The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Documentation Needs, Met

Notes have long been the hole in my digital setup. I’ve tried many different options over the years. Write, Notes, plain text files in Finder, Simplenote, and Yojimbo back in the day. When I first started using Ulysses, it seemed like a good option as well. But the lack of an iOS version kept me from adopting it fully. Finally, Day One was also a good option for certain things.

However, what resulted from all this was fragmentation. I could never remember where a specific note was. Did I jot this down in Ulysses? If so, where? Is it in Notes? Did I write an entry in Day One? Or am I imagining things and I never made a note of the item in question at all? There were too many moments where I spent too much time looking for something with no clear idea of where it might be.

That needed to change.

Like Ben Brooks, Ulysses on iOS was a big help for solidifying my notes usage. Today, together with Day One, these two apps meet 95% of my documentation needs. Before I talk about how I use them, let’s clarify exactly what I mean with the word “documentation”.

Notes of All Sorts

When we Mac users say “notes”, we tend to mean smaller bits of information that need to be remembered later. Like a grocery list for the store. Or our tax instalments for the year. Or maybe a couple of links to websites we’d like to refer to for a project at work. What we’re talking about is usually “information” rather than “files”.

This encompasses a lot of my “notes” usage. But I also include a few other types. Almost all writing starts in Ulysses for me. This newsletter. Blog posts for the Wildbit or Beanstalk blog. Posts to our internal company intranet. Bits of conversations with customers. It all goes into Ulysses. First drafts, reference materials, and conversations are get stored in one place.

The last the of documentation is activity based. What did I do? I create a daily log type of entry in Day One and add it to my Wildbit journal. This is where I jot down what I did each day and, when appropriate, note my thinking for certain decisions or record my findings for research efforts. I’ve also described the other types of things I put into Day One recently . But for work related items, it’s nice to be able to review my thinking for a particular decision weeks or months down the road.

Because of all the different types of details I’m storing, “reference material” might be a better term to use than “notes”. Regardless, Ulysses and Day One are my new jam.

Organization

Personally, I just have a long list of groups and sub-groups in Ulysses (aka folders). Each group can contain sub-groups and/or sheets (in this app, a sheet is like a “document”). Most of my writing and reference material is pertinent to one — and only one — area of my life, so the list of folders works well.

Ulysses also comes with the ability to add keywords to a sheet (aka tags). This would be the same as tags in OS X. And, like most applications that support tags, I’ve never used it. With a service like Pinboard, tags work great and make sense. But for a writing app, my brain wants to group together related materials. And so the tried and true method of hierarchical folders works for me, where tags do not.

Day One is a different beast due to its nature. It’s a chronological ordering of entries. That makes sense for my usage: I want to recall what I did at a certain point in time. However, it also support tags and this is an app where I use them abundantly.

My different entry types (TFC, home maintenance, brews etc) are tagged accordingly so I can filter the main timeline down to the list of entries I’m interested in at a given moment. As well, I use a separate journal for Wildbit, so I’m able to filter entries for only that to narrow down what I’m looking for.

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