Abram recently wrote up the Zettelkasten system for notetaking while doing research. Do you have an opinion on an alternative system, and if so, what is it?

Things you might optionally include but should not let the lack of preclude answering:

  • How the system works
  • Plusses and minuses of the system
  • Who or what problems you think it works especially well and poorly for
  • Comparisons to other notetaking systems.
  • Your final judgement of the system.
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Standard Notes is my choice.


  • End-to-end privacy ( end-to-end privacy)
  • Open source
  • Apps on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Linux
  • Unlimited devices
  • Web Access
  • Offline access
  • Automatic sync with no limit on data capacity
  • Plain text
  • Tags
  • Search in notes
  • If you pay $2.48/month: markdown and a lot of text editors, to-do lists, spreadsheets, encrypted attachments for your notes stored directly in Dropbox or Google Drive, themes, 2FA, note version history, etc.


  • They could improve the user interface
  • You have to pay for what I said before.

Who or what problems you think it works especially well and poorly for

  • I use it as my personal knowledge management. From book quotes, to meeting notes, as a to-do list, to writing texts, etc.

I'll add the biggest minus in my book:

Potential alternatives:

I always have a window open to workflowy. It got me to consistently take notes in a way no other system did because of the low overhead. Downsides for some is that tabbed lists might not capture everything they want to do. Since access time trumps everything else when it comes to getting your brain to treat it like an extension, I find the lack of features to be a feature. It's a non starter for pictures.

I use Zim: https://zim-wiki.org/

It has the usual wiki features like searchability and hyperlinks. In addition, it is programmable. Links can run batch files on my Windows PC. The batch files can update a database or run programs that generate Zim pages from the database. Or they can launch Windows apps or virtual machines.

The transition from non-programmable to programmable is like the transition from non-searchable (Zettelkasten) to searchable (wiki). I don't want to go back.

Zettelkasten is searchable, it is the same as any wiki, just locally. Have a look at foam plugin for vs code or obsidian app.

Also note zettelkasten is a method, not a tool, so it can be infact be implemented in Zim.

Zim does look good, did mot know those features you described.

I use a fountain pen with a thin A6 paper notebook, one private and one for work. I start a new page for every new context, and put off-topic notes (random thoughts, names of people) into the right margin of the current page. Things I want to look up later get annotated on the left margin. My work notebook also has an error log on the last pages.

Realistically, most on-topic notes are write-only, but the process of writing them helps me to remember the content, and on occasion I actually refer back to them.

I like this system because I neither need to carry a laptop or keyboard, nor need to type on a phone. My notes also don't clutter that much – on a laptop, they tend to stay on the desktop "so that I can easily go through it later", which of course never happens.

A disadvantage of my current system is that the notes are not searchable, and do not have a backup. I considered updating to a reMarkable, but so far found the price tag too high for my purposes.

I used to take notes but don't anymore. Instead my "system" consists of:

  • send myself an email if there's something I need to do (actionable notes)
  • search for stuff online when I need it

I find it reliable enough that I'm not much bothered by occasionally forgetting/losing maybe 20% of stuff since it's forced me to be good at remembering the core of things that are important so that I can refind things later.