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What do you guys use to write a personal journal, notes, and reference information that you want to group and search through later?

I'm not one of those crazy people who likes to share their journal with the world. Some things I like to keep to myself. It's quite nice to have a reference.

Preferences for cross-platform stuff (windows, mac, linux)

Some Background

For Windows, there's a program called Yeah Write, which really changed my expectations about how easy it should be to start writing something. You don't open or close files -- just click an empty slot and start writing, or click a filled slot to work on another file. And you can organize things into categories by creating tabs.

Now that I carry a Macbook, I've just been using TextEdit. I like it because I can't lose my work when my computer crashes: it auto-saves everything and restores it when I launch TextEdit again. But I make a mess, leave thirty open files, and save everything to one directory with no tags for easy grouping. Saving files and selecting the directory they should be in is too clunky to do in the middle of a meeting. And organizing files into folders in the Finder is a pain, since there's no tree view like on Windows. Sure, I'm lazy, but I miss Yeah Write. I'm not going to get a windows laptop just to use it though. Since the laptop I take my notes on is a mac, I'm gonna be biased toward mac solutions.

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There's a really good software that I think does what you want except that it's only for mac. It's called notational velocity

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Wow, this is really simple. Even simpler than Yeah Write. The one thing that worries me is the lack of tags, but I suppose I could make up my own tagging syntax by searching for things like [foo] [bar] [baz]. – Nick Retallack Sep 13 '09 at 7:41
Silly me, It does have tags after all. Also, I can make save all my notes as text files in a folder and then use DropBox to persist them online =]. – Nick Retallack Oct 9 '09 at 3:45

I think Evernote might be an answer to your question .) You can use it on Mac, Windows, Web or mobile (iPhone) platforms.

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I have paid subscription to Evernote and would not get through a day without using it. – BinaryMisfit Sep 12 '09 at 19:51
I tried evernote. However, when I tried to edit notes in the web interface, they got all screwed up with hidden html or something. I'd rather work with plane text, or something simple like creole or markdown. – Nick Retallack Sep 12 '09 at 20:14
How's it compare to the web interface for "Yeah Write"? – Chris_K Sep 12 '09 at 20:54
:P Yeah, I get it. Evernote for Mac and Windows are different though -- all the key bindings too. And it's really annoying, ugh, almost every feature I wanted to use is glitchy. Hit backspace on a checkbox on a mac and watch it backspace halfway into the checkbox or produce a newline. Try selecting a middle list item and toggling list-item-ness and watch as it irrevocably separates them into multiple lists with margins, or adds extra bullets somewhere. And where's the indent command? This exists in the windows version. Argh. The presence of a million bugs makes me not want to touch it. – Nick Retallack Sep 13 '09 at 7:28

You could try wine/crossover and run Yeah Write on the Mac. I don't know for sure if that application works, but I've had pretty good success with crossover in the past with other applications.

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It is Mac only, but a program that I use sometimes is MacJournal. It has a feature that you can for instance lock the private journal to where you have to enter a password to access the private journal. After a while of inactivity it will automatically lock the journal back. You can also have audio or video entries. You can import pdf files. There are quite a bit of things you can do with it. Check the website out of course for more details.

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I would recommend using a nice text editor like WriteRoom with autosave enabled (or use EverSafe to make just about every other app autosave) and then put it all in a DropBox to sync it to Windows or Linux or whatever. There just is nothing better than WriteRoom for writing.

On Windows and Linux you will have to find another text editor that suits your needs of course. Perhaps you might want to try out DarkRoom which is basically a WriteRoom-clone for Windows.

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How does eversave work? I watched their video, but I don't quite understand what it's supposed to do. – Nick Retallack Sep 15 '09 at 7:40
It simply tells every registered application to save at regular intervals. Basically, it sends the applescript equivalent of CMD-S to your application every few seconds. Despite its simple idea, it works surprisingly well. However, some applications (Textmate) don't support the save command and others (Keynote) take a long time to save, in which case Eversafe will not work. – bastibe Sep 16 '09 at 15:12
That sort of functionality would terrify me. Sometimes I make bad changes and I don't want them to be saved! – Nick Retallack Oct 9 '09 at 3:46

I'm addicted to the TomBoy program which is a hypertext writer - a little bit like a live wiki. Any word or phrase can be made into a clickable link which leads to a document with that title. They have versions for both Windows and Linux, and it supports sync-to-the-cloud, so I can use it both at home and work, and they stay in sync.

I've been using it for several years, and I find it totally awesome. My only complaint is an ability to embed graphics. For that, I use EverNote. For what it's worth, EverNote finally (late 2011?) added interlinks - that is to say, not webbish hyperlinks, but links to your other EverNote "documents." This was an amazing lack to me, which caused me to avoid it--and it is still a clunkily incomplete implementation.

My schema:

  1. Monthly journal contains general notes for each day, with hyperlinks to...
  2. Lots of little "snippet" documents, for instance one labelled "doctor" in which I have all my doctor's phone numbers. All the mentions of "doctor" in any other note have that word underline-in-blue which is a link to this snippet.
  3. Some snippet docs just contain a link to a related doc, for instance my "dentist" doc is just a link to the "doctor" doc
  4. Most docs contain links to related docs, for instance, "dentist" links to "insurance" and vice-versa. The "insurance" doc also has a link to a "benefits" doc I maintain with info about my current employer's benefits provider contacts.
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