As my writing workflows have matured, I’ve become convinced that the way to build any written thing consisting of more than a few paragraphs is to

  1. write in pieces starting from the inside out,
  2. arrange and fuse the pieces together, then
  3. publish the whole.

Creating “pieces” of drafts in Notational Velocity is easy. But it can also be quite easy to lose track of all the pieces that orbit some central idea if you have lots of notes (and ideas) like me.

Tagging sans tags

Notational Velocity has a tag field, but I’ve just not taken to it. Tagging text files just feels too meta-ish. So I just keep the tag field hidden.

I am using tags, though.

To group similar notes, I put a unique piece of text in the body of each related note. I use the # symbol to make it extra unique. Like #tag.

This lets me type #tag in the search field, and Notational Velocity shows me the notes that contain that unique term, which won't be found in any other (unrelated) notes. Notational Velocity will even keep #tag in the search field as I work on visible notes.

In other words, Notational Velocity retains the search until I manually clear it. This let's me type, cut, copy, and paste as I like across notes.

For me, this is an efficient and easy way to “pin” groups of notes in place. More importantly, it filters out other notes I don’t care to see.

Why not put the tag in the note title? Good question.  For one thing, I like keeping special characters out of text file names. It also keeps note titles cleaner, and it’s easier to make use of multiple tags without junking up the note title.

Honestly, this is a pretty basic Notational Velocity tip. No denying that. But it’s something I find myself doing more and more. If it helps you, great.

Note 1: Christian Tietze and I must be on the same wavelength right now. We're both thinking about how to best use Notational Velocity to work with groups of notes. Be sure to check out his thoughts, which he published yesterday after I drafted my own here. Let us know your thoughts on this too.

Note 2: I'm doing a lot of thinking about "tagging without tags" in OS X right now. I'm essentially trying to craft a content management system using tools already in the OS. I'll make a post when I have something more concrete to share, but if you want to share anything you've done along these lines, email me.

Note 3: There are no more notes. Two's a plenty.