Re: Taking College Notes with OS X?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by Santeh, Jun 21, 2005.

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  1. Santeh macrumors member

    May 7, 2005
    Hello all,

    I have, on occassion, noted people mentioning they are taking their college lecture and lab. notes on their laptops. As it turns out I am getting ready to return to college and the idea of taking paperless notes, especially adding the ability to cross reference the notes automatically via a computer, is quite alluring. I did some looking for software that might allow me to do this with OS X, but did not see much. I was wondering if anyone has had experience using their Apple laptop to take notes and, if so, what program(s) was/were used to take the notes?

    Also, I know that the Windows world has tablet computers that allow one to take free form notes by hand, which is also alluring as I am in need of being able to take notes that include mathematical and scientific symbols and formulae, which I do not see being able to take via the non-digitized Apple laptop screens. Any suggestions? I would very much like to return to the Apple world and its OS, thus if I can avoid a Windows based tablet computer I would prefer it. Of course an Apple tablet computer would certainly suit my needs! :)

    Thank you for the help and advice.


  2. friarbayliff macrumors regular

    Jul 20, 2004
    MN / IN
    Taking notes on my powerbook is great - there's only a couple hitches:

    1. Laptop computer = distraction. I don't know how many times I found myself browsing the internet instead of taking notes.
    2. Some professors frown on people who have computers out in class (see 1)
    3. Paper notes, from a psychological standpoint, seem to make some people remember the material better.
    4. I've found that people are far more likely to have a hard drive failure (without backups) than actually lose their paper notes.
    5. Some profs whip through material - and unless you type at about 120wpm, it's not likely that you're going to be able to pound out nicely formatted notes in that amount of time.

    It might depend heavily on your class schedule. I know I had two classes this semester where 90% of the notes were online, available in PDF - it was much easier to just download the documents and make small notes on them using my laptop.
  3. hodgjy macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2005
    Word 2004 has a notebook layout that people like to use for note taking.

    I do better with hand-written notes myself, but in the past I used to scan my notebooks into my computer for a soft copy of them. Then all I had to do was take my laptop to the library to study.

    Another problem with laptop notetaking is battery life. Unless you can plug in or have an extra battery, you probably won't be able to take notes all day on your computer.
  4. michaelrjohnson macrumors 68020

    Aug 9, 2000
    Exactly my thoughts.
  5. 7on macrumors 601


    Nov 9, 2003
    Dress Rosa
    Well, I haven't had many classes over 3 hours, and sensible people don't take classes back to back.

    I took notes in Word X, worked out pretty well.
  6. mus0r macrumors regular


    Mar 27, 2005
    I took 3 2-to-3 hour long classes back to back using my AlumBook. No problem here. I just graduated and I think I would have done far worse without my notebook. When I got a PDA it was even easier, since I could keep reminders and stuff on it without having to fire up the Powerbook all the time.
  7. Daveway macrumors 68040


    Jul 10, 2004
    New Orleans / Lafayette, La
    Look into a program called Notebook from Circus Ponies. They advertise on YML a lot.
  8. Mitthrawnuruodo Moderator emeritus


    Mar 10, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
    I've taken all my College/University class notes with TextWrangler (or SubEthaEdit). Some times even in back-to-back classes for 6 hours (i.e. 3 double hours) which is just barely possible with my iBook, and probably will not work now that it's more than a year and a half old. So, normally I would also surf wirelessly between classes and during very boring lectures, thus normally needing to charge it after about 4 hours. Luckily power are easily accessible all over both Bergen University College and Bergen University, also in most lecture rooms. :cool:
  9. fitinferno macrumors 6502

    Apr 7, 2005
    London, UK
    I see most people have answered the other part of the question really well. But it seems this part has not been addressed too much.

    I love to take notes on my PB and came across this problem when I had my stats class. My best suggestion is do not get a windows tablet pc. Firstly, it's Windows. But secondly, you might wind up being unhappy when you wind up having to write everything instead of being able to type (assuming you might be looking into ones w/o a keyboard). If at all possible, develop a shorthand for the mathematical symbols. That way, you can type just as fast and normal and still get the math stuff. Then after class when reviewing your notes, if you are really motivated, you can just insert the symbols. Also, many of them are accessible via the alt option key. If you can just learn which keys go with which symbols based on the ones you use most, that might work out as well.
  10. Leeloo the 5th macrumors member

    Leeloo the 5th

    Apr 17, 2005
    Heh, this post made me smile, shows the differences between educational systems in different countries.
    At university, I usually had two classes of two hours in the morning, from 8 till noon, then lunchbreak and then some more in the afternoon. Only in the last year was it different, I only had like 8 or 10 hours of class a week and spent the rest of the time in the lab doing research for my thesis. And you can't choose your schedule. In my last year I had two classes that were given at the exact same time and day, so I already had very few classes, and I couldn't even go to all of them without cloning myself. I complained loudly, but they couldn't change it anymore.
  11. Santeh thread starter macrumors member

    May 7, 2005
    Re: Thanks

    Hello all,

    Thank you for all of the replies! I appreciate them!

    My current thoughts are that, while I like tablet PCs and do not mind writing via the stylus instead of typing, I am a bit leary about going back to Windows as I have not had a lot of luck with its various operating systems. As such I would like to move back to the Mac OS and am leaning towards an iBook (I would love a Powerbook, but I need the additional funds it would cost for a desktop). As such with the iBook I can try taking notes on it and just see how it goes! If I do not like it, or have courses I am not allowed to use the iBook with, I can always go back to paper.

    Thanks all!


  12. kant macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2004
    Office 2004

    One thing nobody has mentioned is the audio feature in Office 2004. I haven't had the opportunity to try it yet but it looks promising. Connect a mic to the system and use word in its notebook view and it will time-stamp and key your entries to the audio. Later you can be looking your notes over and bring up the portion of the audio that was recording while you were typing any particular line.
  13. bluemouse macrumors member

    May 1, 2005
    Fairfax, VA
    Holy crap, thank you so much. I had absolutely no idea that Word had this feature! I've been using a normal Word document and a separate audio program. This is about 300 times easier.

    As for taking notes in class, I can't stand to do it on paper anymore. I do everything with my 12" Powerbook. I just love having the ability to Spotlight all my notes for exams. I'm a history/religious studies double major, so I can't speak for how well it handles math symbols. But I can tell you that spellcheck doesn't like Sanskrit. :p

  14. eva01 macrumors 601


    Feb 22, 2005
    Gah! Plymouth
    i love taking notes on my laptop its all i do, since my handwriting sucks and i can't read it :/ (worse than the Drs. in the hospital, so it will be perfect for me when i get out of med school)

    I always end up using outline mode on word since i can't find how to have an outline mode on pages.
  15. kant macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2004
    I'm anxiously awaiting a chance to use it. :)
  16. vtprinz macrumors 6502

    Nov 30, 2004
    I've been taking notes with word on my ibook for two years at Va Tech, using it even through physics. All of your math symbols can be hot-keyed, so it's just a matter of memorizing where you've assigned each symbol to. It takes a bit of getting used to but it's really not hard to do mathematical notes in word. I even got to the point where I could do rudimentary diagrams and graphs using Word's draw tool and lines/arrows right in the same page as my text notes. Just don't get caught up on trying to make it neat or make sure it's all spelled correctly during class. You'll get behind. Worry about all that when you get home.

    I tried for a brief time to take organic chemistry notes on my ibook, but was quickly overwhelmed at trying to do chemical structures and had to switch to paper.

    As someone above said, if your professor posts his notes online via pdf or powerpoint files, you can just cut and paste the text into a word document and add whatever you need to during the class.

    Speaking of which: does anyone know of a program that will let me type/draw directly onto a pdf file? The biggest thing that I liked about tablet pc's was that you could write notes or drawings directly on top of pdf files, rather than having to copy the text + images into word
  17. Linkjeniero macrumors 6502

    Jan 6, 2005
    First of all, stay away from those tablet things. They take away the biggest advantage the computer can offer you: typing speed. You need to learn to write in LaTeX. It's a bit difficult at first (when compared to Office and other programs like it), but once you learn it, you won't be using anything else, ever. It's a language specially made for typing mathematical formulae, and requires very little effort to produce gorgeous documents (that can be easily cross-referenced; or better yet, you can put each class into a different document, and then make a wrapper one that contains them all). The best part is that if you want, you can do EVERYTHING just by typing; no need for extra buttons, equation editors, and other stuff that only slows you down (wich is great for taking fast notes). I recommend you the front-end TeXShop. Sadly, I haven't been able to use my PB for taking notes in classes, because they are too drawing-heavy to be using LaTeX :(... I have to stick to paper for now.
    If you want to give it a shot, I recommend you to use the following document:
    The not so short introduction to LaTeX2e
  18. JDOG_ macrumors 6502a


    Nov 19, 2003
    Meh, I stuck with notebooks (the paper kind) for four years and it worked out fine for me man. Unless you're going to a school that does that, you'll probably look pretty out of place and people will probably get agitated at the sound of your keystrokes compared to pens & pencils (especially the professor).

    You can also drop/spill on/step on/sit on/lose a paper notebook with more dignity.
  19. leftbanke7 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 4, 2004
    West Valley City, Utah
    I only have taken one class where note taking on my PB would have been impossible (the professor talked 10 billion miles per hour). I have yet to have any problem with any of my professors concerning my tippity-tappity when note taking. I also go to a pretty computer friendly school as well. As for what program to use, I just use AppleWorks. It does everything I need it to do and have had no problems with it.
  20. eva01 macrumors 601


    Feb 22, 2005
    Gah! Plymouth
    Wow that would have been the best class for me to take notes in on my computer, because i type too damn fast.
  21. kewpid macrumors regular

    Apr 17, 2003
  22. mus0r macrumors regular


    Mar 27, 2005

    That's actually not a bad idea. I had only used it once, and I hadn't used it until my last semester of college. That is probably a good app to use if you don't have to do anything fancy.
  23. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    I wonder if you could hook up an iSight to a notebook and use that to record lectures (audio/video). Is the iSight capable of enough resolution that this might be useful at all? (I just graduated from Georgia Tech, so it wouldn't be useful to me, but perhapst to the original poster it could work.)
  24. techgeek macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2004

    I can recommend NoteTaker from AquaMinds
    You can type notes, record audio, insert pictures and video even put in handwritten notes/drawing if you have something like a Wacom tablet.
    The best bit though is the auto indexing features. It will generate indexes based on letters, word, URL's and email adresses.
    I haven't used it for notes in class (been a long time since I was in class) but I use it all the time as a general note book.
  25. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 17, 2002
    Bay of Fundy

    I use Omnioutliner too, it's PERFECT for notes in lecture. it doesn't use almost any resources, so it's great for battery life, and it organizes things in a logical fashion, and has extras like export to keynote presentation which come in handy sometimes. 100% recommend, especally since it was free with my powerbook :D
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