A Different Approach to Note Taking
It takes time for an app to find its place in one’s life. That’s what happened with my flirtation with the Agenda app. When I first downloaded Agenda, I didn’t understand it because I didn’t have a place for it in my life. Little did I know, my life changed and my current note-taking setup didn’t feel like it was more streamlined to fit my new needs.
I was using OmniOutliner as a note-taking app for my parents’ medical history. I can collapse or expand each outline item or focus on a particular section. But it becomes a mess when I try to hunt down to-do items that may have been forgotten and buried in a nested outline. I needed a better way to take notes and to be able to present a history for my parents to read easily. Giving them a printed report with a long outline didn’t jive well with them. Neither did a mind map that I attempted earlier. I tried to give project notes using a mind map but I got a groan and roll of the eyes. My parents just wanted a simple, easy to read list instead of a beautiful mind map that I spent hours on 😢. It was time to try Agenda once again and I was very pleased with what I was able to do.
An Elegant New Take On Notes
Agenda uses a timeline approach to notes. Notes are assigned a date and can be individually linked to an event in my Apple Calendar. I needed to make meeting notes that could be easily read by my parents.
Task managers are great for holding tasks but not so good at keeping notes and project history. I can look up a list of completed tasks but sometimes it helps to lay the tasks in the context of events in my life. I can read a story and see how a project unfolds over time. Agenda allows me to record events and tasks in each entry. There are many unique features that makes it stand out from the mind mappers, general file storage, and outliners available.
Surprising Benefits of the Agenda Subscription model
Agenda comes with enough basic features to keep most people happy. The developers have come up with a unique subscription method for Agenda customers. If you buy a one year app subscription, you will get any new features that will be added in the next 12 months. When the 12 months expires, you can elect to keep your subscription and gain new features or cancel and keep the features you’ve acquired since your first purchase. You won’t lose the features you received during the 12 month period. You keep what you have even if you decide to cancel your subscription.
Here is a link to the Agenda Community which discusses the Agenda Premium features.
This thread is updated when the developers add new features. They’ve been on a very consistent schedule and I look forward to new developments.
I was amazed at how the new features that don’t seem like much really adds to the overall user experience. Pinning notes, integrating my Apple Calendar events with Agenda, and saved searches has been very helpful.
Categories, Projects, and Notes
Agenda uses “categories” (or folders) to group a series of projects.
Inside each project, I have notes sorted by date.
I can connect a note to a calendar event or date.
I create a note for every meeting I attend.
Here are some tasks that I entered directly in the body of my meeting note:
An upcoming premium feature is the ability to link Agenda tasks to Apple Reminders. Check off an Apple Reminder task and it will also be marked as checked in Agenda. That would make Agenda a better task manager with tighter integration with Apple Reminders.
On The Agenda
When I’m juggling with many projects in a wide group of categories, I can narrow my focus to what is on my agenda. My projects will contain all my notes. If I have specific notes that are considered open loops (pending items that I haven’t dealt with yet), I can mark these notes as On the Agenda.
The On the Agenda view gathers up all notes that I have marked as “On the Agenda.” This is the equivalent of flagging a note and bringing it to my attention when I visit the On the Agenda view. I like to keep some notes on the agenda for future meetings or if there are any pending questions or tasks left to do.
When I am done with a note, I can remove the note from the On the Agenda view. When a note is removed from the agenda, it remains in its parent project.
Sometimes I need to link one note to another note. Linking a series of notes together helps me follow a chain of events/notes that might be in another note or another project. I can also use URL links to web sites or callback URL to open a link in another app.
Associate a note to a calendar event
I can link to a note to an existing appointment or create a new Apple Calendar appointment inside the Agenda app. The newly created calendar appointment will have a callback URL to link back to the original note. This is a very handy feature when I have a busy schedule and need to quickly visit a note during an appointment.
Overviews (Saved Searches)
I can create defined searches based on text, tags, or people. Then I can narrow it down further by searching with a specific time frame such as this week, next week, or last month. Creating commonly used searches allows me to search for specific notes within a certain date range. It’s very handy when I want to see any agenda notes that are coming up in the next month or look for notes about a person within the last few weeks.
Exporting my Agenda Notes
Using a timeline based system, I can go through a project’s history or client notes and see my project evolve over time. It’s a great way to document progress in an easy to read format. My parents didn’t like my mind maps and my outlines just looked like one long blob of text on a page when I printed it out for them. I easily exported my notes into a PDF document, RTF (Rich Text File), or a Markdown file for other users who don’t have the Agenda app. My progress reports were nice and clean.
A Different Note Taking App – Agenda
I’ve been looking for a note taking app that I’ve felt comfortable with. I’ve had DEVONthink, Evernote, mind maps, and outliners but none of them ever stuck with me. Using Agenda has been a pleasant experience for my daily use. I can create beautiful PDF reports or RTF files to document any interactions with my clients ass well as keep track of projects such as my parents’ medical history.
Agenda’s subscription model frees me from worrying about getting locked out of my notes. Any new features I get within my 12 month subscription will remain unlocked even if I don’t re-subscribe. It’s a new business model that helps developers with technical support and promotes new app features. At the same time, I’m not worried about my app going into read-only mode and I won’t be able to make new notes.
I did brush off this app as just another text editor but its approach to note taking has given me a new tool whenever I’m at a meeting or recording project notes with a client.
Note taking is a process that I took for granted. Agenda has helped me streamline my note taking work flowing and produce elegantly designed reports for my clients and projects.
If you have other workflows for note taking, I’d like to hear about how you do it.