# Zettelkasten on a reMarkable paper tablet?

I just registered my account, intending to learn more about the Zettelkasten system, and to ask a first question: does anyone here use the reMarkable paper tablet to build and contain their entire Zettelkasten? I am planning to do so, once the device is delivered, and I'd like to avoid beginners' mistakes, so if anyone has any experience with Zettelkasten on this medium, I'd be very interested to hear about it.

• Let me add that I am planning to use this template for my Zettel. In the main, ruled area the note text, in the area below: the references, and in the column to the left: links to other Zettel (also easily added later). Does this seem like a good approach?

• Reminds me of Cornell-style notes. I liked them during university lecture, esp. maths, so I had room for annotations and summaries. Not sure what you want to get from them in your Zettelkasten, though.

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• @ctietze said:
Reminds me of Cornell-style notes.

That's what they are. I intend to repurpose them for use as Zettel. Having links to other Zettel in the note body is less convenient on a reMarkable, for lack of colour, so I'd use the left column for those. And the bottom part for references.

I'm surprised that I can't find any mentions, anywhere, of using the reMarkable as a Zettelkasten platform. The lack of full text search and hyperlinks, as well as the necessity to write longhand, seem like real advantages to me (over other digital approaches).

• @VanderGaag So, are you planning on converting the handwritten material to text and then bringing that into some Zettelkasten software or are you going to keep all your notes on the tablet and use a Luhmann-type system for UIDs and for making connections between notes?

If you are setting up a template for your tablet, then I assume the latter but it may be the former?

I use The Archive for my main Zettelkasten, but since it is not available on iOS devices, when working on an iPad I use either 1Writer (or iA Writer) to edit (or input) text into a previously created Zettel, or I handwrite the text in Nebo and have that app convert it to text.

I also use Goodnotes for taking notes and my template is of the Cornell style, which I quite like.

Anyway, if you are going to keep Zettelkasten on a tablet, I suspect the best people to consult on this forum are the ones who use a paper ZK.

• Here are some ideas on digital handwritten ZKs. However, my starting point was an iPad plus pen, not the reMarkable tablet.

• @GeoEng51 said:
@VanderGaag So, are you planning on converting the handwritten material to text and then bringing that into some Zettelkasten software or are you going to keep all your notes on the tablet and use a Luhmann-type system for UIDs and for making connections between notes?

If you are setting up a template for your tablet, then I assume the latter but it may be the former?

Yes, the latter. I would like the whole thing to exist inside my reMarkable. Of course, the notes inside the reMarkable are synced with my desktop iMac, and can be viewed there as well, but I would not be entering the Zettel into a different piece of software.

I am expecting several advantages from writing in longhand and not having full text search. But I'm very new to the entire ZK idea, so maybe I'm mistaken.

• @thomasteepe said:
Here are some ideas on digital handwritten ZKs. However, my starting point was an iPad plus pen, not the reMarkable tablet.

Thanks. I am surprised that no-one wrote about ZK on a reMarkable tablet yet. I think it just might me the winning combination.

• @VanderGaag You might find not having a full-text search option to be somewhat limiting, but perhaps not. You would definitely be looking for connections between zettels manually, as also with following links from a structure note to other zettels. But many people have done that with a paper ZK for years, before computers came along.

I admit there is some attraction to writing in longhand and some people can actually think and compose better that way, than by typing on a computer keyboard.

Of course, you will have the problem that future generations will have no idea what you are talking about, since they won't know how to read cursive

• edited February 2021

Of course, you will have the problem that future generations will have no idea what you are talking about, since they won't know how to read cursive

Or they won’t know how to read, period! (Que memes)

@VanderGaag does reMarkable tablet have OCR feature? I know some apps like Notability (iOS) and Evernote have pretty good OCR to allow you to search your handwritten notes.

• @GeoEng51 said:
@VanderGaag You might find not having a full-text search option to be somewhat limiting, but perhaps not. You would definitely be looking for connections between zettels manually, as also with following links from a structure note to other zettels. But many people have done that with a paper ZK for years, before computers came along.

I expect that not having full-text search will improve the quality of (my interactions with) the ZK. More surprises and more confrontation with what I myself, at an earlier point in time, deemed a worth-while link/association. Also, unlinked or sparsely linked Zettel should die (i.e. be forgotten and vanish from sight), while a full-text search might revive them undeservedly.

I admit there is some attraction to writing in longhand and some people can actually think and compose better that way, than by typing on a computer keyboard.

There is scientific evidence to the effect that cursive writing is very different, as a process, from typing, neurologically and psychologically. Also, the entire situation is different: typing on a keyboard, looking at a screen that is like a barrier, in front of me, with a cursor/insertion point blinking impatiently, calling on me to be productive, versus scribbling with a pen on a thin slate lying on my lap, which is, to my mind, a very peaceful, unhurried, contemplative situation.

Also, the e-ink screen doesn't beam a million little LEDs into my eyes. The reMarkable has no onboard lighting, one just has to use daylight or a reading lamp. This is much easier on the eyes in the long run.

Of course, you will have the problem that future generations will have no idea what you are talking about, since they won't know how to read cursive

I'll answer in all seriousness: if what I am writing is of interest, they will decipher it. And rediscover the boons of cursive writing along the way!

• @EconomistMike said:
@VanderGaag does reMarkable tablet have OCR feature? I know some apps like Notability (iOS) and Evernote have pretty good OCR to allow you to search your handwritten notes.

I intend to forego full-text search, in order to allow the ZK to work like Luhmann intended: through manually added links and chance discoveries. Will it satisfy my need? I don't know; I will see.

• @VanderGaag I had a look at the reMarkable tablet - seems like an amazing bit of hardware. Once you've got it in hand, maybe you could start a new thread, give it a review, and let us know how your Zettelkasten is developing. I'm highly tempted to buy one, just from a geekiness viewpoint, but the price is too high to justify (seeing as how I already geek out on an iPhone and an iPad).

• @VanderGaag I've had a reMarkable 2 for a couple of months now; I purchased it partly in hopes of integrating it with my electronic note system, both as a reader and as a means of entering handwritten notes and sketches.

The device is impressive in several particulars. Writing and drawing on it is a genuinely pleasurable experience, and it does a very credible job of emulating the feel of paper. It's very good for creating handwritten annotations on a PDF, if that's a workflow you need - in fact, with the existing software, it's very nearly a single purpose device for that specific task. As long as you don't need to be able to search or automatically locate those annotations after the fact, it's a good one.

Which I guess brings me to the downsides. I still have some hopes I'll be able to hack it into something usable at least as a portable reader for the notes that usually live on my desktop computer. Out of the box, however, I think it's an extremely poor fit for a large collection of atomic notes which need to be indexed into at random. It lacks nearly all of the properties which make physical card boxes a usable technology for working with a large collection of interlinked notes. Navigation of separate notebooks or PDF documents is clunky; navigation within documents is flatly terrible.

You could probably do something like defining a notebook where new notes get tacked on as pages to the end, and using page numbers to link, but I don't think (I'm away from home and don't have the tablet handy at the moment) that you can insert new pages in the middle. And if you did, page numbers as links would break down. I guess the other option might be to create a separate notebook for each note, give it a number, and navigate between notebooks, but it wouldn't be a pleasant experience.

The long and short of it is that while it might be sort of possible to implement something Zettelkasten-like on a reMarkable with the stock software, nearly everything about the workflow would be much easier on plain old paper. It could be a very nice hardware platform for something that would work better, and maybe some of the stuff linked in the awesome-reMarkable repo would help, but I should also note that while it's definitely hackable - they let you SSH into the thing as root - it's clearly not intended by its makers as a general application platform, and some of the technical choices they've made are pretty frustrating from the perspective of somebody who'd like to broaden its possible uses.

I hope that's helpful perspective. I don't mean to be unduly discouraging, and you might find that it suits your needs just fine, but in general I would strongly recommend against its purchase for use as a primary editor and container for a Zettelkasten. A stack of index cards and a shoebox have vastly better ergonomics for that task, and even if you get really nice index cards they're probably gonna cost you around $500 less. • edited February 2021 @GeoEng51 said: @VanderGaag I had a look at the reMarkable tablet - seems like an amazing bit of hardware. Once you've got it in hand, maybe you could start a new thread, give it a review, and let us know how your Zettelkasten is developing. I was planning to do so already, so 'stay tuned'! The main question is whether the advantages of not having full text search and backlinks and so on will weigh more than the disadvantages of not having full text search and backlinks and so on. I am hoping to maintain my entire ZK on the reMarkable 2, but I will be developing a parallel digital ZK as well, using Obsidian. Literature notes and permanent notes will be composed on the reMarkable, and then transferred (typed into) Obsidian. If it turns out, after a while, that I don't use Obsidian for anything other than the chore of entering the notes, I will be able to use only the reMarkable from ten on. • @VanderGaag I've had a reMarkable 2 for a couple of months now; I purchased it partly in hopes of integrating it with my electronic note system, both as a reader and as a means of entering handwritten notes and sketches. The device is impressive in several particulars. Writing and drawing on it is a genuinely pleasurable experience, and it does a very credible job of emulating the feel of paper. It's very good for creating handwritten annotations on a PDF, if that's a workflow you need - in fact, with the existing software, it's very nearly a single purpose device for that specific task. As long as you don't need to be able to search or automatically locate those annotations after the fact, it's a good one. Which I guess brings me to the downsides. I still have some hopes I'll be able to hack it into something usable at least as a portable reader for the notes that usually live on my desktop computer. Out of the box, however, I think it's an extremely poor fit for a large collection of atomic notes which need to be indexed into at random. It lacks nearly all of the properties which make physical card boxes a usable technology for working with a large collection of interlinked notes. Navigation of separate notebooks or PDF documents is clunky; navigation within documents is flatly terrible. You could probably do something like defining a notebook where new notes get tacked on as pages to the end, and using page numbers to link, but I don't think (I'm away from home and don't have the tablet handy at the moment) that you can insert new pages in the middle. And if you did, page numbers as links would break down. I guess the other option might be to create a separate notebook for each note, give it a number, and navigate between notebooks, but it wouldn't be a pleasant experience. The long and short of it is that while it might be sort of possible to implement something Zettelkasten-like on a reMarkable with the stock software, nearly everything about the workflow would be much easier on plain old paper. It could be a very nice hardware platform for something that would work better, and maybe some of the stuff linked in the awesome-reMarkable repo would help, but I should also note that while it's definitely hackable - they let you SSH into the thing as root - it's clearly not intended by its makers as a general application platform, and some of the technical choices they've made are pretty frustrating from the perspective of somebody who'd like to broaden its possible uses. I hope that's helpful perspective. I don't mean to be unduly discouraging, and you might find that it suits your needs just fine, but in general I would strongly recommend against its purchase for use as a primary editor and container for a Zettelkasten. A stack of index cards and a shoebox have vastly better ergonomics for that task, and even if you get really nice index cards they're probably gonna cost you around$500 less.

• I have to agree with what @brennen said about navigation and organization. On the Remarkable you have folders and notebooks. No ability to hyperlink within or between documents and navigation is awkward. (Also @brennan is correct you can’t insert a new page in the middle). To avoid the forced structure of a notebook I think you’d have to create a new notebook for each note and that would quickly get unwieldy. There’s no way to search or sort - you’d just be scrolling through files all the time. It would literally be like implementing ZK in a series of hard bound notebooks. Seems like all the disadvantages of paper with none of the advantages.

Also there’s a limit to how much the Remarkable can store. Eventually you have to offload. And, I think, this may be the critical factor - once you offload, you can no longer edit the file. It’s a PDF or an image. Even with syncing to devices like your phone or your computer - basically they’re read only. Honestly, I haven’t even found a purpose for the app. I just email my notes to Evernote when I’m done writing. And Remarkable has intentionally been tight with integrations. They basically want the device to be a notebook and nothing else. Even just to create your own template you have to hack the device.

Don’t get me wrong - I got my Remarkable 2 for Christmas and I love it. It has become my only notebook for Morning Pages journaling and all forms of fleeting notes. But I just don’t see it as viable as a full Zettelkasten solution. Sorry.

• @tltorrez said:

[...]

But I just don’t see it as viable as a full Zettelkasten solution. Sorry.

No need to say sorry! I've reached the same conclusion. Workflow now is: fleeting notes and literature notes on the reMarkable, and every few days I open the reMarkable application on my Mac, side by side with my Zettelkasten application of choice (Obsidian), and I turn the notes into permanent notes there. The reMarkable is a very good investment for the distraction-free writing and the full screen, reflected light PDF reading alone.

• @VanderGaag how are you storing notes on the R2? Im in the same boat as you were at the start of this thread and don't mind manually moving my notes over. What's your notebook work flow like on the R2?