Great Minds Read a Lot: How to Choose the Right Note-Taking App

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Jul 16, 2023

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Great Minds Read a Lot: How to Choose the Right Note-Taking App

The late great Steve Jobs once said, "Creativity is just connecting things." This statement perfectly encapsulates the role of books in our lives and how reading allows us to synthesize new ideas. But in today's digital age, note-taking apps have become an essential tool for connecting and organizing our thoughts. However, choosing the right note-taking app can be a daunting task, as there is no universally perfect option. In this article, we will explore the different types of note-takers and the pros and cons of various note-taking apps on the market.

Before we delve into the realm of note-taking apps, it's important to note that a tool is only as good as its user. There is no app that will do the work for you, and ultimately, it's up to you to make the most of the app you choose. Additionally, simplicity is often key when it comes to note-taking apps. The more complex an app is, the more likely it is to hinder your creativity and productivity. It's also crucial to avoid constantly switching between note-taking apps, as it can disrupt your workflow and make it difficult to find your notes.

Now let's explore the different types of note-takers and the note-taking apps that cater to their specific needs. We have identified three categories: the architect, the gardener, and the librarian.

The architect enjoys planning, designing processes, and creating frameworks. For them, a note-taking app that allows for easy structuring of ideas is essential. Notion is a popular option for architects, as it enables users to turn pages into elaborate tools. Tettra, on the other hand, focuses on centralizing and organizing knowledge through categories, tables, and templates. Both apps provide a hierarchical structure based on pages and categories, allowing architects to easily structure their thoughts.

The gardener, on the other hand, enjoys exploring and connecting various thoughts together. They need a note-taking app that fosters the growth of ideas. Roam Research is a web-based non-linear note-taking app that features bi-directional links, paragraph-level connections, transclusion, and a knowledge graph. It allows gardeners to freely explore and build connections between their notes. TiddlyWiki, the grandfather of non-linear note-taking apps, offers even more flexibility. It is free, open-source, and self-hosted, allowing users to modify the behavior of TiddlyWiki itself. These apps provide the freedom and flexibility that gardeners need to nurture their ideas.

The librarian, on the other hand, enjoys collecting and building a catalog of resources. They need a note-taking app that allows for easy retrieval of information. Evernote, launched in the same year as TiddlyWiki, offers all the necessary features to capture content and search through notes. RemNote, built at MIT, is particularly useful for students, as it allows for easy creation of flashcards from notes. Apple Notes and Google Keep are also popular options for both iPhone and Android users, respectively, as they provide simple ways to jot down thoughts, save images, web links, and scanned documents.

It's important to note that while these note-taking apps cater to the different needs of architects, gardeners, and librarians, many people end up building a mind backyard rather than a mind garden. This means that instead of fostering creativity and free thinking, these apps become repositories for dumping thoughts without much organization or purpose. For those looking to brainstorm new ideas, it's important to choose an app that allows for free thinking and creative work. For those working on large projects and managing productivity, a structured note-taking app with frameworks and workflows may be more suitable.

In conclusion, choosing the right note-taking app is a subjective and personal decision. It's important to consider your specific needs as a note-taker and find an app that aligns with those needs. Remember that a tool is only as good as its user, so make the most of the app you choose. To make the process easier, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Identify your note-taking style: Are you an architect, a gardener, or a librarian? Understanding your preferences and needs will help you narrow down the options and find an app that suits you best.
  • 2. Start with simplicity: Don't get overwhelmed by complex features and functionalities. Start with a simple note-taking app and gradually explore more advanced options as you become more comfortable with the basics.
  • 3. Stick to one app: Avoid constantly switching between note-taking apps. Find one that meets most of your needs and stick with it. This will help you maintain a consistent workflow and make it easier to find and organize your notes.

Ultimately, the goal of a note-taking app is to enhance your creativity and productivity. Choose an app that allows you to connect and organize your thoughts effectively, and watch as your mind grows and flourishes.

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