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Ask HN: How do you keep track of your notes at work?
60 points by zuzuleinen 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments
Hey guys,

I'm trying to find a tool/a way to add notes while I'm at work(code snippets mostly). For those of you who already do this can you recommend me one?

I tried gist.github.com, but I don't really like the UI. I'm checking boostnote.io, but I'm curious if there are better ways/tools for doing that.

Emacs Org mode in a git repo. Pull /push to sync. Export as needed. Lots of little files per task or document.

I've tried every other software system and this is the one I come back to. Invest in getting this the way you like, and it'll pay off better than anything else. Custom agendas, remember mode, Babel export, the benefits just keep adding up.

For meeting notes, or quick todos, sometimes paper makes sense. Treat that paper as queued input for org mode.

For when you have to sit down and really think a complex problem through, high quality pen (fountain for me) and paper that just makes it feel good to write. The tactile feeling really helps nudge more out of you. When you have it figured out, refer to that when planning in org mode.

Without too much effort, I keep a NOTES file in each project directory. I keep it out of source-control. Anything that is worth preserving (backed up and checked in) goes in README. I also use a file called SCRAP for ephemeral matters, again, in each project root, not checked in. A great pattern that has served me well.

Great system. I do something similar by creating a "_misc" folder out of source control. The "_" is so that alphabetically it is listed at the top and not intermixed with actual project folders.

I use it to store code snippets, prototyping scripts, misc notes that don't fit in my main folder system for notes/todos, query output, and other random items. If the _misc/ directory becomes too cluttered , then I throw most of the items into an "archive_$DATE" sub-directory (inside _misc).

I'm still working on a broader, general organization system for notes, documents, links, todos, etc... (lots of good ideas in this thread). But this works well for more ephemeral project-specific stuff.

I do the same. A simple text file that's not in git, structured a bit like markdown. I keep it open in vim, so it's always there when I need it.

I've tried using more complex tools like vim outliner and evernote, but simple text files work better for me.

I have a stack of paper in front of me. When a page has been sufficiently doodled with checkbox lists, I either put them in an archive stack or I toss them in the bin.

I use Quiver (http://happenapps.com)

Latex, markdown, code cells with full syntax highlighting for dozens of languages. File format is JSON based so an entire work notebook can be thrown in version control and shared between a team.

Also a big fan of Quiver. Anything I have to google twice goes into quiver as a code snippet. Trying to get in the habit of doing bullet points about what I worked on each day.

+1 on Quiver. I'm really sad that it's not on Linux.

nvALT. (http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/)

I've tried fancier things like Bear, Evernote, and Workflowy, but keep coming back to the simplicity of nvALT. Evernote is for recipes. Bear is for avoiding rich text editors. Workflowy is for logging research notes.

nvALT is for everything else + kitchen sink.

I use regular Notational Velocity. Didn't know about this fork, will have to try it out.

FSNotes is another NV-like alternative: https://github.com/glushchenko/fsnotes

I recommend using regular textfile storage with both of these, I had horrible corruption issues when using Dropbox for syncing. Lots lots of notes. Make regular backups!

Yeah, the fork is hands-down better. I use Simplenote to sync to other devices (including my phone).

I am quite happy with OneNote from Microsoft. It has decent enough Android, iOS and web versions as well and is free. Sadly I believe Microsoft are retiring the Win32 version in favour of UWP :(

I was using BoostNote, then Quiver, then settled on VimWiki using Markdown instead of the native format for my entries. It’s been invaluable and all of my notes are much more portable/transferable.. even as opposed to the cell-based JSON structures of the aforementioned.

TiddlyWiki is pretty nice.


I used to use it regularly, though my notes aren't generally terribly organized and nowadays I just use disposable legal pads.

Only one note pad file called worknotes.txt It starts like 20 '=' symbol on one line followed by date dd/mm/yyyy and in next line myNotes. Next day if I want to note down something again 20= followed by date and then notes. Like this I have been using same file for last 8 years in my current company.

I used to do the same, it works great. Super easy to find that random snippet or bit or information in Vim. The main reason I moved on (to Zim Wiki) was because my notes on the same subject became scattered around, instead of being organized by subject.

Bear (http://www.bear-writer.com) supports Markdown and has cross-device sync via iCloud. It's not the best for writing code but if you're copy/pasting existing code from another editor it's good.

Bear is great for organising notes. The style of #projects/open-source/react for example makes it really easy to be as broad or direct as necessary. Makes finding notes where you're not entirely familiar with the content much easier.

I use Zim Wiki ( http://zim-wiki.org ). My requirements, which it fulfills perfectly, are: open source, non-proprietary format, text file storage (which I store inside Dropbox, so that solves syncing), cross-platform, hierarchical notes, some sort of markup for section headers, highlighting etc., links to other notes. Zim Wiki has many more features, but that's enough for me.

Drawbacks: its search functionality seems to miss stuff sometimes, though I haven't figured out why yet. So I'm used to using ag (silver searcher) when I can't immediately find something.

Edit: added cross-platform requirement

Emacs with org-mode.

org-mode is too good though, I always find myself getting distracted by all the great things I can do to optimise the note-taking I'm not doing

Paper and pen for when I listen to a podcast or audiobook or read a book. The key points that I want to keep for each '"project/hobby I make a Playbook (word file).

I used to use Evernote but privacy changed my mind (can't keep IT Sec notes for clients' systems on 3rd party.

Also tried MS OneNote but it gets to complicated after the 5fth project with 10 sheets each (although the search rocks)

I am now looking into Scrivener, it's a s/w for book writers but it helps keep things structured and you can move around notes, merge etc.

I carry a PocketMod http://pocketmod.com/ with me, to the amusement of my colleagues.

I used to have a TiddlyWiki and then later a Wiki-On-A-Stick http://stickwiki.sourceforge.net/ in my DropBox, but they became a bit awkward to work with as the (non-standard) browser features they depended on for saving got removed.

These days I use Evernote.

PocketMod looks convenient. There's a LaTeX template to create them.


This is a small script to create a PocketMod from a pdf.

    #!/usr/bin/env bash
    pdftk "$INPUT" cat 2 3 4 5 1down 6-8down output "$OUTPUT"
    pdftops -level3 "$OUTPUT" in.ps
    psnup -p"$PAPERSIZE" -d -nup 8 in.ps out.ps
    ps2pdf -sPAPERSIZE="$PAPERSIZE" out.ps "$OUTPUT"
    rm in.ps out.ps

I've used Simplenote (https://simplenote.com/) for years. Can recommend.

Seconding simplenote. Works across platforms (macos and android for me) plus web. Doesn't do anything clever, other than markdown integration and basic tagging, but what it does works well.

I use vim in a terminal after ssh-ing into my home server. I generally use one file for each project/tool and use grep to find stuff. When I type information about a tool I'll try and put "tags" about it after/near the information and then search for those tags with grep and return line numbers for I can go look it up. I've been doing this for 4 years now and it works pretty well.

I use Microsoft OneNote. It has some great features, plays well with Outlook.

Same, I use OneNote for planning, brainstorming, and storing snippets and random important info. I don't have to worry whether I saved changes, unlike when I used Notepad++ and kept losing notes. I also do a lot of pen-and-paper scribbling, especially when working on an issue for a customer.

I can access OneNote via the web too, so I'm not limited to my Windows workstation for access to my notes (I use two Linux based laptops for inventory and other "on the go" tasks). I think it's one of the best applications to ever come out of Redmond.

If the code snippets are useful enough to me, I tend to add them to the repository under some title like "tools" or "scripts". That way other people can benefit from them and help improve them if they are useful. Otherwise the knowledge/time dies when I move away from the project.

Documentation wise, I use Markdown (religiously keeping it to 80 characters) and Pandoc to build any kind of output. Again, I normally just add this stuff to a Wiki somewhere. I've been terrible at keeping this stuff up to date, but for the most part it acts as a good starting point and either myself or someone else in the team can update it.

On a different note, I would be careful about adding content related to work to outside resources (run this by somebody). Personally I like to stay in control and not rely on some relatively small company still being around in 10 years time.

Edit: +1 also for using paper and pen for coming up with ideas, etc. Most things start there for me and then end up being digitized.

I use Gollum (https://github.com/gollum/gollum) which is the engine for Github's wikis.

It used to be harder to stand it up for personal use, but now it's quite easy.

I write my notes in Markdown, and have fenced code blocks. It provides search. You can do diffs.

Work notes I have separated by subject across various text files, using ### to delineate a topic. I then use Sublime Text 3 find in all open files (has regex option) as my notes can overlap the way they're separated.

Google Keep is what I use when I need to make a fast note to look up something later with no urgency.

I'll use PushBullet to push a link or something from my phone to my desktop for when I'm back at that device (I have it setup on my phone/laptop/chromebook).

For focused writing, I'll use a vim plugin called Goyo (https://github.com/junegunn/goyo.vim).

I think I'm a bit of a mess but this is actually a refinement of systems. One day it'll be perfect!

I’ve tried many notes application but the setup that works best for me is to collect all notes under one root directory (organized by project) and point sublime text to that root director. Powerful editing and easy to search. Sync via a remote git repository.

What do you use to search?

I search from within the text editor. I'm on a Mac so the files are searchable via Spotlight as well.

I usually have this sublime window open in a separate Desktop so it is easy to switch to it.

Yes this. Ctrl/super+shift+f is the hotkey as it is usually, which defaults to the folder the file is in. You can right click a folder in the file tree on the left to search within that folder, or modify the folder you're searching in. Another useful trick is to add a ", *.<filetype>" after the directory you're searching to limit the files.

The best part of searching in Sublime is the speed and the formatting of the results. It opens a "Find Results" tab just like another file, and it accumulates all you're searches there. Very fast and easy to browse.

I use Sublime for notes too, not because I think it's a really good way for taking notes, but more along the lines of the legal pad note takers: I just needed to jot stuff down quickly and didn't want to hassle with anything. I already edit code in sublime, so it's comfortable for me to always have it open.

I always have a window with just my notes folder open, and I make a new file for each day I take notes, named after the day. I do waste some time flipping through files, but there aren't that many to go through, and the search is there to deep dive into the entire history.

Sublime has always been quick to restore anything I haven't saved. On Windows it has a session file in AppData/Roaming or something. I did get bit by running out of hard drive space during Windows updates, and the session file ended up empty. Lost everything in it (unsaved files, open windows/files, searches).

I have found that Sublime is pretty slow with opening files on network drives. I still use notepad++, partially for that reason. I've also had a better time dealing with whitespace characters there, so I use it for random of commands and I/O I'm working with.

You can also search the "search results tab" using single file search. Sublime is such a great tool.

> I use Sublime for notes too... I always have a window with just my notes folder open, and I make a new file for each day I take notes, named after the day.

Nice, we've converged on the same solution. I do daily plain text note files, and organize them into weekly folders. I sometimes create multiple per day if I'm working on more than one thing, or I want to dive deeper on one aspect.

For example: "4-12.txt" (the general one for the day), "4-12 Foo Schema.txt", "4-12 Baz Feature List.txt"

Sometimes I'll use markdown files instead of plain text if I want better readability. I'll switch from Sublime Text to the Typora markdown viewer/editor for those files. Typora is a pretty impressive tool as well. The nice thing about markdown that these files are still readable in Sublime, so I can switch between the two tools easily.

Following a comment I saw on HN a few months ago, I started keeping a daily log for my professional work. It contains what I did that day but also include code snippets and other interesting tidbits I need remembered.

It's a simple text file so I can easily search in it. But I use the 'jrnl' python script to help me append to it or view the lasts entries.

I found the practice very helpful, it helps me track the previous days or if I had to stop in the middle of a task but also help my work/life balance.

I usually set aside the last ten minutes of works to fill it. And if I had to leave in a rush I just send myself a mail from the train so I can append it the next morning.

I don't sync it and just leave it on my computer at work.

I write either plaintext or Markdown files and save them to Dropbox.

When I need to write from my phone or tablet, I use the Editorial app for iOS, which can read and write these files and sync with Dropbox as well.

With nuclino(http://nuclino.com). It's a real time, collaborative markdown wiki.

I wrote about how I manage my time here:


Basically, vim and notes in asciidoc on my home server stored in git.

Qownnotes has been working well for me of late.

It can synchronise with Own/NextCloud (I don't use that) and/or a local folder full of markdown files (with git versioning if you like).


I always think of things on the way home from work, or on the weekend, that I want to remember. So I need something that I can synchronize from my phone. I was using OneNote for a while, but it started having synchronization problems so I now use the Apple Notes app.

I just started using Evernote. The only thing I don't like about it is no Markdown support.

I also have my own private visualstudio.com environment - MS Team Foundation Services hosted version. (yes it uses GIT). It has a wiki that uses Markdown.

I use a single text file per application/project. On a Mac, so I have this file open all the time in TextWrangler. Cmd+f to search for what I need.

I have tried other more complicated things but always end up back to basics.

Confluence is where I put everything that isn’t in source control.

I've tried a lot of alternatives and haven't found anything that works better for storing scattered notes (like different kinds of code snippets) than an SQL database.

I made a wiki that I render with GitBook. I edit it in Sublime Text with vim mode.


Another quiver user here. I really wish it were cross platform. One of these days, I’m going to make a web app interface to it for when I have to use a pc.

https://notein.com - open source, simple and powerful

I use boostnote.io (https://boostnote.io).

I used Evernote for sometime but the UI is kind of wonky. Now, going for ol' plain white paper.

Pasteapp for Mac/iOS. All my snippets are in my clipboard history and pinned snips.

Composition notebooks and pencils. Paper and pencil helps me focus better.

when I dumped Evernote over their pricing years ago I switched to DS Note since I owned a Synology NAS. It's got free mobile, desktop, and web apps to accompany it if you already own the hardware

Ulysses. Code snippets coming in new version (beta now)

Use a mix of Asana, paper, and Google docs.

I use notepad++

I have tried everything else. Believe me.

Jupyter and github/bitbucket

notion.so is great: wiki, version control, nice UI

Google calendar

dropbox paper

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