Things I use (to write)

as of December 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

Obsidian - knowledge base. Pretty much anything I want to write down goes here, with the exception of day to day journals. I use this to make notes on things I learn, document processes and tools, and keep todo lists.

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!

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

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.

Slite - project-specific Markdown notes. I liked this one a lot since it has Markdown export, but they changed the free tier and now it's unusable. Alas.

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

Nuclino - another wiki software. Overlapped with Slite, and now with Obsidian.

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.

Amazing Marvin - (paid) Todo list. I'm bad at todo lists.

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'. And suffered performance problems.

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. This has mostly been superseded by Obsidian

Future Plans

(as of December 2020)

Obsidian has actually been a remarkably easy to use tool for me -- I think the ability to create wiki-style links and quickly hop between them, while still having Markdown source files, has been tremendously valuable. I've consolidated pretty much all of my notes, and at this point most of my todos, here.

At the same time, I've only used it for a few months, so things may continue to change.