2011 Feb 21

As a grad student you tend to work on a multitude of things. You provide assistance to master and semester projects, do courses, explore research problems, read multiple publications (concerning or not concerning your field of work) and a lot more. You stumble upon interesting articles, images, videos that explain a particular concept very well. You have numerous email conversations discussing a solution to a problem or on a project. Ideas flash across your brain in the most awkward places and situations. These ideas must be captured, else they vaporise quickly. Given the above information overload, capturing and more importantly managing them becomes an issue. You tend to run out of thoughts/ideas when they are needed most. If one can effectively capture and access these mindjots in one place, THAT makes a perfect note-taking application. Please note that I am NOT talking about GTD applications. Pencil and paper works very well for that.

The perfect feature set

  1. Cross platform. I use Linux, OSX, iOS and Windows [in that specific priority order].
  2. Preferably Open Source.
  3. Ability to insert images, attachments [pdfs and presentations mostly], video/audio [not a strict requirement]
  4. Ability to organise notes. Minimally, I should be able to organise notes into topics [a.k.a notebooks].
  5. Remote sync via SSH and ability to use my own private server.
  6. Web interface is not a requirement at all.

Things I have tried

  • Pencil and paper – Unfortunately it is very painful to write down hyperlinks of videos, PDFs, images.
  • Emacs Org mode – Very good for quick note taking. Importing pdfs, pasting images seem to cause a lot of trouble. This still remains my go to place for outlining talks, articles etc.
  • Evernote – Has everything I need. But the very thought of having my research notes on some third party server sends shivers down my spine. Unable to use my own server for syncing is a big MINUS.
  • Tomboy/Gnote – Nice tools again. Again does not do PDF export/import, inline images.

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment here or on twitter.

UPDATE 1: After numerous conversations, I am on the lookout for a “Evernote” like application but one that does not mandate you to sync with their servers plus works well on Linux.

UPDATE 2: I finally settled on KeepNote. Fits in all my requirements.

  1. Option to give you more shivers: Microsoft Onenote with skydrive sync :) – gives you webapp access – so will work on all platforms (almost)

  2. May be dropbox with sourcekit chrome plugin….

  3. tuxmaniac

    Check out http://www.yantanotes.com/ i think it satisfies all your requirements.

  4. Thanks guys. I think I found the answer.

  5. Hi!

    With blog engines and CMS software providing a rich feature set, it does not hurt to use these software on your own server to organize your notes.

    BTW, I’m conducting a research study on the use of open source software. Care to lend a hand by sharing some information?


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