One of the few valid arguments against paper notebooks is that they are more difficult to search than digital notes. Fine, I’ll concede that one. But I’m working on a patch for that.

Rather than trying to digitize/OCR everything, I’ve decided that a simple index of topics should be sufficient. While rummaging around for ways to do this, I found Soren Bjornstad’s mindex. Mindex is a small Python script that takes some input and generates a concise LaTeX-then-PDF index based on a simple text (.mindex) file.

Here’s a section of the .mindex file for my current notebook:

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Books       32
Charlie     37-41
COVID-19    23,32,39
Creativity  43
Crypto      35
Devices     34
Fusionary   21, 26
Health      26,41
Investing   26
Journaling  21,37

It’s a tab-delimited file with Topic->Pages->Sort Key. The third column, Sort Key, allows for tweaking of where each entry ends up in the final index. I’ve not needed to use that yet, though.

I wanted a few minor formatting changes so I forked Soren’s repo to https://github.com/jackbaty/mindex and tweaked it a little. Here’s the current output:

Figure 1: Index sample

Figure 1: Index sample

I think it looks nice. LaTeX is awesome. I’m planning to update the index once a month or so. I just did it for May and it only took about 10 minutes. That’s not too high a price to pay for the ability to find things more quickly. Once a notebook is complete I may print a copy and insert it right into that notebook.

I’m still thinking about how to best manage this, but it’s a nice start.