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The Top 12 Note Taking Apps for Getting Things Done in School

The Top 12 Note Taking Apps for Getting Things Done in School

You may still be sinking into this semester at school and looking for a few good tools to get stuff done this year. One of the things that you will be doing the most is taking notes (and hopefully, good ones) during classes, group meetings, reading, etc. Rather than look and try out every single note taking app there is, we’ve filtered them down for you so you can make a more informed decision on where you will store all of your stuff this year.

Here are the top 12 note taking apps for getting things done in school.

1. Evernote (Web, OS X, Windows, Android, iOS, Blackberry)

With Evernote being avaailable for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows, it’s no wonder that it is still considered by many to be the world’s best note taking application and utility.

    Where Evernote excels in a school context is its ubiquity as well as cool features like allowing for photos, location, and voice recording (which is great for recording lectures).

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    2. Google Docs / Drive (Web, Android, iOS)

    Without Google Docs, collaboration on papers, spreadsheets, and other files with groups is a difficult (and annoying) thing todo. I remember painfully emailing documents back and forth to fellow students who weren’t on the Google Docs “kick” and losing track of which version was the current version of any document or file.

      With Google Docs you can invite all of your partners to a document and collaborate and keep things in sync.

      3. Simplenote (Web, iOS, third-party Android)

      If you want to take, well, simple notes, then Simplenote is the tool to do it with. You can easily capture your ideas, tasks, and assignments in a plain text form and have it sync with your iPhone or Android (with a third party app, Flick Note).

      You can also export your Simplenote database to plain text, CSV, JSON, XML, and even Evernote.

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      4. Catch (Web, iOS, Android)

      Catch is another web based note capturing ideas while on the go. Catch brings a unique a different type of mobile interface to the user and rather than tapping a tiny “plus” button and adding a new note, you can use Catch’s “capture wheel” to create a voice note, date, text note, task, or picture. You can also use hash tags to organize your notes.

        5. Fetchnotes (Web, iOS, Android)

        Fetchnotes is a newcomer to the online note taking arena but is a great way to take a bunch of quick notes and tag them as well as attach documents and files from a slew of different web apps like Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Instagram, Github, Google Drive, and much more. You can also invite schoolmates to share notes with.

        In fact, if you sign up today for Fetchnotes and open a new Box account, you can get 25GB of free storage for your files.

        6. Springpad (Web, iOS, Android)

        Springpad is another way to store photos, to-dos, notes, links, locations, and more as well as share them with fellow students. The app is available for iOS and Android and can be used on the web. Springpad also gives you some notebook ideas to start with like Team Projects, Quick Notes, To-do lists and more.

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        7. TopXNotes (OS X)

        TopXNotes is a native note taking app for Mac that allows you to create rich text notes as well as have multiple notes opened at the same time. The ability to have multiple notes open in one interface during a class may be beneficial for making an outline and adding to a class summary at the same time.

        TopXNotes is available now through Lifehack Deals for half off.

        8. OneNote (Windows, web, iPhone)

        OneNote is the most integrated and feature rich note taking application on Windows not to mention that it now sports an online interface through Office.com where users can sync all of their OneNote notebooks and an iOS app.

          Notebooks can be shared and collaborated on natively or in the cloud. It’s not necessarily the cheapest note taking application, but its integration and usefulness is worth the price if you are on Windows.

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          9. Circus Ponies Notebook (OS X, iPad)

          If you like OneNote but want something on the Mac, then Circus Ponies Notebook is the app you are looking for. One of the coolest features for students is the ability to create detailed indexes of your notes as well as export your notebooks as full-fledged websites. With some free server space from your school and Circus Ponies Notebook, you are going to be everyone’s friend whe you sharing your notes. Oh, and there is an attractive iPad app that syncs with your Mac.

          10. FoldingText (OS X)

          FoldingText is an cool new way to use Markdown to create “foldable” headings, bulleted lists, clickable links, etc. Instead of the standard “static” nature of a plain text file with Markdown syntax, FoldingText for Mac allows the user to type in Markdown and the syntax is instantly converted to the proper format. You can also make to-do lists and even timers by using a special syntax.

            11. Epistle (Android)

            If you need to edit plain text and Markdown on an Android and sync it with Dropbox, then Epistle is the app you are looking for. You can create notes, edit them, sync them with Dropbox, preview Markdown, and send the text to any app on Android that will accept text. This is a great app to create a quick outline or to-do list and send it to a classmate or view all of your plain text notes on.

            12. Notesy (iOS)

            Now, if you want to do plain text on iOS, Notesy is one of the best apps to do it in. There are many others, but in my experience Notesy seems the fastest and easiest to use. Also, Notesy has superior filtering and navigation of your Dropbox synced notes.

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            CM Smith

            A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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