Notes on Note-taking

Yesterday I had the privilege of being a guest on Mohammad Najmuzzaman channel on Leher where we discussed note-taking. 

Below are the points I had noted down before the conversation. I basically list the software I have tried and what I think about them. 

I mainly talk about: 

  • Software I have tried
  • Jobs Note-taking does for me
  • My Needs
  • My Current Stack
  • Personal Opinions on Note Taking

Software I have tried.

  • Evernote
    • Best in class OCR and web clipper
    • Great ecosystem
    • Product evolution stalled
  • Onenote
    • Image to text
    • Free? Won't go away?
  • Keep it (Mac + iOS)
    • Evernote alternative (iCloud + non subscription)
    • Good OCR, Ability clip pages as PDFs and web archives
  • Apple Notes
    • Free? Quick access
  • IA Writer
    • Focus 
    • Markdown
  • Notion
    • Nesting, i.e., text in a table/cell can be another page
    • @" and "/" Commands 
  • Notability
    • Handwriting + OCR
    • Audio recording - Great for sales meetings
  • Endless Paper
    • A new tool, Endless canvas for writing on the iPad. Watch the video on the site 🤯
  • Mac Folder
    • Store PDFs and Text in a Folder Search using Spotlight + iCloud Sync
  • Google Docs
    • Collaboration, Comments to be more specific
  • NV Alt
    • Plain Text 
    • Search As the core interface
  • Word
    • 🤦‍♂️
  • Physical Paper
    • 👴

A rabbit hole if you want to go though a larger list :

Jobs Note-taking does for me.

  • Store (Secondary Storage)
    • Book highlights
    • Bills and receipts
    • Essential information like family prescriptions and medical history
  • Content
    • Blogs, poems, quotes, etc
  • Actual notes and work-related stuff
    • notes on this talk
    • Decks, blogs, etc. 
  • Scratchpad

My Needs

My search for a note-taking app had the following needs. 

  • Evernote import capability ( I have been using it for 10 years now)
  • The ability to export data, in case the tool was not "The One."
  • The ability to record audio, write with my Apple Pencil, and scanning.
  • Tagging and Search with OCR
    • This enabled my Storage job to be done.
  • Syncing across my devices (Mac + iPhone + iPad)

I went down many rabbit holes, then sided with simplicity. If I took notes in text, I was never going to be locked down with an App. In an attempt to simplify I decided to give up on 

  • Web & Android access to my notes
  • Relax my need for having versions history

My Current Stack

Personal Opinions

  • You don't need to combine task management and note-taking, I think it is actually a net negative. You end up with an average tool that does many things. I am using Things for my task management 
  • The links between the notes, unless manually added, add very little value for day to day notes or stored notes.
  • Separate Note Taking from Information storage for additional simplification.

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