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Old 06-24-2006, 11:30 PM
Ed Hansberry
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Default How Do You Take Notes?

I am looking for help in taking notes. I take notes in a wide variety of settings. A number of books I enjoy reading have a lot of information I like to put in outline for bullet point form. I have some podcasts that contain information that I will often jot down for later use. Of course, work provides the biggest source for taking notes. Years ago I thought a mobile device would be an ideal solution for keeping all of these notes in one place as well as always having my implements for taking notes with me. How na´ve of me. :? Since 1998, I have not seen a single note taking application or database application that lends itself ideally to this for my mobile device, and I think I have looked at them all and installed most of them. I use HanDBase for a journal of sorts to record phone logs and key events, but it is rather limited when it comes to freeform note taking. Unfortunately for my wallet, I even own a license to some mobile note taking applications that I have long since uninstalled as being too cumbersome or limiting. I am waiting for Evernote to release a Pocket PC application, but they have been promising that since 2004 so I suspect I'll accumulate a few more gray hairs before that day comes.<br /><br /><img src="" /><br /><br />Even when it does, <a href="">Evernote</a> may not be the solution. I use it on the desktop as a solid replacement for the "Notes" feature in Outlook, but having a laptop means using it for anything other than sitting down and inputting notes is out of the question. A laptop is too cumbersome to be spontaneous. I am optimistic it will (someday) work when released.<br /><br />All of that said, maybe I am not even taking notes the right way. <!>I am a Steno Pad person. It is smaller than an 8.5X11 pad and yet still a usable size. Will that ever translate into a Pocket PC experience? I don't know. I readily admit I let technology get in the way of doing something right or effective. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to use my mobile device when, for a particular purpose, something else would work better. I finally gave up on trying to use it as a music player. Maybe WMP11 for Windows Mobile will fulfil my needs. My point is, I should really learn to take notes well in the real world before I try an translate that to the mobile electronic world.<br /><br />When in a structured environment, such as a classroom or a meeting, I am an effective note taker. That isn't the problem. It is when I hear a bit of info I want to jot down, catalog and use in the future that I get bogged down. I have multiple levels of criteria for determining where to record my to-do lists for example. Is it really simple? That is a task. Is it a series of tasks? ListPro. Is it a long series of tasks? Pocket Plan in conjunction with Microsoft Project on the desktop fills that bill. Is it just an interesting tidbit of info? Well, that could go in ListPro I suppose, but it really isn't designed for that. I run into the same problem with note taking, both electronically and in the real world. A post-it note is out of the question for longevity, but it is often the first place I scribble down some bit of info I will need later - with later being defined in terms of hours or minutes, not days. My steno pad would hold it of course, but how do I find all of those interesting tidbits? They are spread across many pages over many notebooks, which is about as effective as winking at a woman in room when the lights are out. Plus, paper really falls flat when you want to expand upon your notes. You wind up doing them over instead of trying to squeeze in more info with arrows trying to help you keep it all straight. Most of all, paper isn't easily searchable. Half the time I can't find my steno pad, much less a note in it. It may be in a different steno pad altogether. (Note: having 3 pads going simultaneously is a stupid practice. Trust me. I speak from experience here. )<br /><br />So, how do you do it, or do you do it at all? How do you take every thought down, every idea, concept, a collection of musings, all the way up to notes for an entire semester? Paper, silicon? At this point, I honestly don't care if my Pocket PC is the answer. I would pay $100 for a serious note taking application that helped me collect and organize notes. If I could get that to work well, I would use my Pocket PC to take notes in Word then transfer them later. Maybe Evernote is the answer and I just haven't figured out how to use that bewildering tree on the left to properly organize things. Keep in mind that when I say organize, I mean assign a category or categories and have some sort of chronological structure to it. That tree in Evernote strikes me as haphazard for some reason. I am seriously anal about that kind of thing. That is why I never could get Microsoft's OneNote to work for me. That tabbed thing drove me nuts. I don't want that "page" experience. I have a steno pad for that. A Tablet PC is out of the question, as is any other piece of hardware larger than my K-Jam - at least for the portability side of things - those other devices are too large to have with me at all times. From a desktop perspective, my laptop is fine.<br /><br />I am very serious about this too. Point me to a book on how to effectively take notes. I am that kind of person. I <a href="">read a book on how to read a book</a>, something I highly recommend you do if you read non-fiction books. I am open to reading a book on how to take notes too, but it has to be broad, more than how to take notes in school, or how to take notes in a book - something "How to Read a Book" covers quite effectively. I want "How to take notes for every conceivable situation in your life."<br /><br />Thoughts, opinions or sharing your similar fruitless quests for taking notes welcome.
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Old 06-24-2006, 11:49 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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One of the slicker methods I have seen recently is to use one's blackberry to take notes on and email to one's own email. Then simply spell check and cut and paste into whatever permenent solution suites your needs. I like MSWord, just because I am very comfortable with the MSOffice applications.
The one draw back is you need to let your coworkers and clients know you are taking notes and not checking email during your meeting.
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:17 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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I simply make sure to creat all of the folders for Notes and/or Word documents that I will be making on the device and try (though I do forget sometimes) to remember to save all of my documents to the correct folder after writing them. This way I do not have to rely on external programs and I am not doing anythin that I am not accutomed to doing on the desktop computer. Keeping it simple doeshave its benefits.

I prefer to use Word for inputing most notes because it is more configuarable than Notes, while I use Notes while on calls or for recording (of course), but the folders are the same. You can make sure these folders stay at the top of the drop down menu by adding a "_" in front of the folder name. No scrolling down through 20 folders to find your favorites...
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:21 AM
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My problem with note taking in Pocket PC is that I cannot have more than one window open at the same time. Therefore, I cannot, for example, dial an extension without committing the numbers to memory, or I cannot write down a non-copy-pastable peice of information from another program without having to jump back and forth between windows. We need a solution to this problem, too.
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:25 AM
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I scribble (literally) in PhatPad and later reenter the text in the text notes pane of the program (I don't use Calligrapher for character recognition in the program). I may or may not copy that text to a more permanent location later, depending on the nature/subject/relevency of it. But if I do it's either into PhatNotes or ListPro, or possibly the relevant area of Pocket Informant.
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Old 06-25-2006, 12:28 AM
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Great Topic Ed, and a lifelong search for me too. I know what I want but have yet to find it. Here's my list of requirements:

Must be electronic (I've been paperless for years.)
Must have fast, simple search (Can't do this with paper.)
Must provide fast, simple entry (No endless fields.)
Must sync between PDA and desktop/laptop computer
Must allow chronologic ordering (for journaling)
Must show list view after search
Ideally would allow images (From web pages etc...)

Don't want much do I? I believe EverNote could be ideal, but don't expect to see PDA version anytime soon if ever. The new OneNote 2007 with instant search and OneNote Mobile has promise, but no search in the Mobile application. PhatNotes is close to perfect, but search is a little clumsy. The Windows Mobile Notes application could be very good because it syncs with Outlook Notes, but becomes very slow on the mobile device when you have many notes. I've tested with 350 notes, and sorting by date takes 2 minutes.

So, if I had to votes for the best I've found so far, it would be PhatNotes. Clumsy search and no images allowed, but otherwise meets all my criteria.

I hope your topic will provide us with more prospects...

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Old 06-25-2006, 01:15 AM
Brad Adrian
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Wow. It's like deja vu all over again.

I've been struggling with this very same problem for a LONG time, too. I've ended up testing a bunch of different applications that each has one or two things that it does well, but have found none that does all (or even most) of what I need.

Even a product that's so widely used and well written as PhatNotes falls short of my goals in a lot of important ways. I think part of the reason is because, as you've mentioned, Ed, we all have our idiosynchratic ways of organizing our thoughts. So, there may be some kind of book about how to take notes effectively, but since the ways we organize, structure and process information is already pretty much written in stone, I'm not sure how much help it could be.

I guess I'm more inclined to continue struggling to find a tool to facilitate how my brain works than try to re-mold my processing to fit a particular methodology or tool.
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Old 06-25-2006, 01:31 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
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I use PhatNotes.
My notetaking goal was to make it quick and simple but also have a chronological log of my daily activities...similiar to a right hand page of a daytimer diary. Syncing with Desktop was a requirement.

Though not perfect, I keep entry simple within PhatNotes by (1) Hide the "category and/or subject" field to keep entry quick, (2) one database setup for work or personal so i don't have to bother choosing, (3) view my notes by creation date, ascending order, with Preview on the bottom half of the screen. (4) only show the filename and date/time created columns when viewing...grouped by date.

So, to take a note on my Pocket PC phone (PPC6700) I tap the PhatNotes icon, click on the new softkey, then start typing. Having a miniature keyboard helps a lot although I do like to use the transcriber mode.

You can also search but it could be easier.

Sometimes when jotting really quick notes I use PhatPad application...but not much.

Not perfect and I am also keeping an eye on EverNote or OneNote. I think PhatNotes could be the best application for me with a few more functionality tweaks on the viewing / searching notes.
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Old 06-25-2006, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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I too have struggled with this for a long time. Some thoughts:

1. Currently I used OneNote 2k7 - brilliant app which is the best thing MS has done in years. Well worth exploring in depth. On a TabletPC, it is outstanding but also very usable without pen input. Lots of worthwhile features. Now my main notetaking app for a wide range of things.

2. OneNote has a Win Mobile applet - but I've not been very impressed with it so far. And the sync is one way - create the note on the device. Send up to laptop but changes are not bidirectional - oh well, that would be a bit too much to hope for.

3. Best notetaker that runs in outline mode that I have found is Streamliner by Kopsis Engineering.
However, it has not been updated since 2003 and I don't know if it runs on Win Mobile 5 devices.

4. PhatNotes - I got quite excited about this one, especially when it looked like it would integrate with Pocket Informant. That seems to have stalled. I really like how OneNote 2k7 integrates fully with Outlook - this greatly extends its usefulness. If OneNote Mobile did that, I would be so happy.

5. For brainstorming, I use a mindmapping program from Germany called Pocket Mindmap. Also has not been updated for a while.

It does very nice sync with MindJet MindManager. Very powerful - amazing for a PDA app. But it is a bit complex for just quick notes. Depends on whether you are right-brained or not.
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Old 06-25-2006, 02:17 AM
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I don't see where anyone has mentioned using DayNotez for the Pocket PC ( I first encountered this program and initially couldn't imagine why I'd use it. However, after trialing it on the Palm, I later bought it for the Pocket PC and have loved it. I also have PhatNotes for Pocket PC but find DayNotez easier and more apt for note-taking, especially in business meetings. DayNotez allows you to do drawings, writing and typing and you can do voice recording with it as well. It automatically inserts the time when you create a note (which can be changed) and you can set categories and colours as well. One of the most valuable things it does for me is one of the simplest - it allows you to set a followup flag which can you can filter on. It allows you to define your own filters by note text, keyword, contact and/or followup and private flag.

I previously used PhatNotes for note taking, but find DayNotez to be much more appropriate for ad hoc note taking.

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