Whether you’re at an important work meeting, a training session, or a lecture, note-taking is the best way to keep track of everything that’s being said. Plus, the notes you take will serve as a reference document for the future.

But, what happens when the presenter speaks too fast? What if you get a hand cramp in the middle of your note-taking? Unfortunately, your hand-written notes will suffer and can quickly become illegible, unorganized, and unhelpful. Not to mention that your notebook and paper can get mixed up or even lost. 

Luckily, taking notes electronically with a recording app or a computer is much faster and can be more comprehensive than handwriting. There are also a variety of technology solutions that you can choose that will help with editing and organization. The best way to get started is to understand your note-taking style. 

The Best Ways to Take Notes On A Computer 

Where would we be without technology?! One of the best uses for technology is the different options it gives to take notes electronically. To find the best solution for you, try different tools to determine what works best for your learning style and environment. Below we’ve highlighted some of our favorite options for taking notes electronically. 

Tablet and Stylus 

A tablet and high-quality stylus or smartpen is a great way to take notes electronically. We do recommend that if you plan to type long-term with a tablet, you should buy a wireless keyboard. Not only will the tapping on the screen be cumbersome but it could also lead to some spelling mistakes.

A tablet combined with these accessories will give you the same functionality as a laptop or desktop computer. Plus, with a stylus or smartpen, you can even hand write notes directly in a digital format or you can doodle, mind map, or write in cursive. A tablet can really help to take your notes to the next level than other electronic note-taking tools.

Tablets also make it much easier to correct, edit, and organize notes than if you were to note take with a pen and paper. The only downside is the expense needed for some of the accessories. 

Traditional Typing 

One of the best ways to take notes on a computer is to use the traditional Microsoft Word program on your laptop or ultrabook. Simply typing key points and notes requires very little investment. It also creates word documents that are easy to search through for select key phrases when reviewing notes. To find a key phrase, all you have to do is open the Word document and click ctrl + f at the same time. Either a window will pop up or a navigation side pane will open up on the left and you can enter in the words you’re looking for. 

However, even typing can lead to distracted listening and missing key points during the lecture or meeting. It can be hard to accurately type as fast as the presenter is talking, which can lead to trouble deciphering your notes later on. Plus, laptops can open the world of distracting websites. While it might seem innocent enough to open Facebook for a minute or two, oftentimes it becomes more of a distraction thus eliminating the sole purpose on why you should take notes electronically.  

Audio to Text Transcription 

The third best way to take notes electronically is by recording the lecture or meeting. You can do this by either downloading an app on your smartphone or buying a separate voice recorder specifically for note-taking. What are the main benefits of using a recording device?

  • You’ll actively be listening
  • You might notice that you’re more engaged, and even participate when the speaker asks questions
  • Your typed notes will be shorter and more concise
  • You will notice that nothing from the meeting has been missed

Is this too good to be true? Definitely not! After you’re done recording your lecture or meeting, you can use an online transcription company for audio to text transcription, or you can even DIY.

Please note if you do try this option, it’s extremely important to get permission to record before you take notes electronically with a voice recorder.  

Tools For Taking Notes Electronically 

Once you’ve figured out the best way to take notes on a computer, it’s important to make smart investments in the right tools and accessories so your note-taking can be as easy and seamless as possible. 

Computer 

We mentioned that taking notes electronically can be done from either a laptop or ultrabook. The difference between the two is that a laptop is much more powerful and more expensive than an ultrabook. If you’re simply looking to take notes and browse the internet, you can probably stick to buying an ultrabook as you won’t need a powerful system. Ultrabooks are also more affordable and lightweight compared to laptops, which makes it easy to carry from room to room. 

Software 

Note-taking software is like a digital notebook that has a wide range of capabilities that surpass your traditional pen and paper. For example, note-taking apps can store your notes in the cloud and can be synced across multiple different devices. That means you can take notes on a presentation, upload it to the cloud, and then download it to your laptop for easier editing.

We also like the search capability of these apps. You can literally find your notes in mere seconds vs. thumbing through pages upon pages of handwritten notes.

Some of our favorite note-taking apps that allow you to easily take notes electronically are:

  • Simplenote. This app has a clean interface (distraction-free) and allows users to easily write, edit, and share notes. If you’re looking for a very basic app where you can save and send notes, this app is your best bet.
  • For those who like handwriting notes or for those in a more design-type field, Squid is a great way to sketch and to take notes electronically. As soon as your finger or stylus drags across the screen, you’ll immediately see your words or pictures. In this app, you can choose to take notes on a blank page, lined page, or grid paper. You can even draw freeform and import images and PDFs to add notes to them. 
  • Another more advanced app is Evernote. This software offers a variety of note-taking from text to images to audio to everything in between. It also supports excellent tools for organization and for staying on top of tasks. If you’re a busy professional looking for an app that can help make sure nothing falls through the cracks, Evernote will become your digital assistant.

While there are a variety of more great apps to help you take notes electronically, we recommend that you play around to find the app that works best for you.

Voice Recorder 

Using a voice recorder app will allow you to take your notes to the next level with audio to text transcription. How so? You can take the voice recording device to your next meeting or lecture, record the session, and then transcribe the audio into notes. How cool is that?! It’s definitely safe to say that transcription is definitely becoming the new way to take notes electronically. 

While most smartphones offer recording apps for free or for a low cost, the quality of your audio will suffer. You will notice that low-quality recording devices or apps will pick up on background noise in loud environments or large rooms. This will cause your audio to text transcription to not be as accurate as possible. It could also mean that your recording could be missing some key points from the meeting.

Choosing a high-quality recorder or voice recording app will ensure that your audio recording has a crisp clear sound that will produce accurate notes. You can download the voice recorder app by Rev for free!

The small, upfront investment for a high-quality audio recorder could get you the best audio quality. It will even get you on the bandwagon of why it’s so great to take notes electronically. However, you might be less invasive in a classroom or meeting room with a simple phone app!

Hire A Human Transcriptionist 

If you do decide to use a voice recorder to transcribe audio to text, it’s worth the extra investment to use a professional transcriptionist. Why? For starters, a transcriptionist transcribes audio to text for a living (or at least part-time) so their accuracy is very good. Plus, they will have a fast turnaround time and are speed demons when it comes to typing.

Of course, there are some software and companies that use AI to transcribe. These speech recognition solutions will cost very little and you can even receive your file back within minutes; however, the accuracy will suffer. For example, AI doesn’t know slang words or nuances potentially causing the context of the text to be inaccurate. Audio to text transcript from AI might also have many misspellings and grammatical mistakes that you’ll have to take the time to correct. 

The other option for transcription is to use an online company that employs humans. While you won’t receive your text file within minutes, you will have a text document that is 99% accurate or more. You’ll also only spend little to no time deciphering and editing the text allowing you to focus on more important items. Trust us, the extra money is definitely worth it.

Automatic Transcription With Speech Recognition

If you’re on a budget or need your recorded files transcribed super-fast, you should consider an automatic transcription service. While AI speech recognition software isn’t quite as accurate as human transcriptionists, it has an extremely fast turnaround time.

You can usually get your audio files of lectures, seminars, meetings, or interviews transcribed in minutes, with 80-90% transcription accuracy, and for only $0.10 a minute, which is a tenth of the cost of human transcription.

Try Taking Notes Electronically During Your Next Meeting or Class 

What’s the best way for you to take notes electronically? It’s entirely up to you. We encourage you to try a few of these note-taking techniques to see what you like best. One tip that we will leave you with is to look at voice recorder apps that offer transcription abilities. Even if you don’t think you’ll want to transcribe all audio files, it will definitely be worth it for even just one.

Being a top leader in voice recording apps and online transcription services, Rev is here to help you take notes electronically. You can learn more about Rev’s voice recorder app, the benefits of transcribing audio to text, and video captioning services on Rev’s blog.