Google Keep shadowed by Google Reader and Notebook

Google notebook

Google released Keep, a note-taking application that allows you to save your todo lists, notes, web clips, audios, photos, etc. and it stores everything in your Google Drive account. With the recent notice of Google Reader being shut down, this new application release has been badly received by users that are questioning Google’s trust on keeping a service alive for long, even when it has a lot of usage.

The funny thing about Keep is that this is the second incarnation of the service. The previous attempt was called Google Notebook and also got killed in July 2012. Will Keep stay for long?

Om Malik, on Gigaom, advices that it is wiser to trust a small company whose core business is the service you need. Companies like Evernote and Dropbox only have one core product, and they concentrate on improving it and keeping it useful since it is their core business. Google has a lot of products and services and it’s not a big deal to kill any of them at any given time.

The problem on depending on web services is not new and I’ve been talking about it several times. Companies come and go and people are trusting their services with their information. This is why it is important to create and use free network services. Owncloud is an alternative to cloud backup services like Dropbox. For note taking I’m not aware of any FAIF web service but applications like Tomboy (Gnome) or BasKet (KDE) are good desktop options. I personally use Emacs Org-mode and sync it with MobileOrg.

Will you use Google Keep or stay with Evernote or other similar service providers? Do you know any free web alternative to these? Let me know in the comments!

Emacs GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

Quick note taking with Emacs and Org Capture

Taking notes has to be a taks that is fast, easy and must not get in the way of the things you’re doing. How many times do we forget something because we didn’t write it down right away? Or how many times you didn’t took a note of something because you don’t have a quick and simple way to easily write down that idea for later use?

Using Emacs for most of my daily workflow and Org mode as my organizing GTD system, having a quick way to take notes and store ideas or links quickly is a huge advantage. This is the fastest note taking system I’ve used so far and even if you’re not using Emacs or Org mode, this feature alone is worth spending a little time learning the tools.

Remember mode was the way to capture ideas fast and easy without getting in the way. Until Org mode version 6.36, you had to hook up remember mode to interact with Org to capture your notes. Now you don’t need to since there’s Org Capture. It is part of Org mode and it’s got all the functionality of remember mode with the advantage of being built-in with Org mode.

Setup org-capture with global keybindings so that no matter what you’re doing (within Emacs) you can quickly capture something with a fast shortcut. I like to bind it to C-c r

(setq org-default-notes-file (concat org-directory "/"))
;; Bind Org Capture to C-c r
(global-set-key "\C-cr" 'org-capture)

If you are using Emacs prelude setup a different shortcut because this one will conflict with prelude rename command. Since I’m already wired to use that shortcut and I barely use the prelude-rename command that often, I added this to my setup:

;; Unbind prelude rename command
(global-unset-key "\C-cr")

Like with remember mode, you can set up templates for your captured notes. If you’re already using Remember mode, you can import your old templates to the new org-capture templates. To convert your org-remember-templates, run the command:

M-x org-capture-import-remember-templates 

Here’s an example of two templates I always set up with org-capture:

;; Org Capture
(setq org-capture-templates
      '(("t" "Todo" entry (file+headline (concat org-directory "/") "Tasks")
         "* TODO %?\n %i\n")
        ("l" "Link" plain (file (concat org-directory "/"))
         "- %?\n %x\n")))

The first one will capture a TODO entry under the headline Tasks inside the file in my org directory. I’ll use this one whenever I want to add a todo task quickly. The second one will copy the contents of my clipboard and will paste it as a new entry in the file as a list item without any header and will have my cursor ready to type the item list description. This one I use it when I want to save a link url, typically a bookmark from the browser, in my file to consult it later.

To access each template, a key has been set for each. When org-capture is run, it will prompt you what you want to capture. Press ‘t’ for a Todo or press ‘l’ for a link. You can add more templates to suit your needs with the extensive template options described in the Org manual.

Using org-capture

Finish the capturing process by typing C-c C-c which runs org-capture-finalize and the capture buffer will disappear so you can continue what you were doing without interruption.

Note photo by [email protected] on Flickr

How NOT to kill an idea

Sometime ago, I came across this image on a blog, 8 ways to kill an idea.

These are all clever and very real ways to kill an idea on the work environment. But it made me think of way’s I’ve killed an idea, on a personal level, and I realized its missing a nine-nth one: Not writing it down.

Your brain is constantly storming with ideas and shifting thoughts every second (or even faster). Think of how you’re thinking of something, then that leads you to something else and then to even something else almost totally randomly.

Sometimes you might get a flash of inspiration or come up with a great business idea or problem solution while doing something else like riding the bus, eating sushi or watching TV. Your brain works so fast that is hard to keep up with it or keep track of every thought at every moment. This is why its very important to write down your ideas as soon as you get them. Have a small notebook or note-taking app in your phone ready for whenever the situation presents.

It is very important to write down all your ideas, even the bad ones. Remember that practice makes perfection. You can’t expect to come up with a good idea on the first attempt. Also, how would you differentiate between a good or bad idea if you can’t compare them side by side written down on a media? It will also help you track down ideas that you’ve already have, so you don’t end up repeating your bad ideas later on.

Some applications worth looking at for brainstorming and note taking are:

Emacs Org-mode