Digital Notetaking summary

My wife is interested in using notetaking more this year. I know that if I explain NoteTaking to her, it will be disorganized, incoherent.

I’m looking for two types of good summary article

  • Outlines the basics of modern linked notetaking without an adherence to BASB, MoC, Zettelkasten (my gateway)
  • a comparison of the major cross platform tools (iPhone + Windows user) - I assume she needs to see at least: Evernote, OneNote, Craft and maybe Obsidian.

FWIW She will never use Obsidian (aesthetics and the madness of the plugin world).

Where would you point her to read?

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Notes by hand writing or notes by typing?


Typed most of the time

What purpose(s) is she putting these new notes to because different ones require different formats. Making a quick reminder note is not the same as lectures notes (whether taken or given). If the notes are more reminders than academic then pretty much any note app will probably surfice be that Apple Notes, Obsidian, Scrivener, even a word processor. However if they are lecture/sermon/presentation notes then the requirement for an app are more demanding.

Also what platform(s) is your wife going to use? Are the notes to be taken on one device but view another one? Taking l/s/p notes on an iPad or laptop is workable but not on an iPhone! Yet the iPhone would be adequate for “reminders”.


In all my digging into note-taking apps, I have not run across what you are asking for in a nice neat package. You could comb the Mac Power Users forum for the last two years using the search terms you mentioned in your post and get a pretty good article out of it. :slightly_smiling_face: Many of us have been on this quest for quite awhile but the results have not shaken out yet.

Still, the Sweet Setup writes some good articles on this topic, just not as fully targeted and summarized as you might like:



Hands down. You can stop reading now and thank me later


Does she want something that she can build into her personal system? Or something that she figure out the basics in an hour and start using?

If the latter (& I know I’m going to get flamed) do let her play with Evernote. It has the best web clipper I’ve ever used and you can organize your notes with folders & tags or can just throw things into it and find them quickly with search. I used it for several years but now use Google Drive/Keep/Docs to do the same thing, EXCEPT for the web clipper, I still miss that.

And while I’ve never used it @NiKoBeaR 's suggestion of UpNote does look interesting.

Why does her method of notetaking need to change?

Note-Taking overview articles never mention it, but is cross-platform (iOS, macOS, and PC); has a nice, straightforward UI; can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it; and is dead simple to get stuff into and out of.

I use it in conjunction with Obsidian because it’s much, much better on iOS devices. It’s not as powerful as Obsidian + plugins, but it’s solid.

ETA: It turns out that the Zapier blog included in its The 5 best note taking apps for Mac in 2022 post.


First, I would want to know what kind of notes she is taking (From reading? Print or digutsl? From audio/video or live sessions?), and for what purpose? Howshe she expect to use the notes?

I always found Sönnke Arhens book helpful:


If your relationship is going to last, Mark, then you must offer - at the very least - to listen to your wife as she verbalises her thoughts out loud, transcribing them as she speaks, then carefully summarise them afterwards.

Notetaking is one of the 5 love languages.


Many to reply to, I will do my best to catch all. I don’t @ mention you, it’s human error.

@karlnyhus I’m naively hopeful that this group already knows of a good summary that I don’t.

@NiKoBeaR recommending tools - it’s too early. In any case she will be much happier if she chooses of her own accord and not based on my opinion.

@WayneG I don’t think she yet realizes that people have personal systems. She just knows she wants to be find her notes again faster. She marvels at what I do with Obsidian/DevonThink even though both tools aren’t of interest to her.

@wweber She reads a lot of books and articles. She remembers most things that matter from them. However she hears of people gaining benefits from notetaking tools and wants to join their ranks.

@krocnyc too early for tools, if I go there we’re in divorce terrority.

@Medievalist Notes from reading, physical books and online articles. She does something with physical books that makes me cringe - she makes notes in the margins.

@svsmailus Sonnke’s book was my gateway drug to this arcane world. The downside, it’s long and at least in the first edition believed that the system centred on arcane numbering/branching scheme. I was somehow hoping for an article that had a shorter, less dogmatic version of that book. The two things I got out of Zettelkasten in general atomic notes, interconnected.

@Clarke_Ching you’re a genius. I should cease this silly exercise and become a scribe.

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Tell her to try UpNote. It’s the underdog of the entire group and no one knows about it. I was in the same boat and My wife tried all of the alternatives and chose UpNote after looking at the alternatives. She liked Notion too but it was too much work

Maybe just the first few chapters of Sönke Ahrens’ book or an online summary?

I do this all the time! Doing this helps me remember things as I’m reading.

And I don’t need any fancy system to link the notes to the source.

Retrieval on the other hand …



With an electronic note taking application she can continue to do that … sorta … and not make you cringe. Take a photo of the page save it in the chosen note taking program and add her notes in the same place. I do this but also use the OCR feature within macOS, iOS and iPadOS to extract the text and then add my notes to the now retrievable text.

I’m only teasing about the cringe. It works for her. Not me. With physical books I write on index cards. Slow and laborious.

At the risk of prompting much wailing and gnashing of teeth, my digital note-taking journey began with Microsoft OneNote and it served me well. I didn’t even know that “digital note-taking” was what I was doing - for me I was simply mimicking the paper notebooks I already used. The good thing about OneNote for a beginner is that the structure is already there and familiar to users of real notebooks, and its use can change as you grow.

Originally I literally just clicked anywhere on a page and typed in short fragments I wanted to remember (e.g. passcode to printer, in ye olden days of office life, a sentence that was very useful for copying and pasting, a few short notes on a meeting, etc.). Over time that then developed into seperate notebooks and proper digital note-taking.

Whilst I recommend OneNote as a good gateway drug, I do assume that the individual already uses a paper notebook in some capacity, and thus already has use cases for a digital notebook. OneNote makes no sense if you’re not used to writing in a real notebook (I know because I foolishly tried to get colleagues to embrace it :joy:).

Although we all know lots of great apps, most of them simply aren’t suitable for a beginner who has no frame of reference or workflow to follow yet.


I used to do that when I still bought books. It was like having a conversation with the book. For those who don’t want to write in books (or for borrowed books), I saw this neat system of highlighter tape and post-it notes.

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