Notes by Hand or Keyboard?

We all have to take notes, whether for work, school or just daily life, so Lifehacker poses an excellent question to readers on that topic: Do you prefer to take notes with pen and paper or on a computer?

Field Notes 48 Page Memo Book

For those of us who love using pens, the idea of relying on a keyboard to record all of our thoughts and information might seem a little alien, but there apparently are plenty of people who choose to do it that way. At least 23 percent of the respondents in Lifehacker’s poll said they go with typed over handwritten notes.

The website of the popular For Dummies series even has a page dedicated to, yes, “Notetaking on the Computer.”

From the site:

Writing notes by hand can be such a pain that more and more people are taking notes on the computer.

We say (only half-seriously) shame on them for making such outrageous – and patently untrue – claims! Sure, it can be a little difficult to keep up with a fast speaker when trying to scribble down everything by hand, and your fingers can start to cramp during a long session of furious notetaking, but it isn’t a chore, by any means.

Nifty at Notebook Stories pointed the way to another person arguing against the use of pen and paper in favour of a smartphone, of all things, for note-taking. Writer David Pierce says he uses his phone exclusively, entering random ideas into applications like Evernote or Simplenote.

I’m a writer, and I don’t carry a notebook around with me. Heck, I don’t even carry a pen. Do people even use those anymore? Pens. So old school.

To which Nifty says, “SACRILEGE!!!” And we add: Can you really even call yourself a writer if you don’t carry around even one writing instrument? C’mon, everybody needs a pen…can your smartphone take notes in the rain, like the Power Tank can?

Fortunately, a more balanced approach prevailed among the nurses at Responding to a poster who asked whether she should take notes in nursing classes by hand or by laptop, the general consensus seemed to be that the best way is to take notes by hand, then later transcribe and organize them on a computer.

In the Lifehacker poll, 38 percent (as of Tuesday night) said they preferred handwritten, and 38 percent said a combination of handwritten and typed notes.

Your Tiger Pens blogger takes a lot of notes. It generally breaks down like this: Any note-taking done while out and about is with my G2 or B2P on a little reporter’s pad. At home, there’s a little cheapie pad from Staples by the phone with a stick pen for quickie notes like phone numbers or appointments, and on my desk is usually a legal pad with a rotating assortment of pens, currently a Signo 207, for taking notes while online.

If I’m on the phone taking notes, I open up Notepad in Windows because I can type much faster than I scan scribble, making it easier to keep up with what the other person is saying. After seeing something recently about Microsoft OneNote, I opened up my copy, which I’d never done in the couple of years that I’ve had it. It was just a brief glance, but it looked useful, with different tabs for different types of notes and drag-and-drop capability. (Now, though, there’s a OneNote icon in my system tray every time I boot and it won’t stop appearing.)

If you really want to learn how to take notes, Gordon at One Man Writes has a simple and effective note-taking system that he uses for business. He breaks notes down into action items, questions and information, with little shorthand symbols for each that help him scan his notes and decide what items to transcribe and which ones to add to his Remember the Milk account.

So, which is it for you…pen, keyboard, or both?

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

1 thought on “Notes by Hand or Keyboard?”

  1. By Hand! I love pens and paper. Did I mention I love pens and paper? Although I keyboard wayyyyy faster than I can write by hand, how could you take notes if the power’s out and the battery on your laptop is drained?

    Besides, if I want to, I can organize and transcribe the handwritten notes later.


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