Note Taking Workflows

This is my first summer as a teacher where I'm not also in grad school, and I've been spending a lot of time researching ways to tighten up certain areas of my instruction not necessarily covered in my master's program.

Since adding a 9.7" iPad Pro to my arsenal, it has become my favorite tool for research due to its size and the Apple Pencil. W9th this new device, I've found some apps and developed workflows I thought I would share in hopes they're useful for others.1

Reading Articles

Throughout the summer, I've received a lot of PDFs from trainings I've attended as well as articles I've found online on topics I'm researching. To take notes and gather important information from a document, LiquidText is my new favorite app. It's the kind of app that the iPad was made for, and really couldn't exist outside of a touch interface.

LiquidText is a PDF viewer thats goal is to make PDFs, the digital equivalent of paper, easier to manipulate, view, annotate, and pull out key details.

 
A PDF in LiquidText

A PDF in LiquidText

 

LiquidText allows you to pinch pages of a document together to compare information from different pages, comment on text, and drag excerpts out. These excerpts and comments can be exported to other apps as text and images or as their own PDF.

It's important before you put a PDF into LiquidText to make sure your file is properly OCR'd. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, and it is how apps like LiquidText recognize the text on a PDF. If you scan in a paper article for annotation in LiquidText, you will need to OCR the PDF in order to get the most use out of LiquidText's tools. Most iOS scanning apps now have OCR built into them, but my favorite is Scanner Pro by Readdle. Many PDFs generated on a computer from another format like a Word Document will already have OCR data embedded in them. Unfortunately, sometimes the OCR data is corrupted, incorrect, or simply missing. To add or fix OCR in an already existing PDF, the best app I've found is PDFPen Scan+.

Apple Pencil Support

One of the best things about LiquidText is its excellent use of the Apple Pencil. Not only can you do standard text selection with the extra precision of the pencil, but using the stylus's pressure sensitivity allows you to highlight as an image instead of text, which comes in handy to select charts and tables.

I love that the developers took time to really support the Apple Pencil instead of just using it to control the interface. This unique implementation is a primary reason I love my Apple Pencil so much.

Notes from Events

The other place I've been taking notes this summer is in person professional development courses. Here again my 9.7" iPad Pro has been my primary tool along with Apple's default Notes app.

 
Notes from a Conference I Attended

Notes from a Conference I Attended

 

Notes.app's ability to take in many different data types easily through its share extension has been very valuable to me. While I can type my notes, I've found myself writing them with Apple Pencil. While I don't generally like to write by hand since my handwriting is atrocious, I do feel like it helps the information sink in better. When a presenter shows a YouTube video I find interesting, I've added that video to my notes. I will also scan in any handouts using Scanner Pro and add them to the note.

While I do miss the automatic OCR and more in depth organizational systems I once used in Evernote, I'm glad to get out of that sinking ship and am overall pleased with Notes.

While I may draw some judgement from others for living the Multipad Lifestyle instead of using a Mac, systems like these are a delight and make me more productive. I won't be going back to a Mac any time soon.

  1. The majority of what I do is made possible by the Apple Pencil, though the apps I'm going to recommend don't require it. ↩︎