is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
The perfect note-taking software hasn’t been invented but Agenda, a new contender that runs on the Mac, comes reasonably close. It finally delivers on a notes management feature that I’ve spent what seems like an eternity waiting for: the ability to link a note to a specific event on my calendar.
Like Evernote (which is what I use currently) or Apple’s own Notes app, in Agenda I can simply create new notes in a folder or project view, displayed on the lefthand side. Those notes can be either re-ordered manually or sorted by the dates that they were most recently edited.
Unlike those competing apps, though, Agenda also gives me the option of associating any given note to a specific event on my calendar. The screenshot below shows how clicking on the calendar icon lets me find a date, view the events on that date, and then link that event with the current note. Even more powerfully, I can also view my calendar in a right-hand pane, click on an event there and initiate a new, linked note that automatically copies over the event’s title, attendees and description. Brilliant.
The team behind Agenda markets this as a “unique approach [to] organizing notes into a timeline.” I was delighted to find it (and also delighted by how elegantly the whole app has been designed and constructed). But this ability to link between two databases, one storing notes and the other storing events, seems so basic and obvious to me that I’m shocked it’s not more common.
I personally take notes in exactly this way: I create a new note in Evernote for each new meeting (in fact, I use a somewhat clunky IFTTT applet to do this automatically) because this is exactly how I would go look for it later. That’s not to say I don’t also appreciate the value of being able to create notes that are not pegged to specific events; I’ve got plenty of those, too. I just want some of my notes to be easily findable within a calendrical interface. In my opinion every note-keeping app should work this way.
Alas, even though Agenda gets this right, and even though I’ve been waiting for the feature forever, I have to admit I won’t be able to switch away from Evernote. The truth is that I need to take notes on every platform these days, not just on my desktop. I actively take notes on my iPhone, sometimes on Android, occasionally through Evernote’s web interface, and even occasionally via Google Home and Amazon Echo. Access from everywhere has become table stakes for basic kinds productivity software like notes and to-do items, which is why Evernote is so invaluable to me, and so hard to leave. Fingers crossed that Agenda comes to other platforms soon or, even better, that this incredibly obvious feature migrates to other note-taking apps too.+