Words on a Page Writings about writing

Taking notes in Pinboard

A notebook and calligraphy pen, with notes taken in the notebook

I don’t know a writer who doesn’t take notes. Not just a few of them, but a lot of notes. Most of them use a combination of a paper notebook and a digital tool (like Evernote, One Note, or Simplenote) to do the job.

That said, there are a number of other great web-based tools for collecting and organizing your notes. If you use the Pinboard bookmarking service, you can also use it to take and organize your notes.

Let’s take a look at how to use Pinboard for taking notes.


A quick introduction to Pinboard for those of you who’ve never heard of it. Pinboard’s creator Maciej Ceglowski bills the service as Social Bookmarking for Introverts (don’t worry, you can keep your bookmarks and notes private if you want). Essentially, it’s web-based tool for quickly collecting and organizing links to websites or articles that you find interesting.

You can use tags to group your bookmarks and make them easier to find, and you can also add a short description to them. And it’s this simplicity, and minimal set of features, that informs Pinboard’s note taking feature.

Getting going

Obviously, you’ll need an account with Pinboard. That will set you back $11 (USD) a year. That’s less than $1 a month. Believe me, it’s worth it.

Once you have an account, sign in. Click add note on the toolbar

The toolbar in Pinboard

Here’s what the create a note page in Pinboard looks like:

Creating a new note in Pinboard

Just fill in a title, any tags that you want to add to the note, and the text of the note itself. When you’re done, you can click preview to get a peek at what the note looks like, or click save public (this lets other Pinboard users see your note) or save private (only you can see the note).

Pinboard adds the note to your list of bookmarks.

Note with your list of bookmarks in Pinboard

You can use Pinboard’s search feature or the tag cloud to find the note. And did you notice the the URL below the note’s title? You can use that to view or share the note. If you need to change the note, click edit.

Adding some formatting

Your note is plain text. That’s fine for many writers, but others like to add some formatting to their notes. You can add that formatting with Markdown (a lightweight markup language). Do that by clicking use markdown? at the bottom of your note:

use markdown option in Pinboard

As you create or edit your note, add whatever formatting you want to the text. That can include links and even images from somewhere on the web. Here’s what a note formatted with Markdown looks like:

use markdown option in Pinboard

(And I’d be remiss by not plugging my book, Learning Markdown, which quickly teaches you how to format documents for the web.)

Final thought

Using Pinboard to take notes isn’t for everyone. But if you already use it to collect bookmarks, it’s a quick and simple way to write and manage notes for your writing projects in the same place as your bookmarks

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