Zettelkasten Forum

Analog to Drafts to Zettelkasten

Hello all,

As someone who has benefitted from this (and other forums), I thought I’d share a workflow. I’m increasingly trying to find ways to not be in front of my computer as I work (particularly in the zoom-ifcation of my life as a professor). I also sometimes enjoy handwriting notes. But the process has always seemed full of friction to get analog notes into digital systems. My current approach to this conundrum - thanks in great part to the folks over at the Drafts forum - uses a notebook, drafts, and Prizmo Go. It looks like this:

  1. Write a series of notes by hand a note, usually with a header that highlights the key points, along with some tags.

  2. Once finished, use the iPhone to capture the notes. Specifically, I use this cobbled together workflow (again, thanks to the drafts community), which a) creates a zettelkasten template and moves the cursor to the note section of my template then b) opens Prizmo Go where I can capture the text (using their great iCloud text recognition). Once satisfied that it is captured, I click on “finish”. c) Then it takes me back to Drafts where the text is placed. d) I then use a Drafts action to send it to the Dropbox folder where my vault is located.

  3. Once back at computer, I can clean up the notes and add links within The Archive, Obsidian, 1Writer, etc.

It may sound long, but with Prizmo to Go’s great OCR and Drafts’ ability to position your actions in easy to access places), this can be done quick and accurately. Here is the Drafts action, in case anyone is interested.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/catj8fxt2hxm72c/Zett_Temp& Prizmo.draftsAction?dl=0


  • @aroddick
    I have been fond of handwriting notes on my iPad for several years, using an app called Goodnotes. It has a decent ability to transform handwriting to text but it's a bit awkward.

    Someone on a recent post here mentioned another iOS app called Nebo, which I tried out (There is an option for a free trial; download from the iOS store). One of its main purposes is to capture handwriting and transform it into text. It is very capable. You write as much as you want, you double-tap, there's your text in flowing paragraphs (not single lines). It is very good at capturing formatting as well if you take a bit of care in the handwriting.

    You can export the text anywhere you want. I send it to 1Writer, edit it, and save it to my Zettelkasten folder. 1Writer is an excellent app for ZK work on iOS.

    Sometimes I send the text to iA Writer, if I want to edit it further on my Mac laptop.

  • Thanks @GeoEng51. I have both Nebo and Goodnotes -- they are quite good, I agree. (I was digging around recently to see if I could create an action/shortcut to make the selecting and pasting process a bit more streamlined from Goodnotes, but no luck). I also have played with the new ios scribble feature in Drafts, which is quite good too. But I guess for me, I realized I liked being away from a screen for at least a little while each day 😀

  • edited January 2021

    @aroddick I know the feeling. I guess for me that means sitting in a comfy chair in my living room, working on my iPad, instead of in my office on a computer with two screens and a not entirely comfortable chair.

    There are many good scanning programs these days working right off your phone, which include OCR. In fact Nebo imports pdfs and images; I wonder if it would OCR imported handwriting. I'll try it and see. That would be amazing to include in your workflow?

  • edited January 2021

    @aroddick Hmm...it seems Nebo only converts text that you enter using an active pen. I tried taking an image of a handwritten page from within Nebo, but I don't see any way to convert the handwriting in that image into text.

    Besides Prizmo Go, I also tried Google Lens. Neither were particularly good at transcribing handwritten material from a scanned image into text (being an engineer, my handwriting is very clear). Neither gives the experience of an Apple pen and Nebo (or Goodnotes). I think I'll stick with my iPad :smile:

    It seems you might be hamstringing yourself by insisting on writing with pen on paper. Not that I have any objection to that - I actually enjoy writing with pen and paper; there is a certain satisfaction associated with doing that. For several years I kept a bullet journal as I found it a soothing exercise. It's just that it is difficult to bring that material into the digital world.

  • edited January 2021

    Hi - the paid version of Prizmo has cloud handwriting recognition. In my experience, it is better than anything out there. This current workflow, with pen and paper, involves the same number of steps as using Nebo or Goodwriter: One button push to capture text, one button push to accept the capture and put in the correct zettel template in Drafts, and one button push to send to my zettel folder (and no fiddling with dragging and dropping). I actually don’t think I’m hamstringing myself, in so far as the payoff is less eye strain and exhaustion from looking at a glowing screen all day. But, of course, I understand everyone has their preference ;)

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