place for both students and programmers. Neither really competes with the other if you realize that there are at least two purposes for a notebook.
I keep reading about developer journaling and note-taking practises and tools, and of course I have seen coworkers madly scribbling with their bare hands in paper notebooks… but no matter what I play with I haven’t been able to get anything to stick for me. I (almost) never took notes in school and now I don’t on the job or or the side either. I mean, it’s not that I never write anything down, most of my biggest TODOs get written (unless I will do them very soon) and sometimes I write an essay-style about a design or a Big Idea, and I keep some bookmarks.
I’m not going to say I’ve never lost anything, or that note-taking is completely unappealing to me, I just don’t know how to integrate any form of structured note-taking or journaling into my workflows or life in a way that would actually prove useful instead of just busywork I’m doing because it seems like others get value of of it…
For me, note taking (any writing, really) is about remembering; I rarely read what I have written because I can already remember it, but I often only remember it because I previously wrote it down.
I use two TOPS 100 sheet Legal Pads. One is for writing down everything as it happens and the other is for planning and listing what I’ve done. I’ve used this system my entire career, and it’s worked great. Sometimes I confuse one legal pad with the other, but other than that, this has been a great system. Also, since I’ve used this system my entire career, I can look back at my huge stack of legal pads for fun and see what I was working on 5 years ago. It’s kinda cool.
In Org mode, synced via Dropbox. I would happy if I never had to use pens and paper ever again, it is a slow, perishable, physical medium I can’t index digitally for quick search.
(I take multiple notes per day, using MobileOrg on my phone if I’m on the move. I keep a work journal as well, so I don’t have to keep things in my head so much.)
I use TextEdit for little notes and to-dos. But that’s for things like meeting summaries and tasks (that unfortunately end up in Jira). For technical stuff, I write tech specs in Docs/Word/whatever analogue you use.
I was never a big note taker in school, but I find it difficult to remember everything at work if I don’t take notes in meetings. There’s no way I could physically write as fast as I’d need with a pen and paper.
Microsoft OneNote for work, Simplenote for personal stuff.
Been trying out Notion for a few weeks, seems like it might be cool. It replaced Todoist for simple todos and Obsidian for notes. I use it for long term memory.
When working on a problem, I make hand written notes and diagram on reMarkable.
I used to store notes in Markdown, but that ended up becoming a hassle to sync with my phone (as well as visualizing). I’ve since switched to Google Keep, primarily because I can’t find anything to match their tiling card view. It’s also mobile friendly, and I use a keep tui to add notes from my laptop.
I’ve found that Joplin + Syncthing is an excellent combo on Android these days. Not that Keep isn’t a bad choice, but if you find yourself wanting to move off of Google’s stuff, that’d be where I’d go.
Now, if you have an iPhone, that would change things.
I’ve changed the way I take notes several times over my career. Currently I keep two text files, notes.txt and journal.txt. In notes.txt I keep useful things like snippets of code, ip-addresses, urls, and in journal.txt I try to log the bigger things that I complete throughout the day. As a consultant it is very important to be able to answer what exactly I have been working on, on specific days. This was a lesson that I learned the hard way trying to get paid for my work after the financial industry imploded in Iceland in 2008.
I use an A5 notebook for notes, it’s 85% a write only notebook, but the process of taking notes helps me find the most important points in whatever I’m doing. Every time I try a digital notebook the extra overhead and work in maintaining it across computers and mobile has me back on paper within a week or two. Clearly lots of value in the digital notebooks, but nothings stuck yet.
My notebook is a stack of blank index cards. You can arrange them to think spatially, or group and filter them if you have multiple tasks. They fill up and deteriorate, and then you recycle them. On their way out, you can persist the important stuff digitally in moments.
For ideas that don’t fit, or group communication, I like a whiteboard.
~/Dropbox/Notes/, filled with .txt and .md files. Works well on the desktop, but haven’t figured out a good solution on my iPhone yet. (the Dropbox app is ok for viewing, less so for editing)
I have a similar setup and use 1Writer for editing plaintext files inside of my Dropbox folder.
Adding mine to the mix: https://notes.neeasade.net – generated from org-files, published from emacs.
Granted, the linked version is more a public-facing notes/blog rather than where the real magic happens. I keep a big notes.org file across machines with syncthing.
I use both TiddlyWiki as well as a paper bullet journal. Works well enough.