mi·nu·tia (noun) – a minute or minor detail—usually used in plural
I like the word “minutia”. I’ve been thinking about the various little things that happen throughout a typical day as daily minutiae. Things like “Paid the gas bill” or “Had a minor headache” or “Changed oil in the car”. It’s all trivial and boring, but I find that I value having a record of these things.
But where to record all of this minutiae? If you know me, you know that I can never settle on one single note-taking app or system. Looking for a “better way” is what I like doing, even though it becomes frustrating when I deadlock over the decision. And I’m deadlocked right now about where to keep records of the “minute or minor details” of my day.
It’s not a problem of not having a good place to keep things, it’s that there are too many good places I could keep things. Here are the current contenders.
Oh my, how I love Tinderbox. It’s one of the most powerful and flexible note-taking tools available. Tinderbox is where I started recording the day’s minutiae back in 2006. I maintained a Daybook file for years and it was wonderful.
But at some point things like iOS and Linux became interesting to me, and since Tinderbox is unabashedly Mac-only, I drifted away from it. Lately though, I’ve removed iOS and Linux from the table and that puts Tinderbox right back in the running.
Day One is a fantastic journal app for Mac and iOS. I’m not consistent with it, but I do try to record one or two entries with photos each week. I love the book printing features. I’m just not sure it’s suitable for all the little bits and bobs of the day.
Ah, TiddlyWiki. Hidden beneath your cute name is a very capable and flexible tool for keeping notes. Add to that the fact that it’s all done in a single, free, local-first HTML file and you’ve got a strong case for use as a place for record-keeping. Of course I use it for my public wiki at rudimentarylathe.org
A late-comer to the game, Roam Research is amazing and game changing. I’d say it has single-handedly re-invigorated the entire genre of note-taking apps. It took many of the ideas of Org mode and TiddlyWiki, added proper outlining, and mashed them up into something new and very cool. Roam is almost a perfect solution for recording minutiae. Except that it costs $15/month and is entirely cloud-based and proprietary. See, the thing with record-keeping is that it’s meant to be useful not just right now, but forever. Roam is fantastic for the now, but is risky for the longer term. This may disqualify it.
As wonderful and powerful as Org mode is, I think my years-long fascination with Emacs may be coming to a close.
TheBrain was not a consideration for note-taking prior to the recently introduced version 12. With TheBrain 12, notes are not only a first-class citizen, but they offer many of the features of Roam (minus outlining).
Is that a great list or what?! Can you see why I might be struggling with which to choose?
I’m currently thinking of going with either Tinderbox or TiddlyWiki.
For the past few days, I’ve been putting everything into my Rudimentary Lathe TiddlyWiki. It may be a bit too much information to share publicly, but I’m interested in the whole “public self-modeling” thing right now, so it works as part of the larger experiment. TiddlyWiki is also the only valid contender that is free and readable, as-is, forever. By “forever” of course I mean “for a long time”.
Using Tinderbox would be ideal. It’s a great outliner, and I love outlines. Beyond that it pays dividends with fancy maps and summaries so with a small amount of extra work, I get fun and useful output. Tinderbox is not free, however, but it is not (yet) subscription based. I’ve been using it for more than a decade, and the author doesn’t appear to have any intention of stopping development any time soon. Also, I usually export my notes every month to PDF files, so that gets me the necessary permanence.
I’m going to use both for a while, side-by-side, and see if the choice becomes more apparent.