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Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Note-Taking Device For Conferences?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the good-notes dept.

Businesses 300

First time accepted submitter Duncan J Murray writes "I will be attending a 3-day science conference soon, consisting mainly of lectures, and was wondering what people thought would be the ultimate hardware/software combo note-taking device, taking into account keyboard quality, endurance, portability, discretion & future ease-of-reference. Is a notepad and pen still king? What about an Ipad? N900? Psion 5mx? A small Thinkpad X-series? And if so which OS? Would you have a GUI? Which text-editor?"

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Livescribe (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544309)

I think a livescribe pen may be the best choice.

Re:Livescribe (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544331)

Just a pen and paper.

No other device can keep up, and you get bogged down with operating the device, missing key points.
Pocket recorder as backup.

Re:Livescribe (5, Informative)

reason (39714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544397)

Which is why a smartpen like the Livescribe helps. It is just pen and paper to operate, but it lets you upload your notes afterwards, makes them searchable, and records sound to go with your notes in case you do miss anything. Knowing that means you don't have to write every little thing down, but can stick to key points and jump to the relevant part of the audio simply by pointing to the note with your pen on your paper notes, or clicking on the uploaded version on your computer later. It can even automate most of the conversion of written notes to text.

Re:Livescribe (2)

reason (39714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544409)

I should add: The downside of the Livescribe pen for science conferences is that if you have audio recording on all day, the battery is likely to run flat by the end of the day, unless you recharge at lunchtime. The battery is fine if you only want to record written notes, so I tend to switch on audio recording only for the important talks.

No April FOols? (-1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544483)


Where's the April Fool's jokes for today??

Taco leaves...and no more April Fools articles....geez.

I used to look forward to those every year....

What Is the Best Note-Taking Device For Conference (5, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544563)

A: A scribe, held in thrall.

We don't NEED April fools. With the real stories posted today, it's clear that fiction cannot compete in absurdity, shock, disbelief and ultimate dismay.

Re:What Is the Best Note-Taking Device For Confere (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544987)

I use Ibm X servers (X60t) and xournal with stylus for math/equations/drawings, but vim in laptop mode for everything else.

Re:No April FOols? (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544743)

Where's the April Fool's jokes for today??

My late Dad was a big April Fool fan. Every year he'd tie my shoestrings together and stuff paper in my shoes and that was just the beginning. All day, I'd be barraged with one goofy, unfunny joke after another. I thought it was so lame. He was a serious guy, fought in WWI with Merrill's Marauders, decorated, the whole bit. Worked his ass off. Never complained. But on this one day he'd turn into a total goof.

I don't know what made me think of him just now, but for some reason, April Fools Day is one of the days when I miss him most. He was a Dad in full.

OMG Ponies!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544751)

Ponies are the best thing to have at meetings.

Re:No April FOols? (5, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544847)

If it helps, I made up some ridiculous stories to fool your friends with:

Duke Nukem Forever released
most of game involves jokes about Half-Life 2 Ep. 3

Kim Jong Il, Gaddafi Dead
mad, mad world now almost 7% less mad

Apple now biggest computer manufacturer
HP says it never liked PCs anyway

Seal Team Six Kills Osama Bin Laden
then finds, kills Higgs boson

Windows, Ubuntu adopt new kindergarden UI
OS X still ignoring touch revolution

Newt Gingrich Runs For President
convinced he'll find his base among moon-men

Liberals Protesting Unemployment, Poverty
Starbucks shares sharply higher

Steve Jobs Dead
meets with Apple board three days later

My Little Pony Now Cool
teenage boys squee in delight

NASA Ends Space Shuttle program
asks if they can bum a ride with anyone

Re:Livescribe (5, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544415)

Any decent conference makes the proceedings available to attendees, so the notes that you need to take will not be the content of the various lectures.

What you will need to do is make contacts, do a bit of social networking and get to know the other people there (who are presumably in the same field that you are). For that, nothing beats a short written note - technology is far too clunky and it doesn't impress anyone, these days.

Re:Livescribe (1)

reason (39714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544479)

Depends on the field. In my field of science, for instance, most conferences - even the best of them - do not publish full proceedings, only abstracts. Even for those that do publish proceedings, I prefer to take my own notes rather than search through thousands of proceedings papers to find details of a few interesting talks. Often, in any case, speakers will mention things that weren't included in the short conference paper they submitted six months before.

Re:Livescribe (2)

pz (113803) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544865)

Any decent conference makes the proceedings available to attendees, so the notes that you need to take will not be the content of the various lectures.

Two false suppositions in the same statement, I'm afraid. Most conferences don't provide proper proceedings, even very good ones (I run a *very* good conference, and we don't provide a proper proceedings). You're luck if you get a set of abstracts. Abstracts are not full presentations. Proper proceedings, which have fleshed out papers, won't have all of the presentations; hardly ever, at least. Each paper is never a complete encapsulation of the presentation, either since scientists are more likely to say something in a presentation that's an early conclusion, or speculation, or hints of results, than to do the same in a paper as concrete solid results in published work is the rule. Moreover, since the proceedings will invariably be published many months after the conference, you'll have forgotten about the presentations and your questions and thoughts by the time the proceedings comes out.

That said, I agree wholeheartedly that making contacts and networking are very, very important at conferences. Those are the *real* reasons to go.

Finally, to answer the OP's question, pen and paper for note taking.

Re:Livescribe (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544419)

Many people don't understand the value of taking notes during lectures, especially since many of them these days are accompanied by downloadable or hardcopy slide decks which would seem to make the activity superfluous.

The reason physical notetaking works is that it forces the listener to engage the speaker actively rather than passively, and reorganize/rephrase the speaker's material in his/her own mind in real time, with room for possible challenges to the speaker's POV. At least 90 percent of the value of the notes is achieved by the end of the lecture, so if they turned out to be illegible, or the airline loses the bag on the flight home, you still have the overwhelming portion of the value. You've listened well.

Re:Livescribe (2)

am 2k (217885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544459)

Agreed, I used to doze off in lectures, until I started taking notes. Now that keeps me awake all day on conferences.

Re:Livescribe (2)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544425)

Agreed. If a permanent copy is needed it can always be scanned/transcribed later.

I may be a geek that loves tech toys, but it's hard to beat the utility of a dumb ass pen and a big notepad. You want to get fancy? Get a few different color pens.

Re:Livescribe (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544695)

Or just photograph it with a phone.

Re:Livescribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544451)

"Just a pen and paper and clipboard."

Re:Livescribe (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544619)

+1 for the pen and paper. Plus, when you transcribe the notes, you're likely to recall more information and add to the notes in addition to reinforcing the information you've already retained.

Re:Livescribe (1)

knghtrider (685985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544693)

I concur..Pen and Paper, then transcribe your notes to your computer--this way you've went over them twice..and organized them. This helps the memory process.

Re:Livescribe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544757)

"you've went over them" ?
Hmmm, methinks someone did not take notes during English classes.

Re:Livescribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544773)

Or pen and paper in Acecad DigiMemo series. I used to the B5 sized variant for taking notes during lectures in uni extensively for a number of years. It was an old model from '03 or '04 but it did good - only other advice - put number on the pages in advance and check periodically if the number on the page is the same as the number on the device display, saves some unscrambling when you forget to press the key to change the page and write over the digial copy merging both. Note - I never used the OCR software, I only used it to store the notes of letures and make copies for coeds (or I would just leave it with one of them if I wanted to skip class, they would take the notes on it and I would get it at the end of the day or the week, with all notes in it. Pretty cool)

Re:Livescribe (1)

jhecht (143058) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544901)

It depends on your typing speed and the legibility of your handwriting. I can type very fast and my handwriting is awful, so my notetaker of choice is a MacBook Pro running a simple word processor like Nisus Writer express, but any laptop with a physical keyboard (to orient my fingers) would work. Type fast, clean up the spelling mistakes later. Not only can I read my notes, but I have then in digital form for later reference. I'm a reporter and do the same for telephone interviews. One down side is that you can't do graphics and formulas are tough, but I rarely need them. If I did, I would go for a smartphone or compact digital camera with enough zoom and sensitivity to get the needed details -- if the conference allowed photography. Many don't.

Being April 1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544311)

It's hard to beat a pencil and paper.

Re:Being April 1... (1)

danomac (1032160) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544453)

It's hard to beat your brain.

Better to do it while sleeping - pretty good retention in the subconscious. Besides, all that snoring will definitely annoy everyone else there.

Best part is when you wake up, you'll remember everything, and everyone else there will remember the guy who was snoring and nothing else!

Re:Being April 1... (1)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544993)

I find my brain forgets things. Keeping notes (typed of written) allows me to organize my thoughts and retain bits of stuff when I review later.

Tried and True (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544313)

Pen and paper.

Pencil... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544315)

Pencil and Paper :)

yup, notepad + pen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544319)

Especially if you want to jot down graphs or equations, notepad + pen is still king.

Livescribe (1)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544321)

I like to be able to make sketches of interesting material. The diagrams do more for me than the words. The Livescribe pen captures the audio, and can play it back in association with what I was sketching at the time. The portability is great, too.

Re:Livescribe (5, Interesting)

reason (39714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544497)

Two more advantages of a smartpen: 1) it's less distracting for others than a laptop or tablet. Most people just think it's a fountain pen. 2) It's less distracting for me. I can't check my email on it.

macbook air (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544325)

~50% of the people at PyCon 2012 in Santa Clara seemed to have MacBook Airs...

Re:macbook air (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544747)

That's because they are wannabe hipster douches. It's like RubyCon...the only good it does is gather a bunch of them together hoping a terrorist takes them out...

They never do :(

marker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544327)

write it on your arm with a sharpie

Go Low Tech... (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544335)

Does technology *always* provide a better solution? I own an iPad, but really, a yellow pad and a pen and pencil are what I use at meetings and conferences...

Re:Go Low Tech... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544507)

I use the Notability app on my iPad with a Griffin pen. Outstanding notes, freehand, or type. Ability to record audio and keyed to the notes, with ability to email pdfs of the notes, etc. Beats the pants off of yellow pads for my purposes.

Re:Go Low Tech... (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544547)

All of which can be done later because you *ARE GOING* to rewrite and edit your notes unless ego prevents.

Re:Go Low Tech... (1, Redundant)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544635)

This. No charger to worry about, no connectivity issues, no lighting issues, etc.

Although if a PA system is being used, you may want to take a page from the Grateful Dead and ask if you can plug a recorder into the sound board...

re: iPad for notes? (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545005)

I recently purchased a Booqpad case for my new iPad.... Basically, it's a case that holds an iPad-sized pad of paper on the right-hand side when you open it up, and has a place in the middle to hold a pen (or in my case, one of those combo pens and iPad stylus gizmos).

I like the idea that with it, you're bringing both your iPad and good old-fashioned pen/paper with you, so you're ready to use whichever is more appropriate in a given situation. But what would make it much better, IMO, would be a similar case that made it easy to flip the iPad over and take photos of the pages you write on the pad of paper. Then you could use software like Evernote to store a digital version of your scribbles, complete with OCR capabilities.

The old fashioned way (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544337)

Pencil and Paper (if you want to digitize it later, use a sheet fed scanner or just a regular scanner).

Re:The old fashioned way (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544539)

That's barely digitizing. More like analoguizing.

TRS-80 model 100/102 (5, Funny)

Freedom Bug (86180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544339)

keyboard quality: full travel keys
endurance: 8 hours on 4 AA batteries. Replacement batteries are cheap and ubiqutous
discretion: no flip up screen
portability: 3 pounds
future ease-of-reference: plain text files are the easiest to search & archive

Re:TRS-80 model 100/102 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544475)

It also has a 4 line character display and 24KB of RAM

Not that you need a workhorse, but I'm guessing the OP wants something more modern.

All of these answers (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544343)

Get a transformer prime. It can be pretty much whatever you want, and the keyboard is solid, as well as having a USB port if you need something else (could even plug a small wacom tablet if you were that hardcore). Tablet or lap-top, it will do the job.

Bring pen and paper just in case.

Re:All of these answers (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544501)

I find the speed at which you can enter text using Swype on Android is also incredible ... up there with typing for me, although I'm not the greatest typist.

Re:All of these answers (1)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544917)

Utilizing the Evernote app....the Transformer Prime is the only thing I can think of that would be as good as, if not better, than [smart]pen and paper.

A Ticonderoga II and linedPad (3, Insightful)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544345)

I've found the Ticonderoga II and linedPad to be an excellent system for taking conference notes, the graphics, though usually monochrome have had retina capabilities for decades, works with whatever style or language you know and is the envy of everyone else when their batteries fails and you keep writing.

any tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544349)

I have an android tablet with swype keyboard, I then use a mindmap software (mindjet to be exact), it's very cool but you know what, nothing beats paper and pen sometimes.

Video Camera (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544351)

never miss a thing, just setup your phone/camera, hit record and watch the show, if you want to take notes speak into the cameras mic, anything you are not sure about can be rewound and replayed.

a handful of 32/16GB MicroSD cards and you should be set for hours of lectures.

Another vote for pencil and paper (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544355)

I've tried a number of different tablets and none comes close to a legal pad and my trusty Clickster mechanical pencil.

OneNote (5, Informative)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544365)

Microsoft's OneNote is by far the best note-taking program I've ever used.

1. Simple interface with notes divided by notebook, tab, and then sections.

2. Fast, indexed search across all your notes

3. Media-friendly; it's easy to insert hyperlinks, images, etc. and it'll automatically remember the source URL when you copy and paste something.

4. Option to save notebooks to the Microsoft Cloud (Skydrive) and share them with people. Or you can just save and export as HTML, DOC, etc.

5. Built-in audio recorder with speech recognition if you want to record lectures alongside your text notes.

6. Easy content hotkeys -- headers, bullets, stars, question icons, priorities, to-do lists, etc.

7. Support for inking/drawing with a tablet, including handwriting conversion to structured math equations

Etc. It's not free and it's not open source and it doesn't run on Linux, but it's still awesome.

Re:OneNote (5, Interesting)

EvanED (569694) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544447)

I wasn't happy with OneNote on a standard laptop, but I used it for a while with my convertible tablet and it's almost a dream. Seriously, I complain endelessly about virtually every piece of software I use, I use different OSes at work and home in part so that they piss me off in different ways instead of all the same way... and I had virtually no complaints about how OneNote worked. A couple "this would be awesome" feature wishes, but that's different.

So my standard answer to this question is a convertible tablet + OneNote.

Benefits over paper&pencil is shareability, backup-ability, and (surprisingly good!) searchability. Drawbacks are high cost, heavy weight, and you have to deal with battery life.

Re:OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544495)

OneNote is simply the best piece of software Microsoft has ever released. I'd like to know who they bought it from. If you use a convertible notebook with a stylus, it can't be beat.

Re:OneNote (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544689)

Going by Wikipedia, it looks like they developed OneNote in-house and didn't buy it from anyone.

Re:OneNote (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39545007)

OneNote is simply the best piece of software Microsoft has ever released. I'd like to know who they bought it from. If you use a convertible notebook with a stylus, it can't be beat.

I'm glad that they've still got good stuff coming out, but just a historical nitpick: better than Word 5? Or the concurrent version of Excel? If you had used them, you'd know they beat Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect, both of which were excellent pieces of software in their time, on the merits.

Re:OneNote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544579)

I came here to say this...

Re:OneNote (2)

ChronoReverse (858838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544709)

Yeah, OneNote with a TabletPC (wacom style stylus) is by far the best electronic note-taking tool available. It's really second only to paper (and superior in many ways).

Re:OneNote (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544727)

The biggest problem I had with it on an older laptop was that it was sluggish. You need to be running significant hardware to get the thing to start in less than 30 seconds.

Not a popular response but .... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544367)

I have to go with an iPad for the range of options. You can record the audio, film the conference or take handwritten notes. If it's a three day science conference there are likely presentations what would be best filmed, and yes I know they weigh 20lbs+ in some people's eyes butt hey are lighter than your average digital camera and I'm sure a stand could be rigged up to support it.

For other presentations audio recording may be more desirable but other times you may just want to take notes and you'd have that option. Also you may want to check the web for additional information and the iPad is one of my favorite devices for that.

I'm sure there will be mostly Android smart phones being recommended for their size and weight and most of all they aren't Apple but he asked what is the best all around and the iPad fits the question best.

Re:Not a popular response but .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544517)

The problem with this approach is both audio/ video quality and storage capacity for an hour or more at a time. Audio is not easy to get straight in a noisy conference room at all and for the high(er) resolution video, a dedicated video camera with optical zoom and a notebook providing lots of storage might work better (augmented by pen and paper).

skip the conference (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544371)

and hang out at the bar - you'll have a better time

Notepad and pen. (2)

Rob Bos (3399) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544389)

No contest. Theft-resistant, cheap, flexible, light, and did I mention cheap. Having been to many a conference, I've never needed to copy anything out of my paper notepad that would have been significantly easier with a tablet.

YMMV I suppose. If you haven't developed a writing callous, doing anything more than brief point form notes every few minutes will hurt.

Re:Notepad and pen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544499)

I generally agree with this. I also prefer a notepad, and if I need an e-copy of it, I just scan it to either a jpeg or pdf file.

Freemind (1)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544395)

It really depends on your style. It's hard to beat a pen and paper. A friend had a professor who swore that mental stimulation required special rubbing of a couple wrist bones that could only be achieved by sitting down and writing.

For keeping the essence of certain types of meetings, as well as for individual brainstoriming, I've found mindmaps useful. Freemind [] is open-source and quite intuitive so I can keep track of the thread of the meeting and go back and edit it later.

A Recorder (1)

rbrightwell (932570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544441)

Use a recorder and then you can re-listen at the gym or car to get the points you missed.

Old school (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544445)

Pen and paper. Nothing else even comes close.

What problem are you attempting to solve?


Re:Old school (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544597)

The problem is that it would be nice to be able to grep your notes.

it's all between the ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544457)

The best hardware/software combo device is between your ears. If you actually listen to and understand what is being said, you will remember it. If you must, jot down 1-2 keywords when the subject changes (using pen and paper), to remember the previous segment by. Then make a summary afterwards, on your favorite device in your hotel room or whatever.

Re:it's all between the ears (3, Interesting)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544481)

The best hardware/software combo device is between your ears. If you actually listen to and understand what is being said, you will remember it....

This was my method in college, also it didn't hurt to pair up with a dedicated scribe, the kind that wrote everything down, we'd get together after class and I'd explain her notes to her.

Use Your Biggest Sex Organ (1)

walkerp1 (523460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544461)

I don't take notes during meetings. If I can't remember your content immediately afterwards, it doesn't even rate a yellow sticky.

Audio or Video recorder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544477)

Make transcripts later.

An eidetic memory (1)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544493)

What do you mean you don't have one?

A lined spiral bound pad. (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544519)

Never runs out of juice.

Re:A lined spiral bound pad. (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544775)

A lined spiral bound pad. Never runs out of juice.

I've never been able to find the battery compartment on mine, and the manual was woefully lacking.

iPad plus Notability (2, Interesting)

4phun (822581) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544527)

Apple has been equipping their own employees with Notability.

That simple fact caught my attention so I bought a copy for myself.

This app is on a roll with impressive updates.

It features just about everything you can think of for a note taking app. It includes a recorder with time stamps linked to your notes so tap on part of your note and hear what was being said when you created that part. It has support for drawing, neat handwriting, and typed input.

You can add photos on the fly along with web pages, PDFs and other resources.

Export/Import is to BOX or Dropbox among various cloud storage options.

I use it for one to three day conferences and it works like a champ lasting all day long if you turn down the brightness somewhat.

Often the iPad is all I bother to carry while everyone else is totting regular notebooks or paper solutions.

Notability has new support for retina graphics on the 2012 iPad. The ink used for handwriting is very attractive on the new iPad.

I can also let Notability record while I use four fingers to swipe to other apps to look up private data which I can insert after a screen shot or in most cases via a simple copy and paste.


I have tried many other iOS apps to see it they were better but I just keep coming back to Notability.

It just works.

Re:iPad plus Notability (3, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544593)

I'm still disappointed with the quality of the writing available. Unless you prefer to write like a 5 year old with crayons, the iPad interface is just too low resolution (input) to produce useful text with a meaningful/efficient density. I've tried Notability in several meetings, and I find myself grabbing a steno pad or a piece of scrap paper to write down critical information.

Of all the things I wished for this time around on the iPad, it was that it would get a Wacom-type interface with pressure sensitivity and a high resolution digitizer. I might look at the tablet sized Note that's supposed to be released this summer, but with the investment in mobile apps on iOS, I'm not sure it's worth the switch.

iPad and iThoughts app (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544555)

The iThoughts app[1], available for Apple mobile devices, can be used for creating a sort of tree-shaped outline, with optional notes, links, and graphics on each node. iThoughts can export iThoughts maps in a variety of formats - including PDF, PNG+HTML, and some popular Mindmap formats - and supports map imports for those mindmap formats, in the same. As well as its own internal app filesystem, iThoughts can integrate with a variety of cloud storage options, including Dropbox, for cross-platform notes synchronization.

iThoughts is good for making structured notes of (usually) short ideas. For the more verbose ideas, there are a variety of note taking options on the iPad platform, supporting, from the built-in iNotes app on up to word processing with such as the Quickoffice app.


How Quaint (0)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544559)

A real live face to face conference, how 20th century.

Stay home, read the lecture notes and publications online.

Conferences are a huge time suck, rarely (make that pretty much never) a good use of your time, with little to no payback.

Anything worth learning will be in a peer review publication. Either the lecture will rehash the publication, or it will be pre-reviewed info, which means it's pretty much useless.

Re:How Quaint (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544783)

Then you are going to the conferences for the wrong reason. The papers and presentations are only a small portion of the conference. The best reason for going to a conference is to be able to talk with people in your field and outside of your field. The beginnings of many ideas and collaboration efforts stem from people talking at conferences (and the bar after the conference).

The actual presentations are typically used to see what type of work people are doing (or what progress they've made since the last time you talked) and can be used as "ice breakers" for talking to people you don't know yet.

Re:How Quaint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544787)

In my day we actually talked to other people and exchanged idea. We didn't have fancy gadgets to disctact use with games and browsing. We actual thought about the subject of the lecture. If it got boring you had to doodle with your pencil or take a nap. Kids today have no idea...

Re:How Quaint (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544961)

Maybe I'm biased, as I just helped to organize a session & other activities for a conference a week ago, and I'm helping with another one two weeks from now ...

But not all conferences are the same. Yes, there are the ones where it's just people up there talking, and you'd have gotten the same things from a paper ... but for smaller conferences, you can have more of a conversation with the people ... get some time in for Q&A, ask the presenter for clarification or more information. And then there's the collaboration aspects. I've been invited to give lectures because of talking to people at conferences. My only peer-reviewed publication was because of a discussion at a conference until 2am that I ended up writing up. I just gave a talk on something that was basically a summary of a 2hr conversation at a workshop last summer.

And as for everything of importance showing up in peer reviewed publications -- not a chance. There is tons of stuff in some fields that gets shown as slides or presentations and will most likely not be published. Hardly any of the science informatics stuff at the AGU gets formally published ... we're all too busy building systems. Almost all done in posters. And we then have coversations at the posters, over lunch / dinner / drinks, or afterwards over email.

I'm not going to say that all conferences are good ... I've been to some that were downright painful ... so I've learned to avoid those. Well, except for one, where it was their first year, and I took the approach of becoming one of the organizers to make it better.

And if you're relying on peer review, unless you're the reviewer, you're not going to be able to comment until *after* it's published. Which means it's just too late for the really idiotic ones.

That's not to say they're not a time suck ... if you're doing a poster or presentation that could take a week or two (more if you have co-authors). Then there's all of the trip planning ... if you have to do paperwork, and reimbursement once you get back. But the big problem is little sleep, jetlag, plus lots of people in cramped spaces and wanting to shake hands ... and you're just asking for illness. One year I came down with a sore throat, and tried going straight back to work after getting back ... turned out it was bronchitis, and took 2 months to recover.

I've lost 2 months due to brochitis from a trip, and there's the trip planning,

I recommend (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544601)

A court transcriber.

Re:I recommend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544703)

I prefer a hot secretary with trailer-park morals and a bit of naivety when comparing wealth and credit.

3 Ring, Heavy/Bold lined/graph sheet, blank paper (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544623)

This is the way I took notes for my MS work, and it's still my favorite for critical note-taking, short of my custom engineering pads. A thin 3 ring binder, a piece of white cardstock with heavy lines (straight or grid), and a stack of punched 3 hole plain paper. Just slip the lined sheet behind the plain paper as a guide and you get very neat notes which are uncluttered with grid for reproduction or re-copying. I've since made up custom pads with a very light cyan grid which doesn't photocopy which I use for general note taking now.

Re:3 Ring, Heavy/Bold lined/graph sheet, blank pap (1)

gottabeme (590848) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544681)

How do you print your custom pads with the cyan grid?

Printed slides (1)

Misagon (1135) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544631)

If you get access to the slides before the presentation, get them printed and bring the hardcopy to the lecture.
Then write your notes in the margin beside each slide, using a pencil.
Then you don't have to duplicate what is on the slides and you get each of your notes in context.

Emacs and Org mode (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544633)

Get yourself a netbook with Linux and have a look at 'org-mode' for Emacs.

- Text based
- Based on emacs 'outline' mode it is a heirachical note and documentation tool.
- 'Tab' key let you fold sections, so you can easily refer back to something if you need to or use text search.
- .. and so much more..

Also doubles as an agenda and calendering tool.

thinkpad tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544639)

The thinkpad tablet with quill. You can switch easily to evernote and type in there, or write with a stylus. Best.

Pen and Paper (1)

sk999 (846068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544651)

No viruses. No need to upgrade. No backups required. No power-brick or recharging necessary**. Large display with minimal weight. If you start running out of "memory", you can always shrink the font-size to extend its capacity. Works great even if you are stuck in a cramped hotel meeting room. Excellent archival properties.

**Assumes you start out with a fresh pen. Just about any pen will outlast a 3 day conference.

Psion 5mx (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544735)

Best keyboard for a device as little as that. Batteries lasts for a month or so, Bought one off ebay for around 50 USD. Actuallly very good OS (epoc), and you can just use a compact flash for transferring files, I used some kind of txt editor so I could just continue on my notes when I got home. Very special build.

It is also very discrete, when you do not need to use backlight.


In order: Pen & Paper, ... LiveScribe, HTC Fly (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544745)

My solutions, ordered by feasibility, best solution first:

1.) Pen & Paper still rules. You might want to go with technical pencil and a luxury eraser. I have three pens, a Lamy Swift Rollerball ( [] ) with black ink for writing, a clear acrylic Lamy Vista Rollerball with red ink for highlighting and anotations ( [] ) and a black Faber-Castell Grip Plus ( [] ) mechanical pencil for drawings or writing on surfaces where the Swift won't do. All three are nicely tucked away in a premium pen pouch that keeps them from bouncing around in my bag.
I write in a Moleskine or a Leuchtturm notebook ( [] ). I think I can say I prefer Leuchtturm over Moleskine, because Leuchtturm has numbered pages and the quality appears to be even a tad better than a Moleskine. YMMV

2.) Lightscribe solution in conjunction with Evernote or a simular solution. The reason I don't use a smartpen setup (i've looked into various solutions in the past) is, that the pens allways suck. At least in handling. Not worth the trouble.

3.) HTC Flyer Android Tablet with Evernote. The HTC Flyer comes with a pen which is pretty good. And it has a custom built-in evernote solution that enables you to store notes written with the Flyer stylus in evernote and to make annotations on existing notes. And it has a recording function integrated. And quite a bit more. I do recommend getting a protective foil for the screen before you start writing stuff on it, the HTC Flyers stylus has a hard tip and can scratch the display a little.

I'd like to emphasise that, in my experience, solutions 2 & 3 are notably inferior to solution #1, aside from Evernotes capability of backup and audio-recording. But you can use that on top of the pen & paper solution.

Bottom line: Don't fall into a gadget spending binge just because you have a 3-day conference brewing. And if you go with pen & paper, don't pinch. A good pen and a good notebook are what puts the fun in taking notes. And they are still way cheaper than any gadget.

My 2 cents.

The best (5, Funny)

DuranDuran (252246) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544777)

The best note-taking device for conferences is a graduate student. They do good work and only require a modest amount of feeding.

Efika MX smartbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544789)

I used a Genesi Efika MX smartbook at the freescale technology forum for taking notes. It's a nice compact little notebook with a really kick ass keyboard.

Soon? (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544793)

How soon is soon? Better use what you know now rather than try to learn some new gadget on the spot. You'll waste the entire 3 day conference fiddling with it if its new to you.

shorthand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544803)

Any admin I know who knows both shorthand AND computers ends up reverting to shorthand.

Batteries die, tech fails. Pen/pencil and paper rarely break down. If they do, it's a quick fix unlike most tech.

My vote (2)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544831)

Spiral-bound notebook and pen

Scan scribbled notes and diagrams with Evernote afterwards

nothing beats pen and paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39544835)

when it comes to taking notes AND organising the day via a hardcover calendar.
online solutions are simply is not allways the best. Also no battery, no internet, noone will steal it, ...

Zoom H1 HandiRecorder (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544877)

I'd like participants to have some means of recording their own talks,
meetings, etc. - ideally by recording from a radio signal, received by
a small receiver, connected to a Zoom H1 MP3 recorder.

Until the "ideal" comes into existence, I'd like to "wear my H1 out-
side on my jacket/shirt pocket" so I'd -advising- others that I'm re-
cording our conversations, meeting, conference talk, etc. -and-
so I don't record the noise of the H1 brushing against inside poc-
ket-fabric, from the inside.

(I'm also interested in changing laws to allow anyone to record
their own phone calls, so that repetitive, abusive calls can be
documented by evidence-quality recordings; older people can
stay longer in their own homes, if they can record such calls,
as well unexpected visits from would be contractors, et al.,
who use "surprise" to sell more, sometimes fraudulent and/or
low-quality repair / refurbishments or other services - again,
so that someone [almost] cheated by such visitors or callers.)

Depends (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39544943)

Depends on your note taking style. No matter what, I would recommend a audio recording fail safe just in case you miss something or simply mishear it. If allowed.

For when I cover meetings I switch between my tablet and pen/paper as needed. Rarely at the same meeting. Right now, the specific tablet doesn't matter if you are thinking about buying one. They all lack in the stylus department. So unless you are fine writing your notes as if holding a crayon (stylus) or a Crayola Marker (finger) you are best off typing a device or using pen/paper.

A tablet vs laptop depends on the scenario. Length of sessions vs computer battery life. Knee space vs table space. Stuff like that.

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