What to use for small free-form notes

For many years now I’ve kept a variety of small notes, mostly free-form contact information, in a couple different applications that are particularly good at creating, organizing, and retrieving such information.

What comes to mind at the moment in connection with DEVONthink – I’m a brand newbie – is a separate rich text document for each item organized by folders. That is basically what I had in the other systems, but for some vague reason that strikes me as a little cumbersome at the moment.

I’d be interested in hearing about other ways of handling this kind of information in DEVONthink, if there are such.


I use plain text notes for that. Reason is the ability to sync with my iPod Touch and then to edit the files on the handheld. Rich text is not editable in iOS yet.

Consider Notational Velocity (NV). NV keeps notes in a folder, which can be indexed into DTPO (and if you use a script I posted here you can quickly put notes that you write in DTPO into the Notational folder and make them into indexed documents). NV can be assigned a keyboard shortcut, so the note window opens anywhere. And NV can be synced with SimpleNote, so that your notes are available elsewhere including your Touch, or phone or iPad, or - via SimpleNote - synchronize with Tinderbox, Scrivener, and other desktop apps.

Thanks, korm. Notational Velocity looks interesting, but doesn’t DT, with it’s “Take Note” command, and I sense in other ways, already have the capabilities of NV?

Indeed, yes. Take Note is useful if you confine the notes to DT or export them (or sync to iOS devices with DTTG). NV is useful if your notetaking wants to be integrated with other apps. Just a slightly different approach.

That makes sense. At the moment I don’t have that need.


You can always have DT index your Notes folder.


Like you, I am a total newbie to DT, but I had to get conversant in a real hurry. I’m doing a 3 mo consulting gig that requires analyzing and absorbing a huge amount of information. So…I decided to put all of my note taking under DT and use mostly RichText. I have a main Notes Group/Folder and then sub-Groups/Folders for each set of ideas, and then individual RTF notes under each sub-Group/Folder. So it’s Notes/Outside Meetings/…individual RTF per vendor with one long continuous note marked with Insert->Date for each meeting…

I transitioned from Windows/One Note to Mac/DT…and I’m glad I did…steeper learning curved, but very powerful product…(obviously, I’m a newly converted zealot, I confess).


Does anyone have a suggestion for taking notes on an Ipad so that they can be indexed in DTPO? I love simplenote/nvalt at the moment but When doing interviews I find its hard to see my list of questions and type at the same time. Can you open two notes at the same time in DTTG? Or split the ipad screen somehow? I’d love to hear from anyone who has successfully surmounted this problem as i want to go completely paperless.

OmniOutliner (the latest version) on iPad is useful for interviewing. I set up a template with all the questions. Then for a given interview, make new document by copying that template and take my notes as subtopics of the question. When you’re finished, the document can be exported, emailed, or sent to DTTG to sync back to the desktop. I prefer OO3 format for exports (because I have OmniOutliner on the desktop), but OPML and .txt are available too if you don’t want to invest in OmniOutliner on the desktop. It’s not the cheapest app out there, but the features are worth it, IMO.

Of course, without spending a dime you could make an interview template (with your questions and any other interview prompts you want on hand when you meet with your interviewee) as an RTF file in desktop DEVONthink, sync it down to your iPad, take your notes inside that same document, and sync it back.

That’s a cool workflow and cant imagine why it didt occur to me sooner. Do use omnisync server?

I don’t plan to.

So how do you get your completed intvu notes into OO3?
I had a terrifying moment when i couldn’t start my ipad after taking 3000 words of notes. Apple said I had to do a restore and everything would be lost. Miraculously, the notes came back in simplenote when the restore was done.

… uh, so …

… then you would open it in Omni’s desktop app. Yes? :neutral_face:

I use Plaintext, a free text-only editor on my ipad & iphone, which matches up well with NV or NValt on my macbook air.

I have also used NOCS, which is a bit more full-featured, to edit those same exact text files. I have tended to adopt the plaintext model with dropbox syncing to keep things as simple as possible – virtually all of the value in these short notes is in the text, and the desktop applications are typically smart enough to recognize things like phone numbers, addresses, and URLs.

Hope that helps!


On the iPhone/iPad - have a look at Drafts. You compose and send your note to a variety of programs, including Devonthink.

I just ousted NValt, in order to use the sorter for quick note taking.

I tried the sorter for a short while when it was introduced and alas, still find it unelegant for two reasons.
For one, it doesn’t seem possible to enter a note just using the keyboard, at least I can’t find a way to press “send” without using the mouse.
Also, although this much less annoying, I never use the global inbox for anything, so it takes even more clicks to choose the standard db.

It simply doesn’t save any clicks, it’s not faster than opening DEVONthink itself and just entering the note there.

Everybody has different needs, of course, but as a quick entry panel, the sorter doesn’t work for me.
Ideally, it could be hidden using the same short cut that’s used to activate it, it would autosave and use the standard db as its standard inbox.

‘Save’ the note with command-s.

The Sorter’s note taker remembers your last database and group destination, so it will continue to default to that location unless you change it.

If you leave DEVONthink running, turn off the Sorter and the take note shortcut (set in the Sorter preference tab) will still bring up a Take Note window.

It can be hidden with command-m, to minimize the Sorter tab. The escape key works if you are taking notes using the Take Note window described above.

Having said that, I find Justnotes a better option than the Sorter’s Note Taker or nvAlt. Justnotes supports OpenMeta tags and can work with multiple folders, which I store on Dropbox and index into their respective DEVONthink databases. The text files can also be edited directly in DEVONthink, sync back to Justnotes, and of course are available in my favorite iOS text editors.

Greg, thanks a lot for your answer. Saving and minimizing work like a charm, so I guess I will give it another chance :slight_smile:

I prefer the sorter to the popup window though, because it doesn’t open the main DEVONthink window (which is a bit much when I’m watching a movie or something and just want to write down an idea).

I still wish DEVONthink would just keep indexed folders up to date, though. The manual sync isn’t a lot of work, but it adds a layer of abstraction between software and content. I’m a bit baffled that it isn’t an option.