In the last of three postings I wrote on note taking for the dissertation about a year ago, I proposed a kind of a note taking software that would allow researchers to link the huge gap between our notes on individual sources and that which we do when outlining and structuring large writing projects.
I argued that one of the key elements of this new note taking software would be that every bullet point in one’s notes carried within itself information about where it came from: what its source was.1 This would allow a graduate student like me who is writing a dissertation or a scholar who is writing a book to drag and drop individual bullet points of notes made on a given source, such as an archival document into a broader outline of a chapter or dissertation without having to make an additional note as to what source I got that bullet point from.
This is particularly useful if, like me, you have dozens of pages of notes, taken from hundreds of archival documents, books, articles, etc. but you want to extract individual points from these sources and compile them into a larger outline as you plan the writing process.
While the tooth fairy never produced such software for me, I have created a little AppleScript hack for my favorite note taking software OmniOutliner that gets me closer to what I want. Simply put, the applescript assigns some text to the “note” field of a group of selected bullet points in an OmniOutliner document. Thus, if those bullet points are dragged and dropped into another document, they will always carry with them whatever source information you assigned to those bullet points.
I created two AppleScripts: One which takes whatever text is in the clipboard and sets the “note” of each selected row in your notes to that text. The second script ignores the clipboard and asks you directly in a dialog box what text you wish to put into the “note” of each selected row. You may download these two scripts from my Huginn script collection:
I don’t get it, why would you want to do this? Watch my screencast where I explain what I’m trying to do. If the youtube video below doesn’t appear, you can visit it directly on youtube through this link.
(Sorry about the poor sound quality)
How do you get this work?
1. Download the script.
2. Place the “Set Note to Source in Clipboard” script in one of your script folders (either that for OmniOutliner or in the [your home folder]/Library/Scripts/
3. Open OmniOutliner
4. Select some text that corresponds to the source of some notes that you took, and Copy it via the edit menu (or Command-C).
5. Select one or more rows that you wish assign this source to.
6. Choose the “Set Note to Source in Clipboard” script from the script menu. If your script menu is not visible in the menubar, turn it on.
7. If you find yourself doing this often, consider adding a keyboard shortcut for the script, using triggers for quicksilver or fastscripts or the like.
- I also suggested adding the ability to easily add tags to a bullet point and those bullet points under it. [↩]