Notes on Note-taking

Yesterday I had the privilege of being a guest on Mohammad Najmuzzaman channel on Leher where we discussed note-taking. 

Below are the points I had noted down before the conversation. I basically list the software I have tried and what I think about them. 

I mainly talk about: 

  • Software I have tried
  • Jobs Note-taking does for me
  • My Needs
  • My Current Stack
  • Personal Opinions on Note Taking

Software I have tried.

  • Evernote
    • Best in class OCR and web clipper
    • Great ecosystem
    • Product evolution stalled
  • Onenote
    • Image to text
    • Free? Won’t go away?
  • Keep it (Mac + iOS)
    • Evernote alternative (iCloud + non subscription)
    • Good OCR, Ability clip pages as PDFs and web archives
  • Apple Notes
    • Free? Quick access
  • IA Writer
    • Focus 
    • Markdown
  • Notion
    • Nesting, i.e., text in a table/cell can be another page
    • “@” and “/” Commands 
  • Notability
    • Handwriting + OCR
    • Audio recording – Great for sales meetings
  • Endless Paper
    • A new tool, Endless canvas for writing on the iPad. Watch the video on the site 🤯
  • Mac Folder
    • Store PDFs and Text in a Folder Search using Spotlight + iCloud Sync
  • Google Docs
    • Collaboration, Comments to be more specific
  • NV Alt
    • Plain Text 
    • Search As the core interface
  • Word
    • 🤦‍♂️
  • Physical Paper
    • 👴

A rabbit hole if you want to go though a larger list :

Jobs Note-taking does for me.

  • Store (Secondary Storage)
    • Book highlights
    • Bills and receipts
    • Essential information like family prescriptions and medical history
  • Content
    • Blogs, poems, quotes, etc
  • Actual notes and work-related stuff
    • notes on this talk
    • Decks, blogs, etc. 
  • Scratchpad

My Needs

My search for a note-taking app had the following needs. 

  • Evernote import capability ( I have been using it for 10 years now)
  • The ability to export data, in case the tool was not “The One.”
  • The ability to record audio, write with my Apple Pencil, and scanning.
  • Tagging and Search with OCR
    • This enabled my Storage job to be done.
  • Syncing across my devices (Mac + iPhone + iPad)

I went down many rabbit holes, then sided with simplicity. If I took notes in text, I was never going to be locked down with an App. In an attempt to simplify I decided to give up on 

  • Web & Android access to my notes
  • Relax my need for having versions history

My Current Stack

Personal Opinions

  • You don’t need to combine task management and note-taking, I think it is actually a net negative. You end up with an average tool that does many things. I am using Things for my task management 
  • The links between the notes, unless manually added, add very little value for day to day notes or stored notes.
  • Separate Note Taking from Information storage for additional simplification.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

4 Replies to “Notes on Note-taking”

  1. I have spent many MANY hours and GB on my phone and PC looking for “the one”. It doesn’t exist. Every program is gonna have that tiny little thing that irks you the wrong way.

    But there is hope. Typora has been the best for me on PC and desktop. Unfortunately they don’t have a mobile app, but it is a beautiful word processor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.