Time to get organized again for the new year. I decided that after the past three years of trying different ways of organizing my work and personal life I was going to look for a way that fits me. Here is my journey.
Previously I always use used a calendar app in iCal, Calendar in iOS, and Outlook. They synced together good but my notes were separate.
Three years ago I went with the Evernote solution as I could load that app on my iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Windows computers. Being able to access everything everywhere was important. With the free plan I did not have any limits. The only times I had a limit was when I was back loading notes and research results from prior years that were still relevant. I bought a Moleskine Evernote book which came with a free month of Premium. I used this Moleskine book as a way to capture handwritten notes and uploaded a photo of them. Evernote could search on these notes which bridged the pen and text worlds. Planner type of events with using the Calendar app and Outlook at work synced. Anytime I needed more upload capacity of Premium I would buy the Evernote post it notes or found a great deal once on a year of Premium for a reasonable cost. My planner type of stuff was still in the Calendar app.
Two years ago I also tried the Livescribe pen and book system. Very expensive and it was no better then the Moleskine book. Plus if you needed to buy a new book for more notes and it was the same book (just blank) there was no way to specify it to be different so I had to buy additional books from Livescribe with different encoding. There was a max I think of 4 or 5 books total. I would end up with notes saying “Book 1” for my work journal. And If I reused this book later it would still upload as “Book 1” even if it was for my personal. This broke the bank on this system and I returned the Livescribe system.
I tried different apps with planners, todo lists, and the ability to track everything. I tried out 15 apps and many were nice but none fulfilled everything. I tried GoodNotes, INKcredible, Notabliity, Penultimate, Notes Plus, and others. They all had handwriting with a few templates of lined paper, grid paper, and blank paper. Some may of had more papers available but they were not what I was looking for. Many had annotating PDFs which would be great in a classroom or signing documents.
So two years ago I bought Awesome Notes for both my iPad and iPhone. It had an Evernote sync functionality so I could make a change on one and upload to the other. My iPhone was my portable note pad while my iPad was my main data entry tool.
The one thing I missed with Awesome Notes was real handwriting. In late 2015 I bought an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil so Awesome Notes was showing it’s age fast. If you wanted to just type out your notes and add pictures or maps in separate containers Awesome Notes would work. I wanted to incorporate my handwriting ink to be searched.
Microsoft OneNote came into the picture. I liked the ability to write with ink and then convert it later into text like my Apple Newton did over two decade ago. There was shape recognition support eventually so this was nice so I could use OneNote on all four platforms (iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Windows).
I bought the Office 365 to get Word, PowerPoint, and Excel working on my iPad Pro – this also gave me more storage space for my notebooks in OneDrive. That convert from ink to text was only in one of the two Windows versions of OneNote. Shape recognition was only in the mobile versions of OneNote. Syncing was a nightmare as the sync would corrupt my OneNote books if I did not “close out properly” and I lost tons of notes. Microsoft started to limit the about of stuff you could store in OneDrive about this time too.
I decided that Outline+ was the next move as it could read OneNote books directly. The only problem was it was available for the iPad only.
No iPhone version (which came out in December 2016) existed back in 2015. There was a Mac version so maybe I could get this to work. No real handwriting with ink halted this quickly. These handwritten notes would be part of a “drawing mode” that was not able to be searched as text. If you wanted to use this drawing mode to make a drawing or sketch, it would work for that. This would not work for me. Typing notes and adding in pictures or attachments is Outline+’s strength and it was not what I was looking for.
In December 2016 I rediscovered something that would work once I understood what one feature finally meant.
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