On Saturday I had the pleasure of giving a short presentation at the Student Librarians & Information Professionals Conference in Dublin. My brief talk was about smart use of tools for information management. So I told a little story about how my personal system of note taking evolved from a paper notebook to a lock-in situation to a combination of open tools.
After my talk, I was asked to give some details and so, here is the written (and linked version):
What I want:
- To take notes (duh)
- To use an open and widespread file format
- To sync with a cloud storage – so I would rather have many small files over one large, local DB
- To assign tags to my notes
What I had:
- A laptop
- A Nextcloud installation (replace with Dropbox or something for more convenience, also the reason to choose single files over DB)
What I use:
- Zim Desktop Wiki is a great lightweight tool to create a set of interlinked pages – so each note is a page, linked to the book, linked to the course, linked to the year etc. It also has great plugins (speak of interfaces) to connect with Zotero and use tags.
The neat thing is that Zim uses .txt files, so I can sync almost in real-time by putting my notes in the Nextcloud folder. This is a simple enough, yet robust and open system that can be further customized (sections could automatically be published to the web to share them with colleagues.)
One final word about money: The Nextcloud service runs on a shared hosting server I pay for. The hoster offers great value and incredible support. Good tools and services are well worth their money, the difference in paying for a hoster to paying for software is that I could at any time move my data to another vendor, to my own server or simply download and store it all whereas with software I would always be reliant on the vendor who might up their prices or close down.