Super UserWhat tool do you use for notetaking?
[+30] [38] ldigas
[2009-07-16 03:39:22]
[ productivity notes knowledge-management ]

What tool do you use for notetaking?

By notes I mean everything from notes you personally wrote, clippings from the web, code snippets, images from the web ...

Also, in what way does your tool of choice store its data. All compact in some directory which can easily be moved from one computer to the other, or on the net, or spread out into thousands of files.

Just for the record: there's a similar, but programmer-centric question on SO:… - Jonik
Also, on SU, this is very close:…. This one has more answers and views though... - Jonik
The question might be close, but still gives a good list of note-taking applications to try. - Dacav
@Dacav - Meh, I don't trouble myself anymore with thinking what's appropriate for this site and what not. Half of my questions from a year or two ago are now closed, and they were welcomed back then. Just look at this one - "Protected to prevent ... bad answers" and "Closed as not constructive" ?! Go figure ... - ldigas
[+25] [2009-07-16 03:46:45] moobaa

I was a firm believer in OneNote [1] - it really is a wonderful application. Text, audio, the whole lot.

But then I started using multiple computers, which led me to Evernote [2]. Multi-machine support across the cloud (and iPhone support) means I've got access to all my notes anywhere. It lacks a lot of the niceness (familiar Office-y editing features, etc) of OneNote, though.

However, Office 2010 is promising OneNote on the Web - cloud-based storage, access anywhere. That may see me - happily - return to OneNote.


I'm using OneNote with a pseudo shared drive created using an ssh tunnel combined with a samba mount. This location is shared on all my computers and onenote just treats it as a local drive. - Artem Russakovskii
OneNote + DropBox = note taking bliss - Dan Walker
I'd be open for returning to OneNote as well. - Charlls
(3) OneNote + DropBox howto:… - pavsaund
I use OneNote on my work machine since it's not shared and hooks into Microsoft stuff nicely. On my home computers and iPhone I use Evernote. Its brilliant. - Pauk
I'm confused. Are you voting for OneNote or for Evernote? - djeidot
@Pauk: yes! :) Seriously, though, if OneNote 2010 handles the cloud-iness in a similar fashion to Evernote - and MS deliver iPhone support for it - it'll be OneNote all the way. - moobaa
I set up OneNote 2007 in several pcs about a year ago. I think it's slow and unstable. Searching was slow. The interface was sometimes unresponsive. It couldn't handle large notes. Plugins weren't great. You want your note taking application to be easy to use. You can find a better one. - alfplayer
@alfplayer: I don't know what to say about that. I've always found OneNote to be fast and efficient, capable of massive notes (1MB text, plus ink), and incredibly easy to use... even on a 512MB tablet @ 1024x768. On anything better than that, OneNote is lightning fast. - moobaa
OneNote is really the best one . OneNote + Dropbox = GOD ! I've tried Evernote , it's disappointed me . What is a note in my def ? Must be fancy , so you have inspiration in learning. You can add media with OneNote . Evernote : I'll give a notepad + dropbox :) ! - Vdt
What's wrong with the term "internet"? A year ago people were OK with "synch'ing over the internet" or "internet-based storage", nowadays software must support "the cloud". Silly ;-) - SealedSun
OneNote + Dropbox = godNote :) I love this combo - Vdt
[+25] [2009-07-16 08:01:06] Martin

A pencil.

Never been able to get to terms with electronic note taking.

(2) ... or perhaps paper? - Svish
[+21] [2009-07-16 03:41:30] Charlls

Evernote [1] has worked pretty well for me. It Sync's via Web, PC, and my iPhone for all notes, pictures, and screenshots. More useful is my ability to search and review later. I'm a sucker for misplacing notebooks.


I have to say, I've just discovered this and am LOVING IT. The text detection in images is just marvelous! - moshen
Can it be made to work completely offline ? How does it store data on disk ? - ldigas
The Desktop UI has a 'Synchronize' button on the top left, for obviously said purpose. So yes. You can also change the Local Files folder via Options. - Charlls
[+19] [2009-07-16 05:00:47] Jim OHalloran

For Adhoc note tasking, collecting snippets, etc, I use TiddlyWiki [1]. Its a completely self contained HTML/Javascript wiki system. Just copy a single HTML file to a flash drive and you can edit it on any computer with a browser (without internet connectivity).


i'll run quite slowly when your notes get "fat" :) - Vdt
[+7] [2010-03-12 12:02:02] Dimitri C.

I use .txt files; they aren't fancy, but they have many advantages:

  • Text files are sufficient for taking notes. If I need a tree structure, I write XML or Markdown [1].
  • There are many free .txt editors to choose from, because it is a non-proprietary file format.
  • You'll be able to open them in the next 100 years; they are 100% future proof.
  • Most .txt editors have advanced editing features. In more advanced notebook applications, you are constrained to a more rigid structure. For example, splitting up a single chapter into multiple ones will almost always be faster and more convenient in a somewhat advanced text editor.

I'm using jEdit [2] to edit my notes, together with the RecentBufferSwitcher and OpenIt plugins. RecentBufferSwitcher allows you to switch rappidly between the most recently used files (think of Windows' alt-tab functionality). OpenIt allows you to rapidly open a file by name.

I wish I knew a better, more wysiwyg solution but I didn't find any suitable applications. They all had severe drawbacks, such as:

  • A proprietary file format, which binds me to a single editor of which I have to hope it will be supported for a long time.
  • A rich text editor: I don't want to bother with layout issues when taking quick notes. I only want a conceptual style for titles, subtitles, paragraphs, lists, sublists, emphasized text and links.

Personal Wiki software that uses .txt files for the articles/pages works well with this method. You can either use text editors to edit your .txt notes or the wiki editing features. Some of them are ...

  1. bLADE Wiki [3] (uses own wiki syntax, for Windows & Windows Mobile)
  2. Ema Personal Wiki [4] (uses Markdown, for Windows & Android)

Edited to add text files based wiki software (Blade Wiki & Ema Personal Wiki), that works very well with the .txt files notes in Markdown or other wiki markups. - sabre23t
[+4] [2009-07-16 07:50:45] Amr ElGarhy

I was using Google Docs, and local files, but since few days ago i started using fogbugz [1] for this purpose and for many other purposes.


(1) +1 for Fogbugz; we have an on-demand account, and have started making use of the Wiki features. Very useful, and I can get to it wherever I am in the world. - robsoft
[+4] [2009-08-22 19:38:58] Zsolt Botykai with Emacs of course. And that (Org mode) was the only reason for me to switch from Vim.

Brilliant (with remember-mode as well).

[+3] [2009-07-16 05:34:54] iny

Zim [1]


(1) Me too! :-) It's great having the files stored in more och less plain text so you can grep through them later on. - Deleted
I highly suggest this one. I gave a look at a certain number of note-taking applications, to me this one seems to be the best. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good! - Dacav
[+3] [2009-07-16 05:55:59] Lakshman Prasad

Tomboy [1] Wiki


I think you mean Tomboy Notes. - humble coffee
[+3] [2009-07-16 06:16:59] Ivo Flipse

God I feel like a loser for using Word...

I normally write stuff down on a real notebook and then when I have time I type everything into one large Word file, but then again I always have my laptop with me and only need those files when I'm at my work, so no harm done!

But else I quite like Google Notebook [1] for storing snibbits I have to remember


[+2] [2009-07-16 03:44:29] Evgeny

mediawiki - for fancy notes.

google tasks for todo items, however when I need to do something urgently I just use a pen and a piece of paper.

[+2] [2009-07-16 04:04:50] Gary.Ray

I prefer a legal pad and a fountain pen filled with Private Reserve Lake Placid Blue ink [1].

Any notes that have to be digital I use Notepad++ - I use that for help text that I paste frequently to answer emails, links to web pages or images, etc.


[+2] [2009-07-16 04:36:06] ajm

Honestly, I just use gedit or notepad, or e-mail myself a link in GMail. I have a mail label for links so I can browse through all of them at once, and when I remember to use sensible subject lines, it's easy to search through and find what I need.

[+2] [2009-08-22 21:03:11] M4N

I'm using the free ToDoList [1] tool. It's very flexible and can even be used in a team.


[+2] [2009-08-22 21:43:57] zen

Notepad + Windows 7 built in indexer.

I'm writing everything in one file and tagging every note by adding [tagname1][tagname2][etc..] above the note making it easy to search through. Then just separate them with a couple of linebreaks between.

It's not really optimal because it's hard to filter like "show me all tagname3 on one page" or use logical operators but it's quick and simple.

[+1] [2009-07-16 05:07:32] Steve Rowe

I like using DokuWiki on a Stick [1]. I keep it on my Live Mesh account so it can be available everywhere. The documents are kept in text files, not a database which makes accessing and modifying them with other programs very easy.


[+1] [2009-07-16 06:01:52] tsilb

I use OneNote 2007 at home (2010 is downloading now).

At work, OneNote is banned for some reason. However, they don't care if I write software and install that. So I use a tool I wrote called WorkTool [1]. A simple text file manipulator with a hierarchical structure that mimics the filestructure.


[+1] [2009-07-16 09:20:56] Rashmi Pandit

Post-it Lite [1] and its free!


[+1] [2009-07-26 23:24:05] Umber Ferrule

I use Freemind [1]. I can quickly take ideas down and then re-arrange, group and flesh things out. I just seem to do it without the software getting in my way. Previously, I've used a flat text file and then went onto Treepad [2] (and clones), but nothing comes close to mind-mapping with Freemind [3].


[+1] [2009-07-27 06:08:13] community_owned

I use TextMate with a personnal bundle that highlight some specificties like "" or =>. It's maybe not why it was built for but I find it simple, clear and very useful !

[+1] [2009-07-27 09:19:01] Ivo Flipse

Livescribe [1]

A pen that records what you write and say. You can then later look back at your notes and play the audio, which will jump instantaneously to what you said when that was written.


[+1] [2009-07-27 09:22:24] Jon Hopkins

For the most part a pad and paper, nothing else has the flexibility. That said, the indexing and searching is shocking.

At home more and more though I'm liking DevonThink for the Mac ( which I got as part of a bundle a while back.

[+1] [2009-07-27 09:51:37] Jonik

I've been using Google Notebook [1] for more and more stuff.

Pros include the fact that your notes are easily available anywhere (without you having to think about any sync issues), that organising your stuff in "notes" and "notebooks" is relatively handy, and that it has a good search.

As for cons, a biggie is obviously the fact that they stopped development on Notebook [2] and prevented new users signing up. :-( However, it seems like they'll keep it running for old users.


[+1] [2009-08-22 19:59:37] jim in austin

I use a variety of tools. I compose in Google Docs. Throwaway To Do lists are in a widget [1] on my iGoogle homepage. All of my correspondence is indexed by Gmail. Videos are stored or collected either on YouTube or Google Videos. Image collections are kept on Picassa [2]. Clippings and articles are piped to my Google Reader Shared Items [3]. Yes, I'm totally in the Google Tank.


[+1] [2009-08-22 20:39:48] geek

leo [1] for GUI.

devtodo (swapoff dot org slash DevTodo) and hnb (hnb dot sourceforge dot net) for CLI.

Sometimes it happens that I need to write down some notes on a clean box that has minimum of software installed, in those cases I just use a plain text file and an available text editor.


One link restriction for newbies is a really annoying feature. - geek
[+1] [2009-08-23 05:23:51] community_owned

I use org-mode in Emacs for taking notes and as a daily scheduler. Everything is stored in plain text files. See for instance this [1] presentation from Google to see what it can do.


[+1] [2010-01-15 22:11:23] Maciek Sawicki

My favorite tool for taking physical notes is the Pulse SmartPen [1].

enter image description here

I haven't find any good tool for collecting my virtual notes, so I use a lot of tools depending on machine that I working on, but I hold all my documents on Dropbox. I think this approach works good for me.


[+1] [2010-11-02 13:57:08] Kellan

I use CintaNotes [1].

Free, extremely lightweight, portable, supports web clipping and has fast as-you-type search. The UI is very streamlined and efficient. But it is text-only right now.


[0] [2009-07-16 03:43:34] David Pearce

Stickies on OS X is what I use to take down notes for later use.

[0] [2009-08-23 01:10:20] William Hilsum

I quite like using my Windows Mobile phone, it auto syncs to my Outlook (drawings, typed and voice) and I find it very handy.

[0] [2009-08-23 05:55:31] Az_

I use The Guide [1]. Its nested hierarchy allows me to keep notes on entire projects within one file. And its freeware too boot.


[0] [2009-11-17 18:30:51] Will Eddins

Remember The Milk [1]

Simple and gets the job done.


[0] [2009-11-19 21:47:22] Phoshi

A Python script. I'm at a terminal a lot of the time, and never more than a keypress away, so note add "note" for notes, or t add "todo" for updating my todo list is simple. Upshot of this is I can ssh into my PC from elsewhere and add notes, or upload a script into my dropbox's autoexecute folder (powered by another python script) and add notes, from any internet enabled PC. I then display my todo list on my desktop with Samurize, and notes are a note ls, or note find [id number or regex search string] away.

[0] [2010-02-12 21:43:41] brice

cat [1] + grep [2] + ~/files/notes/

Aliased to n to append stuff to today's note, with date timestamp as filename.


[0] [2010-02-16 04:26:46] Good Time Tribe

i don't think I saw anyone else mention e-mail... (pardon me if I did). on a computer it's my preferred format because i use imap and my mail is the same across all clients and all devices (including my smart phone). everything supports attachments so i can include pictures, video, documents, etc. if you use gmail it automatically archives everything. it also allows easy organization and sharing... if your mail provider has webmail (and who doesnt?) you can get it from an internet cafe.. etc.

i also use reply function to have running conversations with myself. additionally it's automatically date/time stamped.

kind of hard to beat.

[0] [2010-04-15 20:54:54] user34339

Jedit [1] + Explicit Folding + Outline Plug-in

I second Dimitri C. I also had a bunch of plain text files on a directory searchable using Jedit's hypersearch feature. The outline parser plug-in offers a dockable tree view of the explicit or indent folding structured text. Other useful plug-ins are SuperAbrevs (folding header templates), CandyFolds (folding visualization) and more. Easy data syncronization with rsync (its just plain text files).

enter image description here


[0] [2010-04-15 21:16:06] Brian Postow

I use emacs.

I used to use org-mode, but eventually decided it was way more powerfull than I needed, so I wrote my own little mode that lets indent by 4 , add the current date, and jump up and down by date.

It's a serious kludge, but it's all I need, and gets the job done...

[0] [2011-09-27 17:59:31] molgar

I use Simplenote [1] as mi primary note taking and capturing tool. It only does plain text.

Simplenote is freemium service composed of a combination of a webapp, an iOS app, and a powerful API which can be used to access Simplenote's backend by third party apps.

Simplenote provides versioning, markdown support, Dropbox sync, and much more.

My current setup involves using Simplenote on my iPhone using their iOS universal app [2], on my Windows laptop using Resophnotes [3] and on OSX using NVAlt [4], all kept in sync using Simplenote's backend.