I struggled for many years to find a note-taking method that works for me, because it seemed that no matter how I took my notes, I never wanted to look back at them and it showed in my grades. Eventually, I realized that taking pen-and-paper notes in the traditional form just doesn’t work well for me, and I decided to find another way. Given that most of the work that I already do is created and stored on my laptop, I thought that it would be beneficial for me to take notes on my computer. I tried taking notes this way before using Microsoft Word and Google Docs, but I was always frustrated with how structured these notes had to be and how hard it was to type equations into them. It felt like I wasted more time than was worthwhile trying to make my notes into a format that the computer would accept and that would still be understandable later.
There’s even an app for Android-enabled watches (don’t tell your professors)!
If you’re using pen or tablet input on Windows 10 to handwrite your notes, or even if you’re just using a mouse or trackpad, OneNote also has a feature called “Ink to Shape” that will try to guess what shape you’re drawing and clean it up for you.
For the mathematically inclined, OneNote also has an awesome equation editor. One of the most useful features of this particular equation editor is that it will perform some calculations for you. Simply end a line with an equals sign and when you start a new line and OneNote will try to calculate the value of the left-hand side of the equation for you. For example, to create , simply type “P_a (q) y_p = P_b (q) u”, select the entire thing, and then click the button. Even more complex equations are easily possible with Microsoft’s documentation. And, if you’re not using a keyboard to enter your notes, there’s an “Ink to Math” feature that will make digital equations out of your handwriting.
One of the major trepidations that I had in trying to switch from taking pen-and-paper notes to taking notes on a computer was that studies have shown that typing notes, rather than handwriting them, results in decreased retention. Luckily for me, I have a pen for my computer so all of my notes can be effectively hand-written.
With OneNote, I don’t have to worry about performing worse than if I was taking notes on paper. If you have this functionality on your computer, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
OneNote’s useful features are endless and there’s no way that they could all be listed here. It’s definitely not for everyone, but starting to keep all of my notes in OneNote has helped me feel more organized and less reliant on paper. If you’re interested, check it out -- it’s free for all Northwestern students!