In the past I’ve written about creating notes both digitally and on paper. And as big of a digital tech nerd as I am, I always seem to return to pen & paper (or in my case Sharpie & card stock).

One of the things I’ve now run into was indexing the finished Notebooks. Should I create a written Index (which is a fairly good idea). But if this is an index per notebook, I need something on a larger scale. Maybe a single notebook Index? What if I lose the notebook (shit, that’d be bad.)

In the past I’ve kept (as in the last two notebooks). I’ve tried adding keywords at the top of the pages. That really didn’t work well, as I tried flipping through the pages to find what I was looking for.

in my latest notebook I made a “Notebook Content” page at the front. It helped. And after I finished the Notebook I color-coded/highlighted the lines with correlating color to projects. Green=Personal Project, Blue=Business, etc. Which has helped with transitioning to my new notebook.

But in my ever-ending quest to make things more organized (and usually more complicated).

I began to wonder, “is there an easier way I could keep track of these pages or to even search them, maybe via Cmd+F (Ctrl+F)?

I’ve got a few requirements:

  • Needs to be future-proof (something that can expand as my collection of notebooks expands)
  • Needs to be accessible from a laptop (namely a Mac).
  • Need to be able to access it on my mobile device.
  • In the event I need to get rid of paper copies, I have a “backup” plan


Here are the ways I’ve explored doing it:

  1. Evernote (would require premium subscription – $50/year)
  2. Written Index in Notebook fashion
  3. Custom Database
  4. Scanned PDF pages tagged with keywords
  5. Scanned PDF Notebook tagged with keywords (or a combo of this and the above?)
  6. Private website – images/PDF per post and use tags to categorize.
  7. Outliner
  8. Google Keep


I’ve had an Evernote subscription in the past (got a 1 year subscription for free) but never used it. I take that back, I think I used it once. The primary problem I have here is that it’s $50/year. NOw I realize some of the other options below aren’t free, but they amount to less than $50/year. Free is always nice too…

Written Index

I literally think a written index would be the easiest, but at the same time I also think it’s a bad idea and plus it doesn’t really fit my requirements. What if I lose the index?

Custom Database

If I can’t find a solution, I’ll just make the damn thing. Well sorta, my knowledge is limited with regards to coding. So I could make a database, but the search function in the database wouldn’t be very good. I’d likely have some issues finding the notes I was looking for. Hell, I’ll probably create the database for the hell of it anyway & release it free as a self-hosted solution. What would I call it? “mNotes Database” *Shrugs* I guess it should be noted that a “custom database” could also easily be created with tapforms as well (but the database on the mobile device may become large)

Scanned PDFs

This is a combo of bullet points 4 & 5. I noticed the other day that if a PDF has OCR data in it, the Dropbox app that I sync scans & PDFs with, will search this data. So on the go I could even quickly find what I was looking for. Now, OCR is not all that great with written notes, but if I can modify the metadata quickly & easily, this may be the way to go.

Private Site

I guess in a sense this is a “custom database” and if you have a shared hosting account or whatever, this may not be a bad idea to add an additional site to the account. Maybe use WordPress..creating posts of scanned in notebooks and a digital index? Or maybe PDFs on the pages tagged with keywords? Really this could be easy…but only if you already have a hosting account. Maybe even a Private Wiki Site?


Outliner is an iOS app and web app. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now to create to-do lists, shopping lists, packing lists, etc. Creating an index would be really quite simple and it has a search function that is easy to use.

Google Keep

Meh. This is Google’s version of Evernote. My primary issue here is that I use Dropbox everyday, having another cloud service syncing in the background I’m not particularly fond of. Plus I don’t like the interface. Now on the other-hand if you use Google Drive, then this will be something you’d want to look into.

As for me, I’m thinking that the Private Wikipedia or WordPress site might be the best for my situation. It’s also possible to install either of these systems locally on a Mac or PC, of course, this reduces the ability to access it from anywhere, but still an option.

Ease of Use: PDFs or Outliner

Most flexible (can also be more complicated): Private Site or Custom Database

Since my pages are already numbered, I’ve also decided to use a variation of the quadrant grid system for more complicated entries.