Zettelkasten Forum

DHZKs: Ideas on digital handwritten ZKs

I wonder what potential may lie in digital handwritten ZKs.
I am of course thinking of something based on

  • a tablet with a pen, and
  • a suitable app.

Here are some questions and ideas.

  • What are the differences between digital ZKs based on handwriting and digital ZKs based on typing? What are the costs and the benefits of using diagrams, formulas or a free layout? How do these types of representations change the way we think about topics? Are there relevant changes due to different mechanisms of hand-brain coordination? How does handwriting or typing change the way we communicate ideas? What impact does it have that in all probabality, the data format for DHZKs will be proprietary?
  • What are the differences between digital and paper ZKs based on handwriting? What is the role of privacy, of being distracted by using a medium, of mobility, of being able to use zettels over days, months or decades?
  • What are the differences in interacting with outside material not written by the ZK author?
  • What, if any, are relevant use cases for DHZKs? Is there a niche for short or midterm use of DHZKs while longterm idea processing happens elsewhere?

  • How could current apps be used to implement a DHZK?

  • How could a future app implement a DHZK in a compelling way? (Fantasizing about non-existent software when I am in no position to build it seemed weird, so I did it: One could start with the scope of current handwriting software, use zettels of unlimited area, add tagging by words and tagging by icons on the zettel level and on the level of local notes, introduce linking, again between zettels and between between local notes, keep two zettels or two zettel areas visible and editable at a time, support easy access to frequently used zettels and introduce a navigation window to move around on really large zettels. Arguably, one can find more and better ideas.)


  • @thomasteepe Hello! Interesting topic and questions. Some initial (quick) thoughts:

    1. I collect handwritten notes on my iPad all the time, for multiple purposes.
    2. I like taking notes that way because I became accustomed to it over many years of university (writing on paper "back in the day") and because of convenience.
    3. However, I find converting those notes to text to be cumbersome, despite the iPad's capabilities.
    4. From experience working with The Archive, I find I am frequently editing zettels, sometimes a bit, sometimes a lot. This works well in the Archive but would not be simple with digital handwritten notes.
    5. For the way my brain works, capturing "fleeting notes" (Ahrens) works best when handwriting but processing those fleeting notes into zettels works best when typing. I prefer to do my "real" writing tasks on a computer.
    6. Using digital handwritten notes has the advantage of including sketches. But I find it's just as easy to include a reference to an image in a text file and with a future version of The Archive, I expect there will be an inline image viewer. So I'm not that fussed about the manner of including images in The Archive.

    So, while I empathize with your idea, I find myself not attracted to it.

  • @GeoEng51 - thanks so much for your input, this has helped me to clarify things for me by asking separate questions:

    a) How do I want to interact with diagrams in the process of idea generation?
    b) How do I want to interact with diagrams in the process of idea documentation? (It's not clear if this has to be a separate process, but in many relevant ZK workflows there will be a difference between fleeting and permanent notes or engagement and memory notes.)
    c) How do I want to interact with diagrams when I revisit them as a documented idea? - This seems to be a "diagram equivalent" to item 4 in your list.
    Of course, it's not mandatory to use diagrams (and other non-text elements) at all - again, I'm just keenly interested in their potential.

    In a), I would like to start with an initial diagram, and then ask questions about gaps or missing parts or possible generalisations, which could lead me to add more detail or to rearrange parts - there seems to be a toolbox for "reasoning with diagrams". (This could happen in different "substrates" - mental, paper or digital.)
    How to transfer a diagram created in the spirit of a) into an idea documentation system, and re-use it from there? Apart from the wish for a seamless workflow, I find it very appealing that a diagram that was fully interactionable for a) should stay so for c).

Sign In or Register to comment.