While this blog is focused on my journey towards financial independence and early retirement, I’d also like to use it as an avenue to share any useful tips that I can. With that being said, I’d like to introduce to you today an amazingly useful app called LectureNotes (Android). (No one’s paying me to say this)
As an architect, I constantly find myself needing to take notes down and do sketches. Many of these also need to be distributed to various parties. For some people, they find they can bring a laptop to a meeting and type notes out as things happen. Personally, I’ve tried this a couple of times and found that I can barely recall what happened and I’m sure this is attributed to one of those studies that supports handwriting as a way of mental reinforcement for learning and memory. However, with the amount of sketches and notes I take throughout the day, I’ve seen how I can go through a number of notebooks or sketchbooks very quickly to the point that I don’t care about the quality of the notebook since I know I’ll be moving onto another within some time.
So with that, I thought I’d try going paperless(ish) with my note-taking and sketching and here’s where LectureNotes comes in.
To simplify it down, this is basically a note-taking app. You take your tablet or phone (with or without a stylus) and use the app to help you take notes and record information.
Here’s a couple examples of what I use it for:
- Taking notes over my typed notes. Every week, I have meetings where we run through the meeting minutes from the previous week. I import those meeting minutes into a new note book, and take notes over those. After the meeting is over, I export the notebook to PDF and share it with my colleagues.
- Photo notes/sketches at the construction site. This app allows me the luxury of taking photos with the app and sketching over them. Lugging around my tablet can be troublesome sometimes, though, so I also have the app installed on my phone and use it to simply take photos of things on site, add a quick text note (typing’s faster for me than writing), and I can, again, export everything to distribute to the relevant parties.
3. Sketching. I will admit that in terms of producing actual artwork, I am sure there are tons of other apps that do a better job, but for me, this app works for my simple needs.
Looking at the above, you’re probably now wondering, “I can do that with other apps, too. What makes this app so special?” Well, before I say why it’s special, I’ll start by saying that, of course, it does the same crap as all of those other note-taking apps like SNote and others that I’ve tested out and since forgotten the names of: you can write notes with your stylus, import and mark up PDFs/JPEGS (and export them), use different colors, and organize all of your files by name or throw them into folders.
The only thing is that this app does all of those things and more.
So here are the things that it bundles together that I find incredibly useful:
- For those with a Samsung tablet, this app allows you to program that little button on your stylus to do things. For me, 1 click means the pen switches to an assigned pen (highlighter in my case), and 2 clicks means that it turns into a lasso tool (amazingly useful when taking notes and reorganizing things) . I have no idea why the default Samsung note-taking app SNote didn’t come with this seemingly basic function since their hardware has the button right there.
- Customizable interface. This is a bit of a double-edged sword as some people will take one look at the settings and freak out. That being said, however, once you take the time to set everything up, you’ll have the app working for you. You can customize what 1 finger will do (eg pan, or erase), what 2 fingers will do (eg pan, zoom, etc.), which icons you want to show up in your toolbar, default “new file” settings, export/import settings, layers, etc.
- Customizable pen table. As someone who is very graphically-oriented, I like to take notes with colors and highlight things. When I tried out other apps, I found myself having to change pen settings (color, thickness, opacity, etc.) every time I wanted to use a different color. With this app, the pen table allows me to have about 18 saved, customized pens. I have 6 of them as fat highlighters, 6 of them as thin highlighters, 2 for different sized erasers for controlled erasing (when my finger is too fat), and a couple more to change when I need specific colors. As an architect who is always sketching things in similar contexts (e.g. concrete slabs, turfing/grass, wood details, etc.), having a grey, brown, and green highlighter come in handy to produce fast sketches that more easily communicate what I want to show.
- There’s more, but I’ll leave the last point as the fact that the developers actually respond to questions very quickly. Over the last two years that I have been using this app, I have had a couple of questions, all of which the developers have responded to via e-mail very quickly. They are continually improving the app and to me, that definitely counts for something.
When I wanted to try note-taking via a tablet, I borrowed a friend’s old tablet that had a stylus, and installed a couple of different apps. This app has a trial version which, if my memory serves me correctly, allows you to have full functionality of the app with a maximum of 3 notebook files (with no time limit either, I believe). This is more than enough to try out the app, and once you decide that it’s as good as I say it is, you can buy the full version. I’m like the next guy who typically only uses free apps, but the productivity I’ve gained from the small amount of money spent on this app has been WELL WORTH the price. Now that I think of it, this is probably the only app I have ever purchased. (*edit: I’d also like to add that I’ve been happily using this app since 2014 or so.)
I am also aware that there are other digitalized note taking devices out there like the Wacom Bamboo or those smart pens, but in the endI felt the tablet works particularly well for me since I also use it to hold all of my construction drawings, code references, and any other soft copies of documents that I need on hand.
If you decide to jump on the wagon, you can start off with this site.
And to close, here’s a couple more sketches to share.