Everyone should have a digital place to dump/store information and capture thoughts. For me, that place is nvALT. It’s a fork of Notational Velocity, a minimal, efficient, fast note taking app. Yes, I just listed 3 adjectives to describe a note taking app and I could go on. nvALT’s strength is its simplicity.  It lets you write text, it automatically saves that text, and it lets you search for the text. Here’s a screenshot of the app:


It consists of a search bar, a list of notes, and a place to type. You can actually navigate anywhere in the app without touching the mouse; for example, hit cmd + L to navigate to the search bar. In nvALT, everything works from the search bar. Type a title or a word in the bar, and it automatically searches all text as you type. You can hit enter to create a new note with that title.  You can use nvALT for a variety of purposes:

I do a lot of writing in the app; in fact, I’m using it to write this post. It tends to be the first place I go to write because I feel less pressure writing in nvALT than in a word processor; I wrote the first draft of my TEC application in nvALT.  Last year, I kept a note with a list of significant quotations and page numbers from books I was reading, which helped when I was writing papers. When I have an idea for a YouTube video, I make a new note and brainstorm. I have a note called “ideas” so I can quickly record any type of idea. Ultimately, nvALT is the most convenient tool for storing text, especially spontaneous information. It’s faster than a pen and paper and definitely more efficient than keeping many short text files in a folder.

I also use it to keep lists. I have lists of inspiring women in tech, links to programming resources and brief descriptions of them/why they are useful, books to read, tv shows and movies to watch, and more. If you’re a TEC Fellow, I recommend using nvALT to:

  1. Keep track of places to visit in San Francisco. Come up with a naming convention, like SF: to-eat for restaurants. Alternatively, you can make a note called SF places and categorize them within the note. Include restaurants to visit, neighborhoods you want to explore, museums to visit, hikes, etc.
  2. Keep a list of people: We have weekly discussions with entrepreneurs, and in addition to any handwritten notes you might take, it’s useful to keep a digital record containing the speaker, their contact info, and what you learned or appreciated about their talk. Sometimes, speakers recommend books or resources; you can add these to lists in nvALT as well.

If you’re using the built in Notes app on your Mac and iOS devices, I urge you to download nvALT (and Simplenote, which it syncs with). Like Alfred, it’s one of the first apps I install on a Mac, and I feel less productive without it.