tablet for zettelkasten
I'm new to zettelkasten and I'm thinking about buying tablet (I have no tablet now) for reading, anotating reads, makinkg biblio and sometimes fleet notes. I'd like to integrate tablet, smart phone and computer to share notes across theses devices.
Which tablets do you use for those purposes and integration?
Thank you very much!
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It depends on what software you plan to use. Some (most?) ZK software works on a computer but not on mobile devices, so you find alternate software that operates on your mobile devices as a work around. I use The Archive on my Mac laptop and then 1Writer on my iPhone or iPad to read my ZK files, which are stored in a Dropbox folder.
I think there are a number of software / hardware combinations people on the forum have tried, so you will likely get other good suggestions.
In 2023, this is still surprisingly tough.
My TLDR is: try to not get a tablet? Maybe an e-reader to carry lots of texts around. But don't bet on getting a lot of Zettelkasten stuff on any device to your total satisfaction.
For reading, e-ink ebook readers should be good because their batteries last forever and they, well, supposedly read like paper. No glaring screen. Easier on the eyes.
To manage files, and software integration-wise, iPads are good. Android has a ton of useful software, but that's less "out of the box good experience" and a bit more duckt tape to get a workflow. Then again, it allows to tinker more, so it arguably has more flexibility. But the regular tablets are straining the eye when you read, they are full of distractions (so you need to remove these), the battery depletes within a day of heavy use, and writing with a plastic pen nib on glass doesn't feel good!
Then there are these e-ink tablets that bridge the gaps. They often are expensive. But in recent years, there have been quite a few advancements in tech. I'm no expert there, but Kit Betts-Masters is: https://www.youtube.com/@KitBetts-Masters -- check out the comparisons to get an idea of pen feel and features.
Here's what I gathered in recent weeks:
All of these are expensive!
So my personal verdict is: an e-ink reader can work well and doesn't cost the world. I'd personally go for a Kobo/Tolino instead of Kindle because of their more open platform, but YMMV. Also, a small e-ink tablet can augment text selection-based highlights with free form pen input (Boox Nova Air 2) if you have the money to spare. In that price range, you can also get an iPad that has a ton of excellent software. -- If you're willing to suffer, you could replace a Mac with a new-ish iPad for writing, reading, and free-form pen input. I can't say if new devices connected to an external monitor (so you don't kill your neck) and an external keyboard is any good. It better be at that price I can't see anyone performing serious writing work without a proper keyboard, though. At that point, one might as well get a MacBook Air. (Or comparable, non-Apple hardware)
Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/
@ctietze Good discussion; thanks for the Kit Betts link!
The best workflow I’ve found so far for web (article) reading to my Zettelkasten is-
Apple iPad>Web(Safari)>Matter (app)>Obsidian app (atomic notes)….
That’s the 30,000 foot version. Each step beyond iPad can be expanded/modified to achieve almost any option. YMMV!
I have no interest or desire to modify this workflow to accommodate books, be they paper or otherwise. Too difficult and/or expensive. 😉
First of all, thank you sincerely for your navigation! Especially this part:
My first choice of the journey to "ideal tablet" was reMarkable, but when I realized how problematic is to get it in the loop, I started looking for alternative.
The second, and I stil think the best choice, was Boox Nova Air 2 PLUS. E-ink, Android, easy installation of G-Play apps including Kindle (for reading on phone and tablet), Evernote (same app for fleet notes on PC, phone, tablet), Obsidian (same app for Zettelkasten on PC, tablet and phone) and G-Drive or GitHub (I hope for sharing Zettelkasten folder via PC, phone and tablet)... shortly, very easy integration to the loop of written notes, smart phone, computer and tablet. BUT the price... well I'm Czech academic working in Czech Republic... so, 520EUR is little too much for me...
My final choice, the tablet is on the way to store, is Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (3rd Gen, 128GB + 4GB) + Folio Case + active stylus Lenovo for 260EUR. It has all the features I needed from tablet as Boox, but it has no e-ink... I'm curious, how I will handle it :-)
As I wrote, I'm the very beginner, yesterday evening I just entered the chapter 9 of Sönke Ahrens' book. I hope I will share in some time my experience with ZK, whole loop and my experiences. For me, this is the last chance to become a true academic (47yo, last year I moved to uni administration to not have to care about teaching and research that don't interest me so much and get some time to focus on what interests me and break the wheel). If there will be my sharing it means I still believe I could make it, if not, I failed or I'm just exploiter of this forum :-)
I'm using now Lenovo Tab M10 Plus (3rd Gen, 128GB + 4GB) + Folio Case + active stylus Lenovo for 260EUR. It has all the features I needed from tablet as Boox, but it has no e-ink.
I use now for fleet notes paper notebook (bullet journal) and Evertone on phone, tablet and PC. For Zettelkasten I use Obsidian on all three devices. Surprisingly for me, the main problem was synchronize Obsidian vaults over all three devices -- now I'm using Google Drive, but surprisingly the G-Drive doesn't synchronize with Android devices automatically. The synchro task does for me now DriveSync app -- I'm using cheaper plan for 6EUR lifetime which syncs whole G-Drive if you want but I now sync only the folder with Zettelkasten vaults. It's little bit annoying start DriveSync and press sync whenever I want sync phone or tablet with G-Drive, but it's the least annoying way I have found so far.
Obsidian works great, I love markdown! Synchro works also very well, all permanent notes from one device I find in same state on the other. Now I also appreciate combo Evernote - Obsidian: I have my Everton full of unlinked fleet/permanent notes after 10 years of usage, so I'm looking for turning them into network of permanent notes in Obsidian.
You must have some clear ideas about what you want to accomplish with your ZK, at least over the next while. I encourage you to consider whether this purpose would best be served by trying to "convert" 10 years of Evernote "notes" to zettels in Obsidian. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. Some people start off that way, trying to convert old material into their ZK and then get discouraged because it is such a slow and laborious process. I have seen advice by others suggesting that a person new to the Zettelkasten world just start afresh, creating zettels to meet their current needs. If that includes bringing in one or two old bits of information, so be it.
Just introducing this idea so that you don't spend a month or two working on old notes and then deciding it isn't much fun, and feeling frustrated because it isn't getting you anywhere.
I agree with Christian about eInk--I always agree with @ctietze , and I always disagree with @Sascha on principle, even when I agree with him.†
I had high hopes for my Onyx Boox Note 5, but there isn't particularly good software for syncing. Sadly, the very promising ZettelNotes for Android also corrupted my files by striking out every line of the files I worked on. Perhaps ZettelNotes was telling me that everything I wrote was wrong, in which case, it wasn't wrong.
Recently I used Dropsync to completely corrupt my Zettelkasten on Android. It wasn't the "use case" I had in mind. I use Zettlr on the PC, but for the sake of interoperable software I figured out how to get Obsidian to use the the same Pandoc export configuration files and Pandoc latex template that Zettlr uses in Windoze 11. The plugin for this will have to be modified to allow the selection of the output format to determine the Pandoc export format file to use--otherwise you have to keep changing Obsidian plugin parameters when you change output formats. I also modified an Obsidian plugin so that it would show the first H1 header of a file in the file explorer, which is what Zettlr can be configured to do. Seeing what files link to the current file (the right-hand related files explorer in Obsidian and Zettlr) is another matter--I might fix the plugin for that. Obsidian makes the entire H1 header the filename if you aren't careful.
Syncing files with Obsidian is another chunk of change--this is where Obsidian becomes Absurdian. (The other reason is the proprietary code). The plugin system is OK--enough for a teenager to copypasta their way around it, which gives a superannuated programmer like me a slender reed to hang my hat on.
I already have iCloud, Dropbox and OneDrive subscriptions, not to mention Google Drive. I'm inclined to move everything to OneDrive at this point, since that might work ... maybe. OneDrive doesn't feel like a real cloud storage system--I have no decisive argument in favor of this impression or even any justification beyond my own (self-styled) emotional sensitivity to machines, but perhaps OneDrive is a real cloud storage system. On Android, the Dropbox folders tend to be hidden by the App and only accessible through the Dropbox API in some applications (if I have that right). GoogleDrive might be the same way. It's for that reason that I purchased DropSync, only to have it romp over my files. That could have been a misconfiguration, or due to a dropped connection--in any case I abandoned it. Perhaps OneDrive will expose the directory where it synchronizes files so that Absurdian can get to them. If not, I'm in the no-mans land of copying files back and forth.
If I were going to purchase another ebook reader, it would be a Boox Ultra. I would prefer PC-like refresh rates. Or a color ebook reader. But as Christian says, ebook readers are expensive.
† Which is most of the time.
GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Hello, I too have been going through a decision-making process on use of an e-ink tablet for use in working with Zettelkasten. The motivation for this is that I am not usually reading next to my computer, and my fleeting notes are scribbled on paper and only much later reviewed and typed into The Archive. After much review of competing tablets, I decided to order Supernote. I have not yet received the tablet, so I am only about to begin this phase of my overall experience. But, I wanted to share with you why I made this choice and how I plan to use it. Users of Supernote consistently praise its developers in their continuous improvement of its software and provided to the end user through free updates. The latest version--and I think this to be a major breakthrough--allows an either/or choice in creating a new note. This choice is to create a "simple note" that remains handwritten or alternatively to choose real time text conversion of your handwriting. Then, the note can be immediately reviewed and edited using the on screen typing tool. It can then be exported as a Word document, synced with the apparently free Supernote cloud or alternatively Dropbox, and from there transferred to your computer for selected use in zettels. Again, this is my plan after much investigation. Whether it will work as smoothly as I hope only time will tell. I will be interested in what others think of this.
Absolutely great point! I exactly want to follow your advice! I'm Calm now that I have old Evernote in same devices as Obsidian and I CAN use old Evernote notes if I want and it is useful. I'm thinking now that Evernote is just container full of old fleet notes, just sometimes structured to notebooks so getting old inspiration to new Obsidian permanent notes is easier. But generally you are 100 percent right -- turning 10 years of Evernote into Obsidian notes... OMG! That's worse than hell on Earth!
Thank you for great advice, you go help me to avoid discouragement!
@AvidReader From what I gathered of SuperNote users, the annotation features are really cool. You get a unified list of all annotation with surrounding lines of context. This applies to text highlights and also scribbles on top of the "pages". In theory, that could help process annotations/notes quite a bit compared to other devices. (The Kindle Scribe does this as well, but the Boox devices separate scribbles from text highlights. Not sure about the reMarkable, not many users chimed in there)
Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/
A solution to my syncing problem: OneSync for OneDrive seems to work for a one-time $10 fee. I moved my ZK from Dropbox to OneDrive. Backups to a separate drive are still needed since cloud storage is not the same as backup and restore. Corporate cloud companies can deny access to your own files for any reason. This means I could (probably) do some of the work on my Boox Note 5. We'll see.
GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0.
I came very close to buying the SuperNote tablet, after watching the KittBetts youtube video for which @ctietze provided a link. It seemed to do everything I wanted and I only hesitated because I already have too many devices. Maybe I'll look at it again.
Please let us know how it all works, once you receive your unit and have a chance to try it out.
This is a followup to my note of Jan 24. I have been using my new A5X Supernote tablet for just over a week, and so far I am quite pleased with it. I have not used it to read imported text (Kindle or PDF)--only to take notes. It is very good at organizing notes into folders and subfolders, making them easy to locate when needed in the future. When creating a new note, you make a choice up front between a "simple note"--which remains handwritten--and a "text note" which converts your handwriting to text (once you hit the convert button--which ironically is a capital "A"). I have found that the conversion, for my handwriting, is around 85% accurate. But editing the text is relatively easy with the popup keyboard. The saving and syncing was not at first intuitive for me, but not overly difficult once I went back and more carefully read the user manual. Once edited, you go to Settings>Sync>Save then separately pull down the top menu and hit "sync" which then shows a progress bar as the note is sent to the Supernote Cloud. (This is a free 32GB cloud.) And you do the same steps to save and upload a simple note. So far, I have not transferred a file from the Cloud to my computer but will do so soon. You can also transfer files directly from the device to a computer using a USB connection. For those like me with a Mac computer, you need to install a program such as OpenMTP. I have read that some Supernote users convert handwritten notes to text using a program with OCR capabilities. Do any of you have experience with that? That would allow you to keep all notes as "simple notes" and convert selected ones later. Finally, I am glad that I got the larger A5X. For now, I am putting all my notes from a book into one file which can get fairly long. The smaller A6X would work, but create many more pages. Clearly, others of you could have a different work flow where the smaller and less expensive device would work.
I have my Zettelkasten in Obsidian, backed up in Dropbox, which I work on regularly from both my PC and my Android phone.
My syncing solution has been working really well on mobile. All you need is a Dropbox-based ZK. Obsidian isn't a must, but I'm also able to sync my app settings between desktop and mobile, so it's a huge plus.
I downloaded Dropsync from the Google Play Store, which lets you manually sync your Zettelkasten files to your phone.
I use the "Sync Now" Widget and place it next to my Obsidian shortcut. I always click it before and after I make my tweaks on mobile.