I would like to fit the entirety of my brain into a plain-text database.
August 23, 2012 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Android and Win7 compatible. Tag-based and cross-referenceable. Future-proof. Fast. I have a feeling that my perfect, personal information database solution is lurking right under my nose. But where is it?

I'm looking for a database program. Or maybe a notes program. Or an offline wiki. My requirements are fairly simple, but very specific:

1. Compatible with Android and Windows 7. Either with a built-in online sync, or with offline files that I could sync with DropBox or similar. A web-only platform might be acceptable if it was very good.

2. Tag-based organization.

3. Can cross-reference tags. What I mean by this is, I can search for all entries which have tag A and tag B. I would also like if I could search for all entries which have tag C but not tag D, but I consider that gravy.

4. Capable of handling and sorting 1000+ entries quickly.

5. Capable of storing multiple, independently-organized notebooks.

6. Future-proof. I mean, as future-proof as one can reasonably expect. I want to be able to use this same set of data for the indefinite future; decades perhaps.

All that I actually need for each individual entry is one plain text field, and one tags field. I don't need entry titles, or extra metadata, or the ability to save pictures or sounds, or to share my entries with other people, or anything else—though I don't necessarily mind those features existing, so long as they don't slow the program or get in the way.

The closest I've found so far are Evernote, Simplenote, CintaNotes, and tiddlywiki. Each of them has some factors that prevent me from diving in:

Evernote is powerful, has programs for Android and Windows AND a web version, and has pretty good tag support. But it's a bit slow and clunky, and has an enormous number of features that I do not intend to use. It allows multiple notebooks, but you can't search through just one notebook's tags; if you have ten notebooks, all of the tags from all of them get lumped together.

Simplenote is regarded by a lot of people as basically a streamlined, text-only version of Evernote, which almost makes it perfect for me. Unfortunately, there are no good Android apps for Simplenote (with the possible exception of JadeNote), and the website is not really suitable for use on a phone. The way it organizes tags is also wonky, although I suspect this may be due to my inexperience with the program.

CintaNotes is absolutely perfect, but is Windows only and doesn't sync with anything.

Finally, tiddlywiki looks promising, but I'm afraid I don't quite understand it. It seems an iffy prospect to get a version which supports cross-referencing tags, and good Android support.
posted by CustooFintel to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Flicknote is the Simplenote client for Android I use, and I think it works pretty well. I don't really like the tag handling on Resophnotes so I usually just include a line of @ preceded words in the file text (e.g., @health, @mobility). I wish it allowed at least one level of hierarchy though.
posted by gimletbiggles at 12:34 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple of months ago I set up a Tiddlywiki (we call it the F-wiki short for Farley wiki) for my boss to use to keep track of contacts and companies. We kept our search function pretty basic, but I seem to remember there being an add on to do more intelligent searches. It's supper customizable, I was able to get something that looks nice, works well, and has all the features we needed with no programing experience whatsoever.

I know he's got it on his phone, I'm not sure if he has an andriod or not. Since the whole thing's a self contained .html file, in theory you should be able to open it up with any web browser.

Me-mail me if you'd like my basic set up, I've got a few nice plug-in's I've found useful.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh I forgot to mention, we use drop box for version control (we just re-upload it whenever we add or edit an entry). Works great.
posted by Gygesringtone at 12:50 PM on August 23, 2012

Best answer: I started using TiddlyWiki back in 2006 as a personal reference database whilst studying for a PhD. It has absolutely transformed the way I handle data and made me hugely more efficient in my day to day work after collecting and indexing lots of esoteric information over 6 years.

TiddlyWiki doesn't work natively in Android, but there is a very useful app called AndTidWiki which runs it without a problem. I have my tiddlywiki in dropbox, favourited, and then open it from dropbox on my android phone and edit it with AndTidWiki (or just directly from my dropbox on my PC). Works perfectly.

Not sure about your cross-referencing question (I personally never needed that functionality in the sense that you mean it), but I would be very surprised if there wasn't a simle solution as there are so many plugins for tiddlywiki. The Tiddlywiki google group is probably the best place to ask.
posted by inbetweener at 12:55 PM on August 23, 2012

Try workflowly.com. It's basically an outlining app, where you create lots of lists within lists within collapsed lists.

1. It's web only but it works great on smartphones. An offline version is reportedly in dev.

2. Tagging and searching is excellent .

3. Can not cross-reference :(

4. Capable of handling 1000+ entries quickly. But sorting is manual.

5. The list structure is very suitable for storing multiple, independently-organized notebooks.

6. It's looking like a keeper.
posted by molloy at 6:25 PM on August 23, 2012

I personally use Springpad

free, has an android app with offline sync, and a web app which can offline sync with extentions (for chrome and firefox, possibly others)

I am not sure it's suitable for your purpose... it has the notebooks, the tags, the speed and a really amazing ability to add items and figure out an appropriate type (ie, clip a book's page on amazon and it will know to save it as a book). But the text is editable so you can add bullet points and such, so it isn't txt files.
posted by gryftir at 7:43 PM on August 23, 2012

Response by poster: Alright, thanks everyone. For posterity, this is what I've ended up with:

Going to take inbetweener's advice and use TiddlyWiki, and direct any technical questions (tag-related especially) to that group he linked to.

After gimletbiggles mentioned Flick Notes, I looked into it again. I had initially written it off because the trial version is currently unusably laggy—at least on the latest version of Android on my Galaxy S3. It turns out that this is due to the flashing advertisement at the bottom, and buying the paid version (a whole five dollars) fixes the problem. This makes Flick Notes instantly the best Android Simplenotes client, by a wide margin.

While I'm going with TiddlyWiki for my personal databases (because I have more control over them, and because I can have multiple, independent TiddlyWikis), I'm going to adopt Simplenote for its obvious use, that is, taking notes.
posted by CustooFintel at 4:30 AM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Is this solution as awesome as it seems?   |   Things to do in the Miami area... during a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.