The popular Microsoft OneNote allows you to enter rich text, images, media files or even drawings into fully searchable notebooks. OneNote works on a variety of platforms, including Windows PCs, Mac computers, Android and iOS devices, and even from a Web browser.
The strength of OneNote is its support for freeform data, with complete freedom to align (or misalign) text and all supported objects. The latest version also adds Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for images, making it easy to search for specific words within new images, and adds support for Dropbox on top of Microsoft's own OneDrive cloud storage service.
Evernote is another popular, free, online note-taking service. It offers effectively unlimited storage, albeit with a monthly upload cap (which is much larger for users willing to shell for one of the two fairly inexpensive tiers). The advantage of Evernote is its support for an incredibly diverse list of platforms, which includes native support on the BlackBerry 10 smartphone, third-party clients for Linux, and even scanners with the capability to scan straight into Evernote.
Notebooks can be shared among multiple users including those without a paid account while individual notes can be shared publicly with a unique URL. Evernote also saves multiple versions of a document, which ensures that any accidental edits can be undone. Finally, paid users get to work offline, and can utilize the service to conduct text searches through Office docs and PDFs, as well as stored in Evernote.
For those of us who keep a to-do list, Trello and Todoist are digital equivalents that can facilitate collaboration with colleagues. Google Keep captures notes, lists, photo and audio via supported Web browsers and mobile devices. Finally, there is the text-only SimpleNote, or even the Notes feature in Microsoft's Office 365 or an on-premises Exchange Server deployment.
2. Take a digital-first approach to new data
Obviously, all the talk about digitizing data for productivity is for naught if you have to manually key stuff into a system at a later date. This is why digital notebooks such as Evernote and OneNote are so popular they allow data to be digitized on the spot from a variety of devices.
For users who perform a lot of data entry on the move from a tablet or smartphone, it may make sense to consider buying a portable keyboard such as the Logitech Keys-To-Go keyboard or Microsoft's upcoming Universal Foldable Keyboard. For popular tablets like the iPad, there's also a large selection of keyboard cases and clip-on keyboard covers to choose from.
With its ballpoint nib, the Livescribe writing tool feels like a real pen, even as it simultaneously and wirelessly captures all pen strokes to an iPad or iPhone device. Designed for those who prefer to scribble down notes and diagrams, notes can even be synced to OneNote or Evernote.
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