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  1. #1
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Digital Journaling

    I have been using bullet journal notebooks for a while (the paper kind), and am thinking of going digital. I realized that there are fine-tipped pens and apps that will let you keep a journal on the iPad, writing like you would on paper, and turning the handwritten stuff into searchable words. It would solve some of the issues I have with physical notebooks, including the problem that I never get around to scanning them, but am reluctant to throw them away. A digital notebook would be backed up in the cloud, and pages could be re-ordered and re-edited. I feel like I would be more likely to commit long-term lists to it, knowing I won't have to be constantly re-writing them when it comes time to switch to a new notebook.

    And in the meantime, a lot of iPad models have surfaced...

    I have a few choices:

    (1) Stay with the iPad Mini 2 I already own. It doesn't work with the Apple Pencil, but does work with a similar product from Adonit.

    (2) Buy a new iPad Mini 5 or iPad Air, both of which DO work with the Apple Pencil.

    Has anyone tried digital journaling? And I'm talking specifically about handwriting on a tablet, not typing on a keyboard. And if so, what tablet did you find the best compromise of portability and screen size? Favorite apps besides Goodnotes? Is there something feasible that I haven't considered above?

    Thanks!
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  2. #2
    Forum Member yeg780's Avatar
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    I donít digital journal but I do all my lesson plans using Notability (pretty much the same as Goodnotes). I LOVE the Apple Pencil for this. It writes like a charm.

    iPad Air over the mini for me as I like that extra screen space. Canít beat digital as you can search for anything you write out.


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  3. #3
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    Hi @bchaplin!

    While I don't use it for journaling, I do use Notability on an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil for taking notes, as well as for making diagrams during meetings, and it works really well!

    I have used a stylus with earlier iPads, and the Pencil provides more accurate results.

    I have played with other apps, but haven't really taken the time to really explore them at length because Notability has served my needs well.

    I haven't gotten to the point where I have ditched my paper notebook mainly because my workflow involves either taking notes on my computer. If I can't take notes on my computer (e.g. when I am presenting), I hesitate to have one more piece of technology on the table. In that case, I'll jot down notes in my paper notebook when I need to.
    -m

  4. #4
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    Digital Journaling

    I digitally journal regularly. I started more than 2 years ago, but really made it a habit since February.

    I use Goodnotes the most. Iíve tried pretty much every option with Notability and Documents by Reddle being my other main options. Two main reasons for me, and they are both really personal preferences.
    1-I just love the built in dotted paper in Goodnotes and being able to switch it out for another paper later. It really helps with the lettering on my covers.
    2-I do not like how Notability handles drawing shapes or highlighting. When I did my last round of testing drawing shapes was in this extra window, which broke my flow. And highlights would appear below the text, not on top of it.

    For size I sacrificed some portability for ease of use and went with the iPad Pro 11. Other than Post Itís and a Field Notes notebook, the iPad has replaced almost all of my paper note taking. When I started digital journaling, I mostly used my iPad Pro 9.7. With the caveat that I prefer large phones, I recommended getting the largest size you will regularly carry with you. The extra space has made me very happy.

    Like maverick, Iíve tried other styluses but vastly prefer the Apple Pencil. Itís a better experience and the reduced lag helps me when Iím writing quickly.

  5. #5
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Thanks so much for the detailed responses! I thought this group might be a good audience for this question, but at the same time worried that it was too specific. I am reading Ryder Carroll's book, The Bullet Journal Method, and he makes such an impassioned case for using analog-only tools. I can see advantages to both methods. If I do go the iPad route, I'm considering not installing social media apps and keeping it mostly in airplane mode (except to sync), so that my brain won't view it as a consumption device.

    Also, my conclusion so far from these responses and other sources is that Notability is possibly superior for note-taking in general, but GoodNotes is better for bullet journaling?
    Last edited by bchaplin; 06-19-2019 at 04:30 AM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  6. #6
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    Iíd also add that having had both the Adonit Jot and both versions of the Apple Pencil, the jot does *not* qualify as comparable to even the first gen pencil. Thereís simply no comparison (and the gen 2 is even better).
    DLBC (black Dyneema) **Missing **, Synapse 25 Black Dyneema/Ultraviolet), Synapse 19 (Navy/Wasabi), Aeronaut 45 Black Dyneema/Ultraviolet), PCBP for TriStar (Iberian), Synapse 19 (Navy/Solar), Ristretto for iPad (Black/Wasabi), Large Shop Bag (Island),mini Q-kit, various packing cubes, stuff sacks, and pouches.

    Retired but not forgotten: TriStar (Black/Wasabi), Aeronaut 45 (Navy/Solar), Synapse 25 (French Blue/Steel).

  7. #7
    Forum Member yeg780's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bchaplin View Post
    Thanks so much for the detailed responses! I thought this group might be a good audience for this question, but at the same time worried that it was too specific. I am reading Ryder Carroll's book, The Bullet Journal Method, and he makes such an impassioned case for using analog-only tools. I can see advantages to both methods. If I do go the iPad route, I'm considering not installing social media apps and keeping it mostly in airplane mode (except to sync), so that my brain won't view it as a consumption device.

    Also, my conclusion so far from these responses and other sources is that Notability is possibly superior for note-taking in general, but GoodNotes is better for bullet journaling?
    I donít think you can go wrong with either. Notability just released version 9 that fixed a lot of issues mentioned in a post above.

    When I was deciding between the two it was a colleague using Notability that sold me on it. That being said, if he was using Goodnotes then I would be using Goodnotes.

    One thing I donít like about Notability is that there are no ďnotebooks.Ē Goodnotes, from what Iíve seen, has superior organization. Iím organized with Notability but it took some planning before I was happy with it.

    I wish these apps had trial versions.


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  8. #8
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    I think GoodNotes lets you create template pages, too? This would be a huge timesaver for bullet journaling.

    -----------------------

    The only thing about the Apple pencil that kind of kills me is that they are forcing you to buy a new iPad to use it (and, if you want the version 2 pencil, the iPad Pro). I can see that it probably works so well because they are optimized for each other, but I'm very proud of my "old" iPad Mini, that has been plugging away perfectly all these years. The idea of giving Apple more of my money makes me cringe, as I've been trying to get off the train of frequent electronic acquisitions.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 06-19-2019 at 06:12 AM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  9. #9
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Hi @bchaplin,

    Some other things for you to consider:

    OneNote, while not a journaling app per se, can definitely be used as one. It is fantastic for handwriting, it will OCR your handwriting, and will also allow you to add images, audio recordings, etc. to your pages. I have used it in this manner and I like that it syncs with my phone and all other devices, and can be exported in various formats. I have set up OneNote as my Bullet Journal. You can google some tips for how to do it (I watched a video of a woman who went into great detail.)

    Agreed about Apple Pencil being far superior to Adonit. I have bought a series of Adonit pens (Jot, Pixel) and find them all to be frustrating for writing, largely due to the lack of palm rejection in the apps. Apple pencil hands down for natural writing.

    But here's a low-cost hybrid idea you might consider: have you seen Rocketbooks? They're reusable notebooks that you write in with a frixion pen, then scan with your phone. At that point, the scan of your notes can be sent to any app you choose, or saved as PDF, and all your handwriting is searchable within the Rocketbook app on your phone/ipad. So you could set yourself up like this:

    - Bullet journal the "analog way" using your Rocketbook and frixion pen. (Advantage: it's a smooth, satisfying, real life writing experience, without expensive equipment! Also, you can bring your cheap notebook places you might not bring your expensive electronics)
    - Scan your page into the Rocketbook app and send it to Onenote (Rocketbook has a cool automatic way to do this). Now all your handwriting is backed up online and searchable in Onenote. You can write on top of the scanned image file, cross through things, highlight, etc. Or just keep it there as an archive.
    -Alternative: scan into Evernote. You won't be able to write on top of your note the same way you can with Onenote, but Evernote is super fast at OCR and finding things.

    I have the smaller "executive" size of the notebook, as well as a tiny pocket one, and I use these books all the time for all types of notes. You wash off the pages with a damp rag when you're ready to reuse them. It's super easy to back up everything in the notebook so that you can always find your writing. The Rocketbook app stores every scan you do as well, and OCRs it for you, so it's easy to find anything you have ever written even just within the Rocketbook app.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  10. #10
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    I use my iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil for note taking all the time. The app I use is called NoteShelf2. You can create different notebooks with different covers and interior pages (templates or design your own). You can import PDFs and mark them up, photos, you can add text (like with a keyboard), export the notebooks, email them, etc. Everything is backed up in the cloud and you can export to dropbox and Evernote too (I think, I don't use those so I'm not 100%).

    I quite like it.
    Last edited by TheLibrarian; 06-22-2019 at 05:43 AM. Reason: Edited to fix the name of the app
    Synapse 25, Aeronaut 30
    "I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seaker, or a gunfighter but I am proud of what I am... I am a Librarian!"
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  11. #11
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    As a followup, thanks for the great advice! My personal experience, in case it helps anyone:

    • I got the iPad Air, and loved everything about it, including the increased screen size. However, I found it large to carry, and after a week of realizing that it would not be feasible for me to commute with on a daily basis, I returned it to the Apple Store for a Mini 5. I wouldn't recommend the Mini for those who do extensive note-taking, but for my purposes, it is fine.
    • GoodNotes and the Apple Pencil are an incredible combo. Love the ability to make templates for certain pages I do frequently.
    • I'm keeping my physical notebook for day-to-day task lists. It's just faster, and less distracting to have paper and ink. For any notes that are longer-term, I'm using the iPad. That includes pages that involve finances, idea-type pages, and what in bullet-journal dialect are referred to as "collections".
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

  12. #12
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    It didn't occur to me that one could do this. I've seen people draw on tablets, but for some reason never realized until now that I could also journal. I had a digital one, but I used my laptop and entered entries with a keyboard, and of course I have a handy notebook/planner. Will check on the mini 5 based on your update bchaplin, and see if it's something that I would be interested in keeping.

  13. #13
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Good luck!
    Two things I learned in the process:
    1) If you buy the Apple pencil along with (at the same time as) the iPad and purchase Applecare, it covers both. I'm not recommending Applecare (everyone has different thoughts on the pros and cons of store warranties), but it's worth knowing this in case you are planning on buying the pencil.
    2) There's a no-questions-asked 14 day return policy, at least if you purchase from the Apple store. This was really helpful to me, because it took about a week of working with the iPad Air to decide to go for something smaller. Because I keep all my data in the cloud, it wasn't that time-consuming to transfer everything over to a new device.

    Quote Originally Posted by robburdtt View Post
    It didn't occur to me that one could do this. I've seen people draw on tablets, but for some reason never realized until now that I could also journal. I had a digital one, but I used my laptop and entered entries with a keyboard, and of course I have a handy notebook/planner. Will check on the mini 5 based on your update bchaplin, and see if it's something that I would be interested in keeping.
    Last edited by bchaplin; 07-12-2019 at 02:35 PM.
    ----
    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Edmund Burke

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