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Introducing Indxd: A Digital Tool for Analog Writers – Dave Rea

Introducing Indxd: A Digital Tool for Analog Writers

Notebook & pen in jeans back pocket EDC

Over the last few years, we’ve witnessed a handwriting revolution. Endless promises of a “paperless future” have fizzled, and people are re-discovering the simple analog joy of writing things down!

The result? We’re filling up more notebooks, journals and planners than we likely have in decades. We need a way to catalog our analog notes, sketches, events, doodles and ideas – with the search capability of the digital world. So I built a simple tool called Indxd to keep track of all the good stuff living on those handwritten pages.

The Analog Revolution

Evidence of the renewed interest in writing is easy to spot. Start where I did: with the success of Field Notes Brand, the now-iconic Chicago creators of “an honest memo book worth fillin’ up with good information.” Then look to The Pen Addict podcast, where hosts Brad and Myke are closing in on 150 episodes. Consider that fountain pen sales are on the rise, fueled by communities of enthusiasts that span age, gender and geography.

“Writing with a good pen on nice paper fills me with a certain joy. It excites me and puts a smile on my face. I don’t know the exact reasons why, nor do they matter. What matters is that I am happier writing by hand than I have ever been using a digital tool.”

Patrick Rhone1

Gel Ink Pens

Filling Notebooks

The topic on a recent episode2 of the Pen Addict was notebooks – how many we keep in rotation, how quickly we fill them, and where they end up. The response was immense – there are a lot of people filling up a lot of notebooks, myself included.

I started my first pocket notebook in October of 2012. My wife and I were expecting a baby, and I wanted an American-made Moleskine alternative to capture memories of raising our son. What I found was Field Notes – and a new world of pens, paper, and enthusiasts. In addition to that special first book, I began buying more notebooks – among them the FN Colors Editions, the excellent Furrow Books, the hipsterific Baron Fig and the all-American NockCo DotDash – and using them all for daily logging, lists, and generally keeping my head on straight.

Field Notes Belly Bands

“I don’t leave the house without my notebook, and there’s always a pen clipped to it. I’m a firm believer in the power of writing things down”.

Aaron Mahnke3

I started using Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal System, adding a small topic index to each book – but today our son is two, and there are over a dozen notebooks on my shelf. Tracking down individual pieces of information is growing steadily more involved: When did Christopher take his first steps? Where’s that recipe for sweet potato quesadillas? What was the mileage on my car when I swapped on the snow tires? The only way to find these things was to crack open each book.

Introducing Indxd

I realized that I needed a better way to organize at the book level – a searchable index of the topics in my growing library. Scanning was out (too tedious). It would have to be super-simple and purpose-built (with a dozen books to back-catalog, the tool should introduce as little friction as possible). And of course it would have to be easily searchable.

So I built Indxd.

Indxd is a simple web app with one purpose: create a personal, searchable index of the topics in your notebooks. Start by adding books (name or number them however you like). Then click into a book and start entering topics (you can include page numbers if you’d like). You can browse through the book list, view a complete index of all your topics, or search for any word that appears in a topic or your books’ names.

Indxd is meant to be a topic index; it’s purposefully minimal. My design approach was to keep the content where it belongs – on the page – and use Indxd to track which books hold which topics. We often focus on the joy of writing, but it’s easy to miss the potential for delight in reading what we’ve written months or years later! If you do scan your books, Indxd lets you add a URL to each book to jump straight to your scans (provided they’re stored on Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.).

Macro - Field Notes Staples

Why a Web App? Why Share It?

I probably could have accomplished a good chunk of Indxd’s functions with a plain old text file. So why build out a website and open it up to the world? I’m glad you asked…

Sure, there are technical reasons – like the ability to quickly add topics from my smartphone (Indxd works great on mobile devices). And, yes, it’s entirely possible I just didn’t think of the plain-text option until just now.

But the real reason to build Indxd and put it out into the world is to give something back to the awesome pen and writing community that has welcomed me so warmly. Because this community has brought me a lot of joy.

Thanks to this community, I dug out and restored the fountain pen4 my dad gave me over a decade ago, and I’ve been able to share my re-discovery of great pens and notebooks with him. Thanks to this community, I’ve found people who share my enthusiasm, and don’t roll their eyes at my excitement over a new pen or notebook. Thanks to this community, I have Brad and Myke, Brian and Lisa, Stephen and Azizah, and Andy and Will keeping me company on car rides and dog walks. And thanks to this community, I now have a running log of the last (and arguably the most profound) two years of my life, and a journaling practice that will capture the highs, lows, journeys, experiences and milestones of the decades to come.

I hope you’ll join me. Pick up a notebook and a good pen, write down what matters to you, then catalog it in Indxd!

Handwritten "Thank You!" with Karas Kustoms Ink fountain pen

  1. Patrick Rhone – Why Analog? 

  2. The Pen Addict #137, “Notebook Emergency” 

  3. Three Questions with Aaron Mahnke 

  4. for the record, it was a Parker Frontier 

  13 comments for “Introducing Indxd: A Digital Tool for Analog Writers

  1. Gina Comer
    March 12, 2015 at 3:01 am

    This is simply brilliant! I started indexing my moleskine, easy peasy! I think I will also go on to index old letters in binders and my art journals as well. Thank you so much for sharing your work. AND thank you for making back up a part of your process. I’m always disappointed when an excellent service ends. This I would subscribe to! Heard about you on “The Cramped” blog. 🙂

  2. March 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I haven’t even looked at the web app yet, I just wanted to say I love your post! I am fairly new to the whole fountain pen/nice paper world (a few years now) and I am also amazed at how the community has grown and what lovely people I’ve come across. I have a couple of sets of FN and I’ve left them wrapped in their plastic so far… afraid of “wasting” them I guess. I have written in a Scout Books notebook (the larger size) but only as a record of the date, ink brand/color and which pen I used when I fill a pen! I really need to reconsider saving my FN for whatever it is my subconscious is thinking of 😀

    Thanks again for this post! I found you on my G+ feed.

    • Dave
      March 12, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Hi Gina – Thank you for your kind words – I hope you break open the Field Notes before too long and set them free to do what they were made to do!

  3. March 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Hi Dave, found your post through the Google+ Bullet Journal community. I think you’re on to something. Havin a web app, mobile enabled is actually much better than plain text. The index itself, alphabetised and searchable, is a winner.

    When I started reading your post, I immediately thought I could accomplish the same thing with Evernote, and maybe I can. But I think your app has merit, I’ll give it a try.

    It will force me to think about how I’m taking notes though, which is interesting 😉

    • Dave
      March 16, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks for giving Indxd a try Robin – I think it makes a good compliment to the per-book indexes that we already build into our Bullet Journals…

  4. Lutz
    June 18, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Hi Dave, I really appreciate INDXD and use it frequently. But I couldn’t find a way to change the order of the books in the books list. Is there any?
    Thank you.

    • Dave
      June 18, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Hi Lutz – Thank you for using Indxd! Notebooks on the “Books” page are sorted by their completed date (if they have one). Notebooks without a completed date always go to the top of the list, and are sorted by their start date (if they have one). And notebooks with no dates at all are shown in the order they were created…

  5. Gina Comer
    November 17, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Hello Dave! I’ve been vacationing and was just ready to index my notes… Did you pull the site? I loved it!!! I hope you are just down for maintenance!


    • Dave
      November 18, 2015 at 3:18 am

      Hi Gina – There were some hiccups with the hosting service earlier today, but everything looks to be back online now. Thanks for the heads-up!

      • Gina Comer
        November 20, 2015 at 2:05 am

        Whew! What a relief! Thank you again for your little program!

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