#1: NowLedge

1 - Introduction

It’s been quite some time since I started this blog and shared my first post entitled Project Sunflower, announcing the beginning of my bootstrapping adventure. I’ve been busy working all this time on learning Web Development and building my first app.

I’ve been a Software Engineer for quite some time but until I started this project I did not know anything about Web Development, I didn’t really bother about it and did not consider it a priority to learn. I was always more interested in algorithms and building funny stuff but I never really liked to build an user interface for my projects. That’s because I only cared about the code itself, I didn’t really care about building an easy to use project.

That’s not the same with an app whose goal is to be directly usable by end-users: if you want to start an app, the only choice today is to use Web technologies to interact with the users.

But I have to say that learning it was a lot of fun, especially with the newest Web technologies available today, it has become so easy to build a production-grade application. Using React.js feels like building a desktop application but on the Web, really amazing!

But the best part was when I considered that I could not learn as fast as before through textbooks, videos and tutorials, and decided it was time to learn by building a real application directly. I think that always happens at some point when you learn something new. When you first begin to learn and don’t know anything, theory is great and fills your brain with a lot of information, but at some point you need to switch to practice to better understand the theory and go further.

This is exactly what happened after 3 weeks of working full-time on Web Programming theory: I decided to start to build my own app.

Meets NowLedge, the first application of Project Sunflower!

2 - NowLedge

NowLedge is basically an app for taking highlights in books, allowing users to take highlights very easily as they go through the book, save them and display them nicely when needed. The end goal is to build a product that helps to achieve maximum information extraction from a given document.

I started with a focus on books because that’s what I needed, in a sense NowLedge was built to solve a problem I had.

I have a lot of digital books, especially books that I want to learn from. For that purpose, I need to take notes of my understanding as I read the book, this is a common technique for using educational books efficiently.

The problem is that I am a lazy and messy person; I looked at solutions to help me easily achieve that and I could not find something that had a minimalistic interface, was really simple to use and ergonomic enough to highlight PDF documents. Since I could not find what I wanted, I decided to build it myself.

As of now, NowLedge answers to 80% of my demands: I can now read a book that I enjoy learning from, take efficient notes as I read it, access them very easily in a nice grid formatted page and download my “understanding” of the book in a matter of minutes. This works as I actually have all of the information that I want to recall from the book in that grid.

What I find funny is that now, when I read a book, my final goal is just to build this grid, I don’t care about reading all of the book. I optimize my time and try to find directly the information I want to save it in my highlights grid. I personally find this approach really efficient to learn from any books.

Building an app is a highly efficient way to learn how to do Web programming, I cannot recommend it enough. Turning it into a fully fledged product as well, you definitely learn a lot of things by doing all of this. Especially if you commit to finish your app so it’s an actual product usable by users. For me, these 3 last months were a really great experience.

I decided to release NowLedge today as a MVP, it’s not really finished but I think it can definitely bring value to people so I’m shipping!

If you too want to take highlights efficiently from your books, NowLedge may be a fit for you. You can give it a try here.

More projects are on my to-do list, subscribe to my blog if you want to get informed when I release a new blog post!

Huge thanks to my amazing reviewers: Adrien Pavao and Éléonore Bartenlian

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