Napkin is an intriguing new service for jotting down quick ideas or notes and linking them together. In this post I’m sharing what it’s for, how it works, how it’s different from other services, what its limitations are, and some useful alternatives.
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What to use it for 🧠
Gather ideas for a new project a little bite at a time rather than feeling like you have to fill up a full note or outline.
Collect quotes, phrases or key stats as they come to you to gradually build up a collection.
Draft a Twitter thread, piece by piece.
Create a parking lot for idea seeds you don't have time to explore right now but you don't want to forget.
How it works 🚥
Type out a sentence or two into a little onscreen box. It's like a digital napkin for scrawling thoughts. Each thought or idea gets its own napkin. If you want to add a tag to link an idea with others, you can.
5 views for your notes 📓 👀
When you've jotted down a bunch of thoughts, you can view them in multiple ways.
On a visual canvas as a thought swarm.
Organized in neat rows as a thought list, like this ⬇
As a tag cloud spotlighting all of the tags you've used.
Use the search/filter box to surface notes with a particular word or phrase.
As part of a stack of cards that you can organize in whatever order you’d like and then export to edit elsewhere or print. I actually drafted this post by using the Stack feature. I jotted down key points in Napkin. I dragged those points into a stack, then exported that to edit in iA Writer, the most streamlined app for writing and editing.
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How Napkin is different 🦋
Napkin is not a full-fledged note-taking service. It doesn’t have all the features of services like Evernote, Apple Notes, OneNote or other traditional notes tools. It’s not a replacement for any of those. Nor is it a substitute for Roam, Obsidian, Mem.ai or other new backlink-based note-taking services. It is useful for writers, though, who are assembling ideas that will end up in a Medium post, Twitter thread or some other published piece. That’s the target group the founders have been focusing on.
Napkin is designed for jotting down individual thoughts. Think smaller bits of ideas. Each Napkin is a quick Tweet-length thought.
Organized visually, not in folders. Napkins are visible on a floating visual canvas so you can see how thoughts are connected.
Text only. While other note-taking tools are designed to be digital file cabinets, housing anything and everything, from multimedia to file attachments, Napkin is focused on simple text.
Offering less, not more. Napkin’s founders are intent on building an alternative to overwhelming notes services and a retreat from social media overload. “We think everyone could be way more creative and inspired if they had a beautiful and calm space to connect and focus the greatest ideas they come across,” said Fabian Wittel and David Felsmann in reply to one of my recent email queries.
Short input only, and not designed to be used for editing or formatting. You'll need a separate digital spot for fuller notes.
It’s still a raw service, with features gradually being added.
You can't include visuals or attachments with your notes, just simple text.
Not yet available on all platforms.
Pricing: After a free beta period, pricing is now $10/month or $96/year. You can use code WONDERTOOLS for a free month of the monthly or yearly plan. Students and educators can email email@example.com for 50% off.
Walling is a more complex, more powerful visual notes tool that has a broader range of features.
Scrintal is a new service I'm testing. It has a similar note by note simple visual interface. Also early-stage.
Padlet isn't designed as a thought-collection tool per se, but it can be used that way. It has the added benefit of enabling you to add various kinds of multimedia. Trello can also be handy to jot dow quick ideas on cards and move them around on an idea board, though it’s designed for managing projects.
Milanote lets you create a visual pinboard with ideas, images, links, files and whatever else you want to see on a visual digital board.
Scrivener has a note card view like Napkin’s, along with a lot of additional features for organizing and managing big writing projects.
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