I have been exploring a new piece of software that shows some promise as a genealogy research log and note-taking application as well as many other uses. RedNotebook is a free, open source program for Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux.
RedNotebook may be compared to a blog and a wiki combined. The major difference, however, is that all the information you create is stored on your computer's hard drive, not on the Internet.
Click on the image to see a larger screenshot.
Bloggers often use blogs as a personal notepad or to jot down texts or ideas they like. One problem with a normal blog is that you have to publish your articles online. Blogs are all about sharing your thoughts or ideas – not keeping the articles to yourself. However, for many projects, including genealogy research, you might want to keep private notes, "to-do" list, and perhaps information found in a private journal on your own hard drive, not online. Of course, you can later publish bits of the information or all of it in various formats, should you decide to do so. However, with RedNotebook, the default is to keep the information private on your own hard drive for as long as you wish, even perhaps forever. Of course, if you carry a laptop with you that includes its own self-contained database, you don't have to go looking for a wi-fi connection every time you want to record or look up a note.
You can find dozens of note-taking applications, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. I have never seen a perfect note-taking application. RedNotebook is not perfect, and yet I find it useful for a number of tasks, including transcribing notes when at a library, courthouse, or archive of some sort.
What I like about RedNotebook is that information can be recalled at any time. In fact, retrieving information is almost instantaneous.
The program works like a graphical diary that allows you to write down what has happened in your day. It will let you transcribe notes or research results, remind you of your schedule, and more.
When you first open RedNotebook, you will notice there is a calendar in the upper left corner. You create a note by clicking on the calendar, which inserts today's date as the first line of text in your note. You also can define a category, if you wish. By defining a separate category for each project, you can easily use one notebook for a variety of projects.
As you type, the autosaving function works so that you don't have to worry about having all your information disappear on you if your laptop or computer power gets cut off. At the most, you will only lose a few seconds of data entry.
When you install RedNotebook, the first few entries displayed are automatically created by the installation software. These are great examples that illustrate the various features of the program. Reading these examples will teach you how to do the same. You can later delete them or keep the example entries, as you wish.
Importing of images uses a simple drag-and-drop method. You can open up your Windows, Macintosh, or Linux file manager, drag images to a journal entry, and drop them into place.
One of the best features of RedNotebook is the ability to create, or “annotate,” and categorize your daily entries. For example, you might create a category called “Towler family” for all your information about that ancestral line. When you want to enter a note about that line, you find the “Towler family” category in the area called Annotations in Categories on the right-hand side of RedNotebook. Click on that category to open it, and start typing your note.
Finding information is easy and works much like a wiki. To find that note on the “Towler family” later on, you can search your entire journal for ”towler” or any other text within the note itself. You simply enter any word or phrase in the search box, and RedNotebook instantly finds every occurrence of that word or phrase in its notes.
- a drag and drop interface that allows you to import information from other programs
- web links and mail addresses are recognized automatically
- Category cloud that automatically displays the most popular entries in your journal
- entry tags
- text formatting (bold, italics, underlining, and more)
- in line images
- export to PDF, HTML, LaTeX (a document markup language used most widely in academia), or plain text files
- multiple journals
- auto save
- open source
- easy to backup to a ZIP archive
- translated into 16 languages
RedNotebook has many uses. I have already described using it as a note-taking tool for genealogy research. I also use it to record what foods I ate today for counting calories and carbohydrates. Being a diabetic, I also record my blood sugar levels every day. I suspect you can find other uses as well.
RedNotebook is a rather simple program, which is why I think it works so well. Other programs have bells and whistles, but RedNotebook can be used to "Get ‘r done," to quote Larry the Cable Guy. Not the fanciest program around, but perhaps one of the more valuable.
You can read more or even download the free RedNotebook program at http://rednotebook.sourceforge.net/