This is your brain in binaryOrganizing notes with VoodooPad

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As part of my ongoing quest to find a Mac counterpart to the Personal Brain (thanks to Jerry Michalski for ruining my life with his software demo) — and as part of my re-evaluation of all my productivity apps in the wake of my Treo purchase — I have been playing with a bunch of new tools. The one that has most quickly insinuated itself into my workflow is VoodooPad, a very simple little tool that solves that eternal problem: what to do with all those little random notes, thoughts and jots that aren’t to-dos, calendar items, or full-fledged documents?

VoodooPad is basically just a wiki for your personal computer, but its very straightforward interface makes it ideal for keeping all your notes in one place, and creating links and categories (a.k.a. tags) that help you organize and retrieve your work. I now keep VoodooPad running all the time and use it for any note or work-in-progress, ranging from project tracking to incipient blog posts to early document drafts to to-do lists. Because VoodooPad offers wiki-style automatic link creation (but doesn’t require that your links be in CamelCase form), it’s very easy to create a new page for every new topic or idea, no matter how small, while preserving its relationship to other ideas/topics/pages; I also use categories as a way of tagging and retrieving all related pages. I’ve created categories for each project I’m working on, and since VoodooPad lets you assign multiple categories to the same page, I’ve assigned pages with code snippets both to the category for my current web project (where the code originated) and to a category called Drupal (since I might want to re-use code in a future project).

One of the intriguing things about VoodooPad is its open API; I’ve been wondering whether it might be possible to create a plug-in that would generate visual maps for link relationships within a Voodoopad document. If so, that would come pretty close to full Brain functionality.

But until that moment arrives, I still find myself searching for something even more Brain-like, which is why I was interested to see David Heinemeier Hansson — part of the 37 Signals team — describe his vision for their much-lauded Backpack tool:

It’s the product I tried to create through a mesh of outlines, email inboxes, post-it notes, The Brain, and a gazillion other systems under the sun.

This has me poking around Backpack again, as I have periodically since it launched. But I’ve yet to start using it, partly because I’m nervous about having big chunks of my life accessible only if I’ve got an Internet connection (yeah, that’s most of the time, but it’s not all the time) and partly because I’m not really clear on how it’s going to make me taller, smarter, or more beloved by small children and animals.

I was intrigued to find Christopher Wimmer’s post on engadgeted.net » a few suggestions on how to improve backpack, in which he talked about his own curiosity about how he’d integrate Backpack and VoodooPad. I’m hoping he may soon offer some insights about Backpack versus (or alongside) VoodooPad, now that he’s become an enthusiastic Backpack user. Does Christopher (or anyone else) have tips on how to make Backpack play nicely on VoodooPad, advice on which things I should use Backpack for and which things I should use VoodooPad for, or a compelling argument about why I should give up one in favour of the other?

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