Friday, 5 October 2012

Using the seven inch tablet as a note taker

As anyone following this thread will know I bought myself a no name seven inch android tablet and keyboard combo as a note taker for work.

I've had a long hunt for suitable tools over the years, and until I tried the tablet and keyboard combo the most effective and portable solution I found was a  palm pilot and keyboard combo back in 2003. Everything else in the intervening years has either been too heavy, had poor battery life or some combination of the two. I also find typing on glass keyboards on tablets a frustrating experience for extensive note taking.

The original use case was that the reasonably long battery life and use of a keyboard would allow me to take notes in meetings and either put them straight into dropbox or evernote.

The long battery life is a definite plus - making it more usable than a netbook - basically I charge it using the car charger when I drive in to work and away on the way home and that gives me adequate power for a working day unless it's one dominated by seminars or workshops where I find myself taking lots of notes.

It also of course lets me check email, twitter, and send me calendar reminders etc.

Basically it works, and definitely improves my effectiveness.

However the actual use pattern  has turned out to be not quite what I expected.

Originally I thought I would use epistle - a simple text editor and save the files to dropbox to be cleaned up a later date.

In fact (having tried ted and rejected it due to its poor export capabilities) I found myself going back to textedit to take notes and then mailing the files to myself as a more effective method.

I found I was more likely to put the effort into cleaning things up if the files were in my mailbox. (I'm not an inbox zero person, but I've evolved my own technique that has the same effect using gmail's starring and labelling).

Once I've got the file in my inbox I cut and paste the text into an empty libre office document, spell check it, tidy up the text and the document structure, and once I'm happy with it put it into evernote as a pdf. If I want to keep the original Libre Office document - for example to reuse the text - I save that to Dropbox

Spellchecking is important - unlike say my original Asus netbook the keyboard has genuinely small keys close together. It also suffers from keybounce or even misses characters - basically a better keyboard would improve matters.

The small keys are also a problem. Having large european male fingers I find myself sympathising with the late Steve Jobs over the need to file down my digits to type effectively.  J, who has small hands and doesn't suffer the key mistrike problem, or indeed hitting two keys at once.

I am however getting better - practice helps.

So, in conclusion,

  • the long battery life and lighter weight makes it preferable to a netbook in the same form factor
  • concentrating on just being a note taker is less distracting in meetings
  • you need to be disciplined - notes do need to be cleaned up later
  • a netbook or ultrabook is still preferable for trips away due to its versatility

Would I recommend it ? yes, but be realistic, it's a tool, not a transforming experience ...

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