How to take notes with Heptabase

Five Steps to Take Notes with Heptabase

I have been using Heptabase for over a year now, and with the software's iterations and improvements, I have made multiple adjustments to my usage methods. Currently, I basically follow these five steps.

Step 1: Write down ideas in the Journal#

Heptabase's Journal has always been the main place for me to make records. Whether it's something I see, something I learn, or a sudden inspiration, I will record it in the Journal.

With the updates to the mobile app, Heptabase finally achieves instant availability on both computers and phones. Coupled with excellent editing experience and usable relay synchronization on both ends, it greatly enriches the usage scenarios of Heptabase.

For me, the Journal is like a draft paper or a transit station. I will record all my learning and thinking in it, and then organize them later as needed.

Doing this has the following three advantages:

  • Whether or not it will be further organized into card notes, all records will be saved in the Journal. The new editing record feature further enhances this advantage.
  • There is no need to worry about unorganized records "contaminating" the card library.
  • I can focus on recording without worrying too much about wording and logical order.

Step 2: Organize notes based on themes#

The notes in the Journal are not without sources; they must be related to a certain theme. When I need to organize these notes, I will open or create a new whiteboard, and then open the Journal in the sidebar to copy and paste the relevant content into existing or new cards.

This also means:

  • I need to focus on the records in the Journal and determine which content should be put into the same card and which content needs to be created as new cards.
  • When writing cards, I also need to make the objects I focus on as concrete as possible.
    • It's like focusing on a subject when taking a photo, and everything outside the focus becomes blurry.
  • One card corresponds to one theme.
  • Cards need to be named.

For example, when I was researching the theme of "media literacy," it took me a total of 13 days. On the first day, I created a whiteboard for "media literacy" and organized the relevant notes from that day's Journal into several cards in this whiteboard. For the next twelve days, I directly organized the notes on this whiteboard.

Step 3: Determine the relationships between cards#

In the second step, I created the whiteboard on the first day of researching the theme, instead of creating it on the thirteenth day. This is directly related to this step.

After arranging some cards on the whiteboard, I will start thinking: What are the relationships between these cards?

I will draw lines between the cards and write explanations for each line as much as possible. The purpose of doing this is not to force connections between the cards, but to discover potential associations, accumulate new knowledge, and stimulate new thinking.

Step 4: Create aggregations#

Aggregations use Heptabase's Section feature to gradually develop the cards on the whiteboard from simple connections into organized structures. Specifically, there are two ways:

  • Categorization: Combine cards based on their relevance and use the Section feature to merge related cards into one category.
  • Clustering: Combine cards based on cause and effect relationships to form one or more linear processes.

These two methods are not mutually exclusive, and I usually use them simultaneously. In the theme of "media literacy," for example, I created categories such as "definition and significance," "evaluation criteria," and "development history," and then sorted the cards within each category based on cause and effect relationships.

Step 5: Review and reflect#

After completing the above four steps, I will review and reflect. This includes not only reading the content of the cards and aggregations but also analyzing the overall structure of the whiteboard.

In Heptabase, I can observe the structure of the entire whiteboard by zooming out. This way, I can see the relationships between various aggregations and the knowledge structure of the entire theme.

At this point, I also use the Mindmap feature to extract the titles or main content of these cards and create a mind map. This mind map is like the table of contents of the whiteboard, and the next time I need it, I can directly refer to the mind map.


The above are the five steps I currently use Heptabase to take notes: record inspirations, organize notes, determine relationships, create aggregations, and review and reflect. I hope my sharing can be helpful to you.

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