Question

What do you use for jotting down daily thoughts and other bite-sized knowledge?

I'm curious to hear what folks here are using to capture daily thoughts, links and other small notes that you want to keep track off.

I tried a bunch of tools:
1. Notion was my first attempt and felt great for it until the tool became too slow to quickly capture thoughts.
2. Roam Research was another one I tried but I never got into it and saw the real value of backlinked notes. The missing mobile app killed the tool for me.
3. Walling was my last attempt. It felt great at the beginning because it was lightweight enough to capture thoughts but then I dropped it because of the missing mobile app as well.

At the moment I'm back to paper and pen. I like the low friction of jotting something down and I know where to find it again. Though, the missing search is the biggest problem for me.

What are you using and are your experiences so far?!

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maguay's avatar
9 months ago

Two simple apps for writing notes that I recommend are Tot and Drafts (both for macOS + iOS only, though).

Tot is a notebook that keeps 7 notes synced all the time. Basically think of it like a scratchpad, where you'll put stuff for a limited time before deleting it when you're done. By only having a limited number of notes, it keeps things from being too cluttered. And its sync may be the fastest and most reliable I've seen yet in a notes app; it's almost instant. I use it all the time to write down things quickly to remember them, or to put snippets of writing to finish later—and then will publish that text later or save it somewhere else if it ends up being important.

Drafts is another great app for quick notes. Every time you open it, it shows a blank screen to type a new note. And it integrates with a wide variety of other software, so you can type of something in Drafts then run a workflow to convert the text, save or publish it, and more.

Both of those work great for quick notes for me because they essentially keep you from having to worry about cluttering up your notes or filing things away for later. Then my actual longform notes (in Ulysses, iA Writer, Roam, Evernote, etc.) can be focused on things that I'm saving to remember for the longterm or using as part of a larger project.

5 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

I tried Tot once but missed some Markdown formatting. Have they added it?

I’m gonna check out Drafts. Though, how and when do you decide to move content over to your long term memory? I find it extremely hard to identify this point and rather would like to not have to think about it and it’s part of the tool.

AFAIK, this is what Roam should be, right?!

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

Tot has some quasi-Markdown support; if you put a dash for a bullet point list, it'll add the next dash for the next point when you press return. And its plain text, so you can type anything you want. One oddity is it wraps pasted URLs in greater than/less than symbols, so you have to delete those for the Markdown to work correctly.

Frankly with Drafts I never got a great workflow down. With Tot I end up remembering things since there are so few notes, you end up coming across stuff again.

Roam's default daily note when you first open it, and the quick entry view on the mobile web, gets close. Surely it'll go more in that directly of basically helping you automatically organize ephemeral notes over time.

1 point
joshuabenton's avatar
@joshuabenton (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

What unlocked Drafts for me was the Roam-style [[interlinking]] added in the most recent version. Makes it dead simple to define sets of drafts and such.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @joshuabenton )
9 months ago

@joshuabenton Oh wow, now that you mention it I think I'd seen that Drafts was adding linking, but never tried it out. That might turn it into more of a longterm notes app/external brain more than just a transitory scratchpad! Thanks for the reminder!

1 point
shawnyeager's avatar
@shawnyeager (replying to @joshuabenton )
9 months ago

I’m a hardcore Drafts, but missed this feature update. I’m 30 days into using Roam, but now I’ll need to reconsider. Thanks.

1 point
joshuabenton's avatar
@joshuabenton (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

+1 for Drafts

1 point
thomaspaulmann's avatar
9 months ago

Looks like Drafts is loved by a lot of folks. I'll give it a shot!

1 point
aghoshal's avatar
@aghoshal (via Twitter)
9 months ago

Google Keep all the way. Cross platform + Android home screen widget earn it my vote

5 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @aghoshal )
9 months ago

I’m a Apple user but widgets come to the next iOS. So maybe Google Keep gets better on the iPhone as well.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

Hopefully so! Widgets have the potential to deeply change how iOS feels—for perhaps the first deep change to the home screen since the first iPhone.

2 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

They have huge potential to remove the friction to open apps. I have apps on my phone that could be entirely replaced by widgets.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

That and the App Clips may make launching full apps for minor tasks a thing of the past.

1 point
thomaspaulmann's avatar
9 months ago

Wow I'm truly amazed by all the replies! I haven't expected so many and all of them are interesting and unique by themselves. I enjoy reading and replying to all of them and I'm impressed that personal knowledge bases and note taking is something that has so many nuances. I love how we nerd out about it here :-)

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

Tools for personal productivity always seem to spark the most discussion—things like to-do list apps, notes tools, email apps, and more. So much of work software is picked by others in the company and people use it because it's mandated. Feels like these tools hit the spot in the middle, where they're productive software you use for work, but that you're more likely to pick on your own and thus have strong opinions about.

Makes for fun discussions!

2 points
Thirstylizard's avatar
9 months ago

As I am using Apple devices most of the time, I am using Drafts. The beauty of this app is that it is so versatile but powerful. It can turn the drafts into final content for many apps, from email to reminder to web publishing. It also sync to all my Apple devices (Mac, IOS) very quickly

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Thirstylizard )
9 months ago

Do you end up using Drafts automations much, or mostly just use Drafts as a quick place to write things down?

1 point
Thirstylizard's avatar
@Thirstylizard (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

At the moment, I am using Drafts to capture quick, simple notes, but I am looking to expand that to automate or parse the content to other apps. This is on my learning agenda

2 points
kevinhui's avatar
9 months ago

As am Apple user, I used default to the system Notes app. But I do a lot of writing and have Ulysses open at all times so now I just drop new notes in there to sort out later. It costs a bit of money, but the app is really worth it if you do a lot of writing.

3 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @kevinhui )
9 months ago

I don’t like to use too many apps for similar things. As I hear you use Ulysses for long format content if you really go deep on something. Is this correct?

2 points
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

I think Notion works for long format content as well.

1 point
kevinhui's avatar
@kevinhui (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

Yeah, I use Ulysses for long format. It has great export functions and can connect with blogs to direct publish if needed. And because it has an “inbox” folder, I also just do most of my quick note-taking tasks with it too.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @kevinhui )
9 months ago

Notes is especially great with an iPad + pencil.

I love Ulysses for longform writing, and its option to merge sheets together makes it fairly easy to write short notes, organize them into an outline of sorts in the file sidebar, then merge them into one document.

1 point
kevinhui's avatar
@kevinhui (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

I agree, the iPad + pencil combo with notes is great! I opt for that in meetings because in my experience some people still get awkward when you are typing away in front of them but hand writing never affects people.

1 point
bludrop's avatar
9 months ago

I also tried Walling, but I got anxious about the limits on the free account. I've started trying out ClickUp for personal productivity (task lists, reading lists, etc.), and I'm trying to use its note features - both full page notes and small notepad notes - for this type of stuff now. I like the idea that it's all in one place (with a mobile app that is fine) --- we'll see if it sticks, but so far I'm liking it.

3 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @bludrop )
9 months ago

Yeah this paywalls feel rather disruptive. I got anxiety as well that I’ll reach the limit and then can’t leave easily the tool anymore even though it might be not the perfect fit.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

I felt the same with Notion's personal plan before when it capped how many notes a free account could have, and never fully committed to it until I had a paid work account. Nice that now it lets you save unlimited notes for free, with more pro features (upcoming API/integrations among others) in the paid accounts. That makes it much easier for people to get started.

Also think that's one clever thing of Roam Research selling 5 year accounts. You need to commit to really get the most out of a notes app, and monthly plans can make the app feel like something to keep reconsidering.

1 point
gentoftech's avatar
8 months ago

I'm a ClickUp shop and recently discovered how useful their chrome extension is. It moved me from onenote.

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @gentoftech )
8 months ago

I didn't realize ClickUp had notes too. It does everything!

What makes ClickUp's notes work well for you? Are they just simple post-it style notes, or do they link to the other data in your ClickUp account?

1 point
bludrop's avatar
@bludrop (replying to @maguay )
8 months ago

ClickUp has both Notes and Docs (as well as descriptions on tasks). Notes are simple post-it style notes that live in a list, but they have the full ClickUp editor, so you can attach links, embeds, tasks (and task lists, etc.). Docs are more full-fledged note documents similar to Dropbox Paper, etc.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @bludrop )
8 months ago

Gottcha, very cool. Do its Docs have comments and suggested edits, Google Docs-style?

1 point
bludrop's avatar
@bludrop (replying to @maguay )
8 months ago

I don't see suggested edits ("track changes"), but it has version history, more like Dropbox Paper-style. It has inline comments (which are task assignable), and nested pages, similar to Notion...

2 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @bludrop )
8 months ago

I heard a lot of good things about ClickUp. Haven’t tested it yet.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
8 months ago

Lots of the Capiche community loves it, but I'm in the same boat as you and haven't extensively tried it yet. Somehow strikes me as a more task-focused take on the Notion-style all-in-one app (where Notion keeps the focus on notes, even while supporting tasks and more). And since I prefer to start ideas as notes and go from there, it feels like Notion's still the better fit for my needs.

1 point
striketheway's avatar
9 months ago

I have an Android Phone, and my best option to date has been Google Keep.
I use their quick capture widget for getting notes down quickly, and then you can add tags and color-coding for more sorting.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @striketheway )
9 months ago

One great extra with Google Keep is that you can pull up your notes inside Google Docs/Sheets/etc. That way, you can write down ideas on the go, then easily pull them into your work later.

2 points
Christophepas's avatar
9 months ago

Draft is really good for that, it's a chrome extension that opens the same editor on every new tabs: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/draft-by-slite/ljkidlijlaapmiilabpldhmhekeionfh

Really depends on your workflow (it's not on mobile) but if it fits it can be game changer.
(Disclosure fooks in my team developed it)

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Christophepas )
9 months ago

Oh clever, that'd be a great fit for the favorite Chrome New Tab page discussion!

1 point
kireerik's avatar
9 months ago

For me Notion is the best general tool for capturing (and also working with) content.

Unlike with Google Keep I can create "folder"s using the Pages feature without limitation on how deep the hierarchy gets. (Google Keep has no such feature at all. (Google Keep would be really nice if it would have a foldering feature, but without it, it is just a mess.))
I think having links (Pages or folders) is key for keeping content organized using the 5 +-2 rule (it is about 5 for me not 7) when appropriate.

Using a physical keyboard and mouse I don't feel Notion to be too slow (and over time they can improve on the caching and on the backend to make it faster).
If you capture let's say drawings. For that you would currently need an other service and in Notion you could just link to that drawing.

There are only some minor features I am mission or would do differently in Notion. For example:
- Only content you visit in the mobile application are made available offline. (I hope over time they will provide some meaningful option to choose from in terms of synchronization and using it offline)

Physical pen and paper is nice to use, but digitally we can store the data more dense and at someone else's place(s) (like in the cloud). Over time I don't like dealing with lots of physical paper.

What part of the capturing do you feel slow with Notion? Is it really the capturing which feels slow for you?

Also for certain tasks with Notion I can use a custom kanban board which is very useful to organize content in terms of priority for example.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @kireerik )
9 months ago

I do wish Notion's mobile apps were a bit faster, but it's not really slow enough to be a huge issue. Keeping more notes offline would be a much bigger thing towards making Notion better on mobile, for sure.

It took me a while to start going wild with Notion nested documents, but now I find them indispensable.

2 points
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

Yes, they could make the UI more intuitive to make the use of nested documents as simple as possible and easier to reason about them.

1 point
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @kireerik )
9 months ago

And, yes the loading speeds are not excellent, but good enough.

1 point
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @kireerik )
9 months ago

Notion got better over time. It still loads too long (I don’t keep the app open all the time) and mobile is a pain without proper caching.

One thing I noticed that I feel overwhelmed with the formatting options that notion has. I never know if it’s the right structure and you can’t easily convert let’s say from a bullet lost to a table. I wish this decision would be easier to make, revert or change. Not sure if this is only me. @maguay noticed something similar?!

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

@thomaspaulmann Yeah Notion's formatting options are confusing, especially on mobile. You can convert between data types in Notion but it's not always perfect. For example, if you have a table or board embedded in a page, you can drag a bullet point or paragraph from the core document and drop it into the table or kanban board and it'll be converted into a new item (typically the text will turn into the first column of the table or the name of the kanban item). In the same way, you can drag out a table or kanban item and turn it into text or a new page, though you may lose secondary fields.

It's flexible enough to almost do anything, but with just enough oddities that it's a tad scary to push it to those limits.

2 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

Oh, I haven't known about the conversion! That is cool. Even a basic conversion is fine in most of the cases.

1 point
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

I also usually close the mobile application after use and the loading is not fost but good enough for me (I am using the Android application. I think the performance should be very similar on iOS as well.).

Yes with Notion achieving certain structures unfortunately takes more steps then it could take. It is not as intuitive as it could be, but it is flexible at least.
The blocks and the system is designed in a certain way with a certain mindset (which is not the simplest and most composable one). Once you see how the creators of it meant it to be work with some extra steps you can create your own structures, frameworks and habits to work with what Notion provides.

So unfortunately it is not the best tool possible (with some minor design improvements it could get close to it), but the best one I know so far.

1 point
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @kireerik )
9 months ago

Unfortunately I also experience that reorganizing content can be more challenging than it should be.
For example recently I had many links in 1 column of a kanban board, because I have collected links there and I wanted to move them to another kanban board (and spread them into more columns to organize them): Using the move feature the elements lost their order which was important for me. So I undid this move and cut and pasted them instead. This way they keep their order, but a "Copy of " text appeared before my links, because I included my links basically as the name of the Pages which are included in the kanban board. So I needed to remove the "Copy of " text for each manually.

Until these minor behaviors are improved we better think first where do we put what and what data structures we choose to avoid the above like migration issues.

It would be great if we could use it in a capture first and organize later as needed fashion as well more easily.

1 point
jeffcdo's avatar
9 months ago

I still use a small notepad and pen. Nothing beats the flexibility (drawing a quick sketch, giving a note to somebody else, etc). About 90% of these scribblings go into Roam which I use to journal and explore connections between thoughts. I also have Drafts set up on multiple devices but find that I don't use it very often even though it's a great concept.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @jeffcdo )
9 months ago

Interesting, so you essentially write your most important notes twice, first in pen and later typing them into Roam? Or do you have a workflow to capture your handwritten notes digitally?

1 point
jeffcdo's avatar
@jeffcdo (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

Yes I pretty much write them twice, although the notepad entries are abbreviated. Sometimes with longer notes (such as book notes) I will scan them into Evernote.

2 points
MikeFraietta's avatar
9 months ago

I use Clear app on iPhone. It’s meant to be a to-do list (it still is), but I add quick snippets to be filed or routed elsewhere later.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @MikeFraietta )
9 months ago

Oh wow, the Clear Todos app from Realmac? I used that for the longest time for store lists and the like, and then had gotten out of the habit of using it. I should give it another shot!

1 point
thomaspaulmann's avatar
9 months ago

Oh that is interesting. Clear is great! It’s so pure. Can it handle links and other rich content well?

1 point
MikeFraietta's avatar
9 months ago

yeah, you can past URLs there. On a typical day, I will have a few basic to-dos, a few URLs, and a few ideas I have. In the morning I triage the URLs by checking them out and add the ideas to the Ideas clear list.

2 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
9 months ago

Ah that is pretty neat!

1 point
kireerik's avatar
@kireerik (replying to @thomaspaulmann )
9 months ago

I have tried the Android version of it before. As I remember it can't.
For actual time sensitive todos I think Todoist is the best in terms of personal use. For the rest I am using a note taking application like Notion (You could use it for todos also, but Todoist's interface is more optimized for what I need for handling time sensitive tasks and events.).

1 point
herrowna's avatar
9 months ago

Paper & pen is always great. I have a block like this one to make sure I always have access to a writing surface: https://www.kikki-k.com/us/stationery/desk-tools/notepad-cube-pink-pause-guld-11522701.html?cgid=stationery-desk_tools

I also use another tool called Tot (https://tot.rocks/) to jot down stuff while I'm working in focus mode.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @herrowna )
9 months ago

You're right: you can't beat paper. I still feel like I remember stuff better when I write it down with a pen on paper. No idea why. That notepad is clever with a hole for the pen!

2 points
thomaspaulmann's avatar
@thomaspaulmann (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

I have the exact same feeling. Also it’s probably the most convenient to write it down on paper: Always handy, easy to erase and quick to draw.

1 point
thomasknoll's avatar
9 months ago

Drafts is what is actually always open, and what I'm constantly putting side by side with whatever other browser window or email or document I'm copying over notes and prepping to put somewhere else. It's cheesy, but I use it for exactly what the name says, drafting to paste somewhere else.

I have also started testing [[Product|Foam]] to replace Evernote. It is inspired by Roam Research, but built as a plugin for VSCode and backed by git.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomasknoll )
9 months ago

Interesting, so Foam basically adds the backlinks and graph visualization to any folder of plain text files you open in VSCode?

1 point
thomasknoll's avatar
@thomasknoll (replying to @maguay )
9 months ago

good point. I suppose it would. I might have conflated the importance of git(hub) in my own mind.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @thomasknoll )
9 months ago

Though actually, now that GitHub has free private repos for personal accounts, you could easily use that to keep your notes synced via Git, and that's pretty cool.

1 point
Sivan's avatar
8 months ago

I love using Spike built-in Notes. I use to use Apple's notepad, but since Spike added notes to the email app, it's been the most convenient thing because I can get them easily from my phone/ computer and share them with anyone. The only thing it's missing IMO is the ability to add the Notes to folders (although there are tags). Will be 100% when they add folders.

1 point
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