I’m a big fan and avid user of Google Notebook. Unfortunately, they seem to be ending development on it, which means I need to find another place to store my notes. Google tells you to look at Google Bookmarks, Docs, Tasks (in GMail) and the SearchWiki feature as alternatives. Unfortunately, none of those are really general note-taking devices. Docs might come close, but I’m really not interested in writing full word processor style docs just to jot down a couple of lines on monitor specs or an HTML snippet.
I’ve looked at a few solutions but none of the current “notebook” style things seem to fit the bill. Here’s my criteria, in no particular order.
- Bullet list support. I take most of my notes in bullet list format. It’s just my style. I need to be able to have multiple levels of bullet list accessible in the note editor and it needs to render correctly when I go back to read the note. You would be amazed at the lack of ability for this in most notebook products.
- No client to install. I don’t want to have to install anything in order to be able to read or edit my notes.
- No file synchronization. I don’t want to have to synchronize files from one place to another in order for the notes to be “current.” I’m never going to remember to do it and it’s just going to be frustrating.
- Mobile accessibility. I need to be able to, at the very least, read the notes from my BlackBerry web browser. Not “Opera Mobile for BlackBerry,” not some mobile note app I have to install, but the actual crappy BlackBerry browser.
- Free. I’m a single user who wants to keep some crap in a central spot. I’ll roll my own solution before I pay you $100/year for a notebook service. Yes, it’s OK if you throw unobtrusive ads into it the way GMail does.
- Private. I’m not interested in making my private notebook into a publicly accessible record.
To be clear, all of these are requirements. You might have the best solution in the world, but if I have to synch up files to make sure the latest version is online or on my client, it’s not on my list. It could be the perfect note-taking application, but if I have to install something on the client machine to get it to work, forget it.
To that end, I have started looking at various notebook products and have yet to be swayed by any of them.
- Evernote: The web client is horribly buggy. You might be able to create and edit notes with multiple bullet list levels, but it always ends up flattening the list back to one level. If you want to read and edit notes with real bullet lists in them, you have to install a fat client. This has been reported in the user forums but who knows when it’ll be fixed?
- Zoho Notebook: The web client is decent if a bit confusing. Bullet lists are only supported at one level unless you add a special “document page” to your notebook that basically makes you edit your notes in an online word processor. Totally not mobile accessible.
- OneNote: I use OneNote for work notes and like it, and it appears you can do some sort of synchronization if you integrate it with Office Live… but it still means I have to install OneNote on the client and I don’t recall seeing OneNote for BlackBerry.
I started thinking I might be getting mentally hemmed in by thinking in terms of “notebook products” and may need to think more in terms of “private wiki.” I think that’d work reasonably well, but it still needs to fit the same criteria, so something like TiddlyWiki won’t work because of the file synchronization requirement.
How do you keep your notes? Got any ideas on what I should do?
UPDATE 2/5/09: PBwiki worked through some technical difficulties and enabled my ability to log in with my BlackBerry 8330 Curve. Their free plan looks just right for me, so I think I’ll be moving to PBwiki. (I had originally discounted PBwiki because I didn’t find a free plan; turns out it’s just not easy to find info on their site for, but it exists.)