Note taking and organizing – I do it every day, almost all day. It’s by far my most common use of my desktop machine. The most critical applications for me, therefore, are note programs. I think it’s true for a lot of people.
There’s a new product I’m excited about…
For a lot of years, I have used note-taking software from Aquaminds (aquaminds.com). They have two Mac note taking applications: NoteTaker, which is a standalone desktop app, and NoteShare, a very similar desktop app that lets you share your notes with other people.
Options, options, options.
The Aquaminds apps let you transform just about anything into a note. Like most people, my notes are highly heterogeneous in nature: text, email conversations, images, outlines, bulleted lists. You can record sound clips and turn a note page into a browser.
You can display your notes as a slide show. With NoteShare, you can post your notes to be accessed as a website.
There’s a ton more. What’s nice is that you can learn the capabilities of these apps incrementally; their menus are intuitively arranged and you don’t need to read a thing to get started.
It’s the metaphor that matters.
But it’s not their myriad of options that makes me like the Aquaminds note taking apps. It’s the metaphor that drives them. You use these products to create simulated paper notebooks. To me, this is the most natural way to organize the things I need for a project. You create a notebook with sections and pages, and put entries on each page. It builds an index and displays it next to the notebook, if you want. You can even create a colorful cover for your notebook – although I have never gone quite that far to live the metaphor.
Sounds simple and obvious, right?. But I rooted around for years trying to find a similar product that runs on Windows machines. The closest I could find was Microsoft OneNote, but its interface is noisy and unintuitive, if you ask me. So I have been using a couple of the “bucket” note taking programs where the user interface consists of a master list of single page notes, with a list of buckets down the left size of the interface. You organize your notes by putting each note in a bucket. These programs are flat and don’t give you that feel of creating a top-down, organized notebook tied to a specific project or job.
Finally, notebooks for Windows.
Maybe I missed something. Maybe there is one out there. I never found one.
But the folks at Aquaminds just came out with one! It’s called Express Desktop. It’s definitely a scaled down product compared to their others. But now I can make my notebooks on my Windows 7 box just like I do on my Mac. It displays a master list of notebooks and each one is a complete, top down pseudo-notebook, complete with a fake spiral down the side. I feel organized on my Windows machine, finally.
… oh, and Aquaminds’ customer service is astonishing.