Can you recommend a Windows research aide?
October 22, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me sort through the overwhelming choices in Windows based note-taking software?

I'm starting a nonfiction book project, and I'm going to be doing a lot of research, much of it in analog forms (as in books). Essentially I will be creating a compendium of existing, scattered information.

I'm looking for Windows software that I can use to take notes during my research. I'd like to be able to link information, tag information by subject, keep bibliographic sources and build a skeletal book structure as I research. Some portability to common word processing software would be a bonus. Though much of my research will be offline sources, I'd also like to be able to easily keep track of web based sources.

Of course, free is always good, but I don't mind shelling out $50 or so for a quality product.

So hivemind... can you help speed up my research into a tool for my research?
posted by Sustainable Chiles to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should have also mentioned that I'd like some kind of hierarchical "tree-style" visualization of categories and subcategories too.
posted by Sustainable Chiles at 10:15 AM on October 22, 2010

My favorite is Microsoft's OneNote. Serioulsy, I love that program and used it for undergrad and now use it as a digital binder for projects, ideas, goals, writing and oh so much more.
Some people really like EverNote but vastly prefer OneNote.
posted by handbanana at 10:24 AM on October 22, 2010

Five Best Note-Taking Tools

OneNote [2]
posted by querty at 10:32 AM on October 22, 2010

posted by Everydayville at 10:37 AM on October 22, 2010

OneNote is great. But if you need something cloud-based and even simpler you might try Simplenote. It also syncs to local 3rd party apps such as Resophnotes. Simplenote is very very simple and supports tags.
posted by jcmilton at 10:59 AM on October 22, 2010

I like Evernote, myself. If you think you might need to take notes from multiple devices, such as a smartphone or second PC, the fact that Evernote is cloud-based is a killer feature.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2010

Nthing OneNote, and for a cloud-based approximation: Sign up for dropbox and keep your OneNote files in your dropbox folder. It will automatically sync, back up, and give you access to them in more places. You can also easily share specific notes with other people on drop box.

There are Dropbox apps for iOS and Android, but unfortunately as of yet, it can't read OneNote files.
posted by alhadro at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2010

You can use OneNote with Office online, and you can sync it, too.
posted by sageleaf at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2010

I really wanted to prefer EverNote (free, not Microsoft) but OneNote won me over and I use it constantly.

"Though much of my research will be offline sources, I'd also like to be able to easily keep track of web based sources."

Especially useful is automatic sourcing - for example, if I copy paste something from this thread into OneNote, it automatically appends something like:
Pasted from

where the link is a hyperlink. (I've deleted opening and closing angle brackets.)

Same with offline resources - if you copy/paste text from a Word document, PDF, etc. the source hyperlink (including directory) will appear after the pasted text/graphics:
Pasted from file:///C:\Notes\MyProject\ExampleDocName.docx
posted by ceri richard at 1:41 PM on October 22, 2010

Evernote will do that auto-citing as well, ceri richard.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:25 PM on October 22, 2010

I did all my research for a Thesis in college in OneNote and it worked beautifully. You can organize things down to the page, but quickly move a page when you decide to reorganize it all again. It can take all kinds of media and store it right alongside your notes (and create links back to the original sources), and if you work on a tablet at all, it accepts handwriting really really well (and even text-recognizes it decently, too).

So n-thing OneNote, basically.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 8:23 PM on October 22, 2010

A free clean open source alternative to One Note is KeyNote. I've never used One Note and don't plan to, but it has hierarchy and linking. I still have the old version, so I don't know about tagging. If nothing else you could do a hash mark, Twitter style, as a work around. That is of course if tagging isn't supported. It may be now.
posted by magnoliasouth at 2:09 AM on October 23, 2010

JaredSeth, thanks, I know that Evernote does this (rather well too!) but I just preferred the whole OneNote experience.

When I have some time I plan to look again at Evernote, it's been some years since I tested it and I'm betting it's improved greatly (and it would be awfully nice to stop relying on a Microsoft product).
posted by ceri richard at 5:56 AM on October 23, 2010

I also suggest Evernote it works on every digital platform and the features are just fantastic.
posted by randomthoughts at 6:54 AM on October 23, 2010

I use Onenote as well, but it could definitely be improved. (I'm using the 2010 version and I was pretty disappointed by the lack of improvements in some areas that would have made the experience a lot better.)

You said you wanted to keep track of online sources. And in theory Onenote's great for this, but what I've found is that if you're copying articles from a website, you might need to paste it into word and replace "^p" with "^l^l" because onenote doesn't read the paragraph breaks and so you end up with a whole chunk of text instead of paragraphs. (Use a macro).

Double clicking on a word and dragging doesn't select more text like in Word. You have to click on before the first letter and drag it across the text. Which I think is way more fiddly.

The find function is seriously bad. If you search across your entire notebook, it just jumps to the page but then you have to use find on the actual page so that the words you were searching for is highlighted (in yellow. So avoid using yellow highlighters.) On the other hand, the OCR seems to be pretty good, though you still can't select the text.

Anyway, I like the idea of it, but some aspects of onenote just pisses me off. I think it's because I really like Word and have gotten used to it, and Onenote doesn't have every feature that is in Word. YMMV
posted by fallsauce at 10:09 PM on October 25, 2010

Try ndxCards at
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:03 PM on October 26, 2010

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