Looking for virtual notecards?
March 15, 2008 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm writing a research paper. I'm looking for an application that will not only allow me to write multiple notes about each source, but will also allow me to organize these notes into the structure that I plan on writing my paper. Something GUI where I can just click and drag to put them in order.

I searched previous questions and came across http://ask.metafilter.com/81362/How-to-organize-scientific-article-pdfs . While Zotero seems very close, it doesn't seem to allow me to just organize notes regardless of the source it's coming from.

Also I would prefer the ability to see a fair amount written on multiple notes at a time. Something like GoogleNotebook, but more functional. Maybe I'm looking for virtual note cards? I'm open to suggestions if you know of a program that might help, but isn't exactly what I'm looking for.

posted by JakeLL to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
It's more of a writing tool, but if you're on a Mac, Scrivener might fit the bill nicely. (Although the web site makes it look geared more for fiction, it's actually hugely useful for writing research-driven work.)
posted by j-dawg at 6:45 PM on March 15, 2008

Mindmapping? Here's an example of my old lit review done with Mindjet Mindmapper to show you structure. I used Endnote and Acrobat Pro for references. I then pulled in saved .pdf's into a mindmap.
posted by rryan at 6:49 PM on March 15, 2008

I was about to recommend Scrivener too. If you're on a Mac, definitely check it out.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:16 PM on March 15, 2008

Have you looked into Microsoft OneNote? I absolutely love it, and I'm primarily a Linux person. It's so flexible, it's amazing... It definitively has templates that can work as virtual note cards, if that's what you want. You may find that after working with it however, you may come up with another, better solution you haven't yet thought of.
posted by cgg at 7:16 PM on March 15, 2008

OneNote is very, very good. There's nothing like it on the Mac, and for flexibility it's hard to beat. It's the closest I've ever come to the friendliness of paper on a computer. You can click anywhere on the page and start typing, and it'll create a little box that expands with you. Then drag the boxes around into the order you like, and when you're happy, send it all to Word.

Can't recommended it enough. It made me get a Thinkpad.
posted by bonaldi at 7:56 PM on March 15, 2008

Like rryan, I use Mindjet Mindmapper for writing papers. I tend to brainstorm in mindmap form, anyway. If I had a laptop or a tablet (and if this wasn't my last semester), I would use OneNote.
posted by bonobo at 8:39 PM on March 15, 2008

On the mindmap front I've found Freemind to be pretty good. You can write notes, link to files (or URLs) and re-arrange it all to your liking.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:01 PM on March 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not an exact match with your description, but I think Connected Text is worth a look. I think it's excellent software for pretty cheap. There's a link on the website to an article from an academic describing how he uses CT to write his papers. A new update is about to come out and there will likely be a price increase when it does.

In depth discussion of this software genre is found at outliner software.
posted by BigSky at 11:26 PM on March 15, 2008

I've always just used the lower tech method of Microsoft Word, footnotes, and cut/paste to rearrange. I don't see how a fancier program could really save you that much time?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:55 AM on March 16, 2008

Some people swear by Inspiration for what you described.
posted by needled at 8:08 AM on March 16, 2008

I'm throwing Zotero out there. It will allow you to create multiple notes and attach them to your sources, which it will also help you manage. I haven't experimented much with getting the notes back out and how flexible/inflexible that might be. Perk: it spits out nice works cited pages in a variety of formats. If you do much research and like Firefox, it's worth checking out.
posted by wheat at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2008

I have OneNote and I love it, but for what you are describing here I use PowerPoint. Specifically, I minimize the main window as much as possible and use the side window to view the presentation in "Outline" form. Each slide looks like a little note card. You can see the title and the main bullets on each slide, and smaller text doesn't show up so well but you can zoom in on it. You can type right into the little notecards. You can write multiple presentation files and drag between them. Then when it comes to writing I set up dual screens. I keep the presentation on the left and start typing my paper up on the right. It works and it's built-in.
posted by Eringatang at 3:43 PM on March 16, 2008

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