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.