Students, Studying

Should I get Notability as a student?

As students, we know that a fairly integral part of studying is taking notes. Taking notes is important because it puts information in your own words and makes it easier to understand. In this post I’m going to talk about what digital note taking is, it’s pros and cons compared to taking notes on paper and the use of Notability as a note taking app. At the end I’ll be talking about Notability’s newest feature!

Digital Note Taking

You’ve probably heard of digital note-taking, especially if you’re a student. Even though you might think of digital note taking as just using a tablet and ‘pencil’ it actually includes all forms of technology, so even taking notes on your laptop counts as digital note taking. Everybody has their own method of note taking, as different things work for different people. I started off university using notebooks in lectures to jot down information, and then typing it up later. Towards the end of my degree I moved to typing notes on the lecture slides and now I’m studying medicine, I take notes by annotating lecture slides on my iPad. 

Your note taking method might change over time and that’s okay, it’ll probably become more streamlined and will fit your style of learning. It’s also quite normal to have different styles of note taking for different modules, as you might need to take different things away from the lectures.


What are the benefits of digital note taking

Compact

A 600g iPad or multiple binders and a laptop? I know which one I’d prefer to be carrying around all day. This is especially good if you have classes from different modules, because instead of carrying different folders, all your folders are handily in one place.

Easier to fix mistakes

An obvious benefit of digital note taking is that you can delete misspellings and mistakes easily, and with a lot less mess than crossing out words on paper. It’s also a lot easier to move notes around, either by copy and paste or by using lasso tools on note taking apps. It’s cleaner and it’s easier.

Every different colour of pen

If you’re a visual learner and use colours to break up your notes or to colour-coordinate, then it’s a lot easier to do digitally. You only have to carry one ‘pen’ if you’re using an iPad, or no pen at all if you’re using a computer. You can easily change colours, and you can use literally ANY colour that exists.

Back up your notes

If you lose paper notes, they’re gone forever. But if you take notes digitally, you can back them up using google drive, iCloud, drop box etc. This extra level of security is really comforting, and also it means that you can access notes from other computers or iPads.

Less paper, saves trees

Using a digital page definitely doesn’t require cutting down nearly as many trees as using a physical sheet of paper, so this one is definitely a good reason if you’re interested in being more eco friendly. At first I thought that it might be worse for the environment due to it using electricity. But according to The Environmental Paper Network, using an iPad for an hour only uses 3 watts of electricity, which is equivalent to 0.004 pounds of carbon gas, compared to 0.03 pounds of carbon gas for a sheet of paper. So it’s still more economically friendly to use an iPad.

Images and diagrams

Suck at drawing diagrams? Just get one from the internet and easily insert it, without having to print it or copy it down. Save on ink and save on time!

Adding links

Another thing that you can’t do with paper notes is link to other notes or websites. Being able to insert links into your notes can be really useful when you need additional information, or you want to link to a video that explains a concept really well.


What are the downsides to digital note taking?

Cost

To study digitally, you have to buy a table or computer, neither of which are very cheap. Most people would say that have a laptop/computer is essential at university, but an iPad isn’t really essential.

Battery

If it’s running on electricity, then it can run out, so if you forget to charge it, or you use it lots, it might run out of charge and then you won’t be able to take any notes at all.

The feel

Even with a matte screen protector, it’s still not ever going to be the exact same as writing on paper. I still really enjoy writing on paper and even though I use my iPad to annotate lectures and make my flashcards, I still draw out my mind maps on paper.

Increased screen time

We all know that staring at screens all day is no good for your eyes, so choosing to note digitally can really take its toll. You might want to try mixing up your ways of studying, or at least take regular breaks.


What is Notability?

Notability is a Note taking app made by Gingerlabs, it’s incredibly popular and is regularly ranked the #1 paid app on the app store. It is actually only available for Apple products (ipad, iphone and mac), not for Windows, which is a shame, but as Apple accounts for nearly a third of the market share for tablets, there’s still a big consumer base.

Notability Features

Different paper templates

App: Notability showing the different document templates

There’s a range of different paper templates, different coloured paper as well as lines, grids and dots. It’s really easy to change templates to suit your needs.

Wide range of pens and highlighters

App: Notability Showing the range of colours and sizes of pen

There’s a lot of different colours to choose from, style of pen and pen width. You can also add specific pens to your ‘favourites’ that you can access more easily.

Three levels of organisation

App: Notability showing the levels of organisation within the app

You can organise your notes within a document, and then in a divider and then a subject.

Audio recording

App: Notability showing the audio recording function

Notability has a function to record audio, and also link it to what you are writing at that time. This is great for when you want to record yourself explaining a concept.

Handwriting search

App: Notability, showing the handwriting search feature

For an additional £2.99, you can get a handwriting search add on, which allows you to search your notes within your documents.

Multi-note

App: Notability, demonstrating having two documents open side by side

The multi-note feature allows you to have two documents side by side so you can work at two things at once, or you can note from one document onto another one.

Recent Notes

App: Notability, displaying the recent notes section of the app

The recent notes section allows you to easily access documents instead of having to dig through your folders and dividers

Annotate PDFs

As well as writing on plain templates, you can import PDFs to annotate and write on (this is how I use my digital planners)

Stickers

In the Notability shop you can purchase stickers to add to your digital notes or planners.

Maths conversions

There is another add-on that you can purchase to convert mathematical equations into typed equations, to help your notes look neater.

Link sharing

App: Notability, showing the public link sharing feature

Notability’s newest feature is the link sharing feature, which enables you to create links to share your notes with others. This is great for sharing notes with your classmates of within study groups. Once you’ve shared the link, they can access the document anytime through a browser, as you update your notes, you can update it for them, and if you want to stop sharing notes, you can do that too!

This could also be useful even if using it buy yourself, because you could access your notes from another computer, even if you don’t have your tablet with you.


If you liked this post, you should check out my post where I compare Notability and Goodnotes!

References


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