Notational Velocity Naming Conventions

In last weekend’s episode of the Mac Power Users, I spoke at some length about how I name files in Notational Velocity.

So how do I name files? I preface the note name with some pre-designed codes (which I hesitate to call “tags”). The text screen is always unique so typing the name lets me quickly filter my 700 notes down to something more manageable. As I type this note right now from my iPad, the note is titled “ms:post - NV Naming” The first bit is the important part. You could call these a sort of tag but they really aren’t. Everything related to MacSparky starts with “ms:” I can further narrow it down by categorization. For instance “ms:post” is a working post where “ms:idea” is some random thought for site improvement. Either way, if I type just “ms:”, I get all the MacSparky related notes.

I do the same for the day job with “law:am” (active matters), “law:cm” (closed matters), and “law:form” (text forms). You get the idea. If you are going to use a system like mine, here are a few tips:

  • No uppercase. Keep it simple so you can type it quickly on an iPhone or iPad;
  • Keep the list as short as possible. I’ve memorized my codes but I also have a note with a list of them.
  • If you use dashes after the code (i.e. ms:post – Bill Gates’ new iPad), keep the spacing uniform so when you organize alphabetically, things work out.

A couple of things I don’t do in the names are dates and Merlin’s Q trick. Ben Brooks makes a good case for using dates in Notational Velocity notes but I’ve never found a need for it. Perhaps it has something to do with the way I use Notational Velocity. I do frequently drop date strings in notes, however. For instance if I talk to someone, I may note it with a date string in a matter note.

Likewise, I don’t use Merlin’s ingenious Q trick because for me, things are always changing and I don’t like going back to rename. Again, it is a good idea but one I fortunately don’t need.

Also absent from my system is tags. You could create tags in the notes with a symbol, like “@law, @form.” Also, Simplenote now has a tagging system but tagging has always struck me as more fidgety than useful. Brett Terpstra explains why I may be wrong about tagging in the the last MPU episode.

30 Comments Notational Velocity Naming Conventions

  1. robert@vatark.co.uk

    David, thank you for the insight into how you name your text files. I think this could be used for any file naming, whether it be from NV, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. Yes?

    As for putting dates in file names I have for a long time done that. Initially I put the date, in the format yymmdd, at the start of the file name. I've changed that so that it appears at the end. I also have this set up as a TextExpander snippet so it takes three keystrokes to insert.

    Reply
  2. robert@vatark.co.uk

    David, thank you for the insight into how you name your text files. I think this could be used for any file naming, whether it be from NV, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. Yes?

    As for putting dates in file names I have for a long time done that. Initially I put the date, in the format yymmdd, at the start of the file name. I've changed that so that it appears at the end. I also have this set up as a TextExpander snippet so it takes three keystrokes to insert.

    Reply
  3. robert@vatark.co.uk

    David, thank you for the insight into how you name your text files. I think this could be used for any file naming, whether it be from NV, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. Yes?

    As for putting dates in file names I have for a long time done that. Initially I put the date, in the format yymmdd, at the start of the file name. I've changed that so that it appears at the end. I also have this set up as a TextExpander snippet so it takes three keystrokes to insert.

    Reply
  4. robert@vatark.co.uk

    David, thank you for the insight into how you name your text files. I think this could be used for any file naming, whether it be from NV, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. Yes?

    As for putting dates in file names I have for a long time done that. Initially I put the date, in the format yymmdd, at the start of the file name. I've changed that so that it appears at the end. I also have this set up as a TextExpander snippet so it takes three keystrokes to insert.

    Reply
  5. robert@vatark.co.uk

    David, thank you for the insight into how you name your text files. I think this could be used for any file naming, whether it be from NV, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. Yes?

    As for putting dates in file names I have for a long time done that. Initially I put the date, in the format yymmdd, at the start of the file name. I've changed that so that it appears at the end. I also have this set up as a TextExpander snippet so it takes three keystrokes to insert.

    Reply
  6. Gregory Elmore

    I always enjoy learning how someone else handles their organization of files, because I feel there is always something you can take away from it to benefit yourself. Personally, I don't think your system is actually devoid of tags. By using a code convention os ms:post, you've effectively created a tag for yourself, as the whole point of tags is a naming convention that gets appended to the file which can be searched for in an efficient manner for organization purposes.

    I'm definitely interested in testing out such a system for the new iPad 2 when I finally receive mine.

    Reply
  7. tdearhamer@mac.com

    This is a great post. I have trouble with naming my files and find that your system makes more sense than any other I have read. In observing my wife and two daughters I have no doubt that every person processes information and arranges information in our brains differently.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. tdearhamer@mac.com

    This is a great post. I have trouble with naming my files and find that your system makes more sense than any other I have read. In observing my wife and two daughters I have no doubt that every person processes information and arranges information in our brains differently.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  9. tdearhamer@mac.com

    This is a great post. I have trouble with naming my files and find that your system makes more sense than any other I have read. In observing my wife and two daughters I have no doubt that every person processes information and arranges information in our brains differently.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. tdearhamer@mac.com

    This is a great post. I have trouble with naming my files and find that your system makes more sense than any other I have read. In observing my wife and two daughters I have no doubt that every person processes information and arranges information in our brains differently.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. tdearhamer@mac.com

    This is a great post. I have trouble with naming my files and find that your system makes more sense than any other I have read. In observing my wife and two daughters I have no doubt that every person processes information and arranges information in our brains differently.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Leslie

    I've been hearing a lot about Notational Velocity. I have a couple of questions for those of you who use it. Do you keep your files in the NV database or keep them as separate text files? Why did you make the choice you made? And do you use NV or nvAlt? Recommendations?

    Reply
  13. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    Leslie,

    In Notational Velocity, I keep everything as plain text files and store them in Dropbox. I do this because this way they're future-proof:
    – They're editable in Text Edit (or any other text editor no matter what software/system you might use in the future)
    – Searchable by Spotlight (in case something happens with NV)
    – You can open them with any app from iPhone/iPad (for example I open mine using Nebulous for Markdown previous. I learned that from David)

    In the NV v nvALT, I'd suggest that if you write in Markdown and want an easy preview stick with nvALT (I do). Otherwise you might want to go for NV. Not sure what the advantage of NV is though as I don't use it.

    Reply
  14. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    Leslie,

    In Notational Velocity, I keep everything as plain text files and store them in Dropbox. I do this because this way they're future-proof:
    – They're editable in Text Edit (or any other text editor no matter what software/system you might use in the future)
    – Searchable by Spotlight (in case something happens with NV)
    – You can open them with any app from iPhone/iPad (for example I open mine using Nebulous for Markdown previous. I learned that from David)

    In the NV v nvALT, I'd suggest that if you write in Markdown and want an easy preview stick with nvALT (I do). Otherwise you might want to go for NV. Not sure what the advantage of NV is though as I don't use it.

    Reply
  15. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    Leslie,

    In Notational Velocity, I keep everything as plain text files and store them in Dropbox. I do this because this way they're future-proof:
    – They're editable in Text Edit (or any other text editor no matter what software/system you might use in the future)
    – Searchable by Spotlight (in case something happens with NV)
    – You can open them with any app from iPhone/iPad (for example I open mine using Nebulous for Markdown previous. I learned that from David)

    In the NV v nvALT, I'd suggest that if you write in Markdown and want an easy preview stick with nvALT (I do). Otherwise you might want to go for NV. Not sure what the advantage of NV is though as I don't use it.

    Reply
  16. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    Leslie,

    In Notational Velocity, I keep everything as plain text files and store them in Dropbox. I do this because this way they're future-proof:
    – They're editable in Text Edit (or any other text editor no matter what software/system you might use in the future)
    – Searchable by Spotlight (in case something happens with NV)
    – You can open them with any app from iPhone/iPad (for example I open mine using Nebulous for Markdown previous. I learned that from David)

    In the NV v nvALT, I'd suggest that if you write in Markdown and want an easy preview stick with nvALT (I do). Otherwise you might want to go for NV. Not sure what the advantage of NV is though as I don't use it.

    Reply
  17. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    Leslie,

    In Notational Velocity, I keep everything as plain text files and store them in Dropbox. I do this because this way they're future-proof:
    – They're editable in Text Edit (or any other text editor no matter what software/system you might use in the future)
    – Searchable by Spotlight (in case something happens with NV)
    – You can open them with any app from iPhone/iPad (for example I open mine using Nebulous for Markdown previous. I learned that from David)

    In the NV v nvALT, I'd suggest that if you write in Markdown and want an easy preview stick with nvALT (I do). Otherwise you might want to go for NV. Not sure what the advantage of NV is though as I don't use it.

    Reply
  18. DDinko

    Gabriel:

    Advantage of NV would be that it's kept up to date and currently has many more features than various "forks" (NVAlt, etc.). See here:

    notational.net/releasenotes/release2/#b4

    Reply
  19. DDinko

    Gabriel:

    Forgot to mention that actually, you do use NV—just an older version of it with a markdown preview window.

    Reply
  20. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    DDinko,

    Thanks for the update. A few of the additions in the latest version of NV look good. The main ones seem to be around tags, which I don't use at all though (I just can't seem to keep tags organised). The Markdown preview is critical to me, so I'll stick with nvALT for now. I believe it's being updated also, but I haven't had any issues and it works perfectly for me.

    I do agree that if the Markdown preview is not that important, the official NV is a better choice.

    Gabe

    Reply
  21. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    DDinko,

    Thanks for the update. A few of the additions in the latest version of NV look good. The main ones seem to be around tags, which I don't use at all though (I just can't seem to keep tags organised). The Markdown preview is critical to me, so I'll stick with nvALT for now. I believe it's being updated also, but I haven't had any issues and it works perfectly for me.

    I do agree that if the Markdown preview is not that important, the official NV is a better choice.

    Gabe

    Reply
  22. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    DDinko,

    Thanks for the update. A few of the additions in the latest version of NV look good. The main ones seem to be around tags, which I don't use at all though (I just can't seem to keep tags organised). The Markdown preview is critical to me, so I'll stick with nvALT for now. I believe it's being updated also, but I haven't had any issues and it works perfectly for me.

    I do agree that if the Markdown preview is not that important, the official NV is a better choice.

    Gabe

    Reply
  23. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    DDinko,

    Thanks for the update. A few of the additions in the latest version of NV look good. The main ones seem to be around tags, which I don't use at all though (I just can't seem to keep tags organised). The Markdown preview is critical to me, so I'll stick with nvALT for now. I believe it's being updated also, but I haven't had any issues and it works perfectly for me.

    I do agree that if the Markdown preview is not that important, the official NV is a better choice.

    Gabe

    Reply
  24. gabriel@ponzanelli.net

    DDinko,

    Thanks for the update. A few of the additions in the latest version of NV look good. The main ones seem to be around tags, which I don't use at all though (I just can't seem to keep tags organised). The Markdown preview is critical to me, so I'll stick with nvALT for now. I believe it's being updated also, but I haven't had any issues and it works perfectly for me.

    I do agree that if the Markdown preview is not that important, the official NV is a better choice.

    Gabe

    Reply
  25. Leslie

    Thank you for your responses. I have been testing out NV and like it a lot. I don't use Markdown so sounds like sticking with NV is a good choice. I took David's suggestion and downloaded SimpleNote to sync notes with my iPad. I believe I will switch to DropBox text files and see how that goes. I like the idea of having a 'plan b' in case something goes wrong with NV.

    Reply
  26. benjamindeaton@gmail.com

    David, first of all, long time reader, first time commenter, and love your work.

    When I listened to the latest MPU podcast with Merlin and you discussed this topic, I got really confused. Knowing that you are both huge OmniFocus geeks (as am I), I would have expected post ideas to go into a Blog:Posts project in OF. I think maybe this is why OmniFocus stresses me out. Every post idea I have gets thrown in that inbox and mixed in with real work.

    Anyway, if you have the time, I would love to hear why you keep blog post ideas and inside a system like NV instead of OmniFocus.

    PS- I just downloaded your OmniFocus screencast and will watch soon — forgive me if this question is addressed there.

    Reply
  27. benjamindeaton@gmail.com

    David, first of all, long time reader, first time commenter, and love your work.

    When I listened to the latest MPU podcast with Merlin and you discussed this topic, I got really confused. Knowing that you are both huge OmniFocus geeks (as am I), I would have expected post ideas to go into a Blog:Posts project in OF. I think maybe this is why OmniFocus stresses me out. Every post idea I have gets thrown in that inbox and mixed in with real work.

    Anyway, if you have the time, I would love to hear why you keep blog post ideas and inside a system like NV instead of OmniFocus.

    PS- I just downloaded your OmniFocus screencast and will watch soon — forgive me if this question is addressed there.

    Reply
  28. benjamindeaton@gmail.com

    David, first of all, long time reader, first time commenter, and love your work.

    When I listened to the latest MPU podcast with Merlin and you discussed this topic, I got really confused. Knowing that you are both huge OmniFocus geeks (as am I), I would have expected post ideas to go into a Blog:Posts project in OF. I think maybe this is why OmniFocus stresses me out. Every post idea I have gets thrown in that inbox and mixed in with real work.

    Anyway, if you have the time, I would love to hear why you keep blog post ideas and inside a system like NV instead of OmniFocus.

    PS- I just downloaded your OmniFocus screencast and will watch soon — forgive me if this question is addressed there.

    Reply
  29. benjamindeaton@gmail.com

    David, first of all, long time reader, first time commenter, and love your work.

    When I listened to the latest MPU podcast with Merlin and you discussed this topic, I got really confused. Knowing that you are both huge OmniFocus geeks (as am I), I would have expected post ideas to go into a Blog:Posts project in OF. I think maybe this is why OmniFocus stresses me out. Every post idea I have gets thrown in that inbox and mixed in with real work.

    Anyway, if you have the time, I would love to hear why you keep blog post ideas and inside a system like NV instead of OmniFocus.

    PS- I just downloaded your OmniFocus screencast and will watch soon — forgive me if this question is addressed there.

    Reply
  30. benjamindeaton@gmail.com

    David, first of all, long time reader, first time commenter, and love your work.

    When I listened to the latest MPU podcast with Merlin and you discussed this topic, I got really confused. Knowing that you are both huge OmniFocus geeks (as am I), I would have expected post ideas to go into a Blog:Posts project in OF. I think maybe this is why OmniFocus stresses me out. Every post idea I have gets thrown in that inbox and mixed in with real work.

    Anyway, if you have the time, I would love to hear why you keep blog post ideas and inside a system like NV instead of OmniFocus.

    PS- I just downloaded your OmniFocus screencast and will watch soon — forgive me if this question is addressed there.

    Reply

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