Tag Archives: Simplenote

Moving Your Notes From Simplenote to Dropbox

A while back, I explained that due to data loss, I was abandoning Simplenote to sync my text files with nvALT in favor of a combination of Dropbox and Notesy. What I didn’t offer at the time was step-by-step instructions for making the move. Now that Brett Terpstra, one of the developers of nvALT, has made it clear that there are issues between Simplenote and nvALT that are unlikely to get resolved (in addition to the issues I was having with the Simplenote iOS app), I wanted to give those who need it a walkthrough for making the move from Simplenote Sync to Dropbox Sync.

Moving is simple, but in order to save yourself a mild panic attack, you’re going to want to do things in a certain order. You may have already taken a few of these steps, but just make sure to follow along to ensure that you don’t have the moment of panic where you think you’ve lost all your notes (I’ve been there… it sucks).

Step one: Ensure your notes are saved individually rather than as a single database:

  1. Open Preferences in nvALT (you can get here through the menu bar or by hitting ⌘-,)
  2. Go to Notes and then navigate to Storage
  3. Make sure “Store and read notes on disk as:” is set to “Plain Text Files *”

Your default settings will look like this:

Default Settings - nvalt and Simplenote Sync

Once you’re done with these steps, they should look like this:

Change nvALT to Plain Text Files 1

Step 2: You need to disable Simplenote Sync:

  1. Go back to Preferences if you’re not still there (again, you can get here through the menu bar or by hitting ⌘-,)
  2. Go to Synchronization
  3. Uncheck the box next to Synchronize with Simplenote

If you do this before you move your notes, you’ll have a legacy backup of everything up to this point in Simplenote. While I’ve never needed this, it’s a nice to have backup.

Once you’re done, your preferences should look like this:

Disable Simplenote Sync

Step 3: Move Your Notes To Dropbox

Now it’s time for the big move, what we’re going to do is copy all of your notes over from their current folder to a new one in Dropbox:

  1. Go to nvALT and click on any note.
  2. Hit Cmd-Shift-R to open the folder with the selected note in Finder.
  3. Hit Cmd-A to select all notes
  4. Hit Cmd-C to Copy all of your notes
  5. Before you leave, take note of where these notes are, you’re going to need it later (you can also just leave this folder open). If you can’t see this at the bottom, to go View in the menu bar and hit Show Path Bar.
  6. If you haven’t done so already, install Dropbox
  7. Go back to the Storage section of nvALT’s Preferences screen
  8. Select the drop down menu next to “Read notes from folder:” and select Other… to open up the Finder
  9. Navigate to your Dropbox folder
  10. Click on New Folder and name it as you see fit (I use Notes). Notes: You can also put this folder in a sub-folder within Dropbox, but considering how often I use it, I prefer to keep it in my main folder. Also, for some reason , I occasionally have to select this folder twice in order to make the change stick. If you select the folder and find that the drop down is not showing the correct folder name, just do it again and everything should be fine.
  11. Close out of nvALT
  12. Open Finder and navigate to the new Notes folder in Dropbox
  13. Paste your notes into the new folder
  14. Hit Cmd-V to paste your text files into the new folder
  15. Once your notes have copied over, reopen nvALT and you should see your data. Note: To confirm that you’re now pointing to the correct folder, create a new note titled TEST and see if it shows up in your Dropbox folder.

Here’s how to select a note and open the folder in Finder:

Select a note in nvALT and show in Finder

Here’s where you can find the location of your data in Finder before moving it over to Dropbox:

Path to your nvALT Data

And here’s where you want to click to start change the location of your data and to create the new folder in your Dropbox folder:

Change nvALT Data Folder

Followed by:

Make a dropbox folder 1

Step 4: Remove Your Old Notes

Last but not least, you want to remove your old notes. This will eliminate any duplications when searching for notes and avoid any scenarios where you end up working on an old, unsynchronized file. The first and easiest way to go about this is just to select all of the files in your original folder and delete them. There’s currently a copy in your new Dropbox folder (which will continue to be updated as you make changes) and a legacy copy on Simplenote (which will not continue to be updated as you make changes) that can be accessed through the Simplenote iOS app or web interface. If, like me, you’re crazy and want to keep a copy of the original Simplenote database on you machine (just in case…), you just need to do the following:

  1. Go back to Storage in the Notes tab of Preferences in nvALT
  2. Change “Read notes from folder:” back to the original folder (this is the path that I mentioned you should keep track of in Step 3). Note: Once again, you may need to do this twice to make sure the change sticks.
  3. Exit nvALT and reopen. If you TEST note does not show up, you’ve done this right. You can also test this by pressing Cmd-Shift-R and checking the path at the bottom to ensure you’re in the original folder.
  4. Go back to Storage in the Notes tab of Preferences and change “Store and read notes on disk as:” from “Plain Text Files *” to “Single Database (Allow Encryption)”
  5. When you do this, you will be asked if you want to move the individual files to trash or if you want to keep the files. Trash them, but don’t worry the notes were saved as a single database.
  6. Change “Read notes from folder:” back to your Dropbox file (again, you may need to do this twice to make the change stick) and, if it doesn’t happen automatically, change “Store and read notes on disk as:” back to “Plain Text Files” once more.

Note: This ensures that the notes will not show up in searches, but if you ever find it necessary, you can switch nvALT back to this database. It’s probably easier to just remove the files, but like I said, I’m a bit crazy.

Once you’re done, nvALT will pull from the Dropbox folder, your files are accessible by an array of iOS applications (I use Notesy, you can read more about why here). Since making the switch to Dropbox and Notesy, I haven’t lost a stitch of data. While I occasionally run into conflicts, they’re handled in a way that ensures that no work gets lost. There may be geekier ways to get this done, but this straightforward method will let you get your data out of Simplenote and into Dropbox.

If you know of a better way to make the switch, let me know and I’ll be sure to update this post with any better methods.

About That App Fatigue…

Hey everyone! I’m back from my trip and first order of business is to say a big thank you to all of the amazing guests here on the site. If you haven’t checked out Yuvi Zalkow, Aaron Mahnke, Todd Chandler, Gini Dietrich and Mike Vardy’s posts yet, please do. Speaking of Mike Vardy, I figured the best way to “thank him” by writing my own post refuting his. We have a very complicated relationship…

While there is little doubt that many of us tech-minded, productivity-loving folks could use to take a step back from the tools, we also have to accept who we are and act accordingly. This means finding and using the right technology to do our work without getting lost while searching for it. The right tool, used well helps me get more done. This often requires upfront time and occasionally over-experimenting with apps, but the payoff continues to be there.

I manage to make this app obsession a net positive by sticking to a few key rules. The biggest being that if I’m mostly happy with what I have, I won’t consider changing for one or two shiny new features. As my system matures I’ll only consider a new app if it falls into one of three categories:

It fills a hole in my system

When you’ve created your system from the ground up, you know exactly where things are weak. Sometimes you haven’t found a tool you like; sometimes the right tool doesn’t exist. Identify these weak points and keep an eye out for potential solutions. One major hole in mine has been easy encryption for sending things up to the cloud. While I haven’t found the right thing yet, this omission was exactly why I recently gave Dropkey a shot (sadly, it seems more geared towards email than solo encryption in the cloud).

I have a problem with a tool

Sometimes things break. Sometimes your tool doesn’t scale (as I learned all too well with Simplenote). Sometimes, it just doesn’t work for you. When something goes wrong, you inevitably have to go looking for a new, workable solution. The wrong tool can often cause a lot of pain, so the sooner you deal with it, the better. The temptation will be to make a fast decision and to get back to work, but the short-term time and pain spent finding the right tool often pays long-term dividends.

I’m trying something different

This is the trickiest of the three, it’s where you can easily start down a rabbit hole. Occasionally you will want to test a hunch or a new tool will spark an idea on how you can work better. Now this is something that you can easily waste far too much time with, but if you eliminate it completely, you can miss out on breakthroughs that can have a big impact on the way you work.

Vardy’s example of Threadnote is a perfect one. In his post, Vardy lumped together full-blown text editing apps like Writing Kit and Byword alongside quick capture apps like Drafts and Pop. I’ve always done this as well, historically using Simplenote to hold everything from quotes and thoughts to full blown writing projects (some larger projects are also in Scrivener) In light of my need to abandon Simplenote and in consideration of a plain text file library that is now over 800 notes, I’ve been wonder if I need to break apart my idea capture from my writing. So when Bryan from Threadnote reached out, I was impressed by the way it organized notes and decided to experiment with it. The app, while great, isn’t quite there for me just yet, but I do think it’s an amazing app for quick capture. Also, knowing a little bit about where they are heading, I think has the potential to make the way I work far more efficient. And that is well worth any potential fatigue.

There is always going to be a new app to take you away from your work. The trick is to be selective and only take calculated chances. When I find the right tool, I never get sick of it. I don’t have app fatigue, because I’m not flitting around looking for something better. Once I see how something makes my work better, I’m stubborn about changing it (just ask anyone who had to put up with me on Twitter while I was switching away from Simplenote). This way I see apps as something lasting, rather than disposable.

How do you avoid app fatigue? Or going app overboard for that matter…

Let’s Talk About App Fatigue

Mike Vardy. Mike, my podcasting co-host and friend, puts up with quite a lot of grief (trust me, I know, I give it to him). Today, he gives it all back as he puts my recent struggles with Simplenote through the ringer. Mike offers incredibly useful words of wisdom on his personal blog, as the editor of Lifehack and as the upcoming author of The Back Nine. Enjoy as Vardy calls me out on some of my crap for the sake of your own self improvement…Note: While I’m away this week toiling away in the desert (read: I’m working and playing in Las Vegas) I’ve asked a few friends to step in and take over for me. Today’s guest is

As someone who spends a lot of time using their iOS devices — especially for work — I have come across a huge problem on many occasions. A problem that is challenging to face… let alone overcome. The problem I have is that I like to try out new apps. It’s part of what I do for Lifehack, what I did for The Next Web and for Cult of Mac. Whether I pursue a new app or am given a promo code for another, I end up putting a lot of apps through the paces.

Soon enough, I’m spending more time playing (or fiddling) with apps than I am making use of them in a productive way. Instead of writing with text editor apps, I’m testing them. Instead of being productive with task management apps, I’m “doing” productive with them. I’ve even written a series that discusses my decluttering process on my iPhone and iPad when things get out of hand with my app inventory.

The thing about the constant addition of apps is that they are appealing, with some offering one or two things that another simply doesn’t, but the end result is that what the app is meant to do doesn’t get accomplished as well as it could be because I’ve not mastered it. When you realize that you’ve got a lot of apps on your devices and you see that several (or most) of them rarely get opened, that’s when you discover that “app fatigue” has set in.

I had this realization earlier this week when the proprietor of this very site sent me an email asking me to give another text editor a look. Now Mr. Schechter has never sent me an email asking me to do this, so I went in and downloaded it. And that’s all I’ve done with it so far. I have yet to even open it. Why? Because I still have the following text editors on my iPhone:

  • Writing Kit
  • Byword
  • Drafts
  • Simplenote
  • PlainText
  • Pop

What’s more, I seldom write on my iPhone anyway. I tend to use my iPad for that sort of thing (which, by the way, also has several text editors installed even though I only use Writing Kit). I can say with utmost certainty that out of those apps mentioned above that I have only opened half of them in the past few months — and I haven’t opened Drafts yet, either.

(And before I settled on Asana as my task manager of choice, I had even more “productivity-type” apps installed — and a few of them still are.)

We’re always trying to do our work faster and better. As writers, we want the best tools to do the job, as any craftsperson would. But if you’re someone who builds homes and you have a hammer instead of a nail gun, are you simply going to stop building until you have that nail gun? Not a chance. Better still, will you refuse to build if you don’t have the highest quality nails if you have nails that will do the job? I highly doubt it.

As a writer, I need to write. I’m called to it…each and every day. So whether I use the app I’m used to — the one I have chosen — or the latest that has that “one more thing” factor, I still am using them to write. If I don’t write because I’m missing that “one more thing” then I’m really not missing that thing at all. I’m simply missing the point of being a writer.

Mr. Schechter took to Twitter to talk of his disdain with Simplenote last week, basically looking to move into an app that will do what Simplenote does — but will do it more reliably. Something told me that he wasn’t going to stop writing until he found that replacement (which seems to be Notesy). Until he did replace the app, he’d find a way to keep writing… because that’s why he has the tool in the first place. That’s what you’re supposed to do.

As I said before, it’s not just text editors that have caused app fatigue to set in for me. It’s all kinds of apps. Evernote vs. Pear Note. Sparrow vs. Mail. Instacast vs. Downcast. The list is endless and the competition is growing. Thankfully we’ve got some great online writers that can help point us in the right direction when it comes to avoiding app fatigue. Federico Vittici of MacStories offered up his thoughts on text editors on the iPad in a very comprehensive post. Brett Terpstra has put together a stellar roundup that breaks down the features of text editors for iOS as well — a great resource for anyone looking for the right fit for them. We see frequent battles between Twitter clients played out in what can only be coined as “app smackdowns”. Basically, if we want to get a good idea of what we’d like to have before we install/buy, there are ways to figure that out so that we can avoid app fatigue.

(That said, I’m going to give Threadnote a go because I trust Mr. Schechter. After all, he is a better mess than I.)

Apps are accessible. Apps are inexpensive. Apps are always at our fingertips. But apps don’t do the work…we do. If you wind up working for apps rather than having apps working for you, then you’re doing it wrong.

In fact, you’re actually not doing anything at all.

Creating Visually Compelling Quotes

Todd Chandler. Todd has a gift: the man finds exceptional words from others and brings them to life with his daily visual quotes blog, Observation Paper. As someone with no design skills whatsoever, I’m consistently in awe of his creativity and willingness to improve at his craft. Here’s a first hand look at how Todd approaches and improves daily at his artful endeavor…Note: While I’m away this week toiling away in the desert (read: I’m working and playing in Las Vegas) I’ve asked a few friends to step in and take over for me. Today’s guest is

My grandfather believed that every day you should be better than the day before. For a while, he wore that philosophy proudly like a new shirt you’re sure people will notice and ask where you got it. When people asked him, “Bill, how you doing?” He would answer, “Better” meaning he was better today than he was yesterday. His trial of sharing this optimistic outlook gradually ended as he grew weary of having to repeatedly explain that he hadn’t been sick or recovering from surgery.

Last fall, Michael Schechter challenged me to become better by creating a Tumblr account to share daily quotes. I’m pretty sure his dare was merely an attempt to get one more follower for his Tumblr blog, Smarter Than I Am, but I was okay with that because I liked what he was doing. It was different. His quote of the day didn’t follow the traditional deep-thoughts-from-famous-dead-people format. They were timely, relevant quotes from stuff he was currently reading.

I’m an information junkie, and the task of finding something worth sharing every day appealed to me. So on Thanksgiving Day, I took the plunge and posted my first quote on Tumblr. I didn’t want to just copy Michael’s format directly, so I looked for a way to make it my own. By day, I create learning materials, and I’m constantly seeking ways to package information in more compelling ways. That interest drove me to play with methods to make my quotes more visually appealing. After posting 185 visual quotes, here are five lessons I’ve learned.


“Garbage in, garbage out” was an early obstacle. I was not absorbing enough high end content to source a steady stream of thought-provoking quotes, so I had to up my daily information consumption in both quality and quantity. Plenty of “Zen gurus” claim we are drowning in information and recommend cutting back on such daily infusions, but I benchmarked against the ultimate old-schooler, Warren Buffett. I figured if he still reads six newspapers a day, surely I can commit to few more blogs and podcasts.

Those two media are my biggest sources for quotes while books, newspapers, magazines, movies, and workshops round out the rest. I capture quotes in Simplenote and nvALT that sync in a master note across my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Placing new quotes at the top along with the author and a link to the source makes editing easier when I go to create the posts.


I focus my design on two elements: words and images. With typography there are only a few variables (font, size, color, spacing, and layout), but they can be combined into infinite combinations like the menu items at Chipotle. I’ve discovered two rules to live by:

  1. Don’t over do variation. A good guideline is no more than three variations of any factor – no more than three different fonts, no more than three different sizes, no more than three different colors. Use variation to emphasize key words or points; too much variation creates visual clutter and weakens the emphasis.
  2. Find the natural rhythm of the quote. Group words together around complete thoughts and repetitive phrases. This “Unique needs no modifier” quote by George Carlin illustrates strong natural rhythm.

Images include the background, graphics, and pictures. Here are four options that have worked for me:

  1. Find a complimentary photo that can completely fill the screen and place the quote over the top of it. This photo of a pink sky and different plants captured the Dr. Seuss saying perfectly, and these colorful walls provided a dramatic way to highlight Merlin Mann’s comment. I start most image searches using Viewfinder because I like how easy it is to download the photo and to copy the attribution.
  2. Display a shot of the author along with the quote. You can either frame the author as I did with this Stephen Tobolowsky quote or frame the quote itself like this Bill Bryson quote.
  3. Add an illustration or chart to reinforce the quote. On Horace Dediu’s comment, I created a goofy little chart to illustrate his point, and I drew a timeline to reinforce Maya Angelou’s message.
  4. Simply pick the appropriate background if the quote is lengthy or images detract from the words. The notebook background matched with this statement about training and education, while the clean white background reinforced this message about simplicity.


I’m still experimenting, but I’m starting to fall into a groove of three main tools: doodling in Noteshelf (a drawing/notetaking iPad app), playing with typography in Keynote, and adding text to pictures in Pixelmator. Here are three variations of the same quote showing the distinctions.

Editor’s note: You’ll be seeing more of this quote here on the blog soon.


Ira Glass has an encouraging video for beginning storytellers (hat tip to Erin Feldman) where he says at the start of your creative journey, your level of taste is really good, but the quality of your work isn’t. And the solution is “to do a lot of work. Do a hugh volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline, so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story.” That constant practice closes the gap and raises the quality of your work to meet your level of ambition.

In preparing for this post, I went back and reviewed my 6 months of quotes. Ira’s right. The ratio of crap to quality was higher at the beginning, and while I still crank out occasional crap, it’s becoming less frequent. For me, what started out as a curious little whim, has turned into a habit of constant improvement. My grandpa would be proud to see me better today than 185 quotes ago, and this daily production has whet my appetite to continue publishing as practice. The next phase being to layer in bigger creative endeavors.

What constant practices have you found helpful? What have you learned from them? Any new ones you would like to begin?

See all of Todd’s quotes at Observation Paper and be sure to follow him on Twitter.

Abandoning Simplenote: Simple, But Difficult

It appears that Gabe over at MacDrifter was right (and to quote him, “this post is only going to be interesting to someone that lives in plain text“, so consider yourself warned). There comes a time when every edge case needs to leave Simplenote. If you’ve read this blog, you know I love the app, but I’m finding that my time to abandon it has come.


Good question… syncing has become a problem. I’m no longer 100% confident that something I write will stay there. I’m writing between three devices (two Macs using nvALT and an iPhone using Simplenote), occasionally four if you count my occasional iPad usage. You can’t force sync the app, so occasionally I accidentally overwrite data in one version (this is a particularly large issue in NYC where service is not always the best). Since there is no way to force sync on Simplenote for iOS and no way to confirm the latest sync times, I often don’t even realize the problem until it is too late.

The apps are also going crazy on me. When on 3G or WiFi, the iPad app crashes (disclaimer: I haven’t gone through the process of uninstalling and reinstalling and haven’t taken the time to reach out to Simplenote about this as I don’t really use it all that often). And the iPhone app is continually swallowing text. It’s usually only a little, but I’m not a fan of losing work. This seems especially bad when making the jump from having no service on the Subway to when I hit the street and the app begins fighting with AT&T’s crappy New York service.

I’ve reached a point when either the application or the sync service can no longer handle the volume of notes. Perhaps I’m testing both the capability of their sync server or their app with my 800 notes, but if they really want people to invest in this for extended periods of time, they have got to get their act together.

Why is leaving so hard?

The steps for leaving Simplenote are quite simple. All I had to do was copy the entire notes folder into Dropbox, turn off Simplenote sync in nvALT and point the storage field to the new folder in Dropbox. The thought of abandoning an app I’ve been using for nearly two years and am extremely comfortable with is far harder. While there are several impressive text editors for iOS , I love Simplenote for its simplicity. I use my iPhone to create words, not to format them, so the bells and whistles of several of Simplenote’s alternatives aren’t all that appealing. I need something that is as close as possible to the app I already know and love.

Over time and through tons of use, I’ve come to find that there are five additional features beyond stable synchronization that I depend on:

Fast and Global Search – When you open Simplenote, all you need to do is tap into the search field and start typing to narrow down your notes. TextExpander Support – This is pretty much a given at this point for any text editor. I primarily use TextExpander to name my files, but I’d be lost without it. An Informative Home Screen – Simplenote offers a note title, a two-line preview (with any tags in front of your text) and the date of the last modification for every note. These three points of data make it far easier to find the one I’m looking for. Quick Note Creation – All I need to do is hit the plus sign and I’m on my way. Unlike many apps, Simplenote automatically uses the first line of any note the title, making an additional title field unnecessary (more on this when we start talking potential replacements). Tagging and Sharing via Tags – While I’m not a massive user of tags, I use them to remind me if something is in the edit stage, working stage or posted stage. Simplenote’s sharing features also let me use a tag to send show notes for the Mikes on Mics podcast to my co-host, Mike Vardy.

While I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, I’m finding Notesy to be the best alternative for me. It has great search capabilities, exactly the info I want on the home screen and quick note creation. The two challenges are tags, which will now live on nvALT, but not in Notesy (and tags in nvALT will no longer allow me to seamlessly share notes). There is also a minor unresolvable issue with TextExpander1. Both of these, while annoying, are livable.

lost the ability to create notes directly from Instapaper. This integration is possible in the future, but does not seem to be on their short term roadmap.Bonus disappointment: While not critical, Notesy also doesn’t have a URL Scheme which means I’ve now

I also tried WriteRoom, Elements and WriteUp for size and they all had their own unique strengths and weaknesses. There are three features that put Notesy over the top for me: blatantly obviously sync, the note preview and simplicity. While WriteRoom and Elements allow users to force sync, Notesy’s sync button and confirmation could not be more obvious. It could just be that I’m hurting from Simplenote, but this really appealed. The notes preview also provides all three points of note data (title, multi-line preview and date modified), something that none of the other apps offer. Every app had great features that are not included in Notesy, but it is exactly that kind of pared down experience and similarity to Simplenote that has me thinking that it will be the next best thing to my once-beloved note-taking application. Goodbye old friend, you will be missed…

And now that that’s solved, back to work.

Speaking of work, I am off to Las Vegas for a trade show until next Tuesday. In my absence, I begged several of my amazing friends including Yuvi Zalkow, Aaron Mahnke, Todd Chandler, Gini Dietrich and Mike Vardy to fill in while I’m gone. I can’t wait for you to read their posts!. If you’re really going to miss me and aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself, you can get your fill on today’s Mikes on Mics podcast. See you next week!

  1. For the two of you who care, unlike Simplenote, the field Notesy uses to capture the note title will not allow you to place the cursor anywhere but at the end of the note when using TextExpander snippets. This is not a bug in Notesy or TextExpander, it is an iOS issue. You will have this same problem in apps like WriteRoom, Elements, Write Up and more.  

Drafts, Threadnote and Corrections

Drafts, Pop and Intention.Note: This post is a follow up to

So… Turns out…

I’m not good at admitting I’m wrong, so I’m just going to come out with it. I was wrong about Quick Entry applications like Drafts and Pop.

While I didn’t (and still don’t) have a problem with the execution of the apps, I was worried about putting the capture of text ahead of whatever my intention was for said text. In my own workflows, I like to try and make determinations about where something belongs and get to that application. A place for everything and everything in it’s place, if you will… While slower than opening a quick capture app, it keeps me from having one disorganized and overflowing “inbox”. Posts go in one place, tasks in another, reference materials, yet another.

Why I was wrong…

While Drafts has the potential to become that, I’ve realized that it is not the intent of the app. In hindsight, I see they it is made to quickly create text and properly file it in the right application. It’s ideal for brain dumps. Write a task for OmniFocus, fire it off. Start a draft for Simplenote, fire it off. Create a note for Evernote, fire it off. Craft a Tweet… well, you get the gist. And you can do it all from a single consistent application. While it’s still not quite for me, I do see how it is useful.

Speaking of quick capture apps…

I’m also intrigued by newcomer, Threadnote. For the sake of disclosure, I was given a free copy to evaluate, but I’m only talking about it because I was damn impressed for a 1.0 release. I’ve also had a bit of back and forth with one of the two developers and they seem very dedicated to making this a meaningful application. While it’s not quite as focused on the “quick capture” part and doesn’t have all of the features when compared to competitor Draft, it’s very interesting. It’s especially interesting for Twitter users who are interested in the idea of capture, but have struggled with implementing it into their everyday lives.

It’s like Twitter for one…

It mimics the functionality of Twitter, but is intended only to be used for yourself. While my podcast co-host posted a spoof about the idea of “Solo, The Social Network That’s Just For You“, it turned out to be a pretty darn good idea in execution. By combining all @Replies and hashtags from Twitter with search, Threadnote lets you sort through your notes with ease. You can even use geolocation, which can come in handy for things like remembering all my favorite beers and where to buy them.

Here how that works…

Your @Replies auto populate from your phone’s address book or can be added manually. You are offered a list of suggested hashtags when you first launch the application or you can add your own. The app remembers the @replies and hashtags and helps autocomplete as you write. You can also manually add in the geolocation on a note-to-note basis. All three points of data (along with search) create a search experience that blows away any of the apps I’ve tried. This alone is a killer feature, especially when you consider the kinds of naming conventions some of us use to ease the pain of searching through our note apps.

But, it’s still new…

Where Threadnote is weak is in taking advantage of the text you’ve written. In the current version you actually have to save and exit the note and re-enter back into it before you can send it to an application like OmniFocus or to a service like Twitter. It also doesn’t offer a fast way to eliminate the notes I use in other applications like Draft does, so there is the extra step of manually deleting those notes.

Do we really need another app?

There’s little doubt that there are too many apps, there’s even less doubt that there are too many capture and quick capture apps, but Threadnote has the potential to help many everyday users get started. And if they keep at it, I think they have the potential to wow some of us geeks as well. And much as I hate to admit that I was wrong, I’m finding that there is a very real need and place for applications like Drafts and Pop. Who woulda thunk it? Oh yeah, absolutely everyone whose opinion I trust on this kind of stuff…

If you are looking for a way to bring idea capture into your life, but are overwhelmed by note taking applications like Simplenote and Notesy, give Threadnote a shot. And if for some crazy reason you took my advice on Drafts and Pop, you might want to give them another look as well.

The Four Pillars of A Productive Foundation

I’ve spent years of my life struggling to get things done. I’ve done my fair share of trying to persevere through my challenges with the hopes that my desire would be enough to make things happen. Sadly, it isn’t and it wasn’t until I took a giant step back to build a sound foundation that I began to get anywhere. Most of my time and effort over the years was spent getting better at my job, focusing in on the specific tasks and skills needed to excel in my field of choice. This approach did not get me far.

It wasn’t until I discovered and dealt with the key fundamentals that I was able to become more ambitious in the projects that I undertake. It wasn’t until I built a sound foundation that I was able to improve at doing something specific.

Over time, I came to realize that there were four key areas that needed to be dealt with before I could ever do the things that I hope to accomplish in my life.

Idea Capture

It doesn’t matter if you have a great memory or the recall of a goldfish like I do, we live in overwhelming times with more input than even the most organized brains can handle. You need to have a place to put your ideas and a quick and easy process for calling them up.

My Suggested Tools: nvALT for OS X (Your Mac) and Simplenote for iOS (Your iPhone and iPad), Instapaper for iOS, Evernote for OS X and iOS.

Correspondence Management

While email tends to be the true beast here, we receive and insane amount of contact through a comical amount of media. Having a process for organizing and responding the messages that come our way is an essential part of every career.

My Suggested Tools: Gmail, Mailplane for OS X, TextExpander for OS X, OmniFocus for iOS and OS X and a CRM (I use Simplenote and nvALT for correspondence notes).

File Storage

At some point your crap will overwhelm you. Without a method for giving the tangible and digital information in your life a proper home, you will find yourself distracted (if not buried) by the reams of paper and gigs worth of files that get created every single day in the pursuit of our best work.

My Suggested Tools: Dropbox, Evernote for OS X and iOS, Hazel for OS X, Fujitsu ScanSnap1. and David Spark’s Paperless.

To-Do Management

Without a way to store the things you need to do, you will find yourself overwhelmed and you will notice things slipping through the cracks. No matter how good you are, it’s improbable that you can keep this all together without a system. For some, that will be as simple as a sheet of plain paper; for others, robust task management systems like OmniFocus will do the trick.

My Suggested Tools: OmniFocus for iOS and OS X, Due App for iOS, Fantastical for OS X, Listary for iOS and David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner.

There will be a wealth of specific tactics you need to learn and master in order to achieve your goals, but these four general areas serve as the starting point for the disorganized souls amongst us. Regardless of how obvious this list may seem, it is essential to figure out how you can best approach each of these areas. I don’t care what it is that you’re looking to do, I don’t care how hard you work, if you are one of the many amongst us who struggle, you need to create this foundation before you become distracted from your true focus. Steal what you can (both from myself and from others), but experiment and find the way that works for you. The more natural the process, the less you will have to think about it, and the more you can focus your energy on what matters: the work you’re meant to be doing.

What other skills do you believe to be essential for a sound and productive foundation?

  1. This is an affiliate link. Regardless of that fact, I still love this frigging scanner.