Zettelkasten Forum

Is it really so complicated?!

New here and just started to learn about this method.... seems a little daunting and can't seem to find a simplistic enough example to help me understand...
plus the fact that I use a Mac laptop and an Android phone... so is there an app that works across both these?
Thanks much and really looking forward to learning from all the experts here!
Stay safe!


  • @Rajeev I too use a Mac laptop and an Android phone... and I use The Archive as my zettelkasting tool. I subscribe to the digital minimalist manifesto and don't worry about having the software on my phone. Plain text and lack of vendor lock-in are key for me.

    I'm not sure where to refer you to to learn the basics of a Zettelkasten.
    The first two or three videos at this link are pretty good but the best advice I have is to just jump in "the waters warm".

    I started by reading a book (Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor) highlighting the passages that captured my attention or I thought I'd use in my writing or thinking and then for each one I paraphrased the passage into a note. I set the bar low for the criteria of capture or not. I've let this standard evolve over time naturally to fit my style. Once done with capturing the highlights, I'd moved on to the next book (The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia B. McConnell) but today I'd make separate note linking all the notes about the book with a sort of annotated table of contents. Try this once and post your results here. Questions will surface and we're here to help.

    Will Simpson
    The quality of our thinking is directly proportional to the quality of our reading. To think better, we must read better. - Rohan

  • Thank you Will! I gather that when it comes to serious note taking you're down on the Mac in The Archive ;-)
    Thanks for the links as well, I shall definitely check them out.

  • edited May 2020

    Hi Rajeev, it's actually not complicated but I agree it seems daunting.

    (As a physicist I'm used to read complicated things and technical language. In this forum sadly most users love to write in really complicated and authoritative ways, so I understand the doubts. Also many of us have English as a second or third language).

    SIMPLE NOTE TAKING: For both macOS and Android I use Simplenote as dedicated app. When you want to export your notes to txt files you can access Simplenote's website on your Mac and export all of them as a single zip.

    WHAT I ACTUALLY DO: (1) I store my txt files in 3 folders in the Dropbox root (one folder for projects and lists that help me get organized, another for notes I put my effort on, the last one is for notes with quotes or anything I didn't write or have put my effort into it). The folder names are; "notes-projects", "notes-my-work", and "notes-collected", respectively.

    (2) I use Simplenote to write temporary notes on the iPad, Mac, and Android. (The reason these are temporary is because I like to use iAWriter on the Mac and Android instead of Simplenote. iAWriter on the iPad can't access my Dropbox folders but my Android phone can).

    (3) In my Mac or phone I take those temporary files from Simplenote, for example 5 new notes, and then create 5 new notes in iAWriter. Once I did that, those notes are now txt files in my Dropbox folder and I'm all set. (I can still write and access my notes on my iPad using the Dropbox app but I prefer iAWriter on the phone or the Mac).

    REGARDING THE ZETTELKASTEN METHOD; Write notes and make them simple an short. For example, when you read a book or listen to a lecture you make several short notes about something in particular instead of one long note. Then you try to write in each notes something that connects those note together. Most of us use links to refer to other notes using a timestamp as it's a unique identifier.

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