What You Said: How Do You Keep Notes?

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By Jason Fitzpatrick on June 3rd, 2011


Earlier this week we asked you to share your note-taking tips, tricks, and methods. Now we’re back to highlight the comments and trends that emerged.

Dedicated Note-Taking Applications Rule the Roost

Note taking applications have grown increasingly sophisticated. Historically, when people took notes on a computer they simply used the word processor or text editor installed on it and left it at that—mostly because there were few widely available alternatives. While many people still use simple txt files for their note taking needs an entire ecosystem of note taking apps exists now—thanks, in large part, to the rise of widespread internet access and easy synchronization. Several note taking apps appeared again and again in the user comments.

Evernote was popular for a variety of reasons including, as Jay highlights, deep storage and organization of notes:

Evernote for things I’ll need to either remember for a long time, or for very important things that I might not want to forget. Sometimes I write, draw, or write songs, so I’ll use Evernote for ideas. I also use it to clip web pages for places to go, like a regional or national park, or a cool program for my daughter.

Other readers used it for projects and over all note organization like SuAlfons:

Evernote for HowTos, Project Ideas, Instruction Manuals and (bigger) private project handling
Sticky Notes (physical) for things not to forget, Sticky Notes (the included Mac Application) if at the computer

Springpad, a competitor in the cloud-based note market has some strong supporters. Derek writes:

Springpad – For pretty much EVERYTHING except tasks. That includes internet bookmarks, little text notes, huge document-like notes, some lists, product information, organizing projects, and more. Absolutely love the chrome and firefox extensions! Automatically syncs (if desired) between the website, my android phone, and my iPad. The chrome web-app even works offline.

Juri also appreciated the cross-platform support and consistent design:

Nobody mentioned Springpad. I nearly prefer it over other solutions like Evernote, already for its consistent user experience as chrome extension, android mobile as well as android honeycomb tablet version.

Catch is a new kid on the cloud-based note taking block but more than a few readers sang praises for the encrypted note taking service with browser extension support and cross-platform applications. Mary writes:

Catchnotes accessible on the net and on my phone…Since it’s an android phone I can speak the notes if I want. I can accompany the notes with a picture. I can paste or type long messages (like road directions) on the computer – sync with my phone- and copy and paste to a text message. It’s my most used app on my droid phone.

Cloud-based note taking has definitely taken off; it’s hard to beat the convenience of having the same set of notes and notebooks synced across all your devices and web-accessible.

Paper and Pens Forever


Although cloud-based and synchronized note taking were frequent entries in the reader comments good old pen and paper notes are in no danger of extinction. Despite the advances in mobile note taking the majority of readers included some sort of addendum to their comments. While they might start out saying “I use Evernote” or “I use Springpad…” many of the comments wrapped up with a note about how handy pen and paper still remained.

Kirk’s detailed comment really drives home this note-taking as buffet of tools approach. He writes:

For me, technology will never replace the need for pen & paper but it’s making inroads in all the right places. Here’s what I do, from Evernote down to the “sticky” Sticky note:

1. Evernote now sits at the center of my note-taking world. LOVE it… best thing for me ever. The fact that it syncs with so many devices is very nice. It’s now been drafted to serve as a recipe database in our home too.

2. When I’m consulting with a customer, I still use a nice big pad of paper. Less distracting and I don’t have batteries to worry about. And, I scan the important notes as images and import them into Evernote. Call it poor-man’s Visioneer maybe? It works for me quite well and I have paper copy for the important stuff.

3. I move around during the day so carry the Olympus WS-6005 Digital recorder to capture thoughts as fast as they get beamed in to me. The mp3′s then easily transfer to my PC via the switch-blade-like USB that pops out (like a Flip camera).

4. And, I still carry a personal notebook (smaller one) for those times that you really want to write something down. Gotta have it. Sure, tablet users will say that there are apps for writing on the screen, my friend does this, but he’ll be crying the blues when the somebody accidently sets off a magnetic pulse bomb and the digital world sends us all back to the 1800′s in about 1 second. I’ll still have my notes.

5. Little yellow sticky notes all over my office…. love’em. Unless those turn into thought-sticky-holograms, they hopefully will be used in 2111.

Although not many readers had as many layers to their note taking as Kirk, his comment reflects a common trend: stacking note taking technologies for maximum flexibility and speed.

Hit up the comments on the original post to see all the various tools your fellow readers employ to meet their note-taking needs. Have a particularly clever way to take, sync, or manage your notes? It’s not too late to share!


Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/3/11
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