Emerging Classes of Note-Taking Apps

Emerging Classes of Note-Taking Apps

(Justin DiRose) #1

Originally published at: https://productivityguild.com/2018/emerging-classes-of-note-taking-apps/

If you’ve paid any attention to productivity news in the last 6-8 months, there has been a lot of talk around note-taking apps. Note-taking apps are part of the productivity trifecta (task managers, calendars, and notes), so this attention is no surprise. And of course, with this attention usually comes a flurry of “What are…

(Beck Tench) #2

Nice post, @justindirose!

Don’t forget about Tinderbox, probably a category on its own, or perhaps one to be lumped with other more visual note approaches like The Brain and mind-mapping software. If you aren’t familiar with it, you may find this recent blog post I made about how I use Tinderbox to keep a Zettelkasten, which may shed some light on how very different it is (watch the fourth video for the best use case).


An interesting taxonomy that raises the thought that to be properly equipped for purposes that require research, thought and writing one may need more than a single note-taking application (which actually I agree with). No single application is likely to satisfy all requirements across the board.

BTW Eaglefiler ([https://c-command.com/eaglefiler/]), a long-standing competitor of DevonThink, Evernote and Keep It and its predecessors, perhaps ought to be included in the Reference Library category?


Now you put the theme song of, “Pinky and The Brain” into my head. :slight_smile:

(Justin DiRose) #5

Oh yes, that’s very interesting. I didn’t include Tinderbox on the list because it’s more of a mind-mapping app, but that does make a lot of sense! Great suggestion.

I hadn’t heard of EagleFiler prior to your mentioning it. Do you have any experience with the software? How does it work for you if you do?

(Beck Tench) #6

Ah, but that’s not true! It may look like a mind-mapping app, but it’s actually a note-specific content management system. It’s entire philosophical underpinnings are in the taking, connecting, referencing, and sharing of notes.

So very much more than mapping, though conceptually mapping is a great feature in the app.


My experience with Eaglefiler is relatively limited. I think I may have had a licence at one point (now no longer), but I’ve always followed its development with a keen interest. It’s probably most comparable with the now discontinued apps KIT and Together, with, like them, its folders accessible in the Finder. Unlike its current rivals Keep It and DevonThink, it doesn’t have an iOS sibling app. From evidence elsewhere, it’s partly distinguished by the knowledge (about macOS in general as well as Eaglefiler) and approachability of its developer, who’s also responsible for the (well-regarded, I believe) SpamSieve app.


I know that Eastgate, the developer of Tinderbox, focuses a lot on the role of the application in the handling of notes. But to me that somehow implies usability features, possessed by apps such as Bear, Notability or Apple Notes, that Tinderbox lacks.

For me, Tinderbox notes are simply a medium. The goal of the application and what makes it so useful, at least for me, is - if this doesn’t sound too pompous or grandiose - the management and structuring of thoughts.

(Beck Tench) #9

Agree w/both the points you make here, Hugh. Well put.

(John Johnson) #10

I tried really hard to use Tinderbox, but it never seemed to give me any benefit. I struggled with the ancient UI, things not staying zoomed or panned when you entered or exited a container note, etc. Then about the time all that was going on, it was time to pay for another years updates at $98, after having spent, what, $250 on the app plus $35 on his book?
Since then, I’ve found other apps (with more personable developers) such as Curio to be much more useable.
Maybe it’s time to revisit Tinderbox again. If you all have suggestions for novel ways to think about its use, I’m all ears.

(Beck Tench) #11

Might want to take a look at my post above where I linked one use case.

I also have found Stephen Zeoli’s screencasts helpful (scroll to the bottom for the Tinderbox ones).


I’d say the value of Tinderbox to you or others is likely to depend on two things: the amount of time that you’re prepared to put in to learn it, and your use-cases.

As far as the learning-time is concerned, its learning-curve is famously quite steep. If I were learning it now, I’d ignore the book, which as Beck Tench says is concerned mainly with its philosophical underpinnings and is definitely not a “how-to” manual. Like Beck Tench I think that Steve Zeoli’s blog and screencasts comprise the best initial guide (though now a few years old). And I’d start slowly, using Tinderbox initially only as an outliner, for which, if you know other outliners, its use is likely to be relatively familiar and easy to understand. Only later would I start using it also in its alternative, graphical guises.

As far as use-cases are concerned, its most frequently-cited role is perhaps in helping the user to identify “emergent structure” - that is, in finding relationships that are not overtly apparent between data or ideas. So I use it in discovering and plotting the optimal structure for long-form fictional projects, and so I know do others. Others use it in academic projects, involving dissertation and article structuring. Others use it for straight-up-and-down data analysis. Of course, alternative tools, some simpler and cheaper such as outliners and mind-mappers (or combinations, including Curio mentioned above), or more complex and expensive, can perform these functions to a greater or lesser extent. But Tinderbox is perhaps unique at its price-point in having quite so many different features dedicated to the role.