GTD – Outliners for thoughts

I think in trees.  I relate almost everything in one way or another in terms of some sort of hierarchy.  Trees and hierarchies feel elegant to me, and it shows in the way I make notes.  It’s really a more orderly way of displaying a mind-map.

I’ve always made my notes in a standard A4 notebook.  Meeting notes for me look something like this:

Outline Notes
Outline Notes

The trouble is written notes is that they aren’t typically very editable.

It occurred to me that computers are pretty good at this sort of thing, so I looked for a software outliner.  I tried a few desktop software options including Dave Winer’s opml Editor, and the supremely awful free version of NoteCase. but quickly decided that the web was the way to go.

I’ve used Evernote, but it was actually too complex for my needs.  It focusses on each note being like a rich text document.  I want the tree structure to *be* the notes, just like in my A4 book.  It does have tagging though which would be nice in the future when I have many notes.

I’ve tried various mind-mapping options, but the outliner tree style is much easier for me than a sprawling spiders web with the ideas on.  They’re really the same thing, just laid out differently.

Todoist was good, and one of my final two choices.  They have the indenting support, but in the end it was keyboard navigation that let it down.  You *can* move things around with the keyboard, but it wasn’t quite as slick as my final choice: Checkvist.

Despite a few teethinc troubles (a friend of mine lost a document because of a bug) it is very, *very* fast to add, edit and manouvre items around the tree.  The keyboard support is excellent, and there are very few actual features to bog it down.  It’s a simple, clean interface that feels and works like an editable notepad.  I might actually break my habit of “no laptops in meetings” to take electronic meeting notes…

4 thoughts on “GTD – Outliners for thoughts

  1. I am very glad you like Checkvist, we’re trying to add new features without breaking the initial UI simplicity.
    But here you mention a data loss which we’ve never heard of, I think. We’d like to hear from your friend, if possible. Such situations better be prevented.


  2. Yeah, Checkvist is great. The issue was with mouse dragging and dropping. I’ll try and get more details from him, but essentially he found that after dragging and dropping a large number of tasks with the mouse, they were removed gradually (slowly, one by one) then they didn’t come back where he dragged them to. Undo didn’t work, there was nothing in the clipboard, they just disappeared. I’ve never had it (but then I’m all about the keyboard 🙂 ).

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