Growly: a OneNote Replacement for Mac

Growly Notes may just suit your needs for Mac writing projects

Some times the wheels seem to have ground to a dead stop when it comes to finding things to write about for my obligatory columns in a couple of local papers. While there is no dearth of topics, I have tried to hold true to writing about subjects that genuinely interest me, and that having researched them, I will be better off for the effort, even if the newsprint ends up lining the parakeet cage.

So I confess this time, with another deadline looming while I’ll be busy in or traveling out of town, I was beginning to throw my hands up.

Then it occurred to me that I have written about a number of plant, animal and human diseases over the last seven years, usually when those pathogens were new and the outcome unknown.

What if I went back and revisited a couple of them for a status update–for my own education? I could generate real energy in that work.

And so, having looked at a half-dozen such “emerging disorders” I quickly found that there was so much still active on the topic of honey bee diseases that there would be more than enough on this subject alone to fill my 750 word column. And so I’ve both begun that work AND started it using new, free MAC software I’m excited about.

I was a dedicated user of Microsoft OneNote, and used it for blogging, research, teaching and to compile more than 100 pieces of writing that became Slow Road Home. Then, in 2008, when I moved to the MAC, even running Windows via Parallels, OneNote got to where it clearly was not going to be my go-to info-gathering and writing tool.

I’ve used, with more or less success, a long list of simple to complex apps (free and paid) in an attempt to find one that works the way my brain works when dealing with organizing data. All have their strong points; none have it all in one package.

This week, I’ve come back to the newest version of Growly Notes. (Yes, it’s a dippy name and about as googy as Circus Ponies Notebook, which held the rule here for many months.) Growly lacks the outlining features of OneNote as well as other sophisticated features I mostly never used.

But what it does allow is placing blocks of text anywhere on the page where you click the cursor so that related bits can be moved side-by-side, placed in columns, set up with side comments like Cornell note-taking format. (I created such a template; you can make them for your specific needs and create new pages using them.)

What Growly Notes does have is a very visual way of arranging topics (sections) and sub-topics and notes (pages) within those sections in any given notebook. As many notebooks can be created as fits your workflow and needs, each arranged as a tab up top. There are a number of features I have used for my daily blogging and info-gathering needs: Scrivener, Devonthink, OmniOutliner, VooDooPad, and Notational Velocity. The latter is another free app I use countless times every day with the Chrome Add-on called Create Link that grabs text, title and url from collected bits on the web. There is a place for all of them, but Growly will supplant most of those needs, I’m thinking, over the coming weeks.

You can see a larger screen shot of my Plight of the Honey Bee aggregator page that hopefully by Monday deadline will have become yet another essay.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Good luck meeting your deadline, Fred. The final result will be of interest to me. I just read that the Xerxes Society (they protect all invertebrates) is funding CA farmers planting native plants on their fields’ borders to keep the bees going. Have you heard anything about that?