Month: August 2014

What I Need from a Notes App

Here’s what I want from an ideal note-taking application.

  • Runs on every conceivable platform. May or may not include a degenerate web app. This is the one thing Evernote nails.
  • Uses keyboard input intelligently. For example, a quick, judicious asterisk creates a list on the fly. A tab can easily kick off a table. Quick calculations are performed inline. This is something OneNote has done well.
  • Allows completely free-form control over what’s already input. I can select and cordon off something and pull it aside somewhere else. Whitespace expands infinitely in any direction to accommodate. Items (be they drawings, text, or whatever else) can be moved around, side by side or similar.
  • As a corollary, input with structure can be restructured. Lists are dynamic outlines that can be rearranged, re-nested, and so on. Tables’ rows and columns can be dragged around. Grippy handles on things abound to accommodate this.
  • Accepts any manner of input and handles it intelligently: audio recordings; drawing with mouse, finger, or stylus; dragged-and-dropped files, which can be inlined as images or rendered as documents if applicable.
    • Bonus points if the app can index all these things (handwriting analysis, image OCR, audio speech recognition).
  • Organizational scheme with at least two tiers above the note level. OneNote had/has notebooks, sections, and pages (notes).
  • Extremely configurable appearance of notes, easily templated. Organizational scheme is easy to configure (names, colors).
  • Preferably professionally designed.
  • Rock-solid brain-dead sync between devices, preferably with encryption on the client side.

I can sum up the above by saying that I want a large, free-form space that accepts anything from anywhere and tries to do something smart with it. I realize this is a tall order. I’m surprised to hear that this doesn’t exist, though, not even for an exorbitant price (which I’d pay for something which came close). If someone comes across something like this, let me know.

The Discomfort of Being New

It’s sort of incredible after all this time that I get so uncomfortable with not knowing all the answers. Setting aside my personal and spiritual development (“What is the stars, what is the stars?”), I also stumble over this issue professionally.

I finished my fifteenth week at the Simple last Friday, and during my short tenure, we experienced one of the most trying times in our short history. It has been a difficult time to ramp up, and I’m still pretty new to having a programming job at all. The first of August marks three years since I started at the first one. I learned a lot at my last place, but I’m probably still a little too green to hit the ground running the way I’d like.

Now in my second programming job, I’ve identified a pattern that may have more to do with me than with the jobs I find myself in. I get frustrated very quickly when I’m unsure what to do. I haven’t always dealt with it very well. I expect to sail forward without bumps. Instead, I quickly blame setbacks on lack of process, documentation, opaque code, bad tests, unfamiliar culture, and a number of other externalities. The truth has a lot to do with just being new. I can’t speed past it, avoid it, or outsmart it. There’s no other way to become a veteran than by the pain of experience.

It’s like I’m so used to being able to hand in my test first in science class, and now in calculus I’m squirming while watching the others looking breezy. I figure it’s the teacher’s fault, curse the awful textbook, and complain how uncomfortable my chair is.

If I get to a point where I can internalize the discomfort, I start beating myself up with it instead. I finally reached that point a couple of weeks ago. I began questioning myself. I don’t have any good coping tactics for this stress. I’ve found I end up swinging to the other extreme; it’s not everything around me being awful and wrong, it’s just me. I feel like a new firefighter losing control of the hose, watching the fire burn out of control and screaming apologies.

It’s neither of those extremes. It’s just being new, and it’s uncomfortable. I’m in the same boat everyone’s spent time in. Whatever I do, as long as I hold faith with the process, it’ll pass.

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