I have a superpower. (Aside from being a sexy geek that is) and that superpower is that whenever I write down a piece of essentially important information on a piece of paper, that slip of bleached wood pulp gets transported to a parallel universe and is never seen again. I have lost countless phone numbers, ideas, concepts, plans and memo’s by writing them down. However, ask me to pull up a piece of digital information (no matter how trivial) from 12 years and 2 days ago? Chances are that I’ll have it for you in under 10 minutes.
So the logical decision for me is of course to go paperless. I have been reading Ebooks for years now and I very very rarely handle a paper book (Because It might not be available digitally). And with writing it’s the same thing. Give me a stylus and let’s go completely paperless. So what do I write on?
Writing on the iPad
I got myself a 5th generation iPad just to be able to have a very compact and light divide to write on. Instead of going for the rather large (and clunky) Apple 1st generation Stylus, I went for the Logitec Crayon. A rechargeable stylus that was designed for the educational department. It handles better then the Apple Pencil but i’ve had some issues with battery life that I need to figure out. The apps I use on the iPad mini are OneNote for taking handwritten notes and Notability for doodling. Annotating Pdf’s is done in the PDF Expert app. The upside of the Ipad Mini is of course the size (its extremely handy to carry around) but that is also its downside. The downside on the Mini is that you don’t have a lot of space to run apps side by side. Having a youtube video open while simultaneously taking notes does cramp your space.
Writing on the Surface Go
The “other” device I write on is my Surface Go. This smaller and lighter 10 inch “cousin” of the Surface Pro line is an excellent little laptop in its own right. The smaller form factor makes it a lot more “natural” to write on then its bigger Pro cousins. Having done annotations and writing on a Surface pro 4 with their 12 inch screen I can say that 2 inches makes a lot of difference. (2 inches SMALLER in this case ladies).
The upside with the Surface Go is that you of course have a “complete pc” with you. The keyboard cover is expensive but extremely handy and does not get in the way of things when you flip it back to start writing. Just like with the iPad you can split your screen and run apps side by side. Book on one end, notepaper on the other. But it is not always practical. The palm rejection acts up when you accidentally touch the ‘other application” with the palm of your hand while writing. The fact that when you are writing in landscape mode also does not help for ergonomics. The Surface go is slightly thicker than the iPad Mini (and a lot thicker) and that also gets in the way.
Flip the Surface Go into landscape mode and it’s a whole new ballgame. The screen is now almost the exact size of an A4 sheet of paper and when you put your note taking app into fullscreen mode it makes for a nice writing experience. The applications I use for Doodling here are “Bamboo Paper” (Because instead of the standard and expensive Microsoft Pen I went for the Bamboo Ink pen) OneNote for writing and Edge for annotating PDF’s.
So what do I write on ?
Which device I pick up generally depends on my mood and on what I want to do. When doing a meeting with a client I find that the iPad mini works great. It’s small enough to carry around and aside from taking notes during the meeting I also use it to walk around, take pictures of their infrastructure and write up some annotations on those. When I want to study from a book I sit down with the Surface GO. Using the Text-to-speech function in Edge I can have the book read out loud to me while taking notes. I’ll put the Surface Go in landscape mode, Open the ePub in Edge, press “play” and the put OneNote fullscreen to write and scribble my way through.
The Picard manoeuvre
But sometimes one tablet is not enough and I go for “The Picard Manoeuvre”. Inspired by the desk of this Starship Captain that was occasionally riddled with tablets, I too go for a multi-tablet approach. The output device (displaying the content I want to examine, a book, video or what have you) might be my Kindle or even a laptop. My annotation device can be the iPad or even the Surface go. The best combo I’ve tried so far when studying from a book is using my Kindle to read and my iPad mini to write on. The end result is a small and light combo I can shove just about anywhere.
In the end going Paperless has given me a lot of advantages. I have my notes with me anywhere, can change the order of pages, I can add pictures and even sound files and even put in some typed up text, screenshots, quotes and so forth. It has become so bad that I have a hard time working with “regular” paper because it lacks that functionality. The only downside with my approach is that writing on a screen is not the same as writing on paper. This takes some getting used to and does mess up your handwriting (although i’m not sure this is because of the device or the fact that my handwriting was never that great). I’m not sure.
But gone are the days where I ‘lost’ notes, annotations and the formula for warp drive. (I had it, I swear). Now .. I just “Write 2.0”.