When I think of taking notes, my first thought goes back to my college years. I had different spiral notebooks for each class, and to be honest, I was a lousy note taker. I’d scribble down whatever sounded important, and usually copied down outlines or anything that went up on the chalkboard or overhead projector. It worked for me, though. I didn’t need much else. But then, I didn’t really have a lot of options. Laptop computers were priced really out of range when I was in college in the early-to-mid 1990s (I don’t think I knew anyone on campus who had one), so notebooks – spiral notebooks! – were the way notes were taken.
These days, all kinds of note taking software is available, a lot of it really good. I recently tried out KJots, part of the KDE software compilation, and I like what I see. KJots came installed by default on Kubuntu 10.10, and is available both as a standalone application, or as part of Kontact, the great PIM that includes note taking, email, Atom/RSS reading, sticky notes, calender, to-do lists and reminders, and more. It’s a great program that acts as an umbrella for multiple really good programs, and KJots is one of them.
Using KJots is simple. First, create a book to go on your bookshelf. That’s the metaphor KJots uses: bookshelf, books and pages. This would have worked really well for me in college, as each course could have had its own book, and each class I could have created a new page of notes, and in that way the organization would have pretty much happened on its own.
Once you’ve created a new book and given it a new name, you’ll see that the first page has also been created, and is waiting for you to give it a new name as well. Do this, then start typing in your notes. You can use basic text formatting (bold, italics, underline, strikethrough, text color and text highlight color), as well as page formatting (left justify, centered, right justify and full justification), as well as different types of list and standard outline indenting. You can choose different fonts and different font sizes as well, for headings and extra formatting, and even include links.
KJots features the Format Painter tool, which allows for quick formatting. Simply click on the pen (located beside the left justify icon in the toolbar, and use it to highlight whatever text you want. Once text is highlighted, it’s simple to then click on different formatting options, to make that text appear however you like. You can also click and hold on highlighted text and drag it to a different location within the page.
Another nice feature, at least in theory, is that KJots supports bookmarking. My first thought was this could be a great feature, for those times when I want to remember a particular spot in a very long note, but sadly, only individual notes are bookmarked. I tried creating the bookmark while my cursor was in two totally different parts of a lengthy note, but when I then accessed both bookmarks, I was taken to the beginning of the note in each case. But the value is still there, especially if you create a lot of notes and aren’t good about identifying them with titles beyond “page 1” and “page 2” or something equally nondescript!
Finally, once you’ve created a few books, you may want to get rid of them from the KJots interface. You still want the content, you just don’t want to see it every time you open KJots. This could happen at the beginning of a new semester, when you’re ready to put your old notebooks into storage, but aren’t going to throw them out. In this case, KJots offers a couple of exporting functions. You can export an entire book as plain text (which loses every bit of formatting, so isn’t a good option in most cases, unless your notes don’t use any formatting in the first place!), or html (a better option, as it does keep your formatting). Or, you can export your book in book format, which could then be imported into KJots and worked on as if nothing had changed. This last option could be useful – again using the college theme – if you took an introductory course one semester, then didn’t take the follow-up course the next semester but the one after. You could export the introductory notes and set them aside for a semester, then import them a year later.
KJots is a pretty nice program, and so flexible! I like that it’s part of Kontact, as that places all my information in a single easy-to-use interface, but I also like that I can run KJots on its own, since if I was supposed to be taking notes during class, having the other Kontact applications so easily available could be a distraction. KJots is easy to use and the functionality is pretty good. It’s not on par with something like Microsoft OneNote, but it’s still a nice resource for taking notes.