Over the past year I have been piloting paperless note taking using my iPad Pro and the Notability app. Like many people I was frustrated with keeping several volumes of notebooks that contained my notes from meetings, to do lists and other random thoughts. They served me well in the short term, as I had one place to enter my notes. But, I was always running out of pages and needed to buy a new notepad.
The question then became: what do I do with my older notepad? It still contained valuable information that I needed to reference, albeit not as often. I initially began separating the pages out and scanning my notes into my computer, using my desktop scanner. This was a step forward, but now I would need to set aside time to separate the pages, feed the notes into my scanner, make sure the image was clear and save the file into the appropriate file folder. This often became a backlog as other tasks took priority.
I had thought about typing my notes as I attended meetings, but I had two challenges. It was difficult for me to type and listen at a quick enough pace. This is a drawback especially if you are in a sales situation. My second challenge was my preference for note taking with a writing instrument, where I could circle, box or highlight ideas.
I decided to invest in an iPad Pro 12.9 inch with an Apple smart keyboard and Apple Pencil. I decided to use the Notability app because I could choose where to back up my notes, I could voice record, it had access to many of the most popular file sharing services: like DropBox, Box, Google Drive and OneDrive. I took it on several of my client appointments that included meetings and interviews.
Here are what I found as major benefits:
- Hand Write Notes: with the Apple Pencil and the Notability app, you can hand write your notes to your heart’s delight! The pencil is responsive just like a pen or pencil.
- Voice Recording: when taking notes, you can also enable voice recording. This is helpful if you have a question about why you wrote a certain word. You just tap on the word, and the voice record jumps back to that spot on the recording!
- Digital First: there is no need to scan paper notes into your computer. The notes are already digital and you can set it to be backed up to your desired file sharing location.
- Import PDFs: you can import a PDF as a note. I found this handy when marking up a PDF for revision or using a PDF form as a template for taking notes.
- Add Text/Images/Stickies: you can type text if you want in part of or all of the note. You can add screenshots and sticky notes.
- Handwriting Search: Notability converts your handwriting so that it is searchable! So, if you are looking for a certain word across all your notes, it can find it for you. This is a new feature that is very helpful when you have a large amount of notes.
- Handwriting to Text: Notability can convert your handwriting into text. This a new feature that many of my clients had asked about.
- Multi-Note Mode: Notability allows you to see 2 notes side by side. This is great with the iPad Pro 12.9’s big screen.
- Access to All Notes: with the Notability app, all my notes are centralized in one place. No need to sift through all my notebooks to find a page.
Here is what I found as some of the drawbacks:
- Pencil Battery: I often would forget to recharge my pencil battery. Luckily, you can quickly charge it by placing it in the iPad connector for about 30 seconds.
- iPad Battery: I would forget to recharge my iPad. The charging cable needs to use the higher voltage one to charge with any speed, otherwise it may take 10x as long to recharge.
- Bottom Page Writing: sometimes, I would write towards the bottom of a page and it would not recognize the pencil. Or, I would accidentally hit the iPad Home button. This can be mitigated by being more aware and flipping to the next page.
- Multi-Tasking: I found if I needed to do heavy computer work and take notes at the same time, I would still need my laptop computer. Although the iPad split screen view is available to see two apps at the same time, the screen is just not big enough to see them both like you would in a two screen set up. So, in those cases I brought both my iPad and laptop to a meeting.
- Cumbersome for Informal Settings: a smaller notebook might be a better choice when out networking or to record an idea in a random moment.
I would recommend to those who need to take notes, to consider using the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and the Notability app for your note taking tasks. I can really see this being helpful for consultants, lawyers, secretaries, business owners, sales representatives or other heavy meeting attendees. It has been a game changer for the way I work.
Nitza Medina-Garcia, Certified Records Manager, Records and Information Management Consultant
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