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Mags
04-11-2005, 08:40 AM
I mostly write fiction, along with the occasional book review or essay, but I'm currently doing some preliminary research for something that might turn into a nonfiction book or possibly a scholarly paper, or maybe both. :) Anyway, I'm collecting my source material. I went to Staples to buy index cards in preparation for starting my research and it occurred to me that index cards were awfully low-tech for a geeky tech-chick such as myself.

I was thinking that I could use an Access database to keep track of notes--I could easily relate them to the bibliographic information that way, and then I could design some kind of front end to do a search of everything I've collected.

The main reason I have not to do that is that I hope to buy a Mac in the next year or so and I didn't plan to buy MS Office for it. ;) I'm sure that Macs have some kind of database application, however.

A big reason pro computer storage is that when all is complete, I can burn it all to a CD instead of storing a big old box of index cards. I try to avoid clutter whenever possible.

A reason con is that I fear that not having everything right at my fingertips, as I would with the index-card system, would cause some data to possibly get lost.

How do you experienced non-fiction writers keep track of your data?

Rose
04-12-2005, 05:38 AM
I KNOW we had a discussion about index card software not long ago, but I can't find the thread...

Uncarved
04-12-2005, 08:18 PM
DISCLAIMER: This has to be the worst way to do it, but:

I get a huge spiral notebook and one of those accordian folders. EVERYTHING I accumulate about the book, its research, emails, notes, whatever goes into it. Then after its sold I just bind it up and leave it. That way if there is ever a question of a permission that I secured, etc I can go and reopen it and it be in there. I am starting a special closet for them so far.

I also keep folders in my email with the book title, so that whatever correspondence that is related to that goes into that folder.

Kudra
04-12-2005, 10:18 PM
I do pretty much the same thing, except that my folders live on my computer. Everything related to a book, or any project for that matter, lives in those folders. After that project is complete, I put the folder on a CD or some safe place as backup.

TashaGoddard
04-12-2005, 10:50 PM
I was thinking that I could use an Access database to keep track of notes--I could easily relate them to the bibliographic information that way, and then I could design some kind of front end to do a search of everything I've collected.

I think up similar things (e.g. Java apps to keep track of publishers/agents/clients; or time worked on a specific project; or... ). So far, I haven't done anything of the sort. I think I like dreaming up the ideas, but don't have the time to actually implement them.

Folders and subfolders, with spreadsheets for some things and Word files for others is how I muddle through. I know a lot of authors who make prodigious use of index cards, but I'm a computer girl myself. I lose little bits of card and my filing skills are seriously poor when it comes to anything paper-based.

Mags
04-13-2005, 12:25 AM
I do pretty much the same thing, except that my folders live on my computer. Everything related to a book, or any project for that matter, lives in those folders. After that project is complete, I put the folder on a CD or some safe place as backup.

That's a good idea, because I can save e-mails that way, too...

I like the idea of burning everything to the CD when I'm done, too.

I started out setting up an Access database (and did some investigation and found out that AppleWorks does include a database app, oh joy!) and I really think that might be the way to go. I'll have one table for the bibliographical info and one for notes, I think.

Thanks for the input, everyone. It's given me some things to think about while I wait for my research books to arrive via Amazon and ILL. :Thumbs:

zeprosnepsid
04-13-2005, 05:19 AM
I have no good way of keeping information at all =) But I generally have any number of text files. I have one on each individual topic where i throw things when I'm looking for them. I just type up quotes and information I think I'll use since I'm going to have to type it eventually anyway. I save online articles in similarly named folders.

Folders and text files. Not the best system =)

Howard Gross
04-19-2005, 06:35 AM
I think this is good sound advice. A dual system that includes the tangible file system you mentioned is a must. Add a computer application for easy access and searchability and your system is ideal. The database functions within such spreadsheet applications found in Lotus and Excel work just fine and the data is easy to manipulate and manage. No need to complicate things with Access.

Cheers,
HG

Medievalist
04-19-2005, 07:03 AM
AppleWorks does include a database, but it's very, very limited.

The next version of the Mac OS operating system, OS X, 10.4 or Tiger, due late this month, includes SQL lite. The standard Mac database application is the very nifty and cross platform FileMaker Pro. It's not cheap.

There are many wordprocessors on the Mac designed for writers; these include note taking and outlining options. ZWrite, Ulysses, Manuscript, CopyWrite are a few.

There are also a number of data-gathering substitutes for notebooks and index cards. These include Circus Ponies Notebook, StickyBrain, and my favorite DEVONThink.

Given the amazing search capability of the new Mac OS, called Spotlight, you could probably do what you need without a database per se, just be using lots of text files.

soloset
04-19-2005, 07:11 AM
Not sure if this will help, but it's how I organize my notes.

http://notebook.wjduquette.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

Basically, it's a desktop wiki. You create a main page, then sub pages for different notes, and the whole thing is searchable.

It's small, stand-alone, and free -- and the output is just this side of plain text (there's a small header at the top of each 'section' that tells the program where to put each page).

Codger
04-19-2005, 07:31 PM
"The main reason I have not to do that is that I hope to buy a Mac in the next year or so and I didn't plan to buy MS Office for it. ;) I'm sure that Macs have some kind of database application, however."

Mags, I have to ask...why are you intent on moving to a Mac, given the domination of M$ in the application software market? I once tried to wean myself from the Redmond monster by going to Linux with Open Office. I weakened and returned to Microsoft in less than a month.

I'd still like to leave M$, but I'm a writer, and can't spend my life worrying over software. I need stability and widely accepted formats. Compatibility with my editors can't be an issue. (.rft is not always gleefully accepted in my experience) Oh, and at an affordable price too.

Medievalist
04-20-2005, 06:52 AM
"The main reason I have not to do that is that I hope to buy a Mac in the next year or so and I didn't plan to buy MS Office for it. ;) I'm sure that Macs have some kind of database application, however."

Mags, I have to ask...why are you intent on moving to a Mac, given the domination of M$ in the application software market? I once tried to wean myself from the Redmond monster by going to Linux with Open Office. I weakened and returned to Microsoft in less than a month.

Office on Mac OS X is exceedingly compatible with Office on Windows, since 2000. I work as a technical editor, and exchange files with publishers all the time; they're usually on Windows and I'm on Mac OS X. We rely extensively on the tracking and comment features of Word, and the files are interchangeable.

Mags
04-23-2005, 10:20 AM
Mags, I have to ask...why are you intent on moving to a Mac, given the domination of M$ in the application software market?

1. Macs are way cool and pretty. :)

2. Usability: Macs come with so much great stuff installed and ready to go for wireless, etc. They are more computers for people. PCs are computers for corporate convenience. I'm not sure if that makes sense, and I hasten to add that is only my whimsical feelings about it. It makes sense for the way I use my computer.

That being said, if I keep my current job I'll probably have to get Office if I want to do any work at home, for the reasons Medievalist gave--we use Word's tracking feature a lot, too, and Excel for workflow tracking. And as far as I know the VPNs don't even run on browsers that are not Internet Explorer. I have problems using it at home with Firefox.

Soloset, the wiki might be just what I need. Thanks so much for the link! :)

Incidentally, I'll be using paper at some point. I just got a phone call from the librarian tonight. They got in the book I was waiting for but I can't take it out--it's library-use only, which I find very odd. The book is out of print, but I found plenty of copies at bookfinder.com for less than $20. I guess I'll just look it over and see if it's something I want to buy. I suspect that it is--if not for my project, for general interest. (It's a book about decorative needlework in England over the last 500 years or so.)