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I write down
everything. It's the only way I'll
remember anything. In the old days, I kept multiple notebooks that sat in a
pile on my desk for an eternity. My life changed, however with the invention of
web- and mobile-based notetaking apps…and my desk got a bit cleaner.
For the past
few years, I've done the majority of my notetaking on Evernote. I started using it for the simple
fact that there was an Evernote app for the BlackBerry (my phone at the time)
and that I could use it on my work PC and my home Mac. A regular old notebook,
on the other hand, was useless if I left it at home.
curious about other options, however, so I decided to give Microsoft
OneNote and Springpad a spin. I used both – along with
Evernote – for two weeks to take meeting notes, plan campaigns, brainstorm
content ideas, and more. Which notetaking system is best for keeping track of
meetings? Which is best for planning fundraisers? Read on to find out.
Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Desktop
OneNote has been dubbed the
"hidden gem" of Microsoft Office – and for good reason. The notetaking app integrates so nicely with
Microsoft's other Office products that Microsoft Office users will wonder how they
got along without it. You can save important Outlook messages to your OneNote
notebooks as well as share notes in SkyDrive or SharePoint. These sharing
features are useful for drafting up important e-mails based on meeting notes or
sharing notes with your staff.
If you regularly use Microsoft Word
or Excel, you'll feel right at home with OneNote's user interface. You'll find
the familiar Office ribbon in OneNote where you can open documents or share
notes with other people.
OneNote offers some useful
organization features, such as the ability to add keywords to notes and create
sections within a single notebook. For example, I created a notebook to compile
research for a monthly column I'm working on. I divided the notebook by month
and created a section for miscellaneous information.
The latest version of OneNote
supports a wide range of multimedia formats. You can draw pictures in OneNote
with your mouse (or with your finger/stylus on a touchscreen) if you're a
visual note-taker. Those who can't get used to typing notes will enjoy
OneNote's new handwriting recognition feature. You also can scrawl down notes
on your tablet or phone with your finger or a stylus and OneNote will convert
them into text. In addition to your sketches, you can also insert pictures,
charts, tables, documents, videos, and more into your notes.
is available as part of the Microsoft
Office 365 subscription, which is available for nonprofits.
You can also use OneNote for free as a Web app through Microsoft SkyDrive, and
on Windows Phone, Android, or iOS. The Office desktop version provides
additional features, like clipping screenshots.
If you're collaborating with other
coworkers on a project or sharing meeting notes, I found that OneNote is the
best option – especially if you're already using Microsoft Office at your
organization. Its integration with SharePoint and SkyDrive makes it a snap to
share notes with your colleagues already using those programs. For more on
OneNote, check out a replay of our Microsoft OneNote: Capture Your Creativity and our Is Microsoft OneNote the One for You? article.
Android, Web, iOS,
Springpad is the service I was least familiar with before
embarking on this experiment. The app is described as a "personal
organizer," in which you can save and organize tasks, notes, work
projects, books, and more. You can use
it in your personal life, as well for saving recipes, movies you want to see,
items you want to buy, and much more.
My initial thought on Springpad was "Wow, this is one
great-looking app." The interface is clean and reminiscent of Pinterest
with its bold, simple icons, and image-centric layout. My first project on Springpad
was planning TechSoup for Libraries' booth at the upcoming Public Library
Association conference. I selected "Work Project" from the notebook
options (which include tasks, recipes, shopping, home improvement, blank, etc.).
One option I really liked is that you can create and share
notebooks with your coworkers. This is especially useful for work projects or
meeting notes. You can also use Springpad to build itineraries for conferences
or offsite meetings with your transportation and accommodation information. When
you save a website or page to Springpad, it attempts to keep the HTML intact as
much as possible.
Another neat feature is that you can follow publicly shared
notebooks as well as notebooks by "trusted experts." I followed Apps,
App, Apps; Web Tools for Productivity; E-Learning. This is a helpful feature if
you're interested in learning more about a subject or simply want to see how
people organize their notebooks. By
default, every notebook you create is private, however.
Each Notebook includes a
section called a "Board", which is sort of like a mini version of
Pinterest. You can pin content (like articles, websites, or videos) that you've
added to your Notebook.
Springpad's biggest downfall
is that there's almost too much to
it. There are so many features that it's difficult to get set up in a way that
works for you. Because of its visual-centric layout and notebook templates, I
found it works best for planning events, projects, and trips.
Android, Desktop (Mac and Windows),
BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone, Web
As I mentioned previously, I'm a longtime user of Evernote.
Despite my history with it, I've never felt like I used Evernote to its full
potential. Like OneNote and Springpad, Evernote allows you to pick from
customized notebooks or a blank template.
One of the things I really like about Evernote is how it virtualizes the look and
feel of a physical notebook. Similar to OneNote, you can add tabbed sections to
different notebooks – essentially a notebook within a notebook. You can also
tag your notes with keywords such as "budget planning,"
"grants," etc. so you can easily find them within your notebook.
Something I hadn't taken advantage of previously was
Evernote's ecosystem of apps. These apps give you the ability to scan receipts
to Evernote (perfect for expense reports), mark up images, clip and save
webpages, and more. Explore all of Evernote's
apps here. They're a great way to personalize Evernote to your day-to-day
Evernote is free for up to 60MB per month of data. If you upgrade to
Premium ($5 per month or $45 per year), you get up to 1GB of bandwidth each
month. If you take a lot of notes,
you might not be very pleased Evernote's data caps.
But overall, Evernote is one of the
most versatile, easy-to-use notetaking apps out there. I'd recommend it for
personal notetaking, however, rather than for sharing notes with a group or
your whole staff. Why? Evernote lends itself to customization, making it the
perfect companion to your daily tasks. While Evernote does allow you to share
notebooks, but you have to have a Premium
account. Evernote Business, which costs $10 per user per month, supports
more robust sharing across multiple users.
The fact of
the matter is that these are actually quite different products and they can be
used for all different purposes. It would be awesome if there was a way to sync
all three together, but that's probably wishful thinking!
Do you use a
notetaking app or service? Please log in to TechSoup and let us know which you
use or whether you're considering using another service.
Interesting and informative post, Ginny. But as a longtime Evernote user, I was very puzzled by your assertion that "Similar to OneNote, you can add tabbed sections to different notebooks – essentially a notebook within a notebook." In the Apple ecosystem (Mac/iOS), there is no facility like that I've been able to find. I also searched Evernote's knowledge base and there is no mention of this. Could this be an Evernote add-on that you are using? Thanks!