Idea Capture: What do you currently use? What have you tried and discarded?

edited February 2015 in The Toolbox
What do you folks use for idea capture? And what have you tried in the past, and discarded?

(Sorry if this is a duplicate topic!)


  • For idea capture, my standard is Evernote. All my research, notes, random thoughts, the synched pages of handwritten notes my smartpen generates, photos — it all goes in there. (When I need to do nested info, I use Scrivener. Which is where I actually write the scripts.)

    But, added a new tool to my idea capture process last night: Thinking out loud! Bluetooth headset transmitting to DropVox (voice memo auto-saved to Dropbox) on my iPhone -> DropVox files from Dropbox directly uploaded into Evernote (using an "If This, Then That" recipe). It's useful both when I'm working and getting ideas I don't want to distract myself by writing down, as well as for when ideas are hitting me so fast I'm having trouble catching them all.

    But it's also useful for when I'm not "officially" working. When I'm doing laundry, folding laundry, doing dishes, sweeping the floor, cooking, straightening up my apartment, walking around as I run errands. Those are tasks I find pretty boring, because they occupy so little brainpower. So I usually do them while talking on the phone. Yesterday I tried doing them while "thinking out loud" — and it worked great! I kept finishing tasks without noticing time go by. And meanwhile, I was being productive at work!

    I've done similar stuff before. But Bluetooth -> DropVox -> Evernote makes it really low-friction. But, need to look into Dragon Dictate or something similar — because finding time to transcribe the voice memos will be difficult. (Also need to get better handwriting -> text transcription software... because so many pages of my smartpen notes I never end up looking at again!)

    Also, I need to find a solution to do automated bulk-uploading of exported Evernotes from specific notebooks into the Scrivener project they apply to — to help organize all the research and notes I'm generating. Having a surprising amount of trouble with that! Evernote exports into html files, not plain text. I can important html files into Scrivener — but if you select multiple html files in it, it doesn't show all the amalgamated contents, as with text file.

    So I need to export html from Evernote, find a good/free Mac bulk converter for html -> text conversion, import the resulting text files into a specific Scrivener folder... and set it up to automatically sync in this manner, without me having to do all those steps by hand! Internet searches are surprisingly unhelpful for that! So, trying to figure out other options/workarounds...
  • Lately, I've been on the iPad.

    Though what tends to happen is that I then go to the desktop and start again.
    This is kind of a pain because I start to collect multiple versions of the same story.
    I get an idea and put it on one device, then another on yet another device.
    I don't seem to have one simple, clean and effective *idea capture* system.

    This really vexed me once during Five Weapons.  I was trying to solve a puzzle / mystery for the twist.
    I had a BRILLIANT solution.... only to lose it in the long run.
  • That's why I use programs like Evernote, @Jimmie_Robinson: I've got it on my laptop, my phone and my iPad, and they all sync together. So anything I type on my phone shows up on my laptop, and vice versa. Also, my smartpen uploads all its files to Evernote. And DropVox sends the voice memos I make to Dropbox, which I can access from laptop/phone/iPad — *and* it syncs them to Evernote. So, everything I do ends up in Evernote.

    Now, if I can just get Evernote to sync into Scrivener so I can organize my notes and research better, I'll be all set...
  • My go to is Evernote because it syncs to all of my devices and then I have to rewrite everything in Celtx (but I'm switching over to Scrivener shortly)
    Celtx has a cloud service and an IOS app but it's script writing app is very frustrating.
    I also want to start testing more audio-transcribing apps. I tried Write, but it's voice recognition left much to be desired.
  • I should be looking into Evernote, too. I don't care about importing into Scirvener since I use it differently. But it mioght help getting some of the things organized.

    Here's what I use so far:

    Baisc idea capture, that's just a note in the A5 note book I always carry around. Which is a challenge when it comes to finding it in time - just recently, I completely forgot about a good comic idea that I'd written down there and only found it days before the deadline. But that's okay. I write stuff down so I don't have to think of it myself.

    Research, right now, mostly happens in Firefox bookmarks if it's online. I set a folder aside per project and try to keep it organized. This is the part that would be in Evernote if I had more than this one computer to do it on. For offline rersearch, I either make notes and annotations in Scrivener or CueCards or in an extra notebook I get for the project if it's big enough. (That's where I make scribbles, thumbnails and character sketches, too.)

    Story structure - that's post-its on walls. At least for now. There's a chance I'll run out of walls soon. I've been toying with mind-mapping apps, but never really made that ork for me. Maybe later. I also synchronize the post-its with my Scrivener project, once I have one.

    But that's all raw stuff, so far. Here's where Scrivener comes in. Or, depeding on the project, yWriter or CueCards. Sometimes all three. (Celtx used to be in the mix, but Scrivener pretty much made that obsolete for me.) I set up a project in one of the programs, but I don't collect everything into it. I rather use the project to digest and organize the original messy capturing loot. I like to keep the messy parts and the organized parts separated, even if it means switching apps all the time. Sometimes I'll even switch to another program or project if the first attempt at organizing turns out messy. When I wrote that book esssay last year, I think I started it in CueCards, continued in yWriter and wrapped it up in Open Office (although that was mainly for formatting reasons). It's part of why I bought Scrivener in the first plac, but the principle hold: With each incarnation, I try to get closer to a clean, well-structured version of the final thing.
  • If you're using a Mac and iPhone, you can synch the Notes app between the two devices, which is what I do when I have a brilliant idea that my brain is likely to lose. (You can also use Notes via on a Windows PC, but not as conveniently as the Mac app.)

    For JAQrabbit Tales ideas, I transfer them from Notes into a spreadsheet that lists every planned/started/finished Tale and pin-up, with dates, characters, and other details for each one. I use that for planning and continuity control for the series as a whole.
  • @JasonAQuest - Yeah, that's what I should do.  I wanted to use AirDrop between my devices, but... my desktop is 6 months too old (late 2012 iMac instead of the 2013 iMac).  Thus, no AirDrop ability.

    I think there is a couple of Terminal scripts I can use, but it's still limited.
  • I usually just release ideas into the wild.

  • I don't even carry a notepad. 

    If I need a formal brainstorm I do it in Word, at my desk, in my office. 

    Mostly everything just stews up in my head, though. 

  • I've been using google docs on the multiple computers and devices that are in my life. 
    This has also been my go-to system for sharing scripts with other creators. 

    But I'm liking what I hear about evernote. I think I'll look into it. 
  • The thing about Evernote, from the outside it doesn't look like it does anything one hasn't been doing with bookmarks, whatever note-capturing sytem and post-its already. That's why I always ended up not using it. But the way people keep reminding it all the time, maybe it does it better?
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