Memos on iPod

One of the great features of the Palm from the very beginning was keeping memos. Anything you need to remember you can just write down and then look up them alphabetized by the first line. Not only that, but you can categorize the memos so I would have personal memos, memos for stuff to remember about computers, stuff to remember about work, etc. People sometimes refer to the Palm as my “brain” but most of what I am remembering in my brain is just these little snippets of text I had stored in there.


Now when the iPod came out, it had a Notes feature which was very similar. I even wrote a piece of software that would take the archive of my notes from the Palm and turn it in to individual text files that could be stored directly on the iPod hard drive. By putting the files in folders, it was just like having categories. Nice. No software, you just put the text files on the iPod and the iPod would recognize them. I never really needed that feature though because I always carried my Palm and the iPod had no way of editing or adding memos (or notes; in the end even Palm started calling them notes).

So you may know I got a new iPod Touch this week. And by default a Notes application (or “app”) is included. However, you never have access to the hard drive of the iPod Touch. And the notes app doesn’t let you categorize notes. And then notes are in a magic marker font that is cute, but means that the notes are much longer because of the large font. You can synchronize the notes with Microsoft Outlook’s notes, but Google did away with notes in favor of Google Docs (which can be spreadsheets, pdf’s, word processing documents, etc.) and I tried to import notes from Yahoo like I did with my contacts (also unable to be categorized) but nothing came over.

So I started looking for third-party app for the notes. There were a few free apps, but I wanted a way to back up the notes to my hard drive or to Yahoo or whatever. And I also needed a way to import the 450 notes I have on my Palm into the iPod. It would be nice if it would sync up like the Palm did so that I could write a note on my computer (which is way, way, way easier than typing in notes on the iPod) and it would be updated on the iPod.

The problem is there isn’t any real synchronization on the iPod except with iTunes and iTunes doesn’t support the notes the way I want (maybe I could write a iPod note in iTunes, get it into the iPod’s default notes app and then copy the text to a note in the new app). None of the free apps for notes did categories and would let me import and export all of my notes.

But I did find a $2 app called Memo Book that did all of these things and seemed to be tailored to people migrating from Palm devices. I hate paying $2 for something that I think should be included, but at least $2 isn’t very much.

It is pretty neat how the imports and exports are done. Since the iPod has wi-fi web surfing built in, all the hardware was there for the iPod to also act as a web server. So the app beams a web site on my wi-fi network that my computer can pull up. And on that web page is a list of files that can be downloaded from the app and a way to drop off files from my hard drive. It’s as easy as downloading or uploading a file on a website. I had no idea an iPod could that. It was pretty cool.

So the idea is that I export my memos to a file of comma-separated values that contains all of my notes and then upload that via the app’s web page to my iPod. I have always used tab-separated values because a lot of my notes already have commas. So I wondered if I would have to remove all the commas first. I looked up CSV on Wikipedia and it seems they already thought of this. If you had a simple database of produce, then comma-separated values might look like this:

tomato, vegetable, red
lemon, fruit, yellow
apple, fruit, red

Each line item is the value of a field, and each line is a record. But what the CSV format does is puts long fields in quotation marks so it knows where the beginning and ending is and ignores the commas between there. But some of my notes have quotation marks too. These are converted to two quotation marks so they can be treated correctly. Anyway, it worked for the most part except that when I finally got the notes onto the iPod (the Sea Monkey browser didn’t work that well; I wound up using Internet Explorer instead), they were in the wrong order. So I tried again and now I just had two of each note in the wrong order. So I had to uninstall the program (there’s no way to select all the notes and delete them and there is also no way to sort them alphabetically). Most of them were alphabetical, but some of the ones I use the most were down at the end and out of order. I changed the Palm export to export all selected notes in the order they were in on the handheld and it seems to have worked. It took a while and I uninstalled the app about four times before I got it right. It works, so I’m pretty happy.

Next up is finding a good database program . . .

One thought on “Memos on iPod

  1. I had a similar challenge when I decided to quit managing all of my text reminders in Yahoo Notepad and move them to Google Docs. I now keep notes among my Google Docs with the label “Notepad” in honor of Yahoo, where my “brain” was for many years. Since I currently walk around with a Blackberry, I have not looked into how to manage notes on mobile. But I can browse to Google Docs on my BlackBerry in a pinch.

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