Replicate a circusponies feature now that they have shutdown

Circusponies closed its doors last week and I’m struggling to try to use DT exclusively now.

I’ve used DT for years gather everything and keep it organized. I love its flexibility and excellent design. I use it in combination with Circusponies Notebook (CPN) though because CPN has one amazing feature that even DT doesn’t have: The ability to tag a portion of a page and then gather all those tagged bits together across many different pages. Unfortunately, CP just shut its doors last week, so notebook users are struggling to replace its benefits.

Here’s what I mean: CPN is (was) beautiful as a project notebook, because you could simply tag just one item on your page with, for example, “problem” or “todo” or “urgent” or “idea” and then just continue writing. Then later you search for the tag “problem” or “todo” and see all the tagged items along with their context and a link back to the correct spot in the original.

I use tagging extensively in DT, but only at the file level. Does anyone have any ideas on a workaround to tag something like a paragraph and then see everything with that tag later.
For example, do users have a way to just tag a paragraph as “todo” and then later see those todo’s gathered together?

Any thoughts anyone has on this would be greatly appreciated.


P.S. I know that onenote can do this, but I prefer indy developers to MS, and onenote has some serious problems on the mac.

I don’t have a technique for doing exactly this in DEVONthink, and assume it would be a bit difficult to emulate CPN because DEVONthink is merely working with standard file formats and does not have a proprietary document type designed for what you’re looking for. On the other hand, there are still applications you might find useful. Curio has a similar feature to the tagging and other features of CPNs. (Personally, I moved from CPN to Curio years ago.) To a lesser extent (rougher in execution, IMO) so does Growly Notes – at a very reasonable price.

Thanks for the heads up. I am also, like carlasca, struggling to find an replacement app as I’ve used CPN extensively.
I’ve heard about Curio and I am thinking using it as a replacement app. However, I would like to hear from you would you suggest to use Tinderbox instead? Knowing it’s a quite pricy app, I would like to start learning from scratch an app that potentially has more applicable features and Tinderbox certainly does have.
So, Tinderbox or Curio (if we disregard the pricing issue)?

That’s really difficult. I’ve used both for a very long time. The best thing to do is download a trial copy and see how each of them work with your requirements. Both Eastgate (Tinderbox) and Zengobi (Curio) have very active and helpful user forums, the developers are involved and always available for private questions, and I’m sure each of them would be flexible if you needed a long trial. The best comparison test is to try to emulate, from scratch (no cut and paste!) one of your favorite CPN notebooks in each product. Scan the user manuals/help for each, too, to see how the features work.

It’s very obvious how to use Curio, less so for Tinderbox. Notes in Tinderbox can have a vast array of attributes assigned to them (oddly, linking to specific text in a note is not easy). Curio uses standard graphical features (“figures”) and figures have far fewer attributes – mainly for task planning and status. Tinderbox is a life-time occupation - I’ve known few users who get fully into the capabilities - though Mark Anderson’s aTbRef is one of the most in-depth privately maintained references for any software that I know of.

Sorry I can’t be more specific – truly this is an apples-oranges question and both products should be in a serious note-taker’s repertory, IMO. In conjunction with DEVONthink with which both Curio and Tinderbox play very well.

Not to confuse matters – but there’s also Alfons Schmid’s Notebooks, which is solidly integrated with OS X and iOS and is a beautiful note-book oriented work.

Thank you for your prompt and informative reply. All the best.

Thanks very much for the quick and helpful replies.

@Mio, I tried Curio a couple years ago, and I’ve been trying it again since CPN closed. But despite really trying, I just can’t seem to like it to replace how I used CPN. My workflow for scientific notes follows the almost universal standard of just writing down what’s happening as you’re doing things. That makes it a real-time mix of things that can be marked as “questions,” “results,” “problems,” “ideas,” “todo’s,” etc… Then later, for example, some of the results might get marked as, “junk”, “mistake,” “important,” etc. CPN was perfect for that. I was indifferent to the whole skeuomorphism of making it fell like a physical notebook, I just needed something where I tag a line or paragraph and then find like-tagged items like “questions” later. I’m still amazed that with the vast number of notetaking apps, now only Onenote can do this in a reasonably lightweight way, and the mac version has issues. I really didn’t think it’d be so hard to find another app that had this seemingly fundamental feature. Ironically, there’s now even an app that can do this for a bunch of PDF files (tagnotate), but nothing that does it well for just plain text or rtf.

Although in principle curio can replace CPN’s ability to tag an individual item rather than a whole file and then gather those things, it’s just not fluid enough in its execution of that feature to be a good CPN replacement for notetaking. It can do far more than CPN and I’m sure it’s the perfect tool for many workflows, but I can’t really recommend it as a notetaking app. I’d love to be wrong about that, so if someone knows how to use it smoothly for journal-type notetaking, please let me know.

Growlynotes can do what CPN does, but it has trouble if you get more than a very small DB of files.

@korm. Thanks for pointing out the issue with trying to do this in DT. On the other hand, it almost feels like a savvy scripter could just scan through a set of files, grab anything tagged a certain way, and collect them into a new RTF file within DT. I did notice the thread about the different philosophies DT’s designers have on inter-note vs. intra-note tagging. I see the point of one-thought-one-note, but at least for many types of project notebooks (scientific in particular), that would be very non-standard, and I’m afraid just too cumbersome. Do you think the DT folks might reconsider?

I looked briefly at Tinderbox, but I think it’s overkill when all I really need is something that has what I thought was a basic notebook feature.

Again, thank you for commenting on this issue. I very much appreciate it.


I agree with Korm. I have all three apps. Although I recently retired, I did use CPN for all my lecture notes for years (its export to HTML let me present them in class using overhead projector and they were available to the students as well). I’ve had Curio for a long time but never warmed up to it. Tinderbox… What can I say. Like many others it took me a few years before I began understanding it. It’s an interesting database, much more than a note taking app. Yes, get the demo and spend time with it. For me, these 3 apps along with DTPO are all different.

I forgot to add, Scrivner is the app I used to outline and organized my courses in the past 3 years. It’s supposed to be a book writer’s tool, but it can be used for totally different applications. It can store other files and links. It has a rich set of tools and impressive export macros.

Checking out Tagnotate and there’s this in the FAQ concerning using the PDFs outside the app:

It’s an admirable appraoch visually but this is a real limiting factor (and not an easy nut to crack).

PS: I don’t have a copy as of yet, so I’m not sure if they are referring to the Tags being stored. I suppose it’s possible to add them XMP metadata but this is unconfirmed at this time. Also, even if the Tags are stored, they are not a standard, and other developers would have to engineer reading / viewing / editing to work with them.

@caricasa (and others) I suggest you take a look at Ulysses (v2) for OS X with a well-integrated iPad and, soon, iPhone app. Ulysses uses “groups” and “sheets”, which is very closely the same as “notebooks” and “pages”. Three features that might fit your requirement: sheets/pages can be as long or short as you want; sheets can have as many keywords (tags) as you wish; and you can add filters (smart groups) to groups to hone in on sheets that match a combination (or singleton) predicates for “text”, “keyword” and “change date”.

Ulysses is a markdown-based editor. It supports footnotes and uses markdown’s features to bring in external images at export time. Exports to text, HTML, ePub, .pdf, and .docx. You can export any selection of sheets – you could combine groups (notebooks) into an export, or select sheets found by a filter. If you wanted to find your notes tagged “ideas” in the past 7 days you could do a filter for that (either permanent or on the fly), select those notes, and export just them. Ulysses can monitor external folders and recognizes OS X tags – and Ulysses can edit and save to external folders. In Ulysses I monitor and save to my nvAlt and Write folders that I keep in Dropbox. I also index those folders in DEVONthink, and because DEVONthink also recognizes OS X tags I can sort and filter the tagged notes in. So I can write and export in Ulysses; edit and emend in DEVONthink; and have synchrony with iOS at the same time. Nice.

I’ve written many articles using Ulysses and because both DEVONthink and Ulysses are aware of the same data via indexing, I can use DEVONthink AI to find relevant materials in my databases and Ulysses to package everything into well-formatted material ready for clients.

A savvy scripter could also emulate Microsoft Word – some things are just not worth the effort and the result would be very very fragile over the long term.

Other, less on-point, alternatives to research and consider:



ConnectedText, a fantastic Windows-based wiki – much friendlier and more powerful than Tinderbox – that runs well on OS X in a CrossOver bottle,

Zkn3, an OS X/Windows interpretation of Luhmann’s zettlekasten slip box

This one looks very interesting, thanks korm… Might just dust-off that Crossover license I have lying around somewhere…