tagging of text and cloud appearance

Asked by Ben Green on 2011-11-21

I sent this a few days ago to the mailing list, but before I was a member, so I'm not sure it reached anybody.

I use RN for a personal journal as well as for collecting ideas for work and on the whole I absolutely love the software!!
I know nothing about programing, so I don't know how difficult it would be to implement this.

But there is a feature I would like to suggest, and that is the ability to mark paragraphs of text in one day and then be able to tag and search for that seperately.
For example, one of 10 paragraphs you write in one day is about visiting your grandmother, you could then highlight that paragraph, tag it with 'nanny visits' and when you search for it, or click on 'nanny visits' in the cloud, you'd not only get the days with the relevant tag, but the right paragraph out of the 10 would also be highlighted for you.
It's useful for people who write a lot and don't want to put eth under headings.

It would also get rid of the workaround of having to keep two different journals for different purposes make it easier having all purposes mixed in the entry for one day (so work notes on a novel you're writing as well as personal notes about how your day was etc.)
Working creatively means that aspects of my personal life (in my personal journal) and aspects of my work intertwine. But sometimes when I search I'm looking for one specific thought (like say the tag is 'happiness', which could be a tag that applies to work as well as personal, but I might want to use personal experiences of happiness to influence my work), and having to search one journal then close it and then search the other, or read thorugh masses of text on a specific day to find what I'm looking for is quite time consuming.

It would be really great to see this feature and be able to tag text within a day, rather than just the day as a whole. I think many more people with a creative work background might be interested in that.

Many, many thanks!

Kind regards,

Ben

Another question, yet less important, is how i can change the appearance of the tag cloud, i.e. change the colours or if on mouseover a tag is crossed out or underlined etc..? Can I use one of these 3d kinda clouds?

Question information

Language:
English Edit question
Status:
Solved
For:
RedNotebook Edit question
Assignee:
No assignee Edit question
Solved by:
Jendrik Seipp
Solved:
2011-11-23
Last query:
2011-11-23
Last reply:
2011-11-23
HansBKK (hansbkk) said : #1

Regarding tagging inline elements. What follows is my opinion as a fellow user only.

Rednotebook is as you note a fantastic tool, and beyond the general user-interface "just another piece of software" features as a journal, it is very valuable in its potential as a part of a larger set of "personal information management" tools.

See the "Unix philosophy"
Write programs that do one thing and do it well. Write programs to work together. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.

What you write in your daily journal is a hodgepodge of all kinds of different information, its only structure being as a timeline. in your example, that "chunk" of text is a "to-do" - fits in my scheme to "Projects and Actions" as I try to more or less follow GTD methodology - other types include "reference" information, calendar dates, self-analysis, habit tracking logs etc.

My advice is:
 - research and select different tools for tracking the different types. In my case I use Redmine for my Projects and Actions - way overkill for some people, who may prefer "Remember the Milk", or be forced by their work to use Basecamp, or. . .

- periodically scan through your previous RN journal entries and "clean them out". decide to either leave the text alone and **copy** the relevant text to the appropriate tool, or to edit past entries and **move** the text out. My preference is the former, to leave past entries alone.

I use a per-day tag (the only kind in RN's UI) to indicate whether or not I've processed that day's entry or not. I use the "tag category" of "!procGTD", with values of "0untouched" "started" "zDone". I also have a !procRef for processing reference information - "chunks" I might want to refer to later, or possibly will become part of a larger structured document - these I keep in DokuWiki as the RN-native txt2tags markup, and (if the latter) later on convert to Asciidoc, eventually to become a DocBook, which is easily converted to structured HTML, eBook format or pretty-print PDF or hardcopy.

So every few days, maximum weekly, I make a pass through my journal entries for each type of data and copy and paste them into my structured information management system, in the "one true place" where that type of information belongs and therefore I know I'll be able to easily find them (or in the case of HL they'll pop up on the right date).

My point in all this is to let RN do what it does well, and use best-of-breed (in your opinion) tools to manage your various types of information in the appropriate format that works for you. If one day you decide to change your journaling tool - say you set up a blogging platform that has good security so you can flag bits as "for your eyes only" vs "to publish" - you can just stop using RN, leave the data behind for future reference without having to convert/import/export etc. As all the "other than a historical journal record" data is already living in the right place.

If RN tried to be a to-do list manager, or general information manager, it will likely become just another hodgepodge of bloatware with a "locked in" data format and therefore less useful as the beautifully streamlined journaling tool it is today.

By the way after all that ranting, you can have your own markup conventions to tag chunks of journal text with whatever you like and then just search for it with the "Everything" button to see it highlighted - just choose text strings that you wouldn't type in your normal content.

I use [A!] for actions/to-do's [P] for projects [HL] (hard landscape) for true calendar dates (kept in Sunbird) [rf] for reference information to be extracted into my knowledgebase [Q?] for questions needing answering, etc. You should of course make up your own, e.g. [Grannie] 8-)

Regarding styling the clouds - sorry no idea.

Ben Green (ben-jamina84) said : #2

First of all thank you very much, HansBKK for your suggestions and insights!
I think I may have been missunderstood a little bit, which is probably due to the example I gave.

Here is a better explanation of WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR AND WHY:
I have in fact for several years now been out researching for a piece of software (I very much subscribe to this 'Unix philosophy' and the idea of a program doing one thing well and hence be simple to handle by the way!) that acts as an ideas database (and I mean creative ideas), and I have downloaded and tried many many free as well as costly software.
What I liked about RN, for instance, is the fact that it stores the text in simple .txt files, that have, and probably will be around forever, so no worrying about using the text in them in other applications for years to come.

Now as I said I also keep a personal journal. In that journal I often write large quantities of text. I am talking pages, sometimes up to 5, every night. The content of the information could be stuff like how I feel about my girlfriend breaking up with me, describe how my weekend was, or what went down at my last visit at my grandma's etc. These chunks can be several lines long, or even pages.

On top of that I keep (in real life, i.e. no computer involved) what I call an ideas collection book. That's for my work as a writer. That can also be several pages a day. The content of that information could be accounts of strange stuff I saw people do on the train or at the supermarket, things like that. Little stories, which most of the time I have no clue what I'm gonna need them for or if I'm ever gonna use them when I write them down. They can also be long paragraphs or sometimes pages.

So in total I accumulate a lot of different text material a day. And the way I describe above is just if it comes to my head neatly. Sometimes something I see at the supermarket, will trigger a made-up idea, and I will write that down in the same paragraph. A bit like a stream of consciousness, just getting it all out, so then there could be 2 ideas in one paragraph.

Now say I am writing a screenplay, in which I have a character, an old lady, who I want something strange happening to at a supermarket (and that's just a very simplified example..). Then I would like to go and search for/get a list of
a) all times I jotted something down about strange people in supermarkets (to see if I can adapt it into a scene) and
b) all things I put down about visits to my grandma's (to enhance the character or imagine better how they respond for example).

So the need for being able to tag sentences or paragraphs in a long long text that I wrote in one day, arises because of the above.

PREVIOUSLY USED WORKAROUNDS
I have used workarounds so far. Either given each idea or little story a 'heading' in bold, or in colour, added a tag for that little story to the whole day, and when I searched for that tag, I could see relatively quickly where the paragraph was that contained the information I was looking for. But as explained, often the information I write down can't be seperated so neatly into paragraphs that can then have 'headings'. It could be that it absolutely needs to be in the context of a longer text, which then again contains all different ideas, so I can't find one 'heading' for that paragraph.

I have also used 2 seperate RN journals, one for work (i.e. novel ideas etc) and one for my personal (ie emotions I went through on my birthday etc). But since you can't have 2 journals open at the same time, when I want to search for information to see if I want to connect things from the 2 different journals, I have to open one, then close it, then open the other one, and so on...it's very time consuming.

If I could search for a tag (for example 'grandma experiences'), and RN gives me days where I wrote something about experiences with my grandma, as well as highlight the exact paragraph in yellow, where I wrote about the experience with my grandma on that day, I wouldn't have to read through masses of text in that one day to find the short story about my grandma.
Once I have this information I work with my screenplay writing program Final Draft anyway. So I'm not so worried about a program to format text for me or publish it in a nice eBook format.
I'm looking for a quick way of dipping into my collection of personal experiences, stories and ideas and getting the thing I'm looking for.

USING RN DIFFERENTLY
"periodically scan through your previous RN journal entries and "clean them out". decide to either leave the text alone and **copy** the relevant text to the appropriate tool, or to edit past entries and **move** the text out. My preference is the former, to leave past entries alone."
---- that's exactly what I don't want to do because this copying and pasting around consumes a lot of time, plus I have no overview over what I have written down. If it was just that, I'd use simple Word, or even just a .txt file to keep my short stories in, but I like RN because you can keep them on the days you saw them or experiences them or thought of them, and then tag them, which is the big advantage over normal word processing! But it'd be nice for the tagging to go further than just for the day as a whole.

For my todos and appointments etc., like planning or structuring my writing projects I use an old school paper calendar or Thunderbird Lightning (and a free software called VUE, which is also excellent!)
I'm looking for a piece of software that simply handles text in a way that helps me keep an overview over my writing bits. Almost like a digital (and searchable!) corkboard with hundreds of larger postlets on it. RN does do that for me, but it does take me a while often to read through what I've written on one day to find what I want, because the whole day will have the tag 'grandma experience' when many other things have happened that day too.

I'm gonna have a closer look at Redmine, thank you! And Remember The Milk doesn't seem to be for me, because I don't need to share my appointments with other people. I usually also do that very old school style and meet up with agents and publishers for a coffee;)
I'm looking for an offline tool to work with because I don't trust that people can't access my information, even if I set it as private - it's the internet, someone who knows about this stuff, can do anything they like I think.
Also I don't need to share anything with anyone online. I'd like to keep an overview over my ideas, so I can use them efficiently to write a good screenplay. When it's finished I have a .pdf or a printed version and meet with people about it. It might be old fashioned, but it works for me.

"By the way after all that ranting, you can have your own markup conventions to tag chunks of journal text with whatever you like and then just search for it with the "Everything" button to see it highlighted - just choose text strings that you wouldn't type in your normal content."
---- If I understand correctly, this is a bit like what I do with my 'headings', where I tag my text inside my text, and let RN search the whole text for these 'tags'? It works for sure, but I need to remember to do it, and then go back and look for the exact 'tag' I used wheneevr I have another paragraph that I want to tag the same way, and so on...it would just be nice, since RN has a sidebar with tags in drop-down menus etc, if that same user-interface could be used to tag text within text also.

LANGUAGE I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND
There are also some computery things I didn't quite understand, so I'm not sure if they are refering to what I'm looking for. Sorry if that seems tedious, I'm can't program for example, as I said.

"I use a per-day tag (the only kind in RN's UI)"
---- do you mean tagging per day is the only kind of function RN has at the moment? Or that it is the only kind it can ever have, for some programing reason?

"I use the "tag category" of "!procGTD", with values of "0untouched" "started" "zDone". I also have a !procRef for processing reference information - "chunks" I might want to refer to later, or possibly will become part of a larger structured document - these I keep in DokuWiki as the RN-native txt2tags markup, and (if the latter) later on convert to Asciidoc"
---- what's '!procGTD' stand for? What is 'txt2tags markup'? I'll have a look at DokuWiki and Asciidoc, they are programs, right?

"(or in the case of HL they'll pop up on the right date)"
---- what's HL stand for?

Thanks for taking the time to read my request and write such a detailed answer again! I feel like I'm a little wiser! 8-)

Jendrik Seipp (jendrikseipp) said : #3

Having two different journals open at the same time is completely ok. The warning you see can be safely ignored in that (and only that) case.

RedNotebook will get an interface lift ;) in the next version. Search and tags will be more streamlined. If you use Linux you can easily give it a try by doing

bzr branch lp:rednotebook
cd rednotebook
./run

Doesn't the search feature work well for your use-case? It highlights the searches in the text. I will put the item "scroll to searched text" to my todo list to make searching even easier for big entries.

Ben Green (ben-jamina84) said : #4

Thank you Jendrik!

In what cases can the warning about having more than one journal open not be ignored?

What do you mean by 'more streamlined' exactly?
I'm a windows user, it's shameful I know, but I just don't know enough about computers to be able to handle Linux:)

The search feature works well if I know what I'm searching for, ie if it is something specific. Problems started arriving because I have many many many paragraphs of text with many many many different 'headings', and whenever I write a new paragraph I'm not sure if I have a similar heading yet, and if so, what I called it/how exactly I spelled it.
On the right side in the programs interface you have the drop-down lists of the tags, and on the left the cloud, but that's only when you've tagged stuff. In my case I always have to remember to write many many many tags for one day, and then put the same tags as 'headings' over my paragraphs.

"I will put the item "scroll to searched text" to my todo list to make searching even easier for big entries."
---- I don't get it, sorry, is that a tip? What should I do exactly?

Many thanks,

Ben

Ben Green (ben-jamina84) said : #5

Oh, okay, I think I get what you mean now. The scrolling isn't so much a problem for me actually, but sure, any improvement is cool;)

It's more that I have to do a workaround of entering my tags for paragraphs twice really. Once in the list on the right, which is what it is there for in the program. That's to tag the day I wrote a certain paragraph.
And then again in the main body text, above the paragraph, so I can find it among the large text.

I can then either do a 'whole text' search and find my 'headings' OR do a tag search by clicking on the relevant tag in the cloud, to see what days I wrote about a certain topic.

That's what I do at the moment, but I can't do both.

Best Jendrik Seipp (jendrikseipp) said : #6

I'd say you should maybe see if RedNotebook 1.3 will work better for
you. I hope you understand that tagging paragraphs will probably not be
implemented, because it would be overkill for most users and I'm
currently trying to simplify the interface. I'll keep your concerns in
mind, however.

Ben Green (ben-jamina84) said : #7

Okay, that's what I wanted to know. I understand it's not somewhere you quite wanna go right now. I still wanted to ask how difficult it'd be technically and if it was on the cards. Thanks for considering the suggestion and keep up the great work!:) I really love what you've done so far!
I think I'm gonna stick with the latest versions of RedNotebook. My workaround allows me to do what I need, so all is well;)

Ben Green (ben-jamina84) said : #8

Thanks Jendrik Seipp, that solved my question.

fs (fs-firesnake) said : #9

(Is it late to add a comment on this discussion? If so, sorry. :)

I really like Ben's idea. One of the things I love about RedNotebook is that it exports Latex and one of the things I love about Latex is the ease of footnotes/annotations. I think it would be awesome if we could highlight text and tag or annotate it inline.