When it comes to note-taking applications, it’s hard to beat Notability for iPad. It’s the perfect replacement for a moleskine or other paper notebook. Writing on the iPad felt natural to me within just a few minutes, and notability provides the features that help to make the iPad feel close enough to a piece of real note-paper for the whole process to work smoothly. In addition to typical note-taking you can also annotate PDF documents and images, which turns out to be incredibly useful. Meaghan and I signed parts of our mortgage paperwork on our iPads using this technique. No need to print out forms, sign them, and then scan them back in. Just open up the form on the iPad, sign it, and email it back to the sender.
However, taking good notes is just the first step in a strong strategy. Equally as important is ensuring that they are backed up and eventually integrated with your central note repository; in my case Evernote. Fortunately these are easy goals to achieve as Notability supports direct integration with Dropbox and can export notes to Evernote via email.
Once notes are completed, I send them to my Evernote email address and remove them from my iPad notebook. This helps to keep my iPad notebook small and maintains Evernote as the system of record. Evernote provides several advantages as a system of record, most importantly the ability to search the text within images; arguably the most useful way to find information within hand-written notes.
Update (06/09/2012): As Marijane noted, Evernote cannot currently search into the text within images stored inside a PDF. The above screenshot is therefore a little misleading. I will sometimes export as an image instead (allowing Evernote to search within the image) but more often I will export as PDF and add keyword comments to the top of the exported note that I can search into. I’m doing this in the hope that Evernote will eventually add the ability to search text in images inside PDF documents and hence allow my strategy of PDF export to be long-lived.
Step 4: Tag, Index, and Search in Evernote
Leverage the benefits of Evernote to tag, index, and search your notes. It’s much easier than digging through piles of note paper or scanning through a traditional notebook. Additionally your notes are now available on all of your devices; iPad, iPhone, MacBook, and desktop PC. Anywhere you can get access to a web browser you can get access to your notes. I’ve used this in countless places: when opening a new savings account at the bank and needing access to reference information, when buying boxes at Home Depot and referencing a list of how many of each size we need. Ubiquitous access to all of your notes is an amazing thing. It has to be experienced to be truly appreciated.