Notebooks: Where Apps Meet Their Match

Productivity, Reflections


I have tried out every writing or handwriting app that I could find for iPad and iPhone only to make a surprising discovery. The apps that I liked best most closely imitated physical notebooks. This begs the question, why use an imitation rather than the real deal?

Exploring the intersection between apps and life has become almost a hobby for me. I like discovering ways to do things better. Although apps and a digital workflow present a significant advantage in many areas, replacing notebooks might be where they have met their match.

Apps like Meernotes for iPhone and Paper for iPad create note or sketchbook-like interfaces that are enjoyable to use. Yet every time I go to a bookstore I find myself browsing the notebooks and journals and admiring their covers, bindings and layouts. It seems that it is not just the process of writing things down that matters but the context of quality paper and design in which I write it.

Thankfully there is a company that creates well-designed products that bridge the gap betwen the digital and physical. Livescribe’s Smartpen allows me to write in a notebook and then sync what I wrote to my computer for ready access. I use this to take notes at meetings, conferences and events where carrying a compuer doesn’t make sense.

The other type of notebook I have decided to maintain is a memo book. These pocket-sized notebooks provide a place to brainstorm and write creatively. I am realizing that writing is an art and the more artistic my process is for capturing ideas, the more likely I am to maintain it. Graph paper is especially enjoyable with its design and layout possibilities. Sitting down with a Moleskine memo book, or “cahier”, to sketch out my writing ideas has been revitalizing.

I have been organizing my closet this week and found this old memo book that I carried on my last trip to East Africa. Flipping through its pages brought a smile to my face as I relived that season of life. This confirmed to me that I need keep these types of notebooks handy. I love Moleskine but I have been curious for awhile about Field Notes and just received my first set this past week. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

How do you like to capture your ideas and document life?

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