I spent a bit of time recently comparing the different productivity applications for what will work for my admittedly simple needs. If you research online on applications that run on your ecosystem (mine is Apple), you will find those apps which just about cover all the bases and there are a bunch of adherents to those apps. Then there are the ones that split their work across multiple apps. Lets look at some constants though that I considered:
- Portability. The real thing is not the app itself; the real thing is the data or the contents or whatever. You should be able to take the data where you want and not be constrained by sets of conditions imposed by the app. So what is the most portable? Clear text or markdown is the most portable. So we will start there. You want something that is clear text and if you can start things in clear text, you are farther along than having to export from an app’s proprietary system to text.
- Centralized User Experience. If you are like me, you want a single thing that you can adopt and use that meets a set of expectations on your platform. In other words, you want to write a diary or a note or a blogpost and be able to share the data. Its much easier if the experience is similar. Another factor is where the data goes. Its easier if the data is centralized in the cloud and not on some individual device somewhere.
- Fits your life and style. You want something that if you write an article, story, blogpost, diary entry it fits. For me this has meant experimenting with so many apps but finding one that lets me bring all the little things together that have to do with text and notes.
- Understand diversity and embrace though. Some things just do not fit in clear text and you have to be flexible. Perhaps a list of travel destinations, itineraries, and reservations is best served in a spreadsheet like Google Sheets. Be flexible and understand and appreciate the diversity. Also be the first to admit your particular choice is not the one and be ready to move. Hoping your data is portable (see part 1 above).
- Be productive, happy, and enjoy your work, play, information. If you are not happy with the choice you will not use the choice. Instead you will seek out exceptions to the methods and soon if you are a lumper the information is split across many distinct apps. Not what you want? Perhaps time for a change. If you are a splitter, its all okay because you know the mind map where things are. This information in this app, diaries in that app, notes are in another app. Blog posts in yet another app.
So the last rule is the most important in all of them. You have to be happy with the choice. If its enforced it reminds me when I worked using Microsoft Project for project schedules. No one was completely happy with the choice but we all chose it anyways. Perhaps it met a threshold of use which is another idea. Is there a threshold of use or diversity which is acceptable? Like if its meets 75% of your needs its okay and you can deal? Give it some thought and perhaps there is no one tool for you that meets the goal and you decide to splump. Splumping is my word for doing both and you basically decide because the threshold is not met you need to find the tools that work the way you want.
So you may ask me what is the tool? There are as many tools and approaches as blogs and everyone captures notes, diaries, information the way it works or perhaps does not work for them. For me, clear text is the portability thing. I also want all the information in one place where I can go where the tool presents it in a way that makes me able to find, add, delete, edit the information in a single place. Finally for me it has to empower me, make me happy to use the tool, and be able to sit down and use it with no hesitation.
If you are the classic lumper you will want a single source of the power. If you are a splitter, its easier to draw that mental mind map with muscle you have and know diaries are in Day One, notes are in Evernote, writing is in IAwriter or Ulysses. You know the map, right?
I am not a splitter though. What I want is a single bucket where all the ideas flow from. I don’t have many ideas but what I want is a way to take what I do have and not search across the MAC hard drive for a thing. Here are my rules and exceptions. See what you think:
- If its information with words and text, it goes into Ulysses. This includes diaries and journals, blog posts, ideas, thoughts, travel plans at a high level with graphics included.
- If its clear text based, it goes into Ulysses. All the basic notes and classifications, web links and pages I wish to study and keep. It all goes via the Ulysses share app from Chrome.
- If it is not clear text based, it may be better served to be in a spreadsheet. Some things like detailed travel plans are just better served in a spreadsheet like Google sheets.
- If its an image or a PDF and it supports 1 or 2 above, it gets added as an attachment to the note in Ulysses.
So what does this do for me workflow wise? It gives me a single bucket more or less besides 3 above to find things, tag things, search for things, export things if I need to. Writing is not about the next great American novel. Writing is any time you put figurative pen to paper. What do you want to capture? How do you want it saved? What will happen years from now if you happen to turn all this over to someone else? I have this dream of some day turning over the Ulysses library to my daughter. It will have a decade of journals and notes, ideas, curses, wonderment and…
I really want the content to shine through so it must be in clear text and it must be portable and meet all the criteria I’ve laid out. I can accept spreadsheets for things and let them help me but if its information in words and notes, it belongs in the central repository.
For me that repository is Ulysses. Perhaps if you are not on a Apple ecosystem, you will find something else. But I have to admit its why I chose Apple stuff. Its not merely the hardware or software once removed. It’s the ecosystem. Its how it all comes together and integrates. For me, Apple does it best. No pressure and stress folks!
Perhaps for you it’s something else. Give it some thought though. Information, access to information, backing up information, finding and searching reams of information. Very important stuff. You may be like me and only have a few buckets. But why not make the buckets easier on you. Clear text and markdown will always be easier. Its the basic cross platform thing defined well. Words. Simple words.
Now what you do with the words, their influence, how they turn your world is something else. Thanks for reading this slight variation on my travel stuff. Its been brewing for awhile since Thailand. Ulysses just gives me a platform to write whenever on iPhone or Mac.