Organizing one's personal information can be amazingly complicated, especially if you want fast and light weight access to commonly used information, and you access information across devices and operating systems. It is even trickier if you want to future-proof yourself so you can access all of your information in the future as well. I have tried many solutions including Outlook Notes, OneNote, my own NoteLens, and EverNote. However, I think I have a solution that works for me (based on this solution by dougist) - at least for my basic unstructured stuff. And the solution is both simple (relying on the most basic of storage systems - a folder of text files) and complex (relying on multiple syncing services and end-user UIs). Note that even though I still use Windows a fair amount, I run it in a VM on a mac, so this software is all Mac, but of course since the data is all text files, everything is also accessible on the PC side. Here it goes:
- Everything is stored as individual text files in a single folder. Sure, I lose fancy formatting and images, but I get guaranteed future-proofness, I don't waste time formatting, and it turns out that I don't really need images. And tagging is supported if I wanted to add a bit of structure.
- I use Microsoft's free peer-to-peer Live Sync cross-computer cross-operating system syncing solution. I've tried the others (SugarSync is unreliable, and DropBox requires all the synced files to be under one directory - ugh!). Live Sync is fast and reliable. I love it. (Although I got mad at Microsoft when they didn't update it for Snow Leopard for 2 months).
- I use my buddy Jesse Grosjean's free SimpleText program to sync the text files to a free Google-based web service that he runs. Note that this has one flaw which is that it sends stuff up to the web whenever there is a change, but only pulls stuff down when you sync manually - so one option I am considering is to use it on one computer, and then use my existing Live Sync solution to sync those files across all my desktops (while I wait for Jesse to add auto sync down from the cloud.
- I use Jesse's WriteRoom for iPhone app ($5) to sync those files to my iPhone and access them there.
- I use Jesse's WriteRoom for Mac app ($25) for full screen, distraction-free text editing.
- I use the open source Notational Velocity program on Mac (which is remarkably similar to my earlier NoteLens app)
- I was able to export my notes out of EverNote as HTML, and then used the freely available HTMLAsText (for Windows) to convert to text. (I wanted to like EverNote - it has a great feature list, but in practice, it didn't work for me. The UI was too heavyweight, layout changed between operating systems which was a nightmare, the UI was quite different between operating systems which was annoying, and I didn't like the Windows UI which had a weird scrollbar, and made a vertical list of all the notes rather than a notebox that just displayed a single note).
I also use Microsoft OneNote for my meeting notes (with the data synced across computers with Live Sync). This makes me uncomfortable because it is Windows only and the data is totally locked in to OneNote. But the UI for note-taking that combines very flexible formatting of notes along with images, embedded files (like PDFs) and ink (when I occasionally use a tablet) make it unmatched - so far.
Notational Velocity UI
(Note: screen capture and annotation with Skitch)