nvALT as my database for everything

Several months ago I started using nvALT and Simplenote as a portable electronic notebook. Both apps are easy to use and offer near ubiquitous access to my stuff. Today, that combo is my Great Database of Everything, from reference emails to post ideas and driving directions. Here’s how I use nvALT and Simplenote to keep things organized and accessible.

Cloud before cloud was Cloud

nvALT wirelessly syncs with Simplenote. To enable this feature, first create a free Simplenote account. Then launch nvALT and open the Notes preference settings. Click the Synchronization tab and then select Synchornize with Simplenote. Enter your username and password and finally set the sync frequency. That’s it. Now your nvALT notes will be kept in sync with the Simplenote web app and free, universal iOS app.

Organize by name

Careful naming will keep your list tidy, readable and search-friendly. Here are a few tips. First, front-load the name of each note with its topic. For example, notes relating to 52 Tiger start with, you guessed it, “52 Tiger.” Right now I’ve got “52 Tiger – post ideas” and “52 Tiger – future gloating” in my list. Likewise, “TUAW – policies” and “New York Trip – parking” are also bopping around.

Equally important is the subtitle. Merlin Mann posted this trick once and I’ve used it since. Once you create a note, format the first line like this: “Subtitle: Description” (for example, “Subtitle: NYC hotel information”). That way, when you look at your list of posts you’ll see exactly what each one is about (see below). Finally, click the View menu and opt to sort by title. Now all related notes will be next to each other.

Needle, no haystack

Both nvALT and Simplenote search the entire contents of a note. This means I can search “New York” to see every note relating to our pending family trip to the Big Apple [1. Incidentally, I’m planning a trip to NYC entirely in nvALT.]. Likewise, searching “reservation New York” will pull up hotel and restaurant information both planned for this trip and stored as reference (restaurants visited in the past). Perhaps I’ll take the family to a place I previously enjoyed on my own.

This is working out so incredibly well. Any bit of reference material I receive is added to nvALT, properly named and synchronized with Simplenote. Changes made in one app show up in the other. Try it out for simple, fast access to all of your stuff.