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A WordPress Theme for Taking Notes on Your Kindle

[This is a guest post by Aram Zucker-Scharff. Aram is the Community Manager for the Office of Student Media at George Mason University where he works with student media outlets. He also manages onMason.com, a WordPressMU system for the Mason community. You can find him on Twitter as @Chronotope. Aram blogs at Hack Text and you can find him elsewhere online via Google.]

I ask for three things from my notes: that I can take them dependably, read them easily, and sort them effectively. I’ve tried to fulfill those goals with a P2 child theme built for the Kindle.

I chose the Kindle as my go-to device for a pretty simple reason: dependability. The Kindle has the longest battery life of pretty much anything digital I’ve ever used, and it rarely crashes. With the 3G edition I can access the internet nearly anywhere. While the Kindle fulfills my requirement for dependability, there were no good notetaking applications available.

For months I struggled to take notes with the P2 theme by Automattic, but it didn’t work smoothly. To solve the issues I encountered, I created a Kindle version of P2 to make it more compatible with an eReader screen. It’s now online for anyone to use.

You can find a full installation package, instructions and a detailed breakdown of modifications for the child theme at my site Hack Text. (Unfortunately, WordPress.org doesn’t allow child themes in their directory.) You can install this child theme on any self-hosted WordPress site.

Why should I use P2 on my Kindle?

There are many advantages to using the Kindle as a notetaking device. Text is very easy to read and there are no fears about losing access in the middle of something important because of the long battery life.

With the changes made to the P2 theme, it’s now very easy to navigate and post from a Kindle while taking advantage of P2′s features like suggested tags and inline editing. The AJAX login fields are also useful. You can load the site and sign in without having to move back and forth from the dashboard.

The P2 theme at the core of the experience is extraordinarily useful for both notes and collaboration no matter how you package it. You can take short form or long form notes through the status update function. It also has modes for blog posts, saving quotes, and saving links. Tagging is available right from the front page and recent tags show up in the sidebar along with links to their RSS feeds. Organizing notes by tags makes anything written on the site very easy to find.

P2 for Kindle is especially useful for collaborative projects. It’s easily readable and writable on every platform I’ve tested it with. Multiple users can post to the site and get their content displayed in the style of Twitter updates, only without the restriction of the number of characters. Comments are fully threaded, so the levels of discussion are more visible.

If you prefer to lock your notes up, it’s easy to switch the privacy setting in WordPress.

The stability, accessibility, and low cost of the Kindle–less than some textbooks–make it an easy device to get your hands on and use. Together with WordPress’s ease of use, P2 for Kindle is the best notetaking experience I’ve gotten out of any digital device.

For even more functionality, you can install the WordPress Embedly plugin and when you type a URL from supported video or image services into P2′s field it will automatically be embedded in the post.

While the last month has been easily the smoothest notetaking experience I’ve ever had, there are some things I’d like to add or adjust with the theme.

I’d like to build in an auto-save, which is the really important thing that the theme lacks. The other big issue is the text field area, which refused to work after the first use on the Kindle unless I added a default text value, which is not the ideal solution. I’d also prefer the tags widget to work more like Delicious, selecting multiple tags as you click through. I hope to include all these things in future releases.

If you use the theme, I’ll be posting updates on my site under the tag Kindle, which will at least keep up with new versions of WordPress and the P2 parent theme. You can download the latest theme package straight from Google Docs.

If you have any ideas, suggestions, or spot a bug, please leave me a comment.

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