Methods of Annotating Print Books

I’ve just started using DT Pro (creating databases/groups, watching tutorials, etc.). I’d like some feedback on workflows or software ideas related to created digital annotations for texts - specifically for print texts. Right now my idea is to use the Cornell notes .rtf template and take notes from the book I’m reading (Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From…a great read). Then I would file the notes in a DT group that I’ve created.

Are there any other/better ways to complete this task? Other software related things I should perhaps consider?

D. Ward

One of the cool things about DT is that it supports so many file formats, and allows you to figure out a workflow that works for you. The Cornell notes template is good, but you can also use mind-mapping software, OmniOutliner, whatever. So yeah, sounds like a good plan :slight_smile:

I started off doing this (ie using a Cornell .rtf template) and it can be made to work. The problem is that there is a variety of templates you can use and they each have their shortcomings. (There is no problem with the storing of the notes afterwards, it’s the templates themselves which cause problems).

As I understand it the point of the Cornell template is the juxtaposition of the main body of the notes on the right hand side with the summary of the points of the left, together with an overall summary at the bottom. This arrangement of course calls for a table, but the standard DevonThink .rtf table is flaky once you get beyond a certain point – it becomes very slow and unpredictable – in my experience anything over a couple of pages is pushing it. BTW this is a limitation of the OS X text engine, not of DevonThink.

This effectively means that you have to use another program to take the notes themselves. I’ve used Word, Mellel and Pages and they all work more or less effectively. You can save the relevant Cornell template in your ~/Library/Application Support/DEVONthink Pro 2/Templates.noindex folder (this path may vary, please check the manual) and it will appear in the Data/New From Template menu, so you open new notes directly from DTP.

The slight issue is that all the external programs have their idiosyncracies and none allows you to use the full power of DTP that you would access to if you were using a ‘native’ rtf file (which you can’t, because you want to use the tables…).

For example, Word is (IMHO of course) the most convenient for generating tables, but DTP seems to have some difficulties representing it accurately and problems were caused when I tried to edit a Word created rtf file in DTP and then again back in Word. This was important, because I wanted to use the wikilinks facility in DTP – obviously I couldn’t do these in Word so I had to be able to edit the final version in DTP.

The problems weren’t horrendous and were liveable with, (and it’s possible that I was missing something obvious in DTP that would have simplified everything) but in the end I found the workarounds I had to use more trouble that they were worth, so I went back to standard native DTP rtf note. I take the main body of the notes in a single document, then annotate this document with a shorter standalone summary note.

YMMV of course… If you don’t already have a Word Cornell template, I can see if I can dig the one I adapted (Word 2008).

Hope this helps.


Thanks for the replies…I might give omnioutliner a try as I also want to get familiar with a note-taking system for my upcoming graduate work…