Names, Dates, and Notes in one place

This is primarily a how to for creating a simple yet powerful name, address, phone numbers, and dates database using a mac. If you use a Windows or Linux based computer, you can follow along substituting a favorite program. If you use windows Resoph Notes can be used the same way. With Linux there are multiple programs that store and retrieve notes which you can use use.

Using syncing software that places your information on all your electronics is good for some people. Some people do not need that accessibility. Still other people (like me), keep information they do not want to trust to the cloud. If you are in the latter two groups I have a great system for you. That is if you do not need to sync across multiple platforms, and/or want your private information under your control.

With that being said, many people do sync their notes on different computers using this system. A search of the web will show you how if you want to sync across multiple computers. I do not, so I can not offer advice.

Of course there will be Eye Candy missing from the programs. There are no flashy colors or borders. No menu on top to guide you. What you will have is all your important information of all the people in your life in one place. You will have all the information you track, like birthdays and anniversaries, in one place. The best part is this information is accessible faster than you can read this sentence.

Using the ultra powerful program Notational Velocity, or it’s modified younger brother program nvALT, it is easy to create a simple powerful database for tracking people and events which are important in your life. Loosely using the filing system concept of 43 folders electronically, with a few modifications, you can have a power packed pool of information at your fingertips.

Using Notational Velocity or nvALT, you can create a simple wiki type database to track birthdays, anniversaries, phone numbers, and addresses you want to manage. You already have programs that do this I know, but if you use ical or Address Book, exporting information is not quick or fun. Plus they do not work together as one program as they are both stand alone programs.

For example, currently if you want to check birthdays, you use ical. To send a snail mail card or an email, you need Address Book or a physical address book for an address. If it is a child and you want to mention their age, you may need to look somewhere else. This will put all your information in one place.

Simple database for names and dates

Simple way to store important names, dates, and notes

When it comes to changing platforms, Notational Velocity or nvALT export your individual entries to text files which makes migration simple. All you are giving up is Eye Candy. Eye Candy is great until some point in the future when you want to migrate your information to a new platform. Then you realize your migration options may be limited, and suddenly Eye Candy isn’t all that important.

The first thing you need is either Notational Velocity or nvALt installed on your computer. Once this is done all that remains is entering information in a usable format. I copy and paste as often as possible from the source. A little tedious but it saves on typing.

I use nvALT for this because I am lazy and nvALT automagically does extra steps saving a few keystrokes when making links in the body of each note entry. I also use Notational Velocity, but for keeping more private data using database encryption.

Create a new note named Birthdays and press enter moving the cursor to the body of the note. It is in the body text area these programs really shine for this purpose. There is a small difference between programs, so here for what comes next for each of them:

In Notational Velocity note body press the left bracket twice then add your first month followed by two right brackets, like this: [[January]]. This makes January a link word. Continue for all the months.

In nvALT note body press the left bracket twice, you will see this: [[]] and your curser will be between brackets. as you type the brackets will expand fitting in the month like this [[Jan…]] expanding as you type. Mouse click to the right of the month and press return twice. Repeat these steps for each month.

Now, create notes for the actual months. Go to the label area and type in each of the months as you made links in your main Birthday note. When you have entered the months, you can go to each month note and enter dates and names of your family and friends birthdays.

This is static information that does not change, so put some thought in how you want the data to look. No need to be fancy, but decide what information is most important and should be first. I entered the date, name and actual birth year if I had it on the same line. This may be important for children’s birthdays. I also arranged the dates in descending order for readability.

When I finished entering dates and names for each month, I went back and placed the total number of monthly entries for the individual month to the right side of each Birthday note link. This method is the basis of your simple all in one digital brain! Add more notes with links using the same process for Anniversaries.

Add notes for all the people in your life to include their addresses and phone numbers, and link them as you see fit. For example, I link everyone by family name. As they grow up and marry, I will know who is who and if or how they are related.

You can also add notes for the future. This idea is from the 43 folders concept. Using the same process make a note named Notes. Add links in the note body for each month, Jannote, febnote, …,for each month. When done create a note named for after each month link in your Notes note. Now you have a repository for dated information. When you have something to do in three months, you have a note to keep it in. Or if you do not mind mixing information notes can be added to your Birthday month notes.

Make a final note and named Temp, Mytrash, Short, any easy to remember word. This is your catch all note for temporary information. Blips of information you want, but only for the short term. If you find this note beginning to get cluttered, move the old information off this note, perhaps placing it in its own note. If there is a lot of the same type of information, consider creating a parent note and making links off of it,  or create a link in your Temp note, naming a new note via link for information of this type

Entering information and linking it is only limited by your time and imagination. The data you enter can be encrypted by Notational Velocity or nvALT if you choose. The clincher is all your information can be exported one entry at a time to all entries at once. They can be exported as text files which can be read on any computer.

If you want to develop your information further, both Notational Velocity and nvALT have a note named, “Excruciatingly Useful Shortcuts” to read if you want to go beyond a basic file system and become a pro. This system is not going to win any glamor awards, but when you upgrade your computer, you will be happy exporting your information is painless and quick.

For general note taking see my previous post using both of these programs for basic note taking.

Mac Note Taking Made Easy

As with almost any OS, there are any number of note taking applications for Mac. Here are three note taking applications I use almost exclusively. I would not be happy if I had to stop using any one of them. Like you, I find I take a lot of notes. Notes may last for a few hours to notes saved for the long term. One of the biggest drawbacks with notes, is long term notes.

Long term notes

My long term notes have been created Windows, copied into Linux, and finally onto my Mac(s). Keeping notes in text file format is incredibly helpful when it comes to both long term and cross platform notes. Generally every file system recognizes the .txt ending, and every platform knows how to display text files. As long as long time notes are kept in text format, they can be emailed, placed in dropbox, put on a usb stick or backed up for long term storage.

Note taking should be simple

Three note taking apps I use on my Mac make taking and keeping notes simple. Why three applications and not a single application? I have been through the realm of organizers, one long document made up of smaller notes, and sticky notes, both paper and virtual. They all have their limitations.

Organizers tend to lock you into their format, or they duplicate your notes. Long single documents keep everything in one place, but cutting and pasting into and out of a long doucment gets messy. Sticky notes multiply until there are too many to keep track of. Too many loose sticky notes in itself become a problem.

Easy and fast note taking

Total Note Control

Take Great Notes

I use Notational Velocity, nvALt which is a modified Notational Velocity, and a third app named xPad. All three are free apps. All three apps fill a niche. Notational Velocity and nvAlt no longer share the same database, so you have two separate databases for different types of notes.

All three of these programs easily export notes as text which is critical for long term note keeping. They are simple to use, and can be used almost entirely from the keyboard of you wish. There only drawback, though use and ability override this is they are not the prettiest applications out there. There strength and ability far outweigh what they lack in looks.

Encrypted notes

I use Notational Velocity with the option of an encrypted database to store private information. The plethora of personal information we need to share grows weekly, and Notational Velocity handles it all easily. My notes are safe via encryption, and retrieved as fast as I can type in a search word or phrase.

Note Syncing, Markdown, more

nvAlt is a modified version of Notational Velocity. I use it for public notes, which if seen by others does not matter. For example, urls, command key sequences for programs, HTML examples, Markdown, any note that is not personal or sensitive. nvAlt works with drop box, so notes can be sync’d across your computers.

Short term Notes

xPad is my all around scratch pad. I use xPad for short term notes, or to jot down some important blurb of information. I am using xPad to write this post. Once this post is written, I export it from xPad into a folder. Other notes are deleted when no longer needed. xPad has a sequential directory of your notes. One icon click and your documents are displayed. If you do not name your document, xPad saves your note in as Untitled xx, with xx being the next number in the untitled note sequence you have already stored in xPad.

Save as not needed

All three applications share the freedom of not having to manually save your note. This feature ensures your notes are there when you need them. Notational Velocity and nvAlt want a name first before you go on to create your note. One that is done, your note is being saved as you type it.

These three applications cover almost all of my writing needs. I have tried most of the other popular formats, and for me, they all fall short on one way or another. These three are very straight forward, easy to use and cover all my note taking and typing needs.

Exporting notes

The ease of exporting notes is a must for keeping notes. In Notational Velocity and nvAlt, when I have stagnant notes [notes I want to keep but seldom reference], I use the export feature and save them to their own topic folder. For example, all my blog posts are kept in on one main folder. All my other long term notes find there way into a folder named by subject.

I have all my notes handy and easily located. My commonly referenced notes are mixed with notes I seldom have a need to reference. This makes searching for notes simple, without adding any additional overhead to my notes such as keywords.

More information and Downloads

If you are not using these three note taking programs already, you are missing out on something good. Try these three apps out. After a few days, I am sure you will agree, they make your note taking simple, complete, and safe. You are not sending your bank account information into the cloud and across the net. Best of all you will have the perfect note taking app for each and every note you want to create.

Notational Velocity – http://notational.net/

nvAlt – http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

xPad – http://getxpad.com/