Low-key tools-for-thought

I have an elaborate, perhaps baroque, setup of journals, notes, tasks, highlights, read-it-laters, feeds, and canvases-for-thinking. I consider it a crucial, and very idiosyncratic, piece of “knowledge worker infrastructure”. Furthermore, I don’t think I could handle a lot of the work and projects that I do, to the extent that I do, without it.

But, I hope that constructing such a scheme, and doing all the time intensive background research and tinkering, is not something everyone would have to expend effort on to think better and more clearly.

My hunch here is that the software bundled with iOS/iPadOS/macOS is very close to allowing folks who just want to remember and brainstorm get started immediately. Currently, a couple of elements are missing. This means you have to hit the third-party ecosystem escape hatch and consider a daunting variety of applications, workflows, and identity/quasi-religions.

Herein, a wishlist of system-level capabilities that would make macOS an even better “bicycle for the mind”.

In any old macOS app, I want to highlight text (mostly) with any pointer (mouse, stylus, finger) on any device (laptop, tablet, phone) and capture/promote text. I may want to add my commentary or notes too. Afterward, I should be able to search for this in Spotlight, at the least. Even better if the whole document/page/file/etc. the text came from is indexed, so I can find highlights despite imperfect memory.

macOS already extracts contacts and events from plain text. Faces are identified in photos. Why not make text excerpts/highlights/passages a first-class thing in the system’s information architecture?

I want to identify key ideas, concepts, people, and other nouns, so I can hyperlink between them and navigate them in something like the Finder.

This verbs-and-nouns concept was key to AppleScript. I’ve read that it was part of the conceptual bedrock of NeXTStep, but I haven’t found more than a few passing sentences on that.

Why not carry that idea forward or rediscover it on macOS? Some folks want to do more than scroll, post, and transact.

Notes and Journal, along with Finder and Spotlight, seem very close to checking all the boxes here. 🤷🏻‍♂️I don’t use those apps, so I’m wildly speculating here. Out over my skis, as they say. That said, this is so close to the core of what you really need to do next-level, thinking-augmented-by-computers.

Even though I use very particular apps, I feel like Apple has the right foundations here. A journal app for capturing ideas, reflections, and life as it happens. A notes app for putting structure and organization around the ideas that emerge from those moments. Tie it together with search to resurface and rediscover those journals and notes.

A fellow can dream, right?

Adam Keys @therealadam