Almost everyone takes notes, but not everyone takes notes the same way. How we take notes runs a spectrum from the old fashioned way– pencil and paper– to the digital tools on Mac, iPhone and iPad (or, PCs, smartphones, and tablets).
Many people take notes by recording the audio of a meeting, presentation, or lecture, and simply write down the highlights. I know that works, but it seems to double the time involved with notes (recording, writing, listening).
Recently I came across a Mac utility which was born on the iPad first. It’s a notes taking app called Notability which lets you take notes many different ways; handwriting, keyboard, audio, sketch and draw, import and annotate files– all at the same time if you choose.
Think of everything you might like in a notes taking app and you’ll find it in Notability. Type, write, sketch, record audio, draw, annotate, and– most importantly– take notes on Mac and sync them up with Notability on iPad and iPhone.
The Mac version is the newest of the trio (interface is a bit different on iPhone vs. iPad versions), but having a real keyboard and extra screen real estate cannot be understated as value.
Drag and drop is your friend. Drag photos, audio clips, documents, sketches, and the like– right to the Notability note. For typing, text flows around images, desktop publisher style.
Add and change fonts as needed, or sketch with pens and colors, and style as needed. Now, here’s what put me over the top– Notability links notes with the audio recording. When you record audio of a meeting, presentation, or lecture, and take notes at the same time, the notes playback with the audio– in sync.
Speaking of sync, notes can be synced via iCloud, but my preference these days is Dropbox or GoogleDrive, which appear to be more stable. Files can also be exchanged to other Notability users via AirDrop (requires newer Macs running OS X Yosemite).
Notability is one of those Mac apps with a learning curve. It’s easy to get started, but there’s lots going on in the interface so start slowly. The iPad version is my favorite– other than the lack of a real keyboard (a Mac’s keyboard can be noisy in a meeting or presentation).
The Mac version of Notability is new (relative to iPad and iPhone), so there are a few bugs and stability issues, but it’s improved quickly from the first version, though your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, Notability is Mac App Store only and there’s no trial version. What’s up with that?