Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thing 65. Web-Based Note Taking

Have you ever been hard at work, online, perhaps writing an article like this one – when wham! the best idea ever hits you! Or, maybe you’re researching a topic and need to take notes as you go along. Or, maybe you’re looking at your favorite blog, like the Things on a Stick News Archive, and come across some links to tools or sites that sound interesting, but you just don’t have time to look into them right now. 
The examples above provide some real-life situations that may inspire you to try an online note taking solution. Online note taking has become increasingly popular as we are connecting more and more with technology in our lives. With web-based note taking solutions, instead of having to scratch your thoughts down on a real sticky note, now you can neatly type your notes and refer back to them on your desktop, in any number of websites, accounts or apps, and on your smartphone.

Think about it, instead of scribbling down your thoughts on a piece of scratch paper and having to bring it with you, now your notes are always with you as long as you have access to the web. For most people, this will reduce the chance of a) forgetting to write the note, b) writing down something incoherent, and c) losing the note at the bottom of our purse or pocket –never to be seen again.

Like anything else in this digital world, the user has a lot of choices when it comes to picking the specific note taking software they’d like to use. If you do a search for “online note taking,” “web-based note taking” or “note taking apps," you’ll truly get an idea of how many different options are out there for online note taking. The selection is almost endless, so you may want to review this Mashable article to familiarize yourself with the top 20 note-taking solutions cited by Mashable.

One of the most popular and highly publicized online note-taking solutions is Evernote. Evernote has grown in popularity because it has the capability of “doing it all” and is a cross-platform, universal application. Some refer to Evernote as the kitchen sink approach, and rightly so!  A few key services provided by Evernote include:
  • Capturing and saving : notes, a webpage, a photo, a screenshot
  • Indexing for anything you’ve captured or saved
  • Easy organization of notes and tags
  • Search by keyword, title, or tag

The Evernote site also provides a few examples of really creative ways to utilize their service. For example, they suggest planning your entire vacation and saving all of your important information into a folder on Evernote. So, you can save your itinerary, tourist websites, plane tickets, important phone numbers, and receipts for expense reports. The whole shebang!  

Evernote also makes it easy to take and keep good notes. Say you’re in a business meeting. Not only do you have handouts to look at, but you probably have your own notes that you’re jotting down, along with maybe the notes of a co-worker that you’d like to review, and last (but not least) notes written by the speaker during a presentation on a white board or something similar. With Evernote, all of these notes can be saved in one place. You can take a picture of the whiteboard and upload it to the folder you’ve created in Evernote. You can also upload or take pictures of your handouts and your coworker’s notes. Lastly, you can record your own thoughts during the meeting right in Evernote. No need to use a separate sheet to record your thoughts! 

Additional services that are quite powerful, like Evernote, include Stixy, UbernoteZoho Notebook, corkboard, and Delicious. These services also have a “kitchen sink” approach. You can record notes, upload pictures and documents, share your content with others, track changes to your notes and documents, and enjoy universal access to the software – regardless of platform.

If you’re looking for a more “bare bones” note taking approach, there are other tools that may be of greater interest to you. For example, Jjot and Listhings  are basically online sticky note creators. You can write notes to yourself, similar to what you’d write on a sticky note, and then retrieve your notes later from any web connection. You can also send your “stickies” to your friends once you’ve set yourself up with a Jjot account. You can also print your notes! This could be especially handy for grocery lists or weekend to-do lists!

Let this information be a launching point to your own usage of online note taking tools. Try exploring a few of the tools mentioned above… Which is your favorite? Why? Would you recommend this note taking method to your friends, coworkers, and maybe even patrons?

Kate Bessey, Information Specialist
Central MN Libraries Exchange (CMLE)

1 comment:

Dave Carlson said...

I tried Evernote for a few days. It doesn't work for me. I had to force the Create account to take my username and password. No matter what character I typed, "Username already taken" appeared as an error message. After installation of the download software, the login from my own desktop or laptop requires a password.
The usual result is "application not responding" and sometimes the screen grays and freezes. When It does allow me to run the application, what I've saved online does not sync between desktop and laptop.