Another Take on Engineering Notebooks

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of keeping an engineering notebook. I have an Org file named journal.org that most of my day-to-day notes go into but for larger, sustained projects I like to start a dedicated project notebook.

As a result, I’m always interested in how others go about organizing and maintaining their engineering notebooks. Dan Kleiman has an interesting post on his procedures for keeping an engineering notebook. Kleiman uses a completely generic method for his notebooks so his process may interest those of you who aren’t Emacs/Org users.

As I read Kleiman’s post, I kept mentally translating each step into the equivalent Org method. I’m sure those using other tools can easily do the same so Kleiman’s post can be useful for a wide range of users. The main takeaway, for me at least, is that your tools and specific procedures are not as important as organizing your data and scripts and keeping careful notes on what problem you’re trying to solve and the steps you’ve taken to solve it.

The post is relatively short so it’s easy and well worth your time to give it a read.

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  • I too, find engineering notebooks to be invaluable, and while I agree that tools aren't as important as "just doing it", I appreciate a tool that allows me to embed and run code directly in my notebook.

    As I mentioned in my video presentation on "Literate Devops" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dljNabciEGg , I create a new notebook for each sprint. This seems to have a good balance between single unwieldy file, and too many files to count. Of course, branching to anything more than one means, search is a critical feature.

    Cheers!

    • jcs

      while I agree that tools aren't as important as "just doing it", I appreciate a tool that allows me to embed and run code directly in my notebook.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm all-in on Org mode for the reasons you talk about in your Devops video (love that video, BTW) and others.

      My point was more, "Even if you don't use Emacs and Org mode, you should still be keeping a notebook."