Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tornado Notes Lives—Sort of

Notescraps is a program in the spirit of Tornado Notes (for Dos) and InfoSelect 1.0. Notescraps is as minimal as Notational Velocity or ResophNotes, but more fun. I think the format is also more useful. It also has incremental search, but the interface allows you to see in one glance which notes are relevant to your search.

It's a program for random information. Information is stored in one text file, but the information shows up in little windows looking like paper scraps, just as the early versions of InfoSelect. The scraps are less regular, however, and they can have different colors.[1] The notes adjust in size to their content. You do not have to (or can) manually manage their size.

On the Website they say: "The NoteScraps team would like to thank Tornado Notes for meeting this need back in the days of MS-DOS, Windows CardFile for filling in, crudely, during the early GUI days, Microsoft Outlook's notes feature for almost doing the job, Windows Notepad for always being there, and.NET 3 and WPF for finally making it easy to do it right: simple, elegant, and cheap."

The minimal format for creating a note directly in the text file is:
:: created: *
This is my new note. It will get the default style and the created time will be set to the time it is first loaded.

I wonder why InfoSelect does not seem to be able to create something like this (just a little more capable).

I cannot believe that it has been around since 2007. Is it worth $20.00? I'll let you know ...

What's not to like?
  • You cannot specify where to save the note file (or if you can, I cannot figure it out).
  • It relies on Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0.

1. I would have preferred if they had straight lines (but I was born and first educated in Germanay).

ConnectedText and Brainstorm

In the pursuit of simplicity, I am eliminating certain programs from my computer. I have far too many outlining programs (broadly conceived). Since most of my work passes through ConnectedText and ultimately ends up as a word processing file (Atlantis), it is important that the outlining program work well together with ConnectedText.

Brainstorm plays very nice with ConnectedText Outlines and links. It's a keeper.[1]

I am, of course, not using Brainstorm files for large collections of data, but only for thinking through particular issues (which usually are ephemeral). For that reason, not all brainstorm files end up in ConnectedText, but I import some of the more important ones into a ConnectedText as outlines.[2]

So, it is very feasible to use Brainstorm as a "Front end" for the ConnectedText Outliner. "Synenergy" (whatever that means exactly) is important. I find Brainstorm useful during the early stages of thinking about an issue. An outliner is more useful, even necessary, after a project has reached a certain degree of complexity.

Connectedtext's outliner is very capable. It would, I think be an attractive program in its own right I have, in fact, suggested as much to, Eduardo Mauro, the developer of ConnectedText. (An advantage of ConnectedText Outlines is that you can turn the one-pane outline into a two-pane outline by turning some or all of the headings into ConnectedText topics. (Version 5 will let you do this by enclosing them in double square brackets.)

1. On Brainstorm, see also this earlier post.
2. I save the brainstorm model as a text file and then import the text file into a ConnecteText Outline.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Noteliner 3.0

Noteliner, "as simple and lightweight as a text editor, with the power of an outliner, and the metadata of a to-do list," has been updated recently.[1] It now recognises hyperlinks, accdepts formatting, like bold, italics, underlines, and can use tags.

For a review, see Welcome to Sherwood.

1. See Noteliner.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Text Editors

Everyone needs a text editor. Here is a Wiki site that is only about text editors. It has everything from "Using Text Editors" to "Text Editor Families." It's worth more than one visit, if you have more than a passing interest in text editors.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I missed this article when it was first published. I hope you can still access it when the New York Times puts up its pay wall.

In any case, there seem to be two extremes in readers. Those who never mark their books, never adding marginal annotations, and those who mark up their books heavily, underlining and annotating. For many of the later type, annotations replace notebooks. I belong to neither, I mark up the text, taking note of passages that I will later transcribe, but comments are reserved for my (now electronic) notebook.

These two styles seem to survive into the electronic world. Some people need to mark up their PDFs, for instance. Others transfer the notes into note-taking programs. (So, I am not entirely sure, the premise of the article is correct.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Naming Conventions

No matter what application you use, how you name your files, topics, or ideas is more important than most of us realize. Here is a post that spells this out for Notational Velocity, but I think it's valid for many other applications.

The entry has links to more specific tips. Take, for instance, the Brook Review tips for dated entries. Using something like "Noted_2011_02_13_NAME" seems to me quite useful (and I use such conventions. It is, of course best to use this with an application like TextExpander or AutoHotKey. In the latter application, you could define "nnt" to send "Note" and the date date and time like this in your AutoHotkey file:

Send Note %a_yyyy% %A_MM% %A_dd% %A_Hour%`:%A_Min%

I use ConnectedText, and since this macro is meant for titles, I could make things even easier for myself by using this macro

Send !t
Send Note %a_yyyy%%A_MM%%A_dd% %A_Hour%%A_Min%

This would open a new topic, type something like "Note 20110316 0804" and allow you to type the additional information you may want to add.

This presupposes that you are in ConnectedText already. To make it work from any application, use

WinActivate, ConnectedText
Send !t
Send Note %a_yyyy%%A_MM%%A_dd% %A_Hour%%A_Min%

This presupposes that ConnectedText is already running. It creates the topic in the project that is open.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Books that "Expire"

The New York Times has a story about books books with an expiration date. HarperCollins seems to take the lead.

At the moment, library books are the target. But how far can other copies be behind?

"Publishers are nervous that e-book borrowing in libraries will cannibalize e-book retail sales. They also lose out on revenue realized as libraries replace tattered print books or supplement hardcover editions with paperbacks, a common practice. Sales to libraries can account for 7 to 9 percent of a publisher’s overall revenue, two major publishers said."

Book borrowing has always "cannibalized"—whatever that may mean—retail sales of books. Libraries were designed to allow people without unlimited funds to read books they would have no access to otherwise.

This changes everything. So much about equal access to books (and knowledge).

This stinks!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


This is a strange name for a more or less familiar concept: a personal wiki. It "is an open source Web notebook application that provides you with a platform to build your knowledge personally or collaboratively." You are supposed to be able to "create highly structured content by connecting knowledge fragments to each other to build a network structure, which is more flexible and expressive than a tree structure. Fragments can also be classified using hierarchical tags."

There is also a blog where the author explains why he developed this application: "Before I created Piggydb, I had been using a Wiki for storing and organizing my thoughts, ideas, article excerpts, and anything else I wanted to write down. Although a wiki provides an extremely simple and flexible way to organize your knowledge in a network structure, I came to feel that it was not well suited for what I wanted to do. As I used it more extensively, I found that the data structure of a wiki was not flexible enough when I want to reuse some part of a page in different context."

"Another drawback of a wiki, for me, is that it encourages you to organize your knowledge in a top-down manner, that is, you have to select a main theme as a starting point. But I wanted to write down anything I thought could be useful and organize afterward, as needed."

Let's take the second point first. It is simply false that a wiki encourages organization in a top-down manner. This has more to do with one's own mind set than it has to do with wiki. I remember that when I first started using one, I also thought I had to follow the top-down approach. It was like using training wheels. It took me a while to let go of them, but a wiki actually "encourages" a network approach in which every topic is as important as any other—at least at the beginning.

The first point is more valid, though an application like ConnectedText allows "transclusion" and linking to a specific part of a topic as well. So you can "reuse some part of a page in different context."

That being said, Piggydb, despite its name, is a serious application. Some people will probably find it useful.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Information and Choice

"Every bit of incoming information presents a choice: whether to pay attention, whether to reply, whether to factor it into an impending decision. But decision science has shown that people faced with a plethora of choices are apt to make no decision at all." This is claimed in a recent Newsweek article, called "I Can’t Think!"

Is this claim true? I doubt it. Most information is irrelevant to most of our concerns. So, it gets ignored or passed over. The article actually talks about information relevant for a certain decision, like whether to join a 401 (k) plan. And decision science seems to show that "the more information people confronted about a 401(k) plan, the more participation fell: from 75 percent to 70 percent as the number of choices rose from two to 11, and to 61 percent when there were 59 options. People felt overwhelmed and opted out." But is this a decision about information? No, it is a decision about something else involving information. And who ever said that more information leads to increased decisiveness?

When we take notes, we must make decisions about the information we take note of, whether it is important and where to store it. We do so, to prepare for other decisions later on. Decision-making so understood is at the very least a two-stage process.

So one answer to the question "How can you protect yourself from having your decisions warped by excess information?" is "By deliberately taking notes and thinking about them." This is not an answer considered in the article.

Cloud View (for Categories) in ConnectedText

I hope I am not revealing any trade secrets, but here is what cloud view in ConnectedText looks like now (Beta):

Click on the picture to enlarge!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Since someone asked, Atlantis is a word processor which offers most of the standard features, but it is not bloated. If you need Tables or revision control, it is not for you. On the other hand, it offers "Save as eBook" which converts converts any document to the eBook format. Atlantis also saves to doc and docx. And it does outlining, styles, footnotes and endnotes. It also handles different languages well. In other words, Atlantis does everything I want out of a word processor.

Atlantis can be installed on a USB drive as a portable application.

Another plus: no ribbon to take usable space!

The standard registration fee is $35, i.e. a fraction of what you have to pay for the behemoth. You can try before you buy.

I recommend it highly!