Virtual Note Cards
March 30, 2006 10:27 PM   Subscribe

OS X: I'm looking at outliners/organizers for the Mac, and can't seem to find just what I need. I'd like a virtual box of index cards that I can use to make an outline/lesson plan. Here is the ideal way that it would work:

  • I'd like to be able to store information in little chunks (like virtual index cards) that I can sort by keyword/subject
  • I'd like to be able to create new cards either by drag 'n' drop or through a Service (create new card from selection) to import text from other apps
  • I'd like to be able to drag 'n' drop cards into any order to create a set that I can then print (onto index cards), or
  • I'd like to be able to create an outline with my sorted set
I've found apps that are great for outlining (OmniOutliner, et al) or good for creating cards, but the drag "n" drop set creation is harder to find. I imagine the ideal would be multiple windows, with the main card database in one window (or a drawer), with the ability to drag cards into a new window/document to create the new set.

I have OmniGraffle Pro, and I've had limited success getting what I want out of that, but it is really best for titles or smaller chunks of information, and not subjects that are more fleshed out. I looked at SuperNotecard, but 1) it's a Java app, 2) it seems more geared toward creative writing (rather than presentation/lesson planning, and 3) it hasn't been updated in a while.

Does anyone use anything like this, and if so, can you point me in the right direction? Maybe you have a workflow that uses a combination of apps that is workable. Cheaper is better, of course. Thanks!
posted by al_fresco to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
I'm not sure I understand your drag and drop request or thru service from a selection. Can you give an example?

DevonThink is not an outliner on the whole, but I think it does most of what you ask. In addition, you can do things like select text on a web site and thru a Service create a new note (or card, as you call it).

You can also order the notes alphabetically or manually or by date created and you can drag and drop the order and have nested sets. You can also change the color of the notes (and their icons) to different types of statuses (I think there are 8 colors which you can define).

However, it doesn't use the terminology of cards, nor do they look like cards. I've never tried to print to 3 x 5 cards or anything with it, either.

Anyway, it's worth checking out as it's a superb program and it's affordable ($70 if I recall correctly). It's my most used application.

Two other outliners that you might want to check out are sold as brainstorming software packages: Inspiration ( and Nova Mind ( They're very visual and may be more what you want, but I rarely use them since getting devonthink. (However, I use all of these programs for outlining screenplays, not for creating cards.)
posted by dobbs at 10:35 PM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: I like the note card paradigm, because when I'm giving an oral presentation without a lot of visual aids, I like to have my notes in small, bite-sized chunks that don't take a lot of visual scanning, and that I can expound upon. An outline just takes too long, visually, to scan through and remember where I am. Make sense?
posted by al_fresco at 11:10 PM on March 30, 2006

Response by poster: I'm not sure I understand your drag and drop request or thru service from a selection. Can you give an example? posted by dobbs

I already have a lot of the information I'd like to use, but it's spread around in various documents (RTF, MacJournal entries, Word docs, etc.). I'd like to be able to compile all of this information into note-card-like chunks within one application, either by selecting the text and dragging it into a new document, or by selecting it and choosing App>Services>Create new card in APP… Make sense?
posted by al_fresco at 11:11 PM on March 30, 2006

Curio sounds like the perfect fit for your criteria. If you can swing it, the educational discount makes the edition I'm thinking of (the Professional edition) pretty affordable.

You can embed and/or link assets, have "stacks" of Curio pages within a single Curio document (with hierarchical arrangement, master theme attributes, inherited styles a la OmniOutliner & OmniGraffle, etc.).
posted by Yeomans at 11:19 PM on March 30, 2006

Have you considered Hypercard?
posted by valkane at 2:12 AM on March 31, 2006

I'd use omni outliner (good for entry, great for reordering) and then export my outline to Keynote, where I'd set up a custom format for Notecards. Then you could present from the printed cards, from your screen or whatever. You could even make a theme that looked like standard index cards if you wanted.

I think the workflow you describe is very much like the way most people work with presentations, so a presentation app like keynote or powerpoint might serve you well.
posted by n9 at 3:30 AM on March 31, 2006

Yojimbo? The name sucks but it looks like it might work in the way you describe. Demo available.
posted by voidcontext at 5:35 AM on March 31, 2006

This might be completely off base, and I don't know how it prints, but have you considered Tinderbox?
posted by gd779 at 6:56 AM on March 31, 2006

al fresco, DevonThink has the Service ability you're referring to.

1. Select text in any (Cocoa) document.
2. Choose Services > DevonThink > Make new Note

It also has some os x widgets that I believe you can drag and drop to but I haven't used them.
posted by dobbs at 8:05 AM on March 31, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I've dowloaded Curio (thanks yeomans) and it seems to be quite suited to what I'm doing, and the learning curve isn't too steep. The 15-day unlimited trial will allow me to finish my current project and assess whether I want to buy it.

valkane: HyperCard looks neat, but alas, I no longer have Classic installed.
posted by al_fresco at 10:15 AM on March 31, 2006

Sigh. There used to be a program for Classic that provided onscreen index cards and a "corkboard" to move them around on. It was swell . . .

' Course you can do that on the web now, on any Ajax page.

So, when's it coming to my desktop??
posted by zo219 at 1:54 PM on May 5, 2006

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