Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Writers need to make notes

OneNote in action
It's pretty obviously really, but whether you are a non-fiction author like me or a fiction person, you need to make notes. Traditionally writers have used nice chunky notebooks - and many still do, and that's fine. But I like the searchability and cut and paste options of a computerized notebook. For a good number of years I've used OneNote (see my post on it) and it serves me well in most respects. But one thing I've always been irritated by is a lack of a good version to have in my pocket.

As it happens, there is now a version of OneNote for the iPhone - but it isn't available in the UK yet, and Microsoft's PR department is being very tight lipped about when it will be released. Once I was aware of this I started to think just how useful it would be to access and input notes from my phone. And there is an alternative - the free product Evernote. The great thing about Evernote is it's available on pretty well everything: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, Palm, Windows Mobile. Slap the application on your devices and you can start making notes.

Desktop Evernote - it's less confusing than it looks!
It's not as sophisticated as OneNote. One thing I like about OneNote is the way you can structure information in various folders and sections and tabs and such. And the OneNote notes are very rich - they really are like a piece of paper. You can plonk text and photos and sounds and documents wherever you like on the page. By comparison, Evernote does pretty straightforward text notes (though you can have notes with a photo/sound in them). But the big thing about Evernote is that it synchronizes across your devices.
Evernote on the iPhone

Make a note on your phone and soon it will be accessible on your desktop. And vice versa. Without you doing anything. There are limits to this. The free version has a relatively low upload per month - fine if you are just doing text, but relatively easy to use up with photos. There is a pay version with a much bigger limit that isn't too extortionate, and also throws in offline access to the notes on your phone (the free version has to download them when you want to access them).

When OneNote for iPhone comes along I will certainly give it a try, but for the moment I've adopted a hybrid approach that works pretty well. I use Evernote for random notes and scraps. I see something online I might want to use - clip it into Evernote. I remember while I'm walking the dog that I need to do something - I make a note in Evernote. But OneNote remains my structured repository for notes about the books I'm writing and my business. So far it's working pretty well. If you haven't tried Evernote, particularly if you use a mobile device part of the time I'd really recommend giving it a go.


  1. thanks so much! I have just been using (other than my moleskin) the memo function in my blackberry, but that doesn't synch and is only for text. What a huge help this could be for me, especially with my big trip coming up. 'I'll go check this out now - no time to wait for the other one. please do keep these ideas coming. I rely on you to keep me up-to-date and fully functional.

  2. And there is one more great thing about Evernote: if you take a picture with text on it, it's recognized and will included in the search results.

  3. Good point Victor - both OneNote and Evernote do text recognition from images with mixed results.

    Thanks, Sue! I was rather late discovering Evernote, but a lot of people swear by it, and the sychronizing bit really makes it for me.