Managing Notes is Difficult!

I usually tend to be online browsing the internet whenever I’m in front of a computer. Each time I come across something interesting which I’d like to come back to and take a look at again or if I get an idea for later, I jot it down immediately. Now, I use a Mac at home, a PC at work and an iPhone on the road. So, as one can imagine, keeping these notes organized and in sync across all three devices is a pain. Its not the lack of any good note taking plus organizing app on either platform as much as it is that of a service which works seamlessly across all three platforms.

On a PC, I use the best notes app available – Microsofts OneNote. Its intuitive, it has decent search capabilities, it has enough organizational levels to usefully sort out and maintain disparate notes in a sensible manner and it syncs beautifully with Microsofts own Skydrive service. OneNote is available for the iPhone and it is actually quite decent there – basic note taking abilities are enough for most purposes and notebooks on the PC are faithfully reproduced on the iPhone. Unfortunately OneNote is not available for Macs, so when I’m home and want to check out earlier notes, I need to fire up the OneNote web app. Its decent enough, but not quite as good as a native app. Also the fact that none of my notes are ‘physically’ on my Mac is slightly troubling.

As it turns out, finding an app that works seamlessly across the three platforms is a difficult task. There are quite a few good apps that work really del between two platforms. Look at the usual suspects:
OneNote – PC + iPhone
nvALT + Simplenote – Mac + iPhone(nvALT syncs to Simplenote)
Notes on iPhone – iPhone + Mac

The only single application that I know of to be available natively on the three platforms(and more) is Evernote, which is an extremely popular app. To try and achieve complete notes taking-reading-syncing nirvana across all my devices, I gave it a shot. After a forced use for about 2 weeks, I just couldn’t get to like it. For starters, the free version is ad-supported and doesn’t save local copies of your notes – on either platform. To be able to do that, you have to pay a monthly or an annual fee instead of making a ‘one time buy’ – that is a real deal breaker! Also, it annoyingly automatically logs me out and has me re-login more often than necessary. And its slow!

The way I manage notes now is to use OneNote exclusively on the PC and iPhone. On my Mac I use nvALT to take quick notes and every so often put it all into the OneNote notebooks using the web app. Its clearly a broken system which gives me only a one way access to my notes from the mac. For full blown notes reading and editing, I need to turn to the OneNote web app. But over time, I’ve developed a workflow which lets me keep the notes relatively up to date in OneNote and in nvALT.

If any of you readers is aware of any app(s) which sync with OneNote on Skydrive, please let me know in the comments. To any reader who is also a developer on the lookout for a bright idea, this is it – an app on the Mac which reads, writes OneNote notebooks and uses Skydrive to sync them. At the very least you will get one ever-grateful customer.

2 thoughts on “Managing Notes is Difficult!

  1. I use Simplenote on the iPhone, with Resoph Notes on Windows. This client is very similar to Notational Velocity and does store all data locally in an SQL-Lite database. I can also make back-ups of all the notes in one condensed file in a variety of formats.
    OneNote syncing doesn’t work with cracked/pirated versions of MS Office. Evernote is not keyboard friendly enough for me. I don’t usually clip images, its usually lists, notes and links.

    • I’d never heard of Resoph Notes, thanks for the tip! Checked it out on their website now, it sounds good. I can use Simplenotes backing store for my notes. Let me try it out over the next few days.
      Looks like I gotta ditch(or at least reduce my dependance on) OneNote for quick scrapbook type notes.


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