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.”
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.
“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”.
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.
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.
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.).
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!