August changes

A few things have changed since my last writing post.

I’ve decided:

To ditch timers and timed writing for good.

It feels weird to sit down and write without the timer. I still look for it in the corner of my screen as I type. I still look for the column on my spreadsheet and feel a little startled when I realize it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I wrote those 187 words.

To erase my record of my timed writing and words per hour calculations.

I did make a backup of the original file with those numbers because I couldn’t not do that.

To stick to word count quotas.

To STICK to word count quotas, for real. I do need some type of structure to keep me working.

Structure is useful for me.

But going back and forth between time / word counts / WPH anxiety isn’t useful to me at all.

I can’t control my daily word counts as easily I can control my time spent writing but I never (seriously, never) seem to reach the time quotas I set for myself either.

Since word count quotas are so much more meaningful to my income, they win. :-)

The day after I made this decision, I wrote more words with less effort than I’ve written in a long time. I reached 671 words for the day and hardly felt like I’d done any writing at all. It felt great.

Then stuff happened, delays and distractions, and I didn’t write very much for the next two days. Now we’ve come to today, and the writing is again going easily and I hardly feel like I’ve done anything at all. I’m already up to 187 words for the day.

Those timers really did make writing feel too much like hard work. Getting that out of my system might take a while, but I’m sure it’s the right path forward for me. I need to like writing or I won’t do it, but lately, I just hadn’t liked it very much at all. That changed so quickly after making the decision to ditch the time keeping and WPH calculations that I really feel it was hindering my enjoyment of writing and interfering with my ability to keep going with this for the long-term.

The hours and WPH are just demoralizing anyway most of the time. Average words per day is the only number that really matters in the long run.

It’s just a renewed focus on actually getting the word counts and not wasting time worrying over anything else to do with productivity.

To stop trying to make my book perfect.

I know better than this. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits this year and my inner perfectionist is making life difficult again.

To keep using OneNote.

I have decided I’m just not leaving OneNote for certain types of notes until or unless I have to. I need software for note-taking or I never would have started using Evernote, way back when, even before I migrated to OneNote several years ago.

I did move the rest of my notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote the way I like once my Office 365 subscription expires in September. And, it’s a little hard to admit, but my notebooks are actually a lot more useful since I moved them.

The local notebook issue was more a principle thing than a practical issue for me. I decided to bend on this one.

It’s time for me to get back to writing fiction now. I have a quota today and I’d like to see how close I end up to it. That 2,000 words a day plan is still something I’ve got in my sights.

Office 365 issues, OneNote, and my local notebooks

So… I mentioned canceling Office 365 and uninstalling? Turns out it wasn’t as easy as that. I still use OneNote, so I reinstalled it after uninstalling Office 365.

OneNote is supposed to be a freebie these days, although who knows for how long, but right off it started giving me little error-like messages about my local notebooks and how I needed an Office 365 subscription to keep using them. Most of my notebooks are local notebooks, meaning they’re stored on my computer’s hard drive instead of on OneDrive.

These local notebooks and the free version of OneNote are pretty much incompatible. It was allowing me to use them, but only when I twisted its arm. In trying to diagnose what might be going on, because at that point I didn’t know, I chose to “switch” my license. I didn’t realize that meant that the entire Office 365 suite would reinstall itself on my computer in the background, but that’s exactly what happened.

The next day, I clicked on one of my spreadsheet files and Excel 2016 opened. At which point I said: “What the hell?”

I did a little research but didn’t turn up anything to explain why it had reinstalled itself so I uninstalled Office 365 again.

Then I closed one of my OneNote notebooks—a local one. Then I changed my mind and tried to reopen it. The freebie version of OneNote absolutely would not let me reopen the notebook. The error-like message was back, telling me I needed to sign up to Office 365 to use that notebook. It was the same message as before, only before, I could close it and still access my local notebooks. But I absolutely could not reopen a local notebook, at which point I realized it wasn’t a glitch at all but an actual limitation of the freebie version of OneNote. Local notebooks aren’t supported.

At that point, I thought about the licensing issue and what it might have meant and how I might be stuck with Office 365 if I wanted OneNote to work the way it had worked before.

So I “switched” my license for OneNote again, assuming I would wake up to the entire Office 365 suite on my computer again, but at least I’d have the ability to open my local OneNote notebook.

That happened, and I successfully reopened my closed (local) notebook.

So yay for that?

I’m still going to allow my subscription to expire, and I’ve left the recurring billing turned off. What I’m hoping will happen is that my OneNote install will continue to work normally even after the other programs deactivate themselves. I’m not at all confident that this is what will happen, but that is my hope.

There are three reasons why I don’t want to stop using OneNote for my notes.

  1. I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into a note and have it retain formatting as a table with no extra work at all. Everything just works. I don’t want to embed the spreadsheet because I delete the bits that I’m pasting. That’d be useless. I just want it for reference. That’s all.
  2. All my notes are consolidated in one location and accessible from one file (essentially).
  3. I can search through all my notes easily at one time.

I debated the issue with myself but ultimately I decided to move my local notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote for most of them, with the exception of my journal. I exported that to a Word .docx, imported it to Writer and saved a copy as an .odt file.

I’ve already started using it for my journal. There are some definite benefits to it being an .odt file and I’m happy that I did it.

There’s also one drawback: I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into LibreOffice Writer, but I have to paste it in as HTML formatted text and then manually apply table styling to it so that it looks like a table. I tested it a few times and I can imagine getting really good at it, but it’s not instantaneous like it is in OneNote.

So that my notes continue to look the same, I added a few styles that are easy to apply.

  • Note Title
  • Note Meta
  • Note Paragraph
  • Note Indent
  • Note List

That seems to be all I need for most of my entries. But I like how neat it all looks. And now I have text statistics. My journal for 2015–2018-to-date is just over 93,000 words. That makes me sad. I just barely managed 126,000 words of fiction last year!

I have to say, it definitely makes me feel like I’m falling down on the job.

But the beauty of this is that if I get tired of one font (it happens!) or a particular layout style, I can easily change it for my whole journal with a simple style edit. :-) Doing that in OneNote is pretty much impossible without some kind of weird hack, because changing the note font even in options doesn’t apply to old notes.

Exporting OneNote sections to Word

Here’s something I discovered about exporting from OneNote today: To export both pages and subpages of a section from OneNote to Word, expand the pages first.

I did some reorganizing of my Journals which are set up as Section > 2016, Page > September 2016, Subpages > September 16, 2016 & September 15, 2016, etc, and had them collapsed so the sidebar wasn’t too long (365 pages is a lot of pages for one section and I wanted some white space in that list!).

What happened, though, when I did my usual export to Word to back up my entries by section (year) is that most of the subpages didn’t export. Only those that were expanded were included in the Word docx file. :o

That wasn’t good, so I went back and expanded everything, then exported again, and it worked exactly as I expected.

I tried to find mention of this online, but I couldn’t find anything. So here it is, a tip for anyone who might be wondering why OneNote doesn’t export subpages to Word when exporting. See if your pages are collapsed and if they are, expand them before you try to export again.

I’d rather it not be this way, but as long as I have a workaround I’m satisfied.

Sometimes I still miss Evernote, but one of my favorite things about OneNote is how easily I can export pages, sections, or notebooks directly from OneNote to Word. I couldn’t do that in Evernote, and exporting to HTML wasn’t really what I wanted. I do it to back up important notes in a format I can access easily if my OneNote files were to become corrupt.

I miss Evernote, but I miss it less after installing Pocket

I’m pretty happy with my switch from Evernote to OneNote in most respects, except one. I used Evernote as my to-read list and regularly clipped articles I wanted to read later to a “To Read” notebook. If I liked the article I moved it to my Clipped notebook, where I kept random articles and clippings from the web to revisit later if I wanted.

I don’t organize these articles, because it’s not some massive amorphous list of things I’d like to read someday/maybe. These are articles I absolutely want to read as soon as I have time and I get through them quickly. No one article usually sticks around longer than a week, and if I keep passing it over, I usually just delete it.

I still have those notebooks in OneNote, but OneNote doesn’t quite work like Evernote did and I find it more difficult to read articles I’ve saved.

Pocket has become the solution to that problem—an excellent solution, in fact, because it’s compatible with every device I own and I can read on any of them, much the way I was able to read my Evernote notes on any device, even my 5 year old Droid X.

Although OneNote is compatible with almost all my devices, it won’t run on the old Droid (which I still use as a reading device) or my second generation Kindle Fire. Believe it or not, these are my two favorite reading devices and I choose them over my newer options almost every time, unless I need OneNote. Now I can read on my preferred devices, despite their age.

If I want to save an article, I can visit the original article from Pocket and clip it to OneNote. (I tried it and it works just that easy.) This seems like it’d be extra trouble compared to just moving a clipped article from one notebook to another, but this really isn’t a big deal for me, because I don’t save that many articles. Mostly I read and delete.

And if in the future Pocket goes the way of Evernote and starts limiting device usage, I’ll just go back to reading on OneNote.

Some days, I still miss Evernote. I used it for years and was quite happy with it, so it’s only natural. But now I don’t miss it quite so much. :)

Evernote is changing, but so am I: switching from Evernote to OneNote

Evernote has been my go-to software app for notes for many years. I’ve loved it for a long time, but the time has come to make the switch to OneNote. The thing is, I have an Office 365 subscription that I’m very happy with, despite the fact that I don’t actually use the new versions of Excel and Word.* I tried OneNote soon after installing Office 365, and although I didn’t hate it, I didn’t see a big need to switch.

One reason was because my phone is getting old, I mean really old (it’s an original Droid X), and it’s starting to have trouble running newer applications. My little Droid X is still on Android 2.3.4. But goodness, I love that phone, and it still does what I need it to do: check my email, send texts and messages, play music, make calls, take photos, and run my 6 e-reading apps.

On the other hand, Aldiko has recently started crashing on me, and the Kindle app has started to load really slowly, so it’s definitely going downhill. And my phone won’t run OneNote, while it still runs Evernote without a hitch. So I decided at the time not to make the switch.

But last night I got the following email.

Evernote Basic is changing

At Evernote, we are committed not only to making you as productive as you can be, but also to running our business in as transparent a way as possible. We’re making a change to our Basic service, and it’s important that you know about it.

In the coming weeks, Evernote Basic accounts will be limited to two devices, such as a computer and phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet. You are currently over this limit, but will have at least 30 days to adjust. Plus and Premium accounts will continue to support access from an unlimited number of devices.

Look for additional communication from us explaining how your account is changing and outlining your options. For more information about why we are making this change, see our blog post.

The problem with this is that I use Evernote everywhere: phone, Kindle fire, Fire tablet, laptop, desktop… You get the picture. But out of the 60 MB of data transfer Evernote allows a free account, I use less than one MB most months. Right now, I’m at 259 KB for the month. There’s just no reason for me to pay for a subscription for this service. And now I won’t be able to access Evernote on all my devices.

To put it bluntly, Evernote has suddenly become much less useful to me.

So, last night, I used the OneNote importer to copy my Evernote notes to OneNote. And I quite like it. It’s going to take a little getting used to, but I think I’ll manage.

I have to say, I’m sorry for Evernote, but I think their recent changes are going to be the end of them. Not because I think it matters that I switched, because I was probably never going to be a paid user anyway. I don’t worship the ideal of a paperless life, by far, and I don’t like digital clutter either. But instead of making changes that will make Evernote indispensable to users, they’re limiting it in a way that makes it less likely the software can ever become indispensable to those who might go on to become paid users.

*I still use my Office 2007 versions, although there are features in the 2016 editions that I like, such as how Word remembers where you last were in the document when you reopen it. The switch to OneNote made me feel like I should try again, because I really like the OneNote interface. I just… really hate that green all over Excel. The blue from 2007 was so much more soothing a color. I loved those colors. It’s made it really hard to get over my other issues with 2016 and commit to the newer versions.