3 Nifty Apps to Organize and Store Ideas

apps photoThe need to organize your thoughts and store new ideas isn’t just a writer’s thing. I find myself needing to capture ideas for all kinds of things, as does DH (who knew there were so many Star Wars hobby ideas? 🙂 ).

If you’re cruising the ‘net on your laptop or smartphone and come across a cool web site you want to find again, it’s pretty easy to simply email yourself a link. But what happens when you go back to your inbox? Lots of clutter and the need to shift all those self-mailed emails into various folders (or you can do what DH does and just leave them in the inbox. Type A personality nightmare! :o)

There’s a better way.

Admittedly there are probably as many great apps a writer can use to organize and store ideas as there are sub-genres on Amazon. I’m only highlighting the four I use on a regular basis. Here they are in no particular order:

Evernote

If you’re a little tech savvy and prefer having your ideas accessible at any time from any computer or gadget, I suggest signing up for a free Evernote account.

What makes this app great is the ability to clip web articles, add tags and comments, and save it all to one of several notebooks you set up. Not only can you save things from the web, you can include pictures you’ve taken on your smartphone and do the same thing.

Oh! And did I mention you can take a picture of restaurant menus, wine labels, anything with text and do a search for a word in the picture? No tags necessary. Cool!

I’ve even used it to keep track of things I planned to get for family members for Christmas. Just take a picture of the item at the store, tag it, and save it to the appropriate notebook. Voila! No more trying to explain to DH what thing I was talking about when we were narrowing the ideas down to fit the budget.

These things alone make Evernote a great app to have. If you’re sold on all things Microsoft, however, OneNote is similar, but I honestly prefer Evernote.

You can use it as a writer’s tool or for any thing you can think of that needs ideas easily accessible.

Mind42

Creative types, especially writers, often have ideas for their current project at odd hours. Often times, those ideas are just bits and pieces that may or may not link to other bits and pieces of a given project.

Roz Morris suggests in her book Nail Your Novel using a hatbox method. Basically you scribble your idea on a piece of paper and throw it in a hat box for later. I loved the idea, but, being a geek and a Type A personality, I wanted something just a bit more structured and digital. Enter Mind42.

This free mind mapping program is strictly online, but that’s the beauty of it. I can access my mind maps anywhere, anytime. I can also export the file in several formats to work with other programs or as a pdf or jpeg just to reference offline.

Dropbox

I like to be able to access my blueprint for a book and what I’ve already written anywhere at any time (that seems to be the theme in the post ;)). For those times I depend on the cloud.

Until I read Joel Freidlander’s post Life in the Cloud, I hadn’t really given it much thought. I just carried a big bag with everything printed out. Not very efficient, but what else could I do?

Then I heard about “the cloud” and I had to know what it was. When I discovered it was a way to save just about anything in the etherworld and there were free options, I jumped on it. I’d already begun using Evernote for my notes, why not find something to do the same with my documents?

I have, on occasion used Google docs, but I’m not a big fan because I lose nearly all my formatting from my Word documents, at least for the comments and such. So when I discovered Dropbox not only stores your files, but opens them with Microsoft Online software, I was ecstatic.

This is a wonderful option for storing files you may want to access on multiple devices. Consider it like a backup drive that’s available at any time for any computer or smartphone.

There are many other apps available for our organizational needs. It’s just a matter of a little research and the willingness to test them out.

What apps or gadgets have you discovered to fit your needs?

Photo by Jason A. Howie

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