Aubrey Portwood

Love Analog; Paper vs. Computer Note Taking

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Notebook vs. Computers, Paper vs. Digital.

Sometimes I wonder why I still use paper to take notes. I have played with the idea of using my computer (laptop) strictly, but I always end up with the paper again. Sometimes, it’s just that feel of writing over typing, sometimes the actual texture makes me feel better. I know one big reason I don’t use my computer strictly is simply mobility. Yeah, I have a netbook with 5+ hours, but I do run out of battery. Plus, have you ever tried to take notes outside in the sun, wait for your computer boot up when you need to take a quick note, or have to fiddle-faddle to get it out of your bag?

Yet, I do most of my writing and blogging on the computer. I wonder, would I write them instead if I could? Maybe! It would certainty be cool if I was penning this one out on a piece of paper and it somehow magically appeared on my screen!

But, really, it’s a battle between the pros of digitization vs. the comfort of analog note taking. Think about all the information on your computer, given you have collected as much as me over time. It’s stock full of useful information; and it’s all right there in that little computer of yours. Then, when you want that information, it’s right there! But, thinking about it, I rarely go back to that old information. I guess I just have this idea in my head that I am, but really I don’t (or, haven’t really). Usually all the things I write and create are used once, then they’re gone, I don’t need them anymore.

But, it’s always nice to have the backup -the memory- of something you did, wrote, or created on that little hard drive. Where at any second you can just move or copy that information around all you want…if you need to.

Do what feels right.

I love to use the computer, and in my OCD brain I would like to just use it for everything. And, relatively, I do. Even the notes I take on a white board or in a notebook end up scanned and on some digital hardware. But, I used to stress about where to take notes. And so, for those other OCD people out there, I have a principle: do what feels right first. So, take a note on a notebook, on a post-it, in pen, pencil, written in elvish; whatever! If you don’t do what feels right, you are going to spend too much time deciding what to do. Use whatever is comfortable and appropriate, go with the feeling. Then, because the digital world is so awesome, scan it and store it on your computer (like I do).

Sure, you won’t be able to search through it or program shell-scripts to do regular expression matches. Yeah, you’ll have flat images without any text to copy and paste from. Yeah, you won’t have digital versions of everything at your programmer-brained disposal…but I never ended up having to do that anyways, no matter how much I see myself doing it in the future.

Just in case is not an excuse to stress over the medium you use to take notes, plan or just doodle ideas. Just do it…quit being unproductive! Then, once you’ve done it, worry about where it ends up.