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(Archived) Some thoughts about notebooks

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Usually I am under the impression that EN does almost everything better than OneNote, but I have been thinking lately about OneNote's treatment of notebooks, and I've come to the conclusion that, at least in this instance, ON's approach is better.

In OneNote you set up multiple notebooks, each of which resides in a separate folder on your hard disk. When you're using the program, you can have as many or as few notebooks open as you wish, and even if you have only one notebook open, I believe you can specify that a search take place across all notebooks.

In EN3, on the other hand, all notebooks are stuffed into a single file. That immediately raises questions about scale: my EN2.2 databases are quite large (I think about 400 Mb collectively, not counting backup files), and they will certainly become larger in the future. I am unenthusiastic about entrusting so much of my digital life to one file, which will eventually become so huge that it cannot be backed up locally. Furthermore, this single-file system provokes a lot of anxiety about security, because it means that both private and public data will be transmitted back and forth in one file between our own hard disks and the EN site.

There are in fact three, not two, kinds of notebooks in EN3: local (your own computer only), private (synchronized on the Web but for your eyes only), and public (also synchronized on the Web, open to all). I wish it were possible to create three separate files corresponding to these three categories: local would of course never be synchronized; private would be synchronized if you wanted to; and public would have to be synchronized.

At the moment, all three types of notebooks are crammed into one potentially monstrous file, and when we click on the synchronize icon, the hard disk begins to whir, and we are supposed to believe that the public and private notebooks, though mingled in that one file, are going into the cloud with very clear demarcations of what parts are public and what are private; and we are assured that the local notebooks (though a part of that same file) are earthbound and are going nowhere. I find all this conceptually difficult, but even if I grasp more or less what is going on, I find myself wondering how I am going to back up my local notebooks in the future.

The EN3 system as it now stands seems to make it highly impractical to use local notebooks of considerable size. The EN team really ought to be rethinking this problem. Many of us will be delighted to make use of the Web synchronization for certain notebooks, but there is some information that we just don't want to synchronize with a remote server, and the grandiose EN vision of the future ought to take that simple, self-evident fact into account.

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