1. How students take notes

A fellow student still uses paper and pen. I ask her why and she replied “I can better concentrate. My computer distracts me. I would do all kind of other things, but not listening.”.

This is certainly true. As I am concerned, I am not good at logistics. For me having all documents and notes in one little machine is a real blessing.

To illustrate how to work with rst-note here are my most common workflows.

1.1. The lesson starts

_images/workflow1-1.png

Create a new note in the selected directory

Alternatively you can open the folder you want to create a new note in and right-click on some empty white space. Both actions create a new document as shown in the figure below.

_images/workflow1-2.png

Resulting new file

After creation of the new file rst-note opens an editor and the viewrest viewer.

_images/workflow1-3.png

Editor and viewrest viewer window opens automatically

_images/workflow1-4.png

Change document title

_images/workflow1-5.png

Adding content

_images/workflow1-6.png

rst-note synchronizes document title and filename when the editor closes

Note

Before and after launching the editor rst-note renames the file to be in sync with the reStructuredText title. For more details see Title filename sync.

1.2. Taking notes on an existing file

_images/workflow2-1.png

Launching rst-note with the selected filename as parameter

_images/workflow2-2.png

rst-note creates a new document and opens the editor and viewer

The above figure shows the metadata rst-note has inserted automatically.

_images/workflow2-3.png

Adding some content

_images/workflow2-4.png

The new file with annotations

2. Create a new note

There are several ways to launch rst-note.

Linux
  • Launch the commands in shell as described the sections Syntax below.
  • Right click on a file or directory in your file-manger and choose rst-note in the context menu. See Linux file manager configuration.
Windows
  • Drag and drop a file or directory on the shortcut rst-note.bat on your desktop.

    This method also works in very restricted environments. The only rights you need is to be allowed to execute portable binaries and batch scripts.

  • Double-click the shortcut rst-note.bat on your desktop. This will place a new note on your desktop.

  • Right click on a file or directory in file explorer and choose rst-note in the context menu. See Windows file explorer configuration.

2.1. Invoking the script

rst-note -h

shows a short help text with available command line options:

/usr/local/bin/rst-note creates, edits or views an reStructuredText note.

usage:

   /usr/local/bin/rst-note [-h][-ro|-so|-eo] | [<File.rst>|<Dir>|<File>]

<Dir>|<File>: directory where the new note file will be created
(current directory if none).
If <File> is given a new rst note will be created next to that file.
If <File.rst> is given the file is edited.
Filename of <File> is changed when not in sync with title.

Options:
-ro     Do not open editor, open viewer only.
-eo     Do not open viewer, only new note or, sync filename and edit.
-so     Do not open editor or viewer, only new note or sync filename.
Mapping rst-note options to functions
Option Create a new note Launch editor Launch viewer Sync title-filename
without Y * Y Y Y
-ro Y * N Y N
-eo Y * Y N Y
-so Y * N N Y
Legend
Symbol Meaning
Y is included
N not included
Y * If a note with the same filename exists on disk already, no new note is created.

2.2. Directory as parameter

2.2.1. Syntax 1

rst-note <path>/<dir>

creates the following document [1]:

<path>/<dir>/YYYYMMDD-<dir>--Notes.rst
*****
<dir>
*****
-----
Notes
-----
:Author: $USER
:Date: YYYY-MM-DD
:Revision: 1.0
[1]The template is slightly simplyfied.

2.2.2. Example 1

rst-note 'doc/Lecture 1'

creates the following document:

doc/Lecture 1/20161102-Lecture 1--Notes.rst
*********
Lecture 1
*********
-----
Notes
-----
:Author: getreu
:Date: 2016-11-02
:Revision: 1.0

2.3. No parameter

2.3.1. Syntax 2

It is also possible to invoke the script without options:

rst-note

The result is the same as above but the current working directory defines <path>/<dir>.

2.3.2. Example 2

cd 'doc/Lecture 1'
rst-new-note

creates the following document:

doc/Lecture 1/20161102-Lecture 1--Notes.rst
*********
Lecture 1
*********
-----
Notes
-----
:Author: getreu
:Date: 2016-11-02
:Revision: 1.0

2.4. Filename as parameter

The filename should be some existing local file you want to annotate. For example I use this feature to note from where I have downloaded a .pdf.

2.4.1. Syntax 3

When invoke with a filename, no date stamp is prepended.

rst-note <path>/<dir>/<filename>

The new file will look like this:

<path>/<dir>/<filename>--Notes.rst
**********
<filename>
**********
-----
Notes
-----
:Author: <$USER>
:Date: 2016-11-03
:Revision: 1.0
:Description: `<filename>`__

.. __: <url-encoding(filename)>

2.4.2. Example 3

rst-new-note 'doc/Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf'

creates the following document:

doc/Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf--Notes.rst
*************************************************
Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf
*************************************************
-----
Notes
-----
:Author: getreu
:Date: 2016-11-03
:Revision: 1.0
:Description: `Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf`__

.. __: Implementing%20the%20NIST%20Cybersecurity%20Framework.pdf

Before quitting the rst-note script executes it’s editing-mode. This opens in your editor the completed template (see example above) and a live-previewer showing the rendered rst file:

_images/example-filename.png

3. Editing notes

3.1. Syntax 4

rst-note <path>/<filename>.rst

launches the gvim editor by default. Replace gvim by any editor of your choice. At the same time a chrome or chromium window will pop up showing the live rendition of your rst file. You need to have the restview installed on your system. You may want to use some autosave editor feature in order to observe changes immediately in the rendered preview live.

At the beginning and the end of the rst-note script another helper function ChangeFilename is called. It guarantees that any change in the rst document title will replicate in the filename of that rst file. This guarantees that the filenames of rst notes always correspond to their rst document title allowing you to find your notes quickly in your directory structure. See Title filename sync for more details.

Note

You can disable the title-filename-sync feature by adding a blank line at the beginning of the rst document.

3.2. Example 4

rst-note 'Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf--Notes.rst'
_images/rst-edit.png

The same result is obtained by repeating the same command you used to create this note [2]:

rst-note 'Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf'
[2]This only works if you have not changed the original title in the meantime!

4. Viewing notes

4.1. Syntax 5

rst-note -ro <path>/<filename>.rst

launches restview which opens a live-rendition of the current document in your default browser.

4.2. Example 5

rst-note -ro 'Implementing the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.pdf--Notes.rst'
_images/rst-view.png

All text in the above example was automatically generated by the rst-new-note script only the last link Download URL was added “by hand”. This is particularly useful for a short note about the source of a downloaded document.

5. Title filename sync

Consider the following note file:

20151208-Make this world a better place--Suggestions.rst

The filename has 3 parts:

<sort tag>-<simplified-title>--<simplified-subtitle>.rst

A <sort tag> can be a

  • chronological sort tag or

    20140211-
    20151208-
    
  • a sequence number sort tag.

    02-
    08-
    09_02-
    

<sort tag> can be any combination of 0123456789-_.

When rst-note creates a new note based on a directory, it prepends a chronological sort tag of today. The <simplified-title> part is derived from the parent directory name omitting its own sort tag.

_images/filing-system1.png

Sequence number sort tag

The shell command

rst-note '10-Mein Körper'

will result in a new file:

_images/filing-system2.png

File: 10-Mein Körper/20161105-Mein Körper--Notes.rst

Note

The parent directory’s sort tag is never used to compose a filename for a new note.

When rst-note creates a new note based on a filename no sort tag is prepended.

Before and after editing the rst-note analyses the title and subtitle of the rst file and simplifies them in a file-system friendly form. If the result does not equal to <simplified-title>--<simplified-subtitle> the filename is changed on disk. Potential sort tags remain untouched.

Tip

You can disable the title-filname synchronisation feature by prepending the title string or the subtitle string with one more more whitespace.

Attention

Title and subtitle strings are only taken into account for filename synchronistion when they are defined within the first 6 lines of the rst document.

Note

rst-note might change the note’s filename but never changes an sort tag!

For details about the <simplified-title>--<simplified-subtitle> string refer to the SanitizeFilename() function in bin/rst-note.

6. Installation and configuration

rst-note runs on Linux and Windows. For Windows installation and configuration see section Windows below.

6.1. Linux

  1. Install the rst-live-previewer restview.

  2. Download the note-taking-script bin/rst-note from Github getreu/restructuredtext-notetaking

  3. Copy it in a location of your $PATH and make it executable for everyone.

    sudo cp rst-note /usr/local/bin
    sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/rst-note
    
  4. Install some helper packages (most should be already on your system).

    sudo apt-get install sed vim-gtk
    

    Replace vim-gtk with an editor of your choice. Configure rst-note accordingly.

  5. Configuration: At the beginning of rst-note you will find a section enclosed in the comments CONFIGURATION SECTION START and CONFIGURATION SECTION END.

    Note

    The only file you edit to change the default choices for editor and viewer under Linux is rst-note. Not rst-note.bak!

    Here you can specify what editor you want to use. Make sure that your editor does not fork when launched. If it does fork, the script will still work but when you quit, no rst-title-filename sync will occur. Outside the CONFIGURATION SECTION no changes should be necessary.

    Warning

    The environment variables ADOC_EDITOR or ADOC_VIEWER -when defined- have precedence over settings in the CONFIGURATION SECTION and will override them.

  6. Test the installation: open a console window and type rst-note. An editor and viewer window containing a note template should open.

  7. Optional: integrate the scripts with your file-manager (see Integration with file manager).

6.2. Windows

  1. Install the rst-live-previewer restview.

  2. Download the files bin/rst-note, bin/rst-note.bat and bin/busybox.exe from Github getreu/restructuredtext-notetaking

  3. The version of busybox in the above repository is probably outdated. Please get a newer version from here: http://frippery.org/busybox/

  4. Copy the 3 files in a directory of your choice (hereafter referred to as BIN_DIR).

  5. Configuration:

    At the beginning of rst-note.bak you will find a section enclosed in the comments CONFIGURATION SECTION START and CONFIGURATION SECTION END.

    Note

    The only file you edit to change the default choices for editor and viewer under Windows is rst-note.bat. Not rst-note!

    Important

    New notes are created with an Unicode BOM indicating Unicode encoding. Do not use the notepad editor as it does not understand Unicode. Use Wordpad or any modern Unicode editor instead.

    Here you can specify the path to the restview-program. Next configure the path to your editor of your choice. Make sure that your editor does not fork when launched. If it does fork, the script will still work but when you quit, no rst-title-filename sync will occur. Outside the CONFIGURATION SECTION no changes should be necessary.

  6. Create a shortcut to rst-note.bat on your desktop, click on properties and change the shortcut to run minimized. Let the start in path empty.

    _images/shortcut-properties.png

    Shortcut properties

  7. Test the installation: drag a file or directory on the rst-note Shortcut on your desktop. An editor and viewer window should open.

  8. Optional: integrate the scripts with your file-manager (see Integration with file manager).

6.3. Integration with file manager

rst-note integrates nicely with your favorite Linux file manager or Windows Explorer.

6.3.1. Linux file manager configuration

The example below shows the Thunar filebrowser’s custom actions.

Most file-manager allow extending the context menu. As an example the following images show the configuration of the Thunar-file-manger.

_images/custom_actions.png

Thunar filebrowser’s custom actions

_images/edit_action.png

Edit custom action

_images/appearance-condition.png

Appearance condition

6.3.2. Windows file explorer configuration

  1. Open a folder containing an .rst file.

  2. Right-click the .rst file and point to Open with and then click Choose default program.

    _images/explorer1.png

    Choose default program

  3. Select the Always use the selected program and then click Browse….

    _images/explorer2.png

    Click on Browse…

  4. Click Browse… then browse to your BIN_DIR directory, select rst-note.bak and click Open and later Ok.

    _images/explorer3.png

    Select rst-note.

Further reading: