Tag Archives: Notetaking software

Sharing on Evernote

image

Despite some competition, Evernote still owns the space where we save stuff we might need for ourselves. But is it up to the task of our increasingly collaborative world? I’ve gotten a bit confused about what can and can’t be synced and shared and with whom so I asked them. This is what I think I learned: (some corrections made after checking with Evernote)

Syncing between devices

  • If you’re a free user, anything you add on any device can be viewed (and edited) on any other device.
  • If you’re a premium user then you’ll be able to download and store offline all notes to your Android or iPhone.

Sharing notes

Notes can be emailed to other users.

As of today it’s possible to share a note with anyone via the web app (desktop apps soon) via the share button:

image

which allows you to share via Facebook (and later Twitter etc) as well as via a link which can be pasted elsewhere. Others will not be able to edit this shared link, but any changes you make to the original note will update the shared page.

Sharing notebooks

(this is where I might be off the mark. Expect corrections)

  • Any notebook can be shared with any other user via any app.
  • One of you needs to be a premium user for others to be able to add to the notebook.
  • If you’re on the web app (just redesigned; very nice) and/or a Mac, any additions or edits any shared user makes will sync to the others’ devices. (Other platforms coming soon; the pre-release version of Windows includes this feature already.)
  • Any imported files or watched folders will also be synced between users if one of the users is premium.  (Free users are limited to to text, audio, images, and PDFs. If the contents of the shared notebook/watched folders are limited to those file types, then any user can share them. If the file types go beyond that, or if the sharer wants recipients to edit the content, then the individual that’s sharing the notebook must be Premium.)

Footnote

Three things I asked Evernote if they might work on:

  • Drag and drop doesn’t seem to work for copied text and images. Just copy some text from a page and drag it over into Evernote. It used to. Evernote answer: fair point. We’ll look into it.
  • I feel Evernote has fallen behind on the ability to extract the relevant content from a web page and copy that, without all the extraneous stuff.  Readability and Thinkery.me do this very well (the latter, brilliantly; a Chrome plugin lets you merely right click a link for Thinkery to rush off and grab the salient text and save it.) Evernote answer: fair point. We’ll look into it.
  • Revive the timeband. I loved that thing. Evernote answer: any 3rd party developers interested in doing it?  

The Lost Art of Clipping

(This is a copy of my Loose Wire Sevice column, produced for newspapers and other print publications.)

By Jeremy Wagstaff

One of the lingering peculiarities of the web is that it’s not easy to save any of it.

This is somewhat weird. You’d think we’d have figured out that this was something people wanted to do quite a lot: If you like something you see or read, surely it’s a natural enough thing to do to want to keep a copy of it somewhere?

Back in the days of newspapers, we’d be clipping things all the time. We had a whole department at the BBC doing just that; if I needed background on Laos, say, I’d call up our secretary who would call up someone else who would magically deliver me a buff folder containing all the newspaper clippings on Laos. I felt like I was in MI5.

Nowadays we’ve got Google. Or if we’ve got the budget, Lexis Nexis or Factiva. But what about if we want to do the clipping ourselves?

Well, there are options. None is perfect.

First off, there’s Evernote, which you’ve heard me talk about before. For Windows and Mac users, it does an excellent job of saving anything you ask it to, whether it’s text or a screenshot.

(Tip for Windows users: Don’t bother with the new beta version of the software, which is not good. Go with the old one until they get their act together.)

But Evernote is by no means perfect. You’ve still got to select the text, or the bit of screen you want to save. And this can be fiddly, because most web pages now are optimized for ads, not reading, so the chances are that just dragging a mouse over the text in question will include all sorts of detritus you don’t want.

In which case, try a browser bookmark called Readability (free from lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/). When you visit a page you want to save—or part of which you want to save—click on the Readability button and all the detritus will disappear, leaving just the main article on the page. It’s great for saving stuff, but also worth using if you’re having problems reading web pages cluttered with ads and other bits of nonsense.

(It does a remarkably good job of this, but it does sometimes leave out important bits, such as the date of the articles, material which I find useful to save.)

Another weakness of Evernote is that it assumes you want to save all this material to one big database. Most times we do, but sometimes I find I am just saving bits and pieces for a specific task or project and would rather keep them all in one place separately.

Another weakness of Evernote is that it assumes that what you’re clipping stuff only from the web. While it will let you drag other material into Evernote using the mouse, or the clipper application, Evernote is aimed primarily at users of the browser.

But if we’re gathering material we’re probably gathering them from other sources too, such as Acrobat PDF files, or Word or Excel files.

If that’s your game, then I’d recommend a new tool called Topicgrazer. From the makers of Topicscape, a 3D mind mapping-file organizing application, Topicgrazer simply grabs everything you choose to copy to the Windows clipboard, and stuff it in one text file, with links to the files or wepages the material came from.

It’s a simple but powerful tool, and works remarkably well. Even things that are notoriously difficult to copy, such as spreadsheet cells, handle well. It’s not the most beautiful of apps, nor the most customizable, but it’s surprisingly good. Topicgrazer costs $10 from Topicscape.com.

Another tool I really like for its simplicity is something called CintaNotes. CintaNotes does something similar to Topicgrazer—one keystroke saving whatever you have selected in whatever application–but instead of copying it into one document, it creates separate entries, where the title is the name of the file, or the webpage.

CintaNotes also saves the source of the material as a link. CintaNotes is free from cintanotes.com, and was put together by a 29-year old native of Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk called Alex Jenter.

Where it differs from Topicgrazer, and where it comes closer to Evernote, is that it saves all these entries in a chronological roll, one after the other. And like Evernote it lets you add tags. In fact, it’s a bit like Evernote’s younger sibling.

But maybe that’s its strength. Evernote is intended to capture everything you might ever want to capture. CintaNotes, though powerful, is perhaps best used as a specialiist cabinet, where you just keep stuff that is specific to one project. It loads faster than Evernote, and doesn’t take up much space, so you might find it more to your liking if you’re not a serial clipper.

There are other tools out there. Some folk just copy and email themselves stuff they like the look of, and there are add-ons for Firefox and Chrome to help you do this. The Opera browser has its own note-taking application, which works well—so long as you only want to save stuff from the web.

I don’t think any of these applications help in one regard: highlighting and annotating text. Perhaps it exists, but I’ve not yet found an application that lets you add highlight to text you find, and add your own notes in a seamless (and easily retrievable) way. After all, that’s what we’d do with those newspaper clippings of old: We’d highlight the bits that were relevant, and could rarely resist scrawling our own comments in the margin.

There are other bits of our clipping past I’d like to recreate: The feel, the smell, the atmosphere of those little scissored flakes of newsprint, carefully layered in those buff folders. Even if the clip was only a few weeks old, you couldn’t help feel you were somehow handling a slice of history. The mere act of cutting out the article, stamping it with the date, and adding it to a folder lent it importance, reverence, that Evernote and its ilk don’t quite capture.

Maybe it’s too much to ask, but I’d love to get a bit of that back.

Evernote’s Smart New Look

image

I like Evernote but I’ve always found the notes a bit messy: different fonts, lots of weird formatting, and not particularly easy to read and scan through.

That seems to have changed with their latest version, where the notes are decently sized, free of too much extraneous stuff and easily distinguished from each other with elegant gray space.

Amazing how a few user interface tweaks—to make things simpler and more intuitive than to impress and show off-turn a maybe into a must-have.

The Holy Grail of Software

I was chatting with someone in the comments section of one of my blog posts and we realised tha we’re both looking for the same kind of software we haven’t found yet. One that, in my words at least, fulfil the following: to be able to store stuff in a way that is
– easy to input
– easy to organise
– easy to access
– easy to retrieve
– easy to search
– easy to view
– easy to order in different ways
– easy to visualize
– easy to export

There are outliners, mind mappers, search programs and database programs, but none of them quite does all this the way we’d like. So we thought we’d start a Google Group and try to see if we could either

a) hone the requirement. What is it, exactly, we’re looking for, and are other people looking for it too?

b) find the perfect software that does all this?

c) define what we’re looking for so well that maybe someone else comes along and develops it for us?

Anyway, if any of you are interested, please do join us at personalknowldgebase. The discussion could be an interesting one. I’d particularly love to hear from people who are developing software that they feel already does this. As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of stuff like PersonalBrain, Topicscape, MindManager, outliners like MyInfo and more Wiki-based stuff like TiddlyWiki and ConnectedText, but without wanting to offend any of you, I don’t think that any so far represent the holy grail of a program that captures what you want it to capture and gives it back to you in the way, and ways, you want it. But maybe that could form the start of the discussion.

Anyway, hope you’ll join us in this discussion. And, if this discussion already exists outside a very program-specific forum, I’d love to hear of that too.

Some Tools for the Productive

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a big fan of tools that help sort through your stuff, or at least help you keep it orderly. TiddlyWiki is one of them, but it’s often just sat on the wrong side of the line in terms of easily getting stuff into it while you’re doing something else. You know the situation: You’re browsing, you like the look of something and you want to put it somewhere you can find it again, but you don’t really want to start moving around into other programs. TiddlySnip, in this case, might provide the answer:

TiddlySnip is a Firefox extension that lets you use your TiddlyWiki as a scrapbook! Simply select text, right click and choose ‘TiddlySnip selection’. Next time you open your TiddlyWiki file, your snippets will be there, already tagged and organised.

It works well. On the same subject, I’ve heard from the PR folks involved with EverNote, the scrolling toilet roll of stuff that works not unlike TiddlyWiki, but now, in its 2.0 beta,

allows users to search for text within images—the first time such a product is available to the public.

What this means, apparently, is that you can search images for embedded typed or handwritten text. There’s also a portable version of EverNote that you can put on your USB thumbdrive. Both versions might be worth checking out.

An Outliner That Tags

One of my favorite and most used programs, the MyInfo outliner, is now out in a new version that wraps in tagging, fast searching and other tweaks that put it ahead of the opposition. If you use outliners, check it out, and if you don’t, you might want to consider it. (Outliners are simple free-text databases, organised in a familiar tree format. Great for storing more or less anything you want to keep in one place.)

MyInfo is developed by Milenix, a small software company in Bulgaria. It sells for $50. I’ve been playing with this version, 3.5, and it’s impressive. The tagging is simple but well thought through — a classic example of how tagging can be wrapped into standalone applications to improve organising and finding stuff. Search now works across as many files as you have open, so you can find stuff quickly and efficiently. Gripes? There have been some bugs but Petko, the guy behind it, has been pretty quick to fix them.

Restoring Corrupted MyInfo Files

Here’s a tip for a piece of software I love, but which I know is not exactly mainstream. It’s an outliner called MyInfo, and it’s a great example of how versatile outliners can be. However, files can get corrupted, and, despite a good backup mechanism, it’s not impossible both the backup and the main file is rendered irretrievable. This is what happened to me, and despite the best efforts of the software’s inventor, Petko Georgiev, things looked hopeless.  But actually there is something you can do if your MyInfo file (MIO) and the back up (MIB) won’t open:

  • Open the directory or folder in which you keep the MyInfo file (using a program like ExplorerPlus which lets you preview the contents of the file helps here);
  • Look for the most recent TMP file that containts RVF files (these should appear in ExplorerPlus’ preview window as a directory tree). Many of the TMP files may appear to be a decent size (i.e. not empty) but in fact contain no usable data. So this will only work if the TMP file contains those RVF files.
  • Rename the file with an MIO extension.
  • Open the file. Your MyInfo file should now be restored.

A New Way To Grab Stuff

The folks at EverNote tell me that version 1.0 for Windows is officially launched today:

As you may recall, EverNote lets you place all of your notes and content (web clips, images, text, passwords, to dos, etc.) on an endless, instantly searchable, digital roll of paper. Our founder, Stepan Pachikov, likes to say that EverNote gives users that much sought after ‘perfect photographic memory’ — a single place for all your info, accessible anytime, any place.

Some new features for those familiar with the earlier beta version:

  • – A Web Clipper where you can instantly export web content into EverNote from IE or Firefox. Our beta users have found this helpful for quickly capturing content while reading news, researching or shopping online;
  • New category icons (over 50), where you can easily assign icons to identifiable individual categories, such as Web Clips, Business, Personal, Travel, Shopping and more;
  • Ability to email or print notes;
  • Backup support;
  • Extensive improvements to categories, tool tips and keyboard shortcuts (a new total of 80).

Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a way to store data from the web on the fly.

A Directory Of Outliners

(Last updated: Oct 1, 2008)

A directory of outliners, or programs that organise data in a tree-like format. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but a great way to organise data quickly in one place.

All are for Windows unless otherwise stated. This is just a beginning; I’m sure to have missed some, so please let me know. (Thanks Petko of MyInfo for the extra names. I think we’re nearing comprehensive…)

Some assorted resources on outliners:

Some Thoughts On Outliners

I suspect not eveyone shares my preoccupation with outliners, or tree outliners, whatever one calls them. Still, it hasn’t stopped me drawing up a list of those that I’ve come across in my travels, in the hope that some of you might experiment with them. Any more suggestions would be welcome. I find them invaluable for saving large chunks of stuff where I can find them again quickly and without too much kerfuffle.

Here’s another one: General Knowledge Base, version 2.0 of which was launched today by Baltsoft, from Lithuania’s Vilnius. What is particularly intriguing about this is that the software supports quite a few languages, including Malay: Just select the language you want from the menu in the upper part of the main window. It costs $30.

I haven’t explored the software any further, but I’ve noticed that there are some key features that any decent outliner needs to work well.

  • Simple: Folk use these things because they’re fast and intuitive;
  • Adding text and notes, and editing them, should involve as few steps as possible. No fancy pop-up windows and forms to fill out;
  • Formatting: Give them the standard formatting tools — nothing less;
  • Drag and Drop: Nowadays we expect to be able to move stuff from one application to another using drag n drop. Not having it is a real black mark in an outliner (you know who you are);
  • Export and import: The easier you make it to move databases in and out of your program, the happier and more comfortable your customers will feel.