A couple of weeks ago I discussed different ways that note-takers can take more effective digital notes as well as some of the pitfalls of digital note-taking. Being a student, more than part time programmer, and someone who is extremely forgetful when it comes to household and family duties, capturing ideas and actions that need completed is more of a necessity than a nicety.

I have tried a ton of digital tools for notetaking in class, in meetings, and otherwise. I have found that there is one clear winner that has changed the way that I take notes and review them for the better.

Being productivity geeks you have probably heard of the Livescribe Smartpen system and have also taken a look at some of their convincing marketing videos on their website. If not, the Livescribe pen is a way to take paper notes on special “dot paper” that stores them digitally in the pen and syncs them with digital recordings of what is going on around you while you are writing. The notes can then be then transferred to your Mac or PC for review and searching.

I was first extremely skeptical about this system and didn’t pull the trigger on buying a pen until early in 2010. Having had a full year with my Livescribe pen, I can say that I won’t be taking notes any other way in the foreseeable future. That being said, let’s look at 8 reasons why Livescribe is the best way to take digital notes

Computers distract

I have found that laptops in class or meetings are too distracting as it only takes me 10 seconds to jump on a WiFi network and get sucked in to Engadget. Writing is natural and keeps your from being distracted by the recesses of the interwebs.

Reviewing is actually useful

Reviewing notes is difficult, mostly because the stuff that we write down doesn’t make any sense to us after we write it. This is where the beauty of recording and writing with the Livescribe comes in. When you want to review something from your notes, just tap the note and listen to what was going on at the exact time. Simple and powerful.

Evernote integration

If you are an Evernote premium member you can sync your notes to Evernote through the Livescribe Desktop. Nothing like having your notes anywhere you are with Evernote.

Livescribe Desktop on Mac, Windows, iOS

Having Livescribe as a cross-platform piece of software is essential for me as I switch between Windows and Mac all day long. Also you can download the Pencast Player iOS app which allows you to view all your online Pencasts with audio.

Search

The downfall of plain written notes is that they aren’t searchable. Livescribe Desktop allows you to search your notes and uses optical character recognition to find what you are looking for. Something that I do constently is mark next actions with TODO. When I am reviewing my notes I just search for TODO and drop the action items into my system.

Impress your colleagues and friends!

I’m only half serious on this one. One of the coolest things is showing Livescribe to someone, especially someone that takes a lot of notes like managers or professors. As soon as they realize that you can record while writing and then export your notes to PDF or share them with someone else via the web, you can see the wheels in their head start to spin.

Lined journals for those notebook-loving types

Oh, but you are one of those hawdy-tawdy Moleskine-packing, Ernest Hemmingway types and the thought of using some other type of notebook just turns you off. Well, you are partially in luck as Livescribe gives you the choice of “leather” bound lined- and unlined- journals that you can use. I have to say that the quality is pretty-darn good; even notebook snobs will be impressed.

Sharing notes

Sharing notes as “Pencasts” online is probably the single-greatest feature of Livescribe. You choose what recorded session you want to upload from your Livescribe Desktop and then send the link to who you want to see your notes. You can also control the access to your notes by making it private and inviting certain people or by making it public for the world to see.

Conclusion

As you can see there are many benefits to taking your digital notes via a Livescribe Pen including less distractions while note-taking, cross-platform use, useful reviewing, and easy note-sharing. If you are looking for a cross between taking notes by hand and having the digital power of search, sharing, and audio tied to notes, then I can’t recommend anything better than Livescribe.

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