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Robert Newton
Robert Newton

Posted on

How do you take notes?

I am wondering how everyone takes notes? This can be while you're testing or doing some courses or you're just putting down a to-do. Do you have a specific notes taking application you use? Are you more of a pen and paper person (like me), do you use vim or emacs with org-mode?

I am interested in what everyone uses in case there is something better than what I am currently doing.


Top comments (71)

erikthered profile image
Erik Nelson

I use Boostnote synced with Google Drive for most code related notes or markdown documents.

Recently I got my first fountain pen (a Pilot Metropolitan) so I've been doing a lot more paper notes in a Moleskine notebook. I will probably upgrade to a better notebook when this one's done, such as a Rhodia, Clairefontaine or Leuchtturm.

The big sell for fountain pens is that it makes writing a lot more fun!

salhernandez profile image
Salvador Hernandez

I currently use a fountain pen with a Leuchtturm notebook. The best part is that the notebook has an table of contents!

nancyd profile image
Nancy Deschenes

Me too, me too!

I also find that the fountain pen makes my handwriting look better. The nib must not be too narrow, tho.

johntellsall profile image
John Mitchell

I use pen and paper -- research has shown this helps the brain understand, correlate, and retain information. (Even if my err your notes are unreadable ;) ) I'm a fan of non-textual techniques like Mind Mapping (2D bullet points) and using fonts and arrows and boxes and things. Again, this helps with understanding. Read Sunni Brown's "Doodle Revolution" for tons of ideas!

For little stuff I use Google Keep. On my morning commute I listen to podcasts and often they have great ideas I want to research later. For that, Keep is perfect: always there, distributed, and simple and fun to use.


nikoheikkila profile image
Niko Heikkilä

I usually write stuff with my editor of choice (currently VS Code) in Markdown format. All the notes are saved in Dropbox. Later on, and if needed to distribute, I convert them to PDF/DOCX/HTML/whatever format with pandoc using custom templates. These converted versions are usually stored in some another service as well (eg. company cloud) for consuming and archiving.

I just can't get my mind into specialised note-taking apps when you can write in plain-text and convert to virtually any format to any service. Apps like Evernote have for ages been obsolete for me. However, I can understand there is a certain work involved writing your own conversion scripts and templates before you can take notes in plain-text.

goyder profile image

I'm working through a large number of Coursera courses at the moment, and trying to compile good working notes from them. While I've played with Onenote, Evernote, and BoostNote, I struggled to get good integration between my notes and my code.

I'm finding the best solution is simply to use Jupyter Notebooks (inside a Docker environment) and push to Github. This way my notes and code examples are tightly integrated, and I can hop between my Linuxbox and Macbook with a minimum of fuss and drama.

The main challenge I have is that I'm not aware of any good tools for searching my notes in Jupyter notebooks. If anyone's aware of any tools, I'd love to hear it!

ewoks profile image

Are your notes from Courses public or you store them in a private GitHub?

goyder profile image

All public. You can find them here and here. :)

s1hofmann profile image
Simon Hofmann

For really short notes I'm still using Google Keep, for larger notes like drafts of blog posts I'm using BoostNote.

It's file based and I'm syncing my notes folder via ownCloud, so I'm able to work on multiple machines.
There's also a mobile version, but I haven't used it yet.

briansotodo profile image

BoostNote looks cool. I am checking it out right now...

ewoks profile image
Beeblebrox • Edited on

What would be advantage over free Evernote? Is just about markdown support (that Evernote is lacking) or something else?

vasilvestre profile image
Valentin Silvestre

Same with Google Keep. There's some feature missing but it work on all my devices and is accessible from everywhere easily.

sephcoster profile image
Seph Coster

Field Notes notebook and a Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, in my pocket at all times.

Remarkably, I find that the Field Notes slogan is true: "I'm not writing it down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now." I rarely consult my notes after I write them, and memory written as tactile sticks a lot more than typed notes.

Occasionally I'll use the stock "notes" app but that's really temp storage for the most part, then anything I do with those notes becomes the thing to which I refer back.

jovica profile image

For short notes which I need only locally and for short time I use Vim.

For tech notes I want locally and remotely I use BoostNote.

For all other notes, bookmarks, projects, brain dumps, etc I use Dynalist, which is something like Workflowly, but much better.

mariocd10 profile image
Mario DeLaPaz

Dynalist looks interesting! going to check it out today!

squiter profile image
Brunno dos Santos • Edited on

Emacs with org-mode was a life changer for me! It's hard to start when you are not familiar with Emacs, but it's awesome when you get it! I already used Evernote, Notational and other apps, but no other app gives me the customization level that org-mode have.

visualizertrue profile image
Aaron Barnett • Edited on

I use Microsoft OneNote and (until recently) a Huion drawing tablet. People definitely have their opinions about MS Office but OneNote has been a great way to keep everything organized, backed up, and paper free. I recently received an iPad Pro as a gift and have now been using the OneNote app with the Apple Pencil to keep up with notes for class. I always hand write my notes so this has been an awesome way to be even more organized and still be able to feel like I'm using a real pen (I just personally never learn or remember well when I type out my notes).

mrcosta profile image
Mateus Costa

I was using evernote, but whithout having native support for markdown is a mess. So I try different ones and I'm using Quiver and it's not in the cloud this one, so you need to provide your dropbox on google drive if you want to sync with other devices.

tedhagos profile image
Ted Hagos
kinglouisxvii profile image
Daniel Jakobian

I use Bear to sync notes between my iPhone and Macbook but also always have a paper notebook, because I learn things better when I write them down with a pen.

vbd profile image
Volker B. Duetsch

Vim, notes in markdown format, Dropbox for syncing and to publish it as local website with material theme

paulasantamaria profile image
Paula Santamaría

I've been using OneNote on my iPad to take notes at university. But after three years of note-taking the app started running slow... Maybe I should delete some notebooks, but I'm tempted to try Evernote now.
Of course I use the iPad mainly in the theoretical courses, I need pen and paper for math and any other practical courses.

vinayhegde1990 profile image
Vinay Hegde

I've developed a habit of writing stuff that I wish to learn in my own words with reference URLs (blog posts, official documentation, how-to guides, etc..) that I often gather via mobile or desktop and sync in Google Keep and/or , the latter is a great app requiring an individual post in itself.

The ones saved via mobile make their way to PC but If I've access to a desktop already, here's how I create & maintain my documentation:

  1. First, I use reStructuredText to write my notes in .rst files (segregated topic-wise) in a Git repository.

  2. Then, Sphinx (a one-time setup) comes in to build all my documentation into static content (HTML, CSS, JS etc) using a single command.

  3. Afterwards, I push my changes and a Git web-hook (again, just a one-time setup) deploys it to ReadTheDocs onto a publicly accessible URL (you can choose this)

  4. Done! While the learning curve is a bit steep but once you get the hang of it, all you'd need to create documentation is a Text Editor and Git commits.

If you need an example, you can browse the one made by LetsEncrypt or the one I made here. Renders flawlessly on mobile without the additional overhead of any app (as it's just a URL) as well :)

PS: BoostNote appears to be amazing but according to this, the Android/iOS apps seem to be temporarily closed.

ewoks profile image

Good point about BoostNote, lacking of mobile (Android) client while they update code base is deal breaker for me :(

vinayhegde1990 profile image
Vinay Hegde

I agree! Having a Android client is as important as a Desktop one or a Web-app. This was the reason I moved onto Google Keep from ColorNote

However, both of them fall thoroughly short in rich-text formatting thus making me find an alternative described in my original comment.

Here is a post you might want to check out:

Regex for lazy developers

regex for lazy devs

Sorry for the callout 😆