GoodNotes is a note taking application that you an enter text into text boxes or use handwriting ink to create content. That handwriting ink is saved as a vector graphic so it can be scaled with no pixelating and is searchable. You can import PDFs and annotate them. You can export any note as a PDF. Pretty powerful and flexible. Includes native Apple Pencil support on my iPad Pro and iCloud syncing.
My eureka moment is when I starting finding samples of planners and bullet journal pages as PDFs and realizing that means in GoodNotes I can import them in and draw over them as I needed. BINGO! My solution.
What I did was get the free Passion Planner PDF pages, since I liked thier layout and extras and imported them in. I choose the compact version so I could have “two pages” on one GoodNotes page. Importing them in made one page per PDF page. Perfect!
To import in GoodNotes while in a book you can tap the “+” button on the upper left and “add page above / below” options from the template library. Or just import a PDF as a new page by tapping on the 4 squares in the upper left and then tap the “+” button and Importing the page. Simple.
The flexibility is I can delete any Passion Planner pages I did not want to keep. I added in a water tracker and a notes page between my planner pages. This is the same as the physical Passion Planner or Bullet Journal that many enhance with tape.
The notes page I can freehand my notes and reference any event. Free handing in drawings or weather conditions can be helpful. GoodNotes lets me export any page as a PDF so if I need to change a page or add in an optional budget journal I can mark it up, export it to any cloud storage, and import that page in. That saves my changes into the background.
So I had the solution I needed with minimal modification in a digital approach where I can sync my notes from my iPad Pro to my iPhone or Mac with no fuss.
After three years of trying to find a methodology of keeping my work and personal life organized. I am trying something new this year.
I researched what people have been doing to keep organized. I found something called a Bullet Journal (or BuJu for short) and also rediscovered a paper approach called Passion Planner. Below are simplistic descriptions and you can get more information from their websites.
I first heard about Passion Planner two years ago. www.passionplanner.com
This planner was created in 2013 by Angelia Trinidad. It has the approach of a planner with extras to help you figure out what is important to you. There are many sections like a roadmap over the next many years, reflections for the past month, and checklist for each month. This approach keeps you on track. I dismissed the Passion Planner since I was trying to find a digital means and had stopped my physical Moleskine paper notebook and digital Evernote combination approach. I do like some of the ideas of this system. I liked the setup of the traditional planner layout that Passion Planner has and rediscovered this product again in January 2017.
Bullet Journal is a quick minimalistic approach to keeping track of everything in a physical paper way. www.bulletjournal.com
Bullet Journal was created in 2013 by Ryder Carroll. You use an index to keep track of where stuff is by page number. Have a key so you know what symbols (like a bullet, circle, square, “X”, etc) are events, tasks, and notes. Then layout everything for month, week, and day. Since you are creating all of this in a paper journal with dots for the paper you can draw out everything where you want and how you want it. If you like writing, drawing, and wanting to spend a lot of time laying out the pages, this is the system for you. I did not want to spend a lot of time making my pages. I do like some of the ideas of this system.
I looked for a digital approach but no apps exist that follows either of these approaches. What I did find was a large community of blogs, Facebook groups, and people sharing ideas. Perfect. Both communities has something I like. Maybe not all of the ideas but a lot.
Hmmm, I thought. What if I combined these into “my system”. I like the planner approach of month and week. I like the ability to add notes and todos and carry them forward. I like being able to keep it flexible.
I looked for an app. Nothing like these. Just the traditional journal apps with text entry only or the traditional planner apps with no customability.
I still longed for a replacement for my Apple Newton I used in 1990. iPad and iPhone was close but no native handwriting ink and shape recognition with a stylus/pencil. There has been add ons that I used to kind of give it that ability. Nothing really worked across the entire device.
What if I could take a template and just write on it with digital ink? What if I could add bookmarks to use for my “index”? Then it hit me. I have bought a product a year or two ago that would work.
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.
Today, 31 years ago Apple launched the first Macintosh personal computer.
The Macintosh has been one of Apple’s most game changers. Today most of personal computers use what the Macintosh brought into the forefront of computing: Mice, Graphical User Interface, and Copy/Paste. Without Apple, Microsoft would never of created or released Windows as DOS was the money maker for them.
Xerox was the one who created the mouse and the GUI, but they never thought anyone would use it. Apple’s $1 million dollar gift to Xerox Parc Place changes all of that.
You the consumer is the winner – so show Apple some well deserved love and buy a new Macintosh this year. You too Windows, Android, and Linux fanboys!