Going Paperless

I decided to try a small workflow experiment this week and try to go paperless both at work and at home.  I’m a big notetaker and scribbler, and I’ve normally got two or three notepads on the go at the one time.  Having purchased a Griffin stylus for the iPad last week, it felt like a good time to try and ditch the paper and go digital.

I started the experiment while working.  Usually, I have an A5 spiral lined notebook, in which I’ll write down such things as to-do lists (for the day and/or week) and anything interesting that I come across.  I also have a few pages of A4 printer paper, which partially sit under my keyboard.  These sheets are used for sketching diagrams, flows, processes, data lists etc.  The first thing then, was to get rid of all this – the notepad and pen were left in my laptop bag, and the A4 sheets, once checked for anything I’d need, were thrown in the shredder.

Away from work, I carry with me almost all the time my ‘writers notebook’ – a small black Moleskin with a pen attached, which I use exclusively for noting down any ideas, brainwaves and observations that may, at some point, be used for some sort of writing project.  I’ll be honest, while it has been an incredibly useful thing to have, I’ve found it a real pain to carry around and remember.  

So what to replace all this paper with?  Well, I wanted to be able to take both handwritten and electronic notes.  For handwriting, the iPad was the only real option.  I already had Penultimate installed, which works great with the stylus.  I’d read good reviews about Notes Plus, so I bought that as well.  I started off using the latter, as it had some more features that I initially found useful, such as shape recognition, handwriting zoom and password protection.  I soon found this app to be unusable however, for one reason – lag!  Seriously this is unbelievable, it’s a good second behind what I actually write with the stylus.  Also, the lines are very angular and ugly.  In fairness, I didn’t really notice this until I tried the Bamboo Wacom app which was released last week.  The response and smoothness of this app is fantastic, a lovely writing experience.  I couldn’t go back to Notes Plus after trying it.  But the Bamboo app is a first release and has, well, bugger all features to be honest.  So back I went to the previously ignored Penultimate, where I was pleasantly surprised to find that the writing experience was very smooth there too.  And that’s what I’ve been using ever since.  There is no handwriting zoom, so my notes are in rather large writing, but it’s not like I’m going to run out of pages to write on.

A couple of things I really like about Penultimate for handwritten notes:

  • I can email any pages or entire notebooks I want to keep to Evernote 
  • I can quickly change the colour or thickness of the “ink” I’m using, excellent for making certain things stand out

For electronic (or keyboard input) notes, I fully intended to use Evernote, as I’ve been using it for a couple of years.  I’ve gone through phases of using it for text-based note taking. Recently however, I’ve been finding it less than useful for certain tasks.  While it’s a great repository for PDFs, URL and web snippets, it’s actually not great for just taking quick, simple notes – one main reason being, it’s horrendously slow, in all its forms (desktop, web and iOS apps).  As I mentioned in my previous post, I started using Notational Velocity, syncing to SimpleNote (and ResophNotes on my work Windows laptop).  I can’t say enough good things about this, it is lightweight, simple and fast as hell.  The SimpleNote iOS apps are near perfect – both open in no time, so I can quickly tap in some text and I’m done, in less than the time a more fully featured app would take to open (are you watching Evernote devs?).  This is ubiquitous text capture at its finest.

So having been working without paper for over a week now, will I continue?  I think I will, certainly for the short term.  It’s not quite a perfect workflow as yet, there are still a few issues. One being that I still have that self-consciousness when I’m using the iPad in a meeting; yes, I feel like a bit of a dick.  The other thing to get used to is the handwriting, writing with a stylus must be an art form, my handwriting looks even worse than it does with pen and paper, something I thought was not possible.  Still, it’s only me that needs to decipher it…

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