Taking Notes in Meetings with Ghostwriter and Evernote

I have pretty much made the switch to being paperless.  I had read a great book, titled Paperless by David Sparks over at Mac Sparky and one of the hosts of the podcast Mac Power Users.  Great podcast… a friend of mine called it “mac porn”.  Anyway, it has gotten to where I don’t even carry a pen with me anymore.  I used to carry notebooks and journals of various types and print outs of PDF files (that’s another post) along with a large laptop (pre Mac days) and was still no more efficient than without them.  I just had more stuff.

So I’ve switched over to a Mac and use a couple of apps as this post shows.  And for a while I was obsessed with handwriting apps.  I tried nearly all of them.  I didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles, just a solid product that did a couple of things.

  1. link with Evernote
  2. import an image/pdf with minimal effort
  3. have a zoom capability for better handwriting

I settled on Ghostwriter .  There are apps with better ink, or that have fancier paper, or better looking interfaces, or such, but I kept coming back to Ghostwriter over and over.  This is a solid B+ app for me with all other apps a C.

I soon found myself handwriting everything and eventually discovered that this was an impediment for my workflows as I would have to transcribe some of my notes, taking time, and so forth.  So I bit the bullet and started typing with the screen.  I recommend getting used to the ‘hunt and peck’ method of typing on the virtual iOS screen instead of the ‘typist’ style.  With practice I get better.   As I have a note to take I will pop out my Evernote and type out something, or if in a rush or while driving, I’ll record it.  I’ve used Siri to transcribe things, but this just isn’t useful if I am in a hurry as I just want to get the info down now.

But there are times when I still need to handwrite.  David Sparks made this point quite well in MPU episode 100 in that some people are put off by someone typing in a meeting, but are not bothered by someone handwriting.  I’ve found this to be true in some instances.  However there is another reason why handwriting is better, and that is I must use more of my attention in listening when engaged in a psychological mode where I have to pay attention to little details of a person’s body language, emotional expressions, words, etc…

Here is a screenshot of a note taken in GhostWriter.

screenshot ghostwriter


Once I link my GhostWriter app to my Evernote app I can export the note as a JPG and I can select whichever folder I want within Evernote.  This is better than some apps where one has to email it to your Evernote, a big pain.

Once it is in Evernote it looks like this:


What is nice about Evernote is that I can import PDF files and that Evernote has OCR capabilities.  With handwritten notes, however, one needs to have them in an image formate and not PDF.  This is pretty nifty, because not only can I search for text within my handwritten notes (supposing I write halfway neatly), but also, and here is something I really love… I can search any handwritten note inside of an image file.

Like this:

This is a screenshot of a philosophy class.  I typed in ‘Descartes’ and you can see that it shows up in the image.  This isn’t perfect, there are errors, but it is pretty nifty.  And since this is an image that I’ve imported into an Evernote file, I can also sit down after the class with these images (straight from my iPhone) and type out some thoughts on my Macbook Pro.  If I wanted to I could also record audio as part of this note.  And, this is pretty damn cool, I can share this notebook with other people, say some other philosophy students (granted they have Premium accounts in Evernote) where they can add/alter notes.


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