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Organizing random notes

On my desktop I have an 82k .txt file that contains totally random information: urls, code snippits, thoughts, short stories, phone numbers, quotes, etc.  I need a more structured way to store this information.. basically, I need my own personal knowledge base.

I thought about setting up a wiki ( for this but wiki seems a bit too free-form.  Does anyone out there suffer from the same problem?  Did you find a solution? 

Steve H
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Oh, I love it when I get to point people to my favorite articles: You should go read which is and article about the relation of paper to work, organization, and thought. It's by Malcolm Gladwell, who writes really cool articles.

Exception guy
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I recommend Chimp Notes, or KeyNote.

The latest is open-source written in Delphi. It's extremely powerful!

Jack Thybolt
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Wiki all the way.

I've seen Kwiki's used to manage projects, teams, and major conferences.

Matt H.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Try using thebrain

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I'd suggest finding an application like Notational Velocity (Mac OS X).  The key feature is the ability to create new keyword/subjects/pages on the fly and link them back through any mention of that title. 

I'll take a note that says, "Create an FTP job to pick up file xxx and put it on the mainframe"  FTP job becomes highlighted and links out to a note I took on how to set up the JCL deck for an FTP job.

I'm sure something similar exists in the windows and/or linux world(s).

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

For jottings, I have a project called Notes permanently open in my Source Code editor.
Everything goes into this. Underneath it's just text files, so I don't feel locked in should I decide to change editor or OS in future.

What makes this work well is having two displays -- a main screen for what I'm currently working on (code/debug/test/document) and a secondary screen for e-mail/note taking/API documentation/secondary web browsing.

My editor is Source Insight ( - really nice BTW) but for note taking anything with a nice search interface would probably do.

I've also started to bring this into meetings and use it for minutes, actions, summaries. These can then be posted on a project Wiki,  which is great for collaborative documents or discussions (especially tele-collaboration).

For sharing existing documents in an organisation, point a google appliance/search engine at your intranet and file-shares.

BTW, I love that article by Gladwell - makes so much of what I've been feeling explicit. The nice thing about computers though is that the affordances can be tweaked (e.g. more screen area, separate work-spaces) to gradually regain what you lose when moving from paper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Not being facetious, but I have a notebook (& pencil) that I use to take notes in meetings, notes to myself, things to do, stuff a client said, key bits of info, etc.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

1.0 Outliners -

I've seen a few other recommendations here, so I'd like to plug Treepad. For me Treepad Free is the notepad of two-pane organizers.

I recommend it over all others. It doesn't have some features the others have, but it's simplicity wins out for me.

1.1 For more information on outliners in general, check out John Buckman's website and his in depth review of outliners. ( )

1.2 I have a treepad file (if you get the pro version you can password-protect/encrypt your files) that has just about everything in it... passwords, url's, code snippets, quotes, articles I like, etc.

2.0 Wiki would be my next choice. I have a Wiki or three, though it's more difficult to create a wiki-per-project than a treepad-file-per-project. Though if these are truly random notes, I guess it won't make much difference. In the Wiki I use (Wakka Wiki) you can create categories and by adding some text to the bottom of the page like "CategoryCodeSnippets" it automatically adds that page to a category.

The downside is if you really want to store code snippets, you might have to deal with the Wiki trying to render your code. //* this might mean italic *//

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Pencil?  That's so low-tech.  You need to get into the 20th century!  I use a ball-point pen.  Yeah, you can't erase it, but it doesn't need sharpening, and it moves more smoothly across the surface of the paper.

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

... Though I believe you can specify something is code too and it won't render anything within that area ...

Mark T A W .com
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Personal Knowbase from Bitsmith Software:

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I just created a blogger weblog, and added the Google toolbar to my browser.
Now, whenever I feel like jotting something down or saving a link to some interesting article, I just click the Blog this! button, which displays a small window. allowing me to quickly add an entry to my weblog.

I even think you can set up several weblogs, and choose between them when submitting from the Blog this! window.

Yes, I know, my post looks like an ad, but I really love Google!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I will second KeyNote:

It has the features of the professional version of Treepad without any cost.  Freeware at its finest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I've started using SnipSnap as a personal notepad / knowledge base. Works ok so far. It's kind of a blog/wiki hybrid.

Andrew Reid
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

In my opinion, the problem with software like KeyNote is that they don't have a good, powerful search which works on all the notes.

Wiki solves that in an excellent way, but unfortunately it's web based, and not a desktop app. :-(

Jack Thybolt
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Another vote for the Wiki

I had a few organizational problems and thought about the wiki route.  I tried several and settled on OpenWiki

Its an IIS/ASP app.

In just a couple of days, I have found about 2 dozen great uses for it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

The same software that run's the Tcler's wiki ( ) also has a Tk front end and can be used as personal Wiki.  Another Tcl/Tk application called notebook ( ) was written specifically to be a personal Wiki and has some interesting features.

Yet another Tcl/Tk application that works great for me (because I wrote it for myself) is a single-pane outliner that supports wiki-style hyperlinks.  It is called tkoutline and can be found at .

Brian Theado
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Can you use a RDBMS? How?

Li-fan Chen
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Thank you, Brian!

Jack Thybolt
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Thursday, September 18, 2003

These two freeform databases are both quite good. KnowledgeBase isn't quite finished yet but already very usable.

KnowledgeBase --
MyBase --

Chris Nahr
Saturday, September 20, 2003

There is a application called voodoo pad, which I think only runs on a mac. It's a standalone app which has all the functionality you'd expect in a wiki, plus spell check (highlighted, ala Word) and a few other neat features.  It can publish to HTML/XML, etc.

Rhys Keepence
Monday, September 22, 2003

MyBase --    looks really cool.

Lots of additional great features like "web page capture"

Monday, October 13, 2003

Treepad lite -  a minimalist masterpiece "less is definitely more"

Jeff Smith
Sunday, March 7, 2004

In my opinion, the problem with software like KeyNote is that they don't have a good, powerful search which works on all the notes.

Wiki solves that in an excellent way, but unfortunately it's web based, and not a desktop app. :-(
I don't know which version KeyNote you tried, but the latest versions does offer full text search of all the notes/nodes. Click <F9> if you don't see the search panel at the right side of your KeyNote screen (the latest version is 1.6.1). It works fast, and gives you a list of all the notes with your search item for you to browse.

I use and recommend KeyNote (and I am an ex-Treepad user).

Ricardo Castro
Monday, May 3, 2004

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