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I'm very pleased that we have so many bright minds here that outshine mine. But I'm a frightningly fast typist, and not the dullest knife in the drawer. So I imagine I'm not alone in shock at times when I see a thick new question, and within 30 seconds somebody has an incredibly thorough response, with links, registry keys, and the kitchen sink attached. Well-formatted, mind you.

Experience counts for a lot, but it occurs to me that my mishmash of scribbled notes, bookmarks, docs, etc. isn't the most efficient way for me to file away what I've learned in the course of my daily projects (and am highly likely to forget within a week, if it's not documented).

Personal issue tracking apps? Eidetic memory? Or just better Googling skills? The ability (and stamina) to organize this information and bring it quickly to your fingertips is arguably one of our most important skills. How do you do it? (top rep scores not required)


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Honestly? I suspect some of these folks have solved the time travel issue(s) specifically to get that first/huge post in... –  Chris_K Jul 7 '09 at 20:02
When it's a thorough & relevant answer, that sounds like the site working precisely as intended. ;) –  Kara Marfia Jul 7 '09 at 20:14
I also wonder how a couple of the regulars are able to answer questions with detailed responses almost instantaneously 24 hours a day, every day. Something just doesn't seem quite right to me. Perhaps the owners of the site are seeding it. –  John Gardeniers Jul 7 '09 at 21:31
Heh heh... no seeding here. I'm starting to need to refer back to some of my old answers, though, and becoming frustrated with the search interface on the site. I'm gonna have to screen-scrape all my old answers and comments so that I can have them for reference. –  Evan Anderson Jul 8 '09 at 23:02
You could grab them from the datadump instead of screenscraping.. should be easy enough to pull out all your answers. –  Andrew Coleson Jul 12 '09 at 20:07

20 Answers 20

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I'm a huge fan of TiddlyWiki (see http://www.tiddlywiki.com and http://www.tiddlywiki.org) for this. It's a single self-contained HTML file that you can use in pretty much any browser and gives you a simple Wiki-like notebook. It also lets you view entries by timeline, search entries, and view multiple entries at one time. The fact that it's fully self-contained means I can keep them on a flash drive so I always have my various notes files handy.

From the TiddlyWiki site:

TiddlyWiki is a single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki - including all of the content, the functionality (including editing, saving, tagging and searching) and the style sheet. Because it's a single file, it's very portable - you can email it, put it on a web server or share it via a USB stick.

I haven't found anything else that quite compares for simplicity and functionality.

This looks very interesting. I've been using another similar app called Zim Desktop Wiki for a while. But this one is interesting b/c all you need is a web browser. I may have to look into migrating all my notes to this. –  3dinfluence Jul 7 '09 at 20:51
Fantastic. Browser-agnostic, no client, completely portable. I'm in love, thanks! –  Kara Marfia Jul 21 '09 at 17:15
This is incredible!!! Thanks! –  blank3 Oct 22 '09 at 18:32

I keep track of my notes with a combination of pNotes portable, and Evernote. If I ever need to REMEMBER something that I've just worked on, I write an article about what I did, what problem I solved, and how I did it, almost as if I was publishing it (even if I never do).

  1. it allows me to enforce the memory and practice of what I've just done.
  2. it documents what I just did so I can revisit it.
  3. It gives me artifacts I can use to show prospective employers I know what I'm doing, that I can communicate about what I'm doing, and that I have excellent writing skills.
Nothing teaches you like teaching, is that how it goes? Fantastic points. –  Kara Marfia Jul 7 '09 at 20:16

Google and memory. When those fail, ScrewTurn Wiki. Good stuff.

Oh yeah, Delicious for bookmarks.

Thanks for ScrewTurn, I needed that badly. –  Kara Marfia Jul 7 '09 at 20:31

I like Microsoft OneNote for note taking and random information storage.

I like how the pages are free form i.e. you can click anywhere to add text, graphics etc.

It integrates well with Outlook for making notes relating to meetings etc.


I LOVE Evernote (http://evernote.com/). It synchronizes with my iPhone, has Firefox and Outlook plugins, reads PDFs (or just about everything else with the paid version), and is free!

Edit: Here's a great walk through of the software: http://lifehacker.com/5041631/expand-your-brain-with-evernote. There's been a few great upgrades to the software lately, but the meat of Evernote is all there.


I'm a fan of Evernote, because I can use it from everywhere: Web, Windows, Mac and last, but not least my mobile phone (iPhone). It automatically synchronizes to the web, so there is no need for backups on the single machines. Full text search is another indispensable feature I need.

For collecting and categorizing/tagging my links, I use delicious.com, the social bookmarking site.

I share my Delicious links here: delicious.com/splattne -- I use a lot of tags :-) - My network is very small. If someone is using delicious too, please let me know. –  splattne Jul 8 '09 at 9:13
I need to start using delicious - and evernote looks massively useful, I have a feeling I may dig into that if I break down and get an iphone. Dang gadget-lust! –  Kara Marfia Jul 21 '09 at 17:16
I can't imagine a world without delicious - my link brain (and my iPhone.) :-) –  splattne Jul 21 '09 at 20:16

I haven't gotten a system set up myself yet, but, when finances become available, I plan on buying myself a Classmate Convertible PC and then use InkSeine as a way to track notes and such. The classmate gives a durable notepad/netbook pc, and inkseine looks awesome. Until then, I rely on memory for personal stuff, and a wiki for business issues.


I'm pretty visually oriented, and I like arranging stuff in "globs" of topics and subtopics with accompanying details diagram style rather than just jotting down notes, so I enjoy using FreeMind which is an open-source "mind mapping" application.

Whether for computer stuff or even brainstorming the plot or characters for a story, it's pretty helpful.

If someone were to develop a cool 3D type utility like this which resembles those floating tag clouds that let you rotate and slide items from the background to the foreground that would be awesome, but I don't know of one such as that... anyway this is handy in the meantime.


I keep a paper-based system for notes, meeting notes, quick diagrams, and anything that comes up while I am away from a keyboard.

For personal notes and internal documentation, I use plain text files for quick notes and like vimwiki for anything a little more involved: http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=2226

Used and liked MS OneNote for a long time but I work increasingly cross-platform and needed something more accessible.

Not really what you are aiming for probably but for more formal and semi-formal documentation and collaborative knowledge, we use Clearspace (Now Jive SBS) http://www.jivesoftware.com/beyond/clearspace We have used this internally in IT for maybe 18mths or a bit more and throughout the whole organization for 6mths or so. The search and tagging is really useful.

+1 for vimwiki, seems fast enough for quick notes –  chmeee Jul 7 '09 at 22:24

A combination of paper and electronic storage mechanism.

For "important" stuff that I might need to refer back to in a year or two, a hard-bound notebook. For stuff that I only need to keep track of for a short time, I keep a notepad beside the computer, and tear off & get rid of pages as needed.

For project-specific information that I might have to share, I use a TiddlyWiki, and finally for keeping track of what I do (for those annual reviews, ya know) I email myself a weekly summary of what I did.


I'm still looking for something like a free and open source replacement for the prodigial Evernote, since the lack of maemo and S60 support sort of spoils the beans for me.

Thus far, I mostly use my rather good memory and a plethora of tabs with Google results and similar I open up when trying to find an answer to something that interests me. This can lead to a dozen or so tabs open.

I don't use it in the case of server administration knowledge, but I actually also use a dokuwiki just to jot down anything ideaish and have it accessible; this is a step up from my previous, studenty paper mess with written notes just about anywhere.


When I'm working on something I usually open up a simple text program to take notes with as I'm going through something and make sure to save it!

I've been using DropBox to store and distribute these notes so I can access them from work and home across multiple OSes. Windows, Mac and Linux are supported and the iPhone web interface is pretty nice too. I also store the PDF books I've bought so I can easily access them.

Then when I've had success with whatever I was taking notes on I add them to a personal wiki I set up. I used to have my own install of MediaWiki but now I just use Wikia.com. It's good for those operations that important but you don't do often enough to remember.


I use Trac to organize these kinds of things. What I like about it in particular is that it provides me with a single place for the things that are more task-like (tickets) and the ones that are more note-like (wiki). I can use it from any machine that has a browser and it has a great search functionality.


I use plain text files and use git to make them available from anywhere...New computer? No problem git clone doc repo down to the new machine.


I use VoodooPad (Mac app) as a wiki-in-a-box for a work notebook, and all my bookmarks are on Delicious. There are similar wiki-in-a-box apps for Windows that I've used as well. The reason I tend to like those over traditional wikis is that text control is easier, it doesn't require a network or configuration, and you can dump in or link to arbitrary content on your machine.


In the past I have used:

  • Paper notebooks
  • TiddlyWiki
  • Local installation of various wikis (dokuwiki, pmwiki, mediawiki)

I currently use:

  • DEVONthink

For taking notes.

I use Things for Mac OS and iPhone for project management / to do lists.

For organizing links, I save a few things on Delicious but dump most things.


I use a copy of DokuWiki on a Stick which I store on a Live Mesh folder. It is a full Wiki that runs with no installation. Totally turnkey. Just copy and launch. Being on Mesh makes it available on every machine I have all the time. One could just as easily carry it on a thumb drive but this is a) slower and b) not as readily available.

I choose it over TiddlyWiki because the documents are all stored as flat text files and so are easy to extract and modify with other tools if I need the information.

This sounds lovely! Too many good ideas here, I'm running out of time to try them all. ;) –  Kara Marfia Jul 9 '09 at 14:17

I mainly use delicious.com for bookmarks, and a combination of plain text files and OmniOutliner documents for other notes. I haven't (yet) got a Spotlight importer for delicious.com, but I find that using Spotlight on a folder full of plain-text notes is a good way to sift through about six years of history. Oh yes, and I use OmniFocus as a todo manager, though I'm not rigourous enough about keeping it in sync with reality for that to be really valuable.


I use Post-It Notes: easy and pratical.


I use email to collect, index and archive things. It's reliable, distributed, searchable and highly accessible. Sometimes it has attachments; sometimes it has URLs. I start an email when I take notes at a meeting. A copy of incoming mail goes to my Gmail account, allowing for searchability.


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