Friday, September 19, 2014

Take Note

In the days before I worked at the University, I had a foolproof mechanism for taking notes on the things I wanted to blog about—I typed them into a text file entitled "things to blog about".

Once I started my desk job, though, that no longer worked, as I did my blogging at home but my idea-inventing at the office. So over the past 2.5 years, I have been questing without cease to find the perfect note-taking solution (mostly to house topics for my blogs, but also to store the many random thoughts that flit across my brain over the course of a day).

In my first month of work, I tried and rejected Google Docs, emails to myself, and Microsoft SkyDrive (now called OneDrive), and Evernote.

I then decided that, since the big names were letting me down, I would go small-time. I started with some rinky-dink online app that I can't remember the name of. It appeared to be a free-time solo project of some software developer, and I wouldn't be surprised if it no longer exists. I liked it because it could store plain-text notes that wouldn't add a bunch of wacky formatting into my blog when I pasted them. I disliked it for many more reasons that I can no longer remember.

After that, I stumbled upon a little gem called Springnote. After using it for a while, I deduced that it was some kind of knockoff of a more popular platform called Springpad. It was also not primarily developed for the English-speaking audience, which always gave me trouble when I needed help with one of its features. I hadn't been using this service for very long when the entire Springnote platform shut down.

After that, I moved on to Catch Notes. I always enjoyed Catch, if for no other reason than its colorful interface.  However, Catch Notes soon went under as well, obliging me to scramble for another note-taking service.

Next, I went with Springpad, the big cousin to my beloved Springnote. One of my favorite features of Springpad was the bookmarklet that would allow me to add any web page to my Springpad notebook with just a click (kind of like Pinterest!). That and the cute "binder" covers that you could use to style your notebooks. However, no one should be surprised when I say that Springpad went the way of all its predecessors: that is, into oblivion.

Fortunately, Springpad provided its users with tools to export notes into a similar application: Evernote. So I reluctantly went back to the service I'd tried and rejected in the past. Evernote's spartan and utilitarian interface did not bring me joy the way Springnote's had...and a bookmarklet was hard to find and even harder to get to work consistently. But Evernote is the tool of the masses (second Google result for "online note app" as I write this, the first being a Mashable post from 2008 singing the praises of the late Springnote), and I probably should have just stuck with it from the beginning.

I've found that pasting into my blog from Evernote is not as messy as I thought—I simply strip the formatting and delete the empty paragraphs that always seem to show up. I guess I'll be content. But if you've learned nothing else from this story, you've learned that the note-taking services I like to use have a tendency to go out of business. So other Evernote users, be warned. Your app might be next!