Guest Post: Using Simplenote and nvALT as a Student
There are numerous articles about the greatness of Notational Velocity (or nvALT, a fork of Notational Velocity) and Simplenote, but I haven’t seen anything that made these applications relevant for students. I started using Notational Velocity in 2009, but I recently turned to nvALT because of the additional features. Of all the third-party apps I use, Simplenote has had the most consistent presence on my iOS devices since 2009. Clearly these applications made a big impact on the work I do and how I do it, but as someone who’s transferring to university in the spring, I’m paying even closer attention to how I can use these applications to their fullest potential.
You can outline essays and other written works in a similar manner.
nvALT is great for storing small bits of information like a quick to-do item, a phone number or email address you don’t want to forget, or an idea you have for a blog post. Since it’s plain text, you obviously won’t get the formatting of Word or Pages, or even Google Docs, but it can be an excellent starting-off point for dumping links for research and storing quotations you want to include in your longer works. But let’s say you fall in love with nvALT and Simplenote and you end up storing hundreds, maybe thousands of notes. How do you get what you want at that point?
One way to make searching easier is to identify the content of the note in the note’s title, or to add a tag of some kind. For quotes I want to keep handy, I include a tag in the body of the note: “@quote”. When I want to search for a specific quote, all I have to do is write “@quote” in nvALT’s search box, and my results will narrow down to those notes which include the tag. (Credit to Caleb McDaniel for introducing me to this idea.) You could also start every note with “QUOTE -”, “LINK -”, “IDEA -”, or whatever else the body of the note might contain, but I found that tagging allows for more accurate results. Another way of distinguishing notes is by using Merlin Mann’s ‘q’ trick. Basically, by placing a ‘q’ or a series of ‘q’s in the title of your most-referenced or most-important notes, you can quickly narrow your search results down to just those notes.
nvALT and Simplenote may not have hundreds of features, but for me, that’s a plus. I deal with text a lot, and like I mentioned before, there are other great applications that do more than text, but if that’s not a concern for you as a student, nvALT and Simplenote are terrific solutions.