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Best program for lecture notes

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Posted by zoe
Jun 4, 2016 at 01:57 PM


jbaltsar wrote:
Hi there and thanks for all your suggestions.
>I read that OneNote comes free with Windows 10, so this could be an
>option (although I always try to stay clear of MS products and cloud
>services and the like, but hey, he’s a new generation and I’m a fossil,
>he may even like it.)
>I still try to convince him of ZIM, but I fear it may be too
>“old-school” for him.
> >Cheers

I certainly understand and respect your reservations about MS products and cloud software in general. I’ve tried over the years to get pretty far away from them. However, for a high school student, there is a lot to manage and juggle, and anything that simplifies the process and reduces the likelihood of things getting lost/misplaced is probably a big help. (How I wish I had had a laptop and OneNote in high school/college!)

In addition, it’s probably that he will be writing and submitting some assignments using other MS products, wouldn’t you think? Most students write in either Word, Pages (Mac OS) or Google Docs. OneNote at least has an advantage for consistent formatting and data handling in and out of Word, Excel and other MS Office programs.


Posted by Donovan
Jun 4, 2016 at 07:27 PM


I try everything. I absolutely love a couple of the outliners we talk about around here. However, I have read several studies that show students retain far more information in the classroom if they use a notebook and pen. If necessary, scan it into OneNote later and it’s searchable. There’s something about the act of actually taking the notes by hand and not dealing with any tech during the lessons that allow for better learning (according to many).

If your son goes the software route, OneNote is hard to beat for his note-taking purposes. In fact, in my opinion, it’s one of Microsoft’s finest software products. Talking to other instructors, many students seem to prefer taking class notes with notepad (or similar) and then copy/paste, organize it at another time. I would also *highly* recommend DropBox using the local DB folder on the laptop for everything class-related and allow it to instant sync anytime it’s connected via WiFi. Things don’t get lost and it’s always in the cloud if something were to happen locally.

Good luck to your son on his big step forward in high school!


Posted by Jeffery Smith
Jun 5, 2016 at 02:51 AM


While the praise about OneNote makes me think I should look at it again, I really didn’t like the interface and feel of it. I only use the Mac version of Scrivener, but cannot fault it in any way. Your son might want to look at some tutorials online. In the DOS world, my entire life was in outliners (GrandView and MaxThink). If he can find a copy of Ecco Pro, I would recommend it.

On the topic of using a computer in class to take notes, some of my students end up on the Internet, much to their detriment. That alone pushes me to recommend a standalone notetaker rather than a web-based one. Please have him look at Scrivener (kudos to the earlier poster for the recommendation).


Posted by Lawrence Osborn
Jun 5, 2016 at 05:17 AM


I’m inclined to agree with the contributors who have suggested that pen and paper is still the best way to take notes during a lecture. The process of writing them up on the computer afterwards is a valuable first stage of revision which will help to reinforce the lecture.

I don’t particularly like Onenote, but as others have pointed out it is part of the Microsoft Office package and works nicely with Word etc. Scrivener is an interesting suggestion: I like it as a writing environment, but I think its lack of good search facilities would limit its use as a notes database. ConnectedText is an obvious (if heavyweight) option – if I had to choose from among the programs currently on the market that’s the one I would go for. But my preferred option is still Idealist. It is a standalone free-form text database that uses a classic index card metaphor for individual entries. Originally developed by the computing division of the publishing company Blackwell in the 1990s, it still works well today (even in a 64-bit Windows 10 environment). It is easily the most reliable piece of software I have ever used (and I have been using version 3 since 1998); it indexes all entries and searches very rapidly; it also allows you alter the database structure on the fly. The main disadvantages are that it is plain text (which is not necessarily a disadvantage) and it is limited to the ANSI character set.


Posted by Slartibartfarst
Jun 5, 2016 at 08:20 AM


Lots of talk about OneNote in this thread.
I don’t particularly “like” OneNote either, and still rather dislike it.
For the purposes of taking notes and having that act reinforce one’s comprehension and retention, the pen/pencil and paper method would seem to have been established as the best notetaking method (according to recent research over the last few years, at any rate). I have used it thus and still do. I won’t go into a tiresome repetition of the pros and cons of manual notetaking here.

However, notetaking is only a first step in taking one’s learning into a knowledge repository, and for that there is a tool that, from my experience of an approx. 8-year experiment (can be had for approx. US$10 outlay) seems to blow the socks off anything else (including Scrivener, which I also use).

From a separate discussion thread on this forum: http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/6474/5
I should perhaps point out here ... what I describe as my “21st century Zettelkasten” (Refer: Microsoft OneNote - how to make it your 21st century Zettelkasten PIM. - https://www.donationcoder.com/forum/index.php?topic=31755.msg393032#msg393032).

I would suggest that the thing to do here is draw a clear distinction between:
(a) taking notes, and
(b) incorporating one’s notes into a KM (Knowledge Management) system.

As a lecturer and IT techo from way back and as a concerned parent, I would have to say that, if one is NOT teaching one’s children to use efficient and effective note-taking and knowledge capture methods, including what would objectively and experientially seem to currently be the most flexible note book and KM tool on the planet, then one is arguably failing in one’s duty as a parent.
For this reason, I have taught my youngest (14½ y/o) daughter how to use MS OneNote and some of the other tools it integrates with in MS Office - including, for example, Publisher, Excel, and Word. (The ability to perform data analysis and documentation/communication of results and knowledge is increasingly important in this day and age.)
She has also learned how to capture information via Office Lens on her Windows 10 Nokia Lumia smartphone (given to her by her older brother, who is an IT network engineer).

Generally speaking, in advocating tools and methods for my children to use to assist their education, I try to avoid experimenting with their futures in my ignorance.


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