I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Searching for the perfect notes app

For the last 6 months or so I have been using Roam Research as my notes app. The daily note turned into my home from home allow­ing me to cap­ture things through­out the day. Thoughts, feel­ings, meet­ing notes, tasks, art­icles I read, videos I watched, everything got noted down in the daily note. Using the ser­vice has encour­aged me to read more wisely, mak­ing notes from art­icles that are use­ful and cap­tur­ing high­lights and thoughts as I read books.

Over the last month or so, I’ve noticed my usage start to drop off. Some of it is related to me hav­ing days off from work, so I’m not in front of my Mac all day, but that’s not the sole reas­on. I’m writ­ing this on my iPad which has become my main per­son­al com­puter. Mac for work, iPad for me. I star­ted to real­ise that this is part of the reas­on I’ve been using Roam less even though I still wanted to cap­ture notes and thoughts. I don’t find the exper­i­ence of Roam on the iPad to be that pleas­ant. There are too many little quirks and bits that don’t quite work prop­erly that mar the exper­i­ence enough to to make me want to stop using it.

So in the last week I star­ted to draw up a short­l­ist of apps to try in an attempt to replace Roam. In order to really under­stand if some­thing can grow in to a replace­ment I need to under­stand how I’ve been using Roam and what I have come to find really use­ful about it.

What are the key features I’m after?

Daily Notes

I’ve come to real­ise the joy and free­dom in hav­ing a Daily Note open on my screen all day. It has become my main place to cap­ture any­thing and everything. Art­icles I read, what’s on my mind, notes from meet­ings I’m in, tasks that come in. Each new item gets a time stamp and then I write down what I need.

References to blocks and pages

This is new func­tion­al­ity to me but one that I’ve quickly under­stood the value of. Being able to ref­er­ence some­thing with a back link is really power­ful. If I’m in my Daily Note and jot some­thing down about a pro­ject, being able to quickly link to that pro­ject page and have what I wrote appear there is invalu­able. It frees up thoughts for think­ing instead of focus­ing on put­ting it in the right place in my system.

Embedding blocks

These are even more power­ful and I think have become really import­ant for me. On a Sunday as I watch church on You­Tube (who knew that would be a thing?) I make notes on the ser­mon. I’ve taken to adding the bible pas­sage broken down verse by verse in a sep­ar­ate note, then when I need to make a note about a verse I embed the block and write a note under it. Hav­ing the text vis­ible is really use­ful and hav­ing the bible pas­sages auto­mat­ic­ally ref­er­ence all the notes I make over time will be really insightful.

Capturing tasks

This is a simple one, but a quick way to cap­ture tasks in a meet­ing without hav­ing to change app focus is great. Even bet­ter is the abil­ity to send those tasks to my ded­ic­ated task man­ager where I can organ­ise them after the meeting.

Journal

This final one is a little up in the air at the moment. I used the Daily Note of Roam to help me start journ­al­ing again and since begin­ning this quest to find a more nat­ive exper­i­ence I’ve dus­ted off Day One and star­ted to use that instead. As I reflec­ted on how I had been Journ­al­ing in Roam, I real­ised that I didn’t inten­tion­ally use any of the con­nec­ted thought fea­tures for it. Ques­tion­ing why that was, I real­ised it’s because what I’ve been journ­al­ing about isn’t neces­sar­ily related to what I’ve been think­ing about or work­ing on, instead it’s more about pro­cessing how I feel and am hand­ling situ­ations. So for now I’m going to use Day One for this part of my writ­ing, although it lacks the con­veni­ence of hav­ing one place to write I think the trade off is bet­ter for me.

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