Are you struggling to capture information in a system you trust? If you are a writer, you need a tool for taking notes.
Don’t worry, there are lots of great tools you can use.
Here are five of the best:
1. Pen and paper
It’s hard to beat a pen and paper system. It just works, it’s portable and it doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to upgrade or worry about battery life or passwords. You can bring it anywhere, and it comes in all sorts of form factors.
- If you lose you notebook, you lose your notes.
- Pen and paper isn’t as quick as its digital counter parts for search, but you can always GTD your notebook like I did here.
2. Your Camera
Taking a picture with a smartphone is great way to capture information. If you press a finger on your smartphone, it will automatically focus on what you’re looking at letting you take a picture that’s easy to read. Most smartphones camera services today are synced to the cloud meaning your notes are backed up, even if you lose your phone.
If you like taking notes with your camera, Day One is worth a look. It encourages you to use your camera alongside text notes to record and document your thoughts. There’s an Android version in the works.
- May not suit those who prefer to just write
Simplenote is a free note capturing tool with a cult following. There’s an official Simplenote app for iPhone, an iPad app and lots of third-party apps for Android and Windows. You can also access Simplenote through a rather excellent web app.
Simplenote is geared towards those who want to capture and organise text notes. It doesn’t do multimedia content, and it’s best suited for those who want to write. Simplenote supports Markdown, making it particularly useful for those who write content for the web. It also plays nicely with the popular long-form writing application, Scrivener.
I use Simplenote to capture ideas for articles on the go. Its tagging system simplifies the organisation of my notes, and it plays really well with Notational Velocity for OS X. I also find it’s a great way to take notes at meetings, providing I’ve internet access.
There’s a premium version of Simplenote for heavy users who dislike ads.
- The free version includes ads
- Not much use for those who work with multimedia
Evernote is one of the more popular note capturing tools available today. It’s a sort of “everything bucket” in that you can capture, organise and store almost any type of digital content with your phone, web browser or desktop client. The logo for Evernote is an elephant for a reason.
Evernote has apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop apps for Windows and OS X. You can also access it through a web browser and use several different browser extensions to capture snippets of web pages.
Heavy users of Evernote say it works best when you use Evernote to capture and organise all of your digital information.
I use Evernote to capture and organise recipes. I also attended a Photoshop course, where the lecturer shared a Evernote workbook of useful articles and images with the class. This struck me as a rather excellent way to take advantage of Evernote’s free multimedia features and share them with others.
Praise aside, the iOS app is rather slow on my iPhone 4. The mobile app also doesn’t work offline on mobiles unless you’re prepared to money up for a premium account. I also find Evernote overkill for recording short notes on the go.
- Slow on older devices
- Premium version needed for offline mobile access
OneNote is Microsoft’s note capturing tool. It’s intuitive and a surprisingly fun to use tool aimed at business people.
OneNote’s biggest selling point is that it makes it easier for people on a team to share notes and collaborate with each other.
The app integrates with Outlook and the other MS Office apps. It handles web pages, recordings, clippings and multimedia content. It also handles Excel, Word and other MS Office attachments better than any other app I’ve used, and it’s faster than Evernote.
Although there are free OneNote mobile apps, users still have to pay for the full version of OneNote.
- Geared towards MS Office users
- There’s no OS X version
- It’s not free
Did you find this post helpful? What tools help you write? Please let me know in the comments section below.
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