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Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Notes on notes, redux

Not that I feel like digging them up right now, but I'm pretty sure I've had at least five prior posts about notetaking and digital notetaking tools, and my choices thereof. Several of these have described my reasons for switching tools- again- something I have to grow increasingly averse to, since porting all my notes is inherently slow, clumsy, and lossy. It can't not be- the entire time I switch, most of the time, is because I prefer one representation of notes over another.

I think I'm coming to terms with the fact that there is no one right solution for me, and the correct thing to do is to get used to using multiple tools at once. This seemed awkward, because I conceptually like having a single search box and it magically covers all my notes. But the only notes I've ever searched are notes in EverNote, and that's because it doesn't have other organization algorithms- it's based on search and tag-centric filtering. My OneNote notes are simply hierarchically organized. Notes taken on my Livescribe Pulse pen are usually copied into Evernote, and eventually searched, so I guess this is really between OneNote and Evernote.

Which makes sense. I've been conceptualizing my Pulse Smartpen as an input device, not really a notetaking system, and its attempt to insist on being so has continued to frustrate me. In that regard, nothing has changed: I'm not using the Livescribe Pulse software as a primary note aggregator. It's useful for searching, but it really can't organize notes usefully- it's just the gateway through which handwritten notes have to pass into other tools. I wish it was a lot more peaceful about it; a layer between LiveScribe and OneNote or Evernote would be much preferred. For now, it's just going through image copying, since I barely use the sound recording features anyway.

But OneNote and Evernote really don't cover each others' territory. OneNote is superb for keeping structured notes, organized by topic, with internal links to each other (especially with OneNote 2010's new wiki-like link behavior) , and complex, multi-type notes with annotations. Evernote is much stronger in search, and functions very well as a big searchable database of random information- a large bucket of knowledge from which information can be arbitrarily extracted later. A lot of my stress about picking notetaking software is figuring out which paradigm I want.

The problem, really, is that neither one on its own is right for me. Evernote's model is much better for aggregating unsorted information only loosely coupled to other pieces of the knowledgebase, but I find it very impractical for desigining or running a project. OneNote dominates unquestionably there, but it's frustrating when I want to just have information somewhere without it being somewhere in particular, and it has nowhere near the cross-device accessibility of Evernote- OneNote's mobile device support is an absolute joke.

I've got to be more aggressive about using both. OneNote is for organizing notes on projects, on elaborate multi-step planned-out designed things-to-be-done. Evernote is my big bucket of information, plus notes on single simple things to be done, like individual blog posts. (Like this one, which I'm actually composing in Evernote. While in a meeting at work I don't actually need to pay that much attention to.) It doubles as "where to put stuff I need on my phone/iPod".

The ironic part is that this is completely typical; there're leagues of blog posts I've browsed about using Evernote and OneNote in tandem in exactly this way, and I've been hardheadedly trying to use exactly one for about six years now. I think I'm finally understanding the reason not to do so, and we'll see what it does to my personal workflow.

I've migrated to DreamWidth. The original post is at View comment count unavailable comments at ; go ahead and use OpenID to post your own.

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