Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Taking notes on iPad: Evernote, NotesPlus, and Notability

In this post, I briefly describe situations in which I find I need to take notes on my iPad, and the apps that I find most useful in these situations: Evernote, NotesPlus, and Notability.

There are two recurring situations in which I find I need to take notes with my iPad. The first is in meetings. In these situations, usually I am able to type notes as the meeting is happening. In this case, I use Evernote. Evernote is perfect for typing notes because I can open the app and start a note almost immediately. Occasionally, there may be a one-sheet handout as well. (Generally, if the handout is longer than one page, the presenter will share it via email.) I have scanned a number of handouts and the scans have been clear. In addition, items scanned into Evernote become searchable. Occasionally, someone hands out a business card, in which case I scan that in too. For certain recurring meetings, I have a particular notebook where I keep all my meeting notes, or I have a tag for the committee that I use to make sure I can find the note later.

The second situation in which I take notes is during class. In this case, I find I prefer to handwrite my notes, rather than typing, because I may need to write mathematics. Sometimes I am writing something that I want to share with the class, and other times I am making notes about what is happening during presentations or group work that I want to remember for later discussions or follow-up. This includes the possibility that I photograph student work and then annotate it. I use Notes Plus or Notability for class notes. I can recommend both apps. For NotesPlus and Notability:
  • Both can be backed up to Dropbox. 
  • Both offer an eraser as well as an undo button. 
  • Both offer a close-up box for writing. 
  • Both apps have always retained everything I’ve created. I have never experienced disappearing notebooks or pages.
  • Both apps offer a variety of pen thicknesses and colors as well as a highlighter.
  • Both apps offer the ability to add audio recordings to notes.
  • Line segments are handled differently. In NotesPlus, drawing line segments is integrated into the note. For instance, if I want to draw a rectangle, I begin drawing it, and it appears where I put it. Usually, NotesPlus auto-detects the line segments and gives me control points to adjust the placement of the segment. In contrast, in Notability, when drawing segments, the app takes me out of the space where I am working, and then I have to insert the line drawing back onto the page. When I insert the drawing, there is white space around it, so it feels like inserting a picture into a document. 
  • Typed notes are handled differently within each app. NotesPlus offers text boxes that can be inserted anywhere, whereas in Notability the options are to insert stickies or to move the cursor around on the page. 
  • NotesPlus has a built-in web browser, in case one is looking to clip information from websites to insert into notes, a feature not present in Notability. 
Together, this set of tools has really helped me get the most productivity from my iPad.

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