This turned out to be a part of a series of posts about moving to plain text based workflow. If you want to read more parts one, two, are here. Last week I covered ResophNotes and it’s features and functionality. Today I wanted to share how I use it myself. You may have gotten some ideas from earlier post but I wanted to add few more details on how I use the app.
Storage and Access
Every note that I create is saved as a plain text file in a specific Dropbox folder, this way I can edit them using other programs like WriteMonkey or Notepad++. When I’m in the writing mode, I usually open WriteMonkey, which is my favourite distraction free writing tool and then begin working on one of the draft files. Once I’m done the updated file will be visible to ResopNotes for later use. Word of caution – don’t use two apps at the same time as this will result in duplicate files on your list.
In addition to Dropbox which in my case works as a sync and backup tool, I also use Simplenote to keep the notes backed up to another source. Through Simplenote I have access to my notes on my phone. The app I’m using there is called AndroNoter and it simply lets me access my notes offline and make updates, write blog posts and jot ideas. Each update will be synced with the cloud and then synced to my laptop.
Creating File Names
I have developed a naming convention that allows me to keep my notes in check and offer a certain structure which I will describe in the next section. What I wanted to share first is, how do I create file names?
If I’m at my computer I’m using program called PhraseExpress which is an excellent text expansion tool. Rather than type the full keyword and date I let the program to generate that. Here is and example. If I come across something that I want to capture as a blog post idea i simply type “pid”. This will be expanded to following:
PostIdea – [text] – 20121009
All I have to do is type the title of note in between the dashes and then start jotting down the ideas. I have set these three to four letter shortcuts for most of keywords that I use. This saves me a ton of typing and helps me keep my notes nicely grouped and consistent.
On my smartphone I’m starting a note with “!Inbox” this way note will be on top of note list reminding me there is something for me to process.
Structure of Notes
As I mentioned before each note is stored as a plain text file. The only way to sort these files is either by name or by date. One could think this is limited but it’s absolutely sufficient. On top of the sorting, you can use search to find the information you need. I rely on a combination of sorting by name and searching for the relevant keyword. I have created naming convention based on specific keyword each related to an area of my life. Here are some examples:
Homex- for notes related to home stuff Blogx – for blog notes Refx – reference file Runx- running list PostIdea – ideas for blog posts draft[tip] – blog post I work on.
All these and few more define what the note is about and what’s its status.
As you can see, I include “x” at the end of each keyword. I picked this up from Merlin Man and it basically makes notes much easier to find. If I search for homex I will see all notes related to my home stuff but not notes that include word home. Brilliantly simple.
Creating lots of keywords but will lead to clutter and chaos. To counter that I have created a reference file (a taxonomy file) where I keep details of all my keywords and their purpose. This will help me maintain consistency and make sure I know what I’m using. I’m hoping that this will help me with managing notes once I get to 800 or 900 level. I don’t think scrolling through a list that long will be possible so I will need to rely on search to find the note.
I will be reporting my observations in due course.
This setup would not be possible without other bloggers who shared their text-based workflows. Big thanks especially to Michael Schechter.
A Plain Text Primer Plain Text Primer: nvALT 101 My Text File Naming Taxonomy — Technology Notes Using nvALT, Elements and Taskpaper together My txt setup | 43 Folders
 no longer under development but does the job very well.