In the last month I’ve been playing around with Evernote and OneNote, two different note-taking programs. I am a note-taking fanatic – between school, genealogy, church, and all of the other gazillion things I am involved in, I need to be able to take detailed notes quickly and easily.
A year or two ago, I played around with Evernote but just didn’t fall in love with it. I was attracted to Evernote because I’ve seen so many blog posts written about it; how easy it is to use, very mobile, syncs with the web – the list of cool features was pretty long. So I tried it. But I didn’t fall in love. I felt that the interface wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked and I got confused a few times. After a few weeks, I gave up and moved on. If I had had a smart phone like a Blackberry or iPhone, I probably wouldn’t have given up so quickly because the fact that you can edit and view your files from your mobile devices is pretty amazing and crucial if you are a constantly-on-the-go sort of a person. But the mobile access thing just isn’t as important to a non-smart-phone-carrying person like me.
When school started last semester, I realized I had to find a better way to keep my notes organized. The majority of my professors wanted to fit a bazillion concepts into one lecture and did so by speaking a thousand miles a second. Half way through the lecture, my hand was tired and my handwriting was nearly impossible to read. So I started looking at different note-taking programs for the semester. Since I had just installed Microsoft Office 2007, I decided to check out Microsoft OneNote.
I fell in love. You can easily create different notebooks with sections (just like a binder with tabbed dividers) and then put notes into sections. I created one notebook for the semester and sections for each of my classes. Depending on the class, I created a new note for each class meeting or for each major topic. Come term paper time, it was super easy to put all of my notes on a certain topic together by just searching all of my notes for a particular key word or phrase. I loved how I could download handouts and “print” them to my notebooks. I could then use the highlighter feature to make my cursor into a highlighter and highlight any important features. Or I could make my cursor a pen to circle things, draw lines to similar concepts, etc. I could recreate any drawings my professors made on the board by using the pen feature. It was awesome.
But what do my class notes have anything to do with genealogy? Well I do pretty much the exact same things with my class notes that I do with my class notes. I need the ability to…
- “Print” stuff from websites and put it in my notebook with my other notes. I could easily “print” my family group sheets, pedigree charts, website search results, etc to my notebook by selecting “Microsoft OneNote” as my printer.
- Highlight & Draw Stuff. When I’m on the research binge, I need to be able to highlight certain things or draw out my thoughts. If I printed out a map to my notebook, then I could highlight important places or draw lines to connect different places.
- Organize Similar to my Paper Notebooks: While I haven’t been using my paper notebooks too often, I do love the way I have them organized. I need a program that can mimic my paper organizational system by giving each surname a divider/section and each paper fits within a section.