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Developer Tips – Sticky Notes and One Note and Word to Augment Documentation



I am always going on and on about documentation. That’s my jam because I know and have experienced how much things get delayed and messed up when there is no documentation. I have worked on projects large and small, and one thing is for certain. For years now, we are living in an economy where rarely do enterprising individuals will go through at least five employers in their career. Further, people like, work for at least five different employers in any given year. That means, folks who work are constantly on the move. Work gets paused, and then it gets resumed, and that is how it works.

On an individual level, this happens a lot as well. I myself am juggling half a dozen projects – work and personal – at any given point of time. There is no possible way I can remember what I was doing on project A 2 days ago because I am now neck deep in Project B and Project C. The human brain is not designed for memory storage. It is designed for processing.

To that effect, today, I thought I will blog about the many note taking tools I use for my own work, to keep things documented for efficient work flow for myself and for others.

Sticky Notes

All windows computers come built in with sticky notes. The concept of sticky notes (just like the real sticky notes, which is also something I use in my daily life) is simply. Open up a quick note taking page, and start typing anything and everything. Prior to discovering sticky notes, I was using notepad, but notepad has some problems. The problem is that it was designed in an era when everything had to have a menu bar, and it has extremely poor formatting and it does not auto save.

The sticky notes, in some ways, is like a more advanced version of notepad. It auto saves. It is quick to launch and retains formatting. It also has some neat colors, which I don’t know, brightens up my day.

I normally use sticky notes when I am researching something, developing something or working out a problem. Here, the priority is quick note taking, copy pasting and such.

One Note

Sticky Notes is nice, but if it has one flaw, it is that it does sync with other devices. I love working across multiple devices. Even as I write, I have like at least 6 devices around me, which are all cloud enabled. At a given point of time, I may decide to read or write something on any of those devices. I don’t wish to have that uncertainty where something I wanted to mull over is not available.

That is where OneNote comes into the picture. OneNote is like a book binder, which holds multiple books and each book can have unlimited sections, and unlimited pages. It’s also free. It is available on every platform imaginable.

However, I wont trust OneNote to do quick note taking. For that, I exclusively use sticky notes. OneNote is more long term where in all the research is already done and now I want to push it to the cloud. Usually, stuff that is to be stored permanently will move from sticky notes to OneNote. Quick Note taking is not an option on OneNote because it is heavy, and hence slow. For long term note storage, OneNote is excellent because it has excellent syncing, formatting, organizing and sharing features.

Word

Microsoft (who also make OneNote) makes another entry in my documentation tools via their productivity extraordinaire, Microsoft Word. Together – sticky notes and OneNote – take care of all my note taking needs. So, where does Word come into the picture?

Sometimes (actually a lot of times) a lot of stuff needs to be shared, in a proper format with others. Sometimes, it simply makes sense to have something in an easily readable format. This actually happens more often than you think. Most importantly, it is impossible to assume that other people (or unknown devices) have sticky notes or OneNote. However, most of the time folks will have Microsoft Word (or something similar) installed on their work machine.

Along with this, Microsoft has made an excellent job of integrating the cloud with its flagship productivity software. So, it all syncs up on OneDrive, which itself comes with simple version of Word in the browser. To me, that is the best of both worlds. When these conditions are satisfied, it is best to use Word over sticky notes and OneNote.

Alternatives

Obviously, there are alternatives available for those who don’t wish to use the above. There are quite a few replacements available for sticky notes and they all probably have better tools. Much of them free, and they integrate with windows, mac or linux, no problem.

For OneNote, the only alternative I would recommend is Evernote. I have used Evernote, but they are a paid service for advanced features. So, I am not using that. Not when OneNote gives me everything Evernote can give and I don’t have to create one more account.

For Word, there is LibreOffice which is quite good. Google Docs is also okay, but it runs in a browser and I really don’t want to tie my productivity to a browser based app all the time. It simply does not gel well with me. For the cloud, I have recommended OneDrive above. Alternatives are Google Drive and Dropbox, and here, I would rather you go with the latter.

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