Zettelkasten Forum

Non-Programmer & New ZKN User Looking For a Program

I'm a student, writer & reader and have experimented on and off with note-taking over the years. Lately as I (slowly) learn more about how we learn, I've been taking more notes and trying to find the right combination of notes and Anki and practice to incorporate & be able to use all the things I read.
Since my current system involves a series of quickly-becoming-stressful Scrivener folders with chapter summaries of books and random tips that I try to organize into folders, it seems like the comprehensive and more organic zettelkasten is the next step!
Unfortunately I'm running into some difficulties, partly because I don't know which program I should try. (I have come to the conclusion that as a helpless overthinker the best thing I can do is just start out and iron out the formatting and connecting mistakes as I go, much as I hate that idea.) I wanted to do Roam Research but it's too expensive and people are worried about its being closed source and all. Then I have downloaded Zettlr but I've heard Electron apps take up a lot of memory and I already have that headache on my phone and reeeeally don't need it with my computer too; I expect I'll make a lot of zettels once I get started.
From all the reading I've done I'm realizing that simple plain text is better. However tragically 1. I'm on Windows (so no The Archive or nValt or several others) and 2. [I hear a lot of people talking about org-mode and it looks like the closest thing but] I have not the least knowledge of coding. I can drag folders around and I can copy-paste CSS into Anki cards and kind of vaguely see "ah yes, here's where they've put the font name in" and that's about it. Is there anything anyone knows of that my non-programming brain can understand with minimal training?
Thanks and I'm excited to participate more in this community; if I can get started I think it'll be so amazing for reading, writing, learning and life in general!


  • If you haven’t already tried Zettlr, then I think it is worth doing so. Yes, it might use a lot of RAM, but give it a try and see if it is a problem. I don’t think there is reason to worry that this will limit the number of notes if this is your concern.

    Zettlr also uses plain text and is, from my very brief use, quite no-nonsense.

    Another option would be something like ZimWiki. It uses plain text files too. Wikis are conceptually similar to Zettelkasten and with the right workflow I think it could work. I believe @Sascha used to use ZimWiki – maybe he has some more perspective.

  • I second the suggestion of using Zettlr. It has a nice interface and is quite easy to use. You won't know if there is a memory problem until you at least test it out.


  • Don't be discouraged by the feeling that you need to be able to program to use org-mode. I am not a programer myself and still got org-mode working for me (for my self-organisation though, not my Zettelkasten).

    You might look into sublime text. I think there are several users here that are happy with their solution.

    ZimWiki is indeed an alternative though I am not up to date with its performance.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited May 2020

    In abstract, plaintext ist better. In practice however, the best solution is the one that works for you. You can't find that out without trying what works for you. And your needs may change. Thus, recommendations are just telling you what works for others. As long as there is a proper export function in the program or, even better, if its plaintext, you can take your zettels from one program to another.

    I've some friends who like Lüdickes Zettelkasten (http://zettelkasten.danielluedecke.de/en/). It's best feature is that it is providing more of a structure. Depending on your note-taking needs, you may find that helpful.

  • @AbigailSarah

    my current system involves a series of quickly-becoming-stressful Scrivener folders with chapter summaries of books and random tips that I try to organize into folders...

    Hilarious! I am in the same situation and hoping Zettelkasten will save me.

    Granted, we can easily turn our Scrivener projects into Zettelkasten, by using Scrivener's document-to-document links. But my additional concerns are (1) get into plain .txt/.md files that are open for editing from any app, and (2) I plan to dump Apple for Linux when Apple obsoletes my perfectly nice laptop within the next couple of years, so I am planning ahead to migrate out of Scrivener.

  • Oh I remember seeing you on Obsidian discord! Curious what did you end up not liking about Obsidian?

    Some other options to consider:

    1. TiddlyWiki (not sure if it is quite plain text, Henrik uses it but didn't mention it so I imagine it must not be)

    2. Zettlr is solid, I used that for awhile! It is also plain text, so if you decide to use a different program then you can still use those files

    3. Checkout Reddit's software comparison table for more options, https://reddit.zettel.page/software-comparison.html

    4. Have you thought of creating a paper Zettelkasten? It might be a fun experiment why you chew over and decide on a program. It might also help with clarifying your thinking when you do eventually settle on a program

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