Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

John Markoff introduced me to Scott Love over the Net. He is the man behind the amazing outliner NoteTaker. Markoff is using NoteTaker. I have this funny thing with Markoff because he won't blog. I think Markoff's sense of finding cool people and cool technologies is amazing though. He was the one who gave me MacPPP when it first came out and it was one of the key elements in dragging me back into networked computing again after a lull in the late 80's. Anyway, when John tells me I "need to meet" someone, I do.

Scott is great. So is NoteTaker. First of all, I have become TOTALLY addicted to NoteTaker. I throw EVERYTHING into it. Photos of people, sounds, URL's, clippings, PDF's, etc. I can sort them, organize them, annotate them, index them, create to do's and publish them in OPML, as web pages or as mail attachments to others using NoteTaker. So, when I met the man behind NoteTaker via email and eventually in person, I realized that this was no ordinary piece of software but something written by someone who had a big plan, but was willing to take a lot of feedback and build it into the product. I've been talking to Scott about a lot of feature requests and thoughts on where things might go. Suffice it to say that he "gets it."

So, I'm excited that maybe NoteTaker will be a way to get some convergence between us and the non-blogging world. NoteTaker has a great interface and does many things... If you haven't tried the product, take it for a spin and IMAGINE... ;-)

PS I do not have any financial interest in the company and am writing from the point of view of an enthusiastic paid customer. ;-)


Okay, you've sold me. Just ordered my (academic) copy. Looking forward to playing with it.

Oh...and for some reason, your blog keeps losing track of my cookie, and forcing me to re-enter info. :-(

Hmmm. Got confirmation from the academic reseller, but still haven't gotten my registration code by mail from Aquaminds. Tried to download the trial version to play with while I wait, and I didn't receive a registration code for that, either. Tried e-mailing them to find out why I hadn't received the codes, got no response. Phbbbt.

OK. So I'm a ferverous outliner too. Perhaps my favorite tool is frankly an academic target application called Inspiration. I use it for taking notes, outlining my writing and simply brainstorming and building mind maps. I also use OmniOutliner which has the OPML export, but it's just not that flexible nor intuitive for more than simple text. Must I try NoteTaker? You've now blogged about it twice. I guess I must.

Ok, I'm getting an ibook as soon as I can find the cash for it (partly to play with note taker) but I'm wondering if anyone could reccomend a good outliner for PC. I recently was transfered to a new dept. at work and I'm now in charge of writing reports on emerging software. Something like note taker looks like exactly what I need. Any reccomendations would be appreciated.

Probably the best outliner for Windows is Inspiration. However, the outline function in Word is pretty good although not as good as More or Inspiration. Inspiration is better known as being the most powerful mind mapping program around.

As a follow-up, I did hear back from Scott today, and am now up and running with my academic license. Looks intriguing...will blog my reactions to it in a week or so after I've had some time to play.

I just can't get passed NoteTaker's interface. This thing just looks sooo cheap with the lines and spiral notebook. Just a little too cute for its own good. Nice concept, poor implementation.

Notetaker is exactly the kind of thing I've been looking for for at least 6 years now. I've tried numerous 'notebook' type packages over the years and every single one of them fell short of being useful. After playing around with the demo for about 15 minutes yesterday, I'd assembled an incredibly useful notebook for my job as a unix sysadmin. This morning I bought the software and love it.

How does NoteTaker stack up to / differ from other management systems like Tinderbox? Because Tinderbox has just the sort of convergence yr hinting at...


I've never tried Tinderbox. What platform does it run on?

I read and enjoyed your review, and I am an excited user of NoteTaker too.

One glaring problem with it, which I think as a writer you’ll appreciate, is the misappropriation of keyboard shortcuts usually used for text navigation.

Option-arrow, command-arrow

As I write this in Safari (or almost any other Mac software) I can jump back a word or two without even thinking by hitting option-leftarrow. This is a reflex action now. Command arrow goes to the start or end of a line.

(The ideal product for this kind of thing was MORE – it had the most powerful and useful set of keyboard commands for editing an outline that I have ever seen)

So, while I find a huge amount to love and use in NoteTaker, I daily (hourly) find myself hitting option-arrow or command-arrow to move around the text I’m writing, only to look up and find myself on another page!

I already mentioned this in their feedback form, and they replied that they may give an option to customise keyboard commands in a future version. Still, I feel that by not using fundamental pseudo-standards for text editing in a product targeted at writing, they’re undermining the product and should be put under some pressure.

What do you think?

NoteTaker, in its previous incarnation as NoteBook, was my favorite application on the NeXT platform. I was extremely happy when it came out for OS X.

The main thing I like about NoteTaker is the clipping service, where you can select a bit of text in a webpage and copy it into a NoteTaker notebook by just selecting a menu item.

The only improvement to clipping would be if, when you make a clipping from a web page, NoteTaker also copied the URL and title of the page. You'll probably want to save that as well, most of the time. I suggested it, but implementing it will probably require working with browser developers.

In response to Jeff Crawford, who wrote: "I just can't get passed NoteTaker's interface. This thing just looks sooo cheap with the lines and spiral notebook. Just a little too cute for its own good. Nice concept, poor implementation."

The lines are optional. You can easily get rid of them. The spirals... I can see how that'd look a little silly, but they're not as bad as,
say, a talking paperclip.

The spirals aren't there when you print, which would be a real problem.

Hey Jon,

NoteTaker is actually a copy of the NoteBook application I wrote for the NEXTSTEP platform. My new company (Circus Ponies Software) is working on NoteBook for OS X, and it's looking really great. And it has the kind of clean interface, user interaction and polish that I was known for creating in my NEXTSTEP applications.

Excuse me if this sounds like a stupid question, but why doesn't someone write a NoteTaker/NoteBook for Windoze?

Well first, it would have to be several someones. Many several someones, actually. OS X is a great development platform that gives you all kinds of stuff "for free." Like the great OS X text object. NoteBook depends upon it for a lot of functionality. On Windows I would need a team of people to recreate this functionality, *and then* I would get to start coding my app.

And OS X's imaging and window subsystems let you create really great-looking, responsive and intuitive interfaces.

And there are features that exist only under OS X, such as being able to select text/images/whatever in any application and to send that selection into a Notebook while staying within the source application (this is NoteBook's Clipping Service feature). This is all done without NoteBook having to know anything about any other application on the system (the OS works out the communication details).

But it could be done. It would be clunky and wouldn't have every feature of the OS X version, but it could be done. And with all the venture money floating around it would be easy to fund a stable of programmers for two years, uh, wait a minute.... For me, though, any potential financial windfall is outweighed by the aggravation and frustration I would experience trying to code it for Windows. I have enough gray hairs already :-).

For an easy to use outliner under Windows look at NoteMap by CaseSoft. Very straight forward and More like.

Well I got my iBook this week and NoteTaker was one of the first things I downloaded (after Mozilla and Safari). This is going to make my work so much easier it isn't even funny.

Thanks Joi for reccomending this app. And if anyone else feels like reccomending cool apps for a mac newbie, feel free to drop me a line.

LaunchBar is absolutely the most useful thing on my machine. The next most important tool is copypaste-x.

NoteTaker needs to lose the hokey spiral binder design. For those of us with even a modicum of design sensitivity, this makes it a non-starter. Omni Outliner will do for now, with its clean look. If I wanted tacky, I would switch to Windows XP.

thanks for the hint on notemap - it's not bad at all.

This all actually reminds me of a talk I once heard from the science fiction writer Bruce Sterling (at Apachecon in San Francisco one year, as I recall). He complained bitterly about [well known word processor] and its complicated mutating structure, and wondered when someone would develop a 'webitor', something that would make it easy for him to combine information from lots of different online sources.

oh yes, and one more thing: what would really be funky would be some sort of combination of a NoteTaker program and a Wiki program, so that you could publish selected portions of your notes and let other people annotate them ... Jeez Jayson, if you see any of that venture money floating around, be sure 'n bounce it my way.

I said there was no way I was going to port NoteBook to Windows, and not a week later the NoteTaker guys announce that's exactly what they're going to do.

I think I may have scared them off the platform :-).

This product looks great, but does anyone remember TechWork's product, called "Spiral"? It was almost exactly the same (even the spiral edge): tabs, links, hypertext, etc. This was back in the early 90's, though, and it wasn't nearly as powerful or network-integrated. Spiral was one of the first products actually designed for note-taking on PowerBooks, it had battery-saving features and so on.

TechWorks didn't really keep up with it and it went out of active development after a year or so. They only sold a couple thousand copies. The product makes much more sense now that it can integrate with the web and ink and all that.

NoteTaker was great until I found NoteBook by Circus Ponies ( It is written by the same person as the original NoteBook app for the NEXTSTEP platform, Jayson Adams. (You can find his comments above.) He and Scott Love cofounded Millennium Software Labs in the 80s and when the company dissolved, they went their own paths. Love founded Aquaminds in 2003 and Adams founded Circus Ponies. From the very start, I liked NoteTaker for what I could do with it, but it had a really poorly designed interface -- it didn't feel Mac nor MacOS X. I just found NoteBook while surfing the Net and am surprised to find it is an enhanced NoteTaker. NoteTaker may have more features, but NoteBook shines in its appearence and ease of use. It does things like I wanted NoteTaker to behave. Just check it out, download NoteBook and convince yourself.

Circus Ponies Notebook, really shines. I've owned Notetaker for a couple of months and liked it, but I find That Notebook is better designed, faster, smoother and has a much better "super-find" feature. For my purposes the only advantage Notetaker has is voice note recording.
And the competitive upgrade price is only 10 bucks.

Too bad these two couldn't pool their resources.


smoother and has a much better "super-find" feature

cept you cant use it to search for numbers like 123, very large bug

Glad I found this product and discussion. I've been a big fan of personal information management software, participating in the Capitol PC Users Group PIMSIG back in the mid-80s. The group was initially formed around the DOS-based Lotus Agenda product, which I'm glad to see that Mitch Kapor's trying to resurrect with his "Chandler" project.

Although I've been a huge fan of Steve Jobs and Apple/NeXT/Apple (a charter subscriber to NeXTWORLD magazine), I've just recently had the resources to buy a Mac (Powerbook 12). Seeing NoteTaker at the Apple Store was the clincher for buying the Mac, and I'm also glad to see that Jayson is active again with NoteBook on OSX (I had tried to convince people at US ED that NoteBook was reason enough for getting a NeXTSTEP machine)

Karl Hebenstreit, Jr.

All window users
I am using the best outliner for windows, and its FREE!!!!
never crashes,simple to use,perfect.

find it on

I've tried NoteTaker and it has some excellent features for researching and compiling -- especially as most of what i do is in outline form.

Wasn't impressed with response for request for an academic/non-profit licence. Most companies will give ordained Christian ministers like me a concession as we operate on minimal budgets -=- and it shows goodwill to the wider community.

How about it, Scott?

Rev Ian Greig

Tinderbox runs on Mac OS 8,9 and X
the site is at

Good at exporting to HTML, clean interface, many views, good keyboard navigaton. Agents that can automatically classify your notes, many different views. Open XML data format.

You are so enthusiastic about Note Taker, you sound so comvincing... But I've been using NoteBook for a while and I'm not sure I want to switch over to Note Taker...

I was just about to buy Notetaker when I found this discussion, now I have to test Notebook.... to be honest I like the spiral GUI but I guess it would be easy to request to have the spiral thingie as an option in the preferences.


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