Saturday, March 30, 2013

Take Notes Electronically with a Tablet and Stylus

I’m an advocate of taking notes electronically on a tablet, with a stylus.  I’m often asked why.  Here’s my argument.

Why Take Notes Electronically?

  • Electronic notes are searchable
  • Electronic notes can be accessed remotely
  • Electronic notes require no significant physical storage space
  • Electronic notes are more likely to be retained over time
  • Your electronic device is probably able to contain books and other reference materials, making it so you have less to carry in general, and convenient to quickly switch between your notes and other documents.
  • There are several great pieces of software for taking notes (OneNote [my preference], EverNote, and Keep).

Why Use a Tablet?

  • If you’re taking notes on a notebook PC, others who can’t see your screen may assume you’re doing something other than taking notes.
    • I know that in certain environments (e.g. a lecture hall), this isn’t a concern.  But in many contexts, like business meetings, it is.
  • Because others can’t see your screen, you may be tempted to do something other than take notes.
  • Smart phones are too small to key data into quickly (for me, at least).
  • When you’re keying data into a smart phone, others can’t see the screen and may (with good reason) assume you’re texting, posting stuff to Facebook, etc.
  • Notebooks aren’t as portable as tablets.
  • Notebooks generally don’t boot up as quickly as tablets.
  • Notebooks require a surface to rest on, which may not be available in every situation.  A tablet can be held with one hand and used with the other hand.
  • Many notebooks don’t have a battery life as good as the battery life of tablets, which is generally 6+ hours.
  • A tablet is inconspicuous and will work in just about any situation that a pen and paper will work in.

Why Use a Stylus?

  • If you’re using a physical keyboard with a tablet, items #1 and #2 in the previous section would apply.
  • On-screen keyboards have no tactile feedback, and require a surface to rest on if you want to use both hands.  If you’re only using one hand, a stylus will be faster.
  • It’s very similar to taking notes on paper, which most people are comfortable with.
    • When we write on paper, the paper is flat on the table. With typing, the keyboard is usually at an angle.  And even when the keyboard is relatively flat, like with a notebook PC, the screen is roughly perpendicular to the keyboard.  So to be keying on a flat surface, with the display also flat, is not something most people are used to and not comfortable (for me).


So, that’s my argument.  You may be thinking, “that sounds all well and good, but how easy is it to do?”  Truth is, there is a learning curve, and it’s not for everyone.  But I find that it’s worth it, particularly since I have many occasions to take notes at this point in my life.

Recognizing your handwriting and converting it to text is not an exact science, and the computer will make mistakes.  I can’t speak for other tablets, but the Microsoft Surface has a few simple correction gestures that makes is easy to correct errors.  I’ve included a demo video below.

Taking Notes on Microsoft Surface RT Demo from Osborne Supremacy on Vimeo.

No comments:

Post a Comment