Note taking is something I’ve touched on before as part of problem solving when stuck, however I believe it is a topic that deserves a post of its own.  Note taking should be a constant activity, most usually I’ve seen this done with a paper notebook and pen, in fact most jobs I’ve been in supply these essential tools which suggests note taking is expected for software engineers.  The more stationary obsessed oriented note takers may start to use their own notebooks and pens to suit their preferences and writing style: I favor small ruled Moleskin notebooks and a LAMA fountain pen.  The even more organised amongst us may even use some form of shorthand writing to speedup note taking during meetings.

The next step in note taking is to start using note taking software, I was first introduced to this concept by a co-worker using Omni Outliner on his Apple Powerbook on a project to manage his personal notes and thoughts on his work.  I’ve since started using note taking software in the form of Microsoft OneNote at work, Omni Outliner at home on my iMac and the humble Memo application on my Palm Z22 on the go.  You can even use web based note taking software like Google’s Notebook application.

The features that attracted me to note taking software:

  • The ease of organisation possible, its simple to reorganise notes digitally.
  • The ability to search through all my notes.
  • Copy’n'pasting information in many forms e.g., text, pictures, movies etc directly into my notes.
  • The fact I type faster than I can write!
  • Built-in spelling and grammar checking.
  • I don’t have to worry about losing information due to ink fading or my hand writing being hard to read.

I must admit I’m still a relative novice at using note taking software and I’ve yet to start fully using the more powerful features available. I still tend to write digital notes much like I’d write them in my note book and then tagging the notes as I see fit.  So my notes are more like a personal blog (or PLOG as I like to think of them).  This helps me record and remember my work and those little details I always seem to forget because I only need them every six months.

The next stage of note taking I want to try is to attempt to improve my notes from meetings, which to date have typically just been writing in a note book but I’d like to try recording meetings using a digital voice recorder.  This is not to keep the recordings as evidence but to allow me to make better notes after the meeting, as with a recording I can replay the conversation till I grasp it fully without having to bother anyone.  I’ll be interested to see what the reaction to recording a meeting is, as I guess some folk will be suspicious that I will keep the recording even when I have no intention of doing so.

I’d also like to start getting organised enough to start writing notes for blog posts before I write the actual posts but so far that has not happened.  My dream is to have an Apple Macbook Air so I can have Omni Outliner with me at all times which I think would help a lot rather than having to switch between note applications between home and work.