Digital Note-Taking - A Great Alternative to Pen and Paper Notes

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - updated June 8th, 2023
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“I no longer have to carry a pen and paper around, all my notes are in one place, I never have to worry about running out of notepads, and I can conveniently create flow-charts to copy & paste into emails.” – Marketing Boss-man.

If the boss loves it, it must be good! Digital Inking is fast becoming the industry standard for note-taking. If you're sick of using a pen and paper to take notes, tired of losing useful notes amongst your books and pages, or you're over doing your notes twice so you have a digital copy, digital note-taking may be the solution! (Plus you'll be helping to save the trees, which is good karma and great for your conscience). Keep reading to see why we love digital note-taking, plus some device recommendations at the end!

What makes digital note-taking so special?

One of our favourite apps for digital note-taking is OneNote, part of the Microsoft 365 Suite. This allows you to easily take notes with either pen or paper, and organise, store and file your notes in one location - digitally! The best part is it's free to download and use (though certain premium features can be unlocked with a Microsoft 365 subscription) so you can give it a go yourself and find out why it's such a popular note-taking tool. Add some digital inking to it and your note-taking game will be better than ever!

Here's some reasons why we love using OneNote for note-taking, and how OneNote can allow you to be more organised at work, school or everyday life.

Handwrite your notes & have a digital copy

Nobody likes a noisy typer in lecture halls, meeting rooms or on Skype conference calls. OneNote allows you to take 'handwritten' notes instead of typing notes and then convert them into typed text later. “Minor issues like a slow typing speed or illegible handwriting can cause major frustration,” says PEPworldwide Client Services and Marketing Manager (and OneNote enthusiast) Inna Kersman.

“Noisy typing during meetings can also be inappropriate or irritating for others – and if you bring your laptop to a meeting, you can inadvertently appear rude as people think you’re replying to emails rather than taking notes. We’ve found that this feature is a great solution.” 

Not only that, but this also enables you to draw diagrams, illustrate ideas, or make side notes that aren't as easy to do typed up.

Different notebooks for different topics

When using apps like OneNote, you can create different notebooks for different topics, subjects, and projects. Within these notebooks, you can create categories, and even sub-categories to help your notes stay super organised and structured. It’s like having a folder with file tabs, except you don’t need to lug around a manila folder or fiddle with that annoying silver claw clasp that always ends up broken. All of your important information is stored in one place yet nicely organised, so you can easily find your way around them. 

Copy text from a picture easily

Retyping text from scanned images or information is tedious and not to mention time-consuming. OneNote allows you to copy text from a picture into your Clipboard and then paste it as typed text. Yay efficiency! Super handy for sending emails, taking lecture notes or copying down Grandma's chocolate-chip biscuit recipe.

Be a neat-freak and get organised!

Want to be a bit more organised with your note-taking? OneNote allows you to consolidate different pages from different notebooks without duplicating your notes. You can link pages, sections and notebooks together when needed. Want to be super-organised with your note-taking? You can create a table of contents for all of your documents. Follow Microsoft’s instructions here to try it out for yourself. You'll be making notes for EVERYTHING in no time!

Multi-platform? Minimal issues!

While other platforms and software may have a hard time transferring, syncing or converting files from a Microsoft device to an Apple one - OneNote makes it a breeze! If you live a multi-platform life - a Surface laptop at work, a Google Pixel Smartphone at home, and an iPad Pro in your backpack, for example - Microsoft OneNote makes it easy to access notes across different devices (as long as you have an active Office 365 subscription).

Now we're bringing in another popular notetaking software called Evernote. Over 20,000 companies rely on Evernote - which is a lot! Evernote uses almost all of the same features that OneNote does, but here are some of our favourite features from the software:

Work smarter with more ways to take notes!

Evernote lets you enhance your notes with links, checklists, tables, attachments, and audio recordings. Even handwritten notes are searchable on Evernote. No matter what way you like to take notes, everything will be collated and organised in one easy location.

Bring everything together and collaborate with others

Evernote can also act as a central team hub for note-taking and sharing ideas. Great for team meetings and group projects, Evernote makes productivity within organised teams bliss. From initial brainstorm to the finished product, Evernote allows multiple people to collaborate and take notes in one easy place. You can also create a centralised hub on the Cloud to back up and share your notes.

What are the best devices for taking notes digitally?

Any device that supports a stylus and has a touch-screen can be used for taking digital notes or digital inking. If you're after a portable, pocket-sized, notepad-like digital note-taking device, we recommend a smartphone with a large display and stylus support, such as the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4.

If you'd rather a tablet, consider the Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface Pro. Both have their own styluses (sold separately) and are actively used by working professionals and artists around the world. While those are our top two recommendations, of course, there are a number of other tablets you could consider - just check whether they have digital inking support and a compatible stylus available that will make them suitable for this.

Another option - especially for those who are also bookworms - is to use an eReader with note-taking capabilities such as the Kindle Scribe or Kobo Elipsa 2E. These devices are eReaders first, allowing you to carry hundreds of books with you in one lightweight device, and enjoy a reading and note-taking experience that feels like paper on your eyes. What makes them better than regular eReaders is that you can make notes as you read and mark up documents; the Kobo Elipsa 2E even lets you annotate and markup directly onto your eBook. Additionally, both devices allow you to create notebooks and organise them, making them a great option for digital notetaking! 

And finally, 2-in-1 devices are another great option, though we've briefly touched on this already with the Microsoft Surface Pro range (just add a keyboard cover). With a 2-in-1 device, you can type up your notes when that's the most convenient option, and then detach the screen and take handwritten notes at other times. Regardless of what device you choose, there's something else for you to keep in mind...

Remember to invest in a good stylus

If your smart device doesn't come with a stylus for digital note-taking, it might be a good idea to get one. Sure, they may add some more dollars to your total purchase, but styluses often come with handy features and customisable buttons to make digital note-taking even easier. Depending on what device you use you may need a specific stylus - so make sure you haven't bought an Apple Pencil to use with your Microsoft Surface device or vice-versa.

Don't just take notes - you can do other stuff too!

Note-taking isn't the only great benefit of using a stylus on touch-screen devices. You can also use a stylus in the place of a mouse to scroll through pages and documents, edit things quickly, click on links, and more. You can also create gorgeous illustrations (or stick figures) through digital inking, if you're the creative type, or unwind after a long day with various colouring-in apps. 

Remember the little note widgets you could have 'stuck' on the desktop of your computer or laptop? Get nostalgic while still keeping it 21st century. With touch-screen Microsoft devices you can now hand-write your little sticky-notes too!

If digital note-taking sounds like it would work for you, head over to check out some tablets and styluses today, and if you haven't already, download OneNote so you can try it out for yourself!

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Staff Writer

For the words, not the glory!

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