January 26, 2011

SuperNotecard to the Rescue!

A major part of revision is the planning stage in which you figure out what you need to change in your story before you start actually making changes.

A major part of the planning stage is outlining your story using an ever more complicated system that allows you to procrastinate as long as possible before you start actually making changes.

I'm good at this part.

I want to admit this up front, because if you've noticed exactly how long I've been "preparing for the third draft" of THE EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE, you're going to be too busy laughing at me to read the rest of this post when I say that I recently started using some cool software that's helping me prepare for the third draft. So just know that I'm aware I have problem.

But I really think this software's going to help.

It's called SuperNotecard, and it's a versatile virtual index card application designed for writers. I've talked before about how much I love to plan revisions using index cards and other office supplies. I've investigated index card software before, but I'd never found a program that met all my needs.

I wasn't even sure that I wanted to use software instead of real, physical cards. I like the tactile experience of spreading cards out on the floor and moving them around. I like how index cards make it so easy to visualize an entire novel and then rearrange things repeatedly. And I like getting away from my computer for a while.

But there are drawbacks to real cards. When I want to work away from home, I'm reluctant to take them along, since they aren't backupable and there usually isn't room to spread them out. It takes a long time to write information on the cards, then more time to try to read what I've written in my atrocious print. Index cards can't contain an unlimited amount of text, and virtual cut-and-paste is far superior to the original version. Plus, I eventually wind up typing everything from the cards into my computer. So I thought I'd at least give a software solution a try.

I didn't want to lose any major functionality, though. One great thing about physical index cards is that you can arrange them arbitrarily, and all the applications I'd looked at assumed that you simply wanted to line up cards in a continuous row. That put virtual cards at too much of a disadvantage to real ones.

Enter SuperNotecard! This application has a grid, but you can place cards wherever you want on the grid (or you can choose the setting that removes gaps). SuperNotecard also lets you "stack" cards into decks that stay together when you move them, and you can resize to see more on a screen. It gets pretty close to the experience of using actual cards.

A large number of features address the various things writers might do with cards. So far I've made use of different colors, categories, and a timeline function. There are more features than I expect to use, but the ones I don't need don't get in the way.

Another functionality I required, that SuperNotecard provides, is that projects can be exported into a text file that presents the information as an outline. This means that someday, if I ever finish planning, I can work on my revision by referencing a file in my word processor or a printout, rather than continuing to run a separate application.

SuperNotecard isn't perfect. The interface isn't completely intuitive, and it doesn't always behave the way I'd design it, but it didn't take me long to get comfortable. The application runs a little slow, but that might just be my already elderly computer, and I've hit a couple small bugs. I've also only been using the program for a couple of weeks.

That said, I'm happy to recommend SuperNotecard by Mindola Software. You can download the application for free to try it out. I believe the trial is fully functional, but it periodically reminds you to purchase it. The full version is a very reasonable $29.

Here are a couple of screenshots I took. The Mindola site has more.

SuperNotecard screenshot

SuperNotecard screenshot


Christopher Gronlund said...

Thanks for the SuperNotecard review.

I've been looking for something like this.

SuperNotecard to your rescue; Lisa Eckstein to mine.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Christopher, if you give it a try, I'll be very interested to know what you think. After a few weeks of using it, I've found the application very useful. I'm glad to now have all my plans for the next draft organized in one place, on my computer so that I don't have to worry about carrying cards around or not being able to back up paper.

Christopher Gronlund said...

I started using it yesterday, and I really like it. It lets me do all I need to do without being too overboard on features.

So far, if I could make a notecard program, SuperNotecard would be what I'd make. I'll definitely be buying it.

Lisa Eckstein said...


Unknown said...

Just stumbled onto your site, thanks. How did SuperNotecard work for you in the long run? --Jennifer

Lisa Eckstein said...

Hi, Jennifer, thanks for stopping by. SuperNotecard was a huge help in outlining and keeping track of research notes and ideas, and I used it constantly for a few years. About a year ago, I started using Scrivener, which has its own index card function, so I haven't been working with SuperNotecard much anymore, but I'd still definitely recommend it as a standalone index card application.

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