Things I use (to write)

as of March 2020.


I write a lot for someone who doesn't particularly like writing. I also tend to forget where I wrote things, so I have a lot of scattered notes everywhere that I misplace fairly often, despite the fact that they're all on a computer somewhere. Part of this is because I'm always chasing that writing app holy grail, and keep on signing myself up for new writing tools, and then dropping a few notes in them before forgetting which ones I've already used. This is sometimes as bit frustrating.

However, this also means that I've used a lot of writing apps, organizational strategies, notetaking tools, what have you. Which I have opinions about. And hopefully, by writing down the tools that I've used and what I remember I put in them, maybe it'll help me make sense of this bizarre system I use.

I generally split my tools into three categories:

  • Inbox - tools that are used essentially as a brain dump, for me to input raw thoughts or notes and come back to them later. Todo lists, quick thoughts, etc. tend to go here. This is also where I end up losing the most notes. I write on both Windows and iOS, which might explain the randomness.
  • Outbox - tools that are used to store long-term thoughts in a more shareable / publicly accessible format. Generally, the 'finished product' of anything I write (that isn't a part of another larger project). I try to keep these a bit more organized so that I don't lose things as easily.
  • Editors - tools used to write stories. These are what I use when I have a long piece of writing that I am editing over many days, or long pieces. Usually, the Inbox / Outbox apps have some level of storage to them (for file syncing), the Editors generally are desktop apps where the content is saved to hard disk or Dropbox.

Inbox Tools

Evernote - Web, desktop app, iOS. Once upon a time, I used this as my Inbox and I didn't need anything else. Sadly, the free version limited to 2 apps, so I ended up scattering a bunch of notes everywhere else. There's still a lot of orphaned text here, but I can always go back and search through it.

Inspire - (paid) Windows only. I really like notetaking apps where you can group notes together and have subfolders that are themselves notes (sort of like how Scrivener does it), which is why I picked up Inspire. However, not having iOS sync really bites. I use this for personal notes on some side projects.

Roam Research - web app. I read an interesting article on how people use it to organize their thoughts, so thought I would try my hand at trying to use it. It's mostly fallen into the same problem of 'I have too many apps for this'. Has a few computer setup docs because I setup a computer while I was using it.

Day One - (paid) journaling app, iOS only. Ah, if this had a Windows version, then I'd probably use it much more often. There was a time when I did use it to journal on a daily basis, but I'm not a natural journaler, and the lack of Windows versions means I have trouble refining anything that goes here.

Draft - iOS only. Barebones notetaking that can export to Dropbox and Google Drive. Push only, this is where I tend to write things that I think of at 2 AM and need to get down but don't actually want to read again.

Discord - I have a server that is pretty much exclusively for me writing notes to myself. I use it mostly for link-sharing. Having multiple channels is also really useful!

Slite - project-specific Markdown notes. I like this one a lot since it has Markdown export, but the free tier limitations give me pause. I'm considering looking into Confluence for that purpose, but that'd be another thing to move documents around on...

Amazing Marvin - (paid) Todo list. I'm bad at todo lists, but this is the one that's stuck with me the longest.

Outbox Tools

Google Docs - Do I actually like Google Docs? Not really. But it's usable, everyone's familiar with it, and so it is generally where I store knowledge docs for collaborative projects. The main things that Google Docs lack is 1. a nice linking system and 2. markdown support, so if I could use a wiki software I probably would...but everyone knows how to use Google Docs.

This website - ...is saved as a series of Markdown files on Dropbox, and the journal section contains a lot of more polished notes. Anything that is a 'nice to know' that I am comfortable with putting public ends up here.

Editors

VS Code - my bread-and-butter editor for both code and prose. I write most of my words in Markdown, so the default syntax highlighter works nicely for me.

Typora - Markdown editor for desktop. Mainly for if I really want to style up my writing as I'm writing it - sometimes it helps with focus.

Other tools that I've used that I've definitely abandoned by now

Notion - I ran out of blocks. It's a good tool, but overlaps in feature set with Slite and Inspire.

Nuclino - another wiki software. Overlaps with Slite.

Scrivener - Novel-writing software. I really like how you can organize your documents in Scrivener, but the Markdown support is spotty and the syncing solution is fairly cumbersome. I've mostly switched over to using raw Markdown files for larger writing projects.

Todoist - I'm bad at Todo apps.

Future Plans

(as of March 2020)

This is still too many apps. I'd like to get to the point where I'm not relying upon 7-8 different tools to jot down my thoughts, which probably means I'll have to do a big note migration at some point in the near future.

A lot of the apps I've used have had both similar feature sets and similar styles, which is probably why it's so easy to get them mixed up. I also like trying new apps to see how they work, and then whoops I've got writing scattered all over the internet. I have the same problem with todo lists and organizational apps.