Now there is every chance that I am going to expose myself as suffering various forms of compulsive obsessiveness, but I am going to share my desire to create order. The older I get, the more fanatical I am about being organised. I can’t remember the movie, but I remember a scene where a central character was accused of being so fanatical, that not only does she compulsively make lists of things, but even makes lists of things that need to have lists made. (Send me a comment if you know the movie title)
This desire for structure and order coupled with being slightly afflicted with an affinity with computers has made an interesting pass time. I have tried so many approaches to being organised, that I can even make a list out of that! As every early adopter of technology I can attest, as each new phase of gadgets role around, you just can’t help jumping on the bandwagon. This of course means that you end up spending entire weekends moving all of your import data (lists, calendars, contact lists etc.. ) from one platform to another.
Now, as I have settled on Mac OS X for the past couple of years, at least there has been a slow down in the changes to computers operating systems, but even being in the Apple camp does not settle things down too much. To give you a recent example, mid 2007, while working in Dubai, I got wind of unlocked iPhones being available, I orchestrated a visit to the appropriate shopping mall to have a look. Looking turned to buying pretty quickly, all the guy had to do was plunk my Australian SIM card in and show it to me working and I was forcing my AMEX card through his EFTPOS machine, like the two were polar opposite super magnets.
So then instead of enjoying a bit of down time from the work schedule, I was held up in my hotel room moving everything onto my super new iPhone, at the end of the whole process looking at the Nokia that had until yesterday been my constant companion, as if to say “what are you looking at? you always knew this situation was temporary!” Being an original iPhone it had been coerced (read: hacked) so that it would work with any SIM on any mobile carrier, so things were not all plain sailing, the time spent in the business class lounge on the way home from Dubai for example, most people would enjoy the place, eat some food, read something – not me! I was there for a solid hour trying to make the silly thing pick up my email over the WiFi connection in the lounge.
Anyway, what I am doing here is setting the scene a bit for you; I take my note taking and organisation tools seriously.
If you are a Mac user, and you like to use your Mac to organise things then read on. I have researched and used a number of the popular note taking applications available for Mac OS. Three of which I have used for a significant amount of time: Word 2008 “Notebook Layout”, Bare Bones Software’s “Yojimbo” and finally Circus Ponies Software’s “Notebook”.
There are many others as well, which I have not listed here, a lot of the solutions focus on strict list taking and therefore a designed around itemised lists, usually you can tick off things what are done etc.. but if you want to write something more substantial its gets a bit messy.
This is where Notbook really comes into its own, it incorporates that style of short lists (outlining), able to indent them mark them off etc.. but also has the flexibility to be able to write larger documents, complete with images imbedded and many other types of files. You can choose which kind of “page” you are going to add, being a list page or a writing page.
A nice features of both Notebook and Yojimbo is that instead of saving as a file then referencing other objects (eg PDF files) when you drop a file into the page it moves the filed and saves it as one bundle.
I have taken to moving PDFs, spreadsheet and the like into my Notebooks so that they exists there right along side the notes that reference them, and it works a treat. You end up with one file that contains everything. If you want to access the files separately you simply drag them back to the finder or desktop and off you go. This is invaluable when working on projects where there are a lot of attachments that need to be glued together.
This concept goes one step further when its time to share your work with others. I recently worked on a project that entailed pulling together a lot financial and contractual data for a company, when it was time to publish this, Notebook allows you to export as a web page. It takes care of all the linking and the like and produces a nice html interface with hyperlinks to the PDF files and other attachments – without any fuss at all.
Images can be dealt with in the same way, you can place them, size them etc.. so it could also be used as a electronic scrap booking tool.
Getting information into Notebook is made even easier with ‘clippings’. From within most applications (eg Safari) select a block of text, right click (or command click) brings up the Notebook clippings menu, allowing you to send the information directly into your notebook. This is great in the situation where you are researching a topic, visiting lots of web sites and want to compile all the information that you are gathering into a central place.
While Notebook takes the written pad as a layout concept Yojimbo is more centered around categories, so you create a category then place notes inside. Both tools have good support for searching and this is important, if you are like me and get used to just dumping everything in your electronic notebook you need to be able to search for it.
If you are serious about being organised and want to do it on your mac, try Notebook or Yojimbo, personally my pick is Notebook, but both are available as free trials, see the links to the relevant web sites below.