Note Taker HD in school and the field

I am a software evangelist. I admit it. I get super excited when I find something that works for me and become convinced that the life of almost everyone I know could be improved if they adopted the same thing. For that reason, I expect that this post on software will be only the third of many.
Sam with iPad and dog
Like many of us with the privilege to be in school, I take a lot of notes. For years, I have debated the merits of paper notetaking and computer notetaking with myself. Despite my love of tech solutions, I got a tactual pleasure out of writing by hand and appreciated the superior flexibility and organization of a blank sheet of paper. Sadly, once the semester was over, my notes formed indistinguishable piles where nothing could ever hope to be found again. So, by my second year, I had transitioned to taking all my notes on my computer, first in Journler then in Evernote (because Evernote syncs between devices). Magically, amazingly, I could find all my notes! I could search them! I could use tags to navigate them! It was wonderful!

But I missed handwritten notes.

notes taken in Note Taker HD

notes taken in Note Taker HD

This came to a head when I returned from some scoping work in Ecuador with a pile of notebooks and the boring task of transcribing them somewhere I could search through them (and maybe code them later). Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if I could just take the notes electronically? Typing on a tablet seemed like a good route*, but the fact of its tablet-ness made drawing on the screen a more logical option.

Then the spectacular Tracie Mayfield introduced me to Note Taker HD for iPad. It had the best of my worlds: 1) handwritten notes organized like my brain and 2) PDFs I can sync between devices (via Dropbox or Evernote). It’s not perfect – I wish it automatically synced my handwritten notes as tagged PDFs rather than the intermediary step of Dropbox. And, of course, real paper doesn’t have a battery that needs charging. But its folder organization works well within the program and tagging it again on my computer is, for me, a small price to pay. One of the best unlooked for (in my case) features is the ability to annotate PDFs by drawing on them – something that I would continue to use even if I ultimately decided I like typing my notes better after all.

* And I’m still looking into this, I’ll let you know if I find something awesome

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7 thoughts on “Note Taker HD in school and the field

  1. i tried experimenting with an ipad over winter break but ended up taking it back. the workflow i devised was a combination of: 1) zotero; 2) box.net; 3) a neat zotero plugin called zotfile; 4) an app called cam scanner.

    zotero is zotero, but i chose box.net over dropbox because it gives 10gb free space and is DAV, so files aren’t easily corrupted by lags in syncing, etc. zotfile is still great, even minus the ipad, because it manages my bib materials, including notes and annotations, and the pdf scans of articles or chapters. there’s an option on zotfile to “send to tablet,” which was what i was really after so i could do work without lugging around the laptop. my problem was no decent pdf app that had an interface like preview on mac, and i wasn’t on board with dropping like $10 on an app. acrobat was alright, but i wanted to see the sticky annotations.

    but when zotfile sends the item to tablet and you mark it up on the tablet with whatever pdf app, you have the option to retrieve from tablet the file, and zotfile will automatically extract any notes and annotations and put them in a child file stored on zotero. that is really a great feature.

    cam scanner, for android too apparently, makes killer pdfs out of papers with the camera. the developer is now giving out the pro version if you provide a .edu email.

    thinking now about getting the google nexus 10. we’ll see!

    • Ohhh, zotfile sounds awesome. I haven’t ever really used the annotation aspect of Zotero even though it’s my bib manager.I have to say, though, my move to annotating PDFs on the iPad where I can write and highlight is feeling like a major step up in my article notetaking. I’ll have to try out zotfile and see if I can make them play nice.

      • Hi,
        Im wondering id Note Taker HD files are compatible with Evernote and if transferring files is an easy process?
        i’m also wondering if it makes a difference going from iPad (Notetaker HD) to potentially an android based tablet for Evernote?
        would love to hear your thoughts.

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