Tips and tricks for taking meeting notes on a tablet

Tips and tricks for taking meeting notes on a tablet

Summary: As more people bring tablets to the workplace, they will logically start appearing in meetings in greater numbers. Taking notes on a tablet is a great function if done properly.

TOPICS: Tablets

If you believe what you read online, tablets are either everywhere or will be soon. The popularity of the iPad and the growth of Android tablets is fueling tablet mania. Even Microsoft is getting into the act with Windows 8/RT coming later this year.

The tablet is showing up in the workplace in greater numbers as the BYOD movement grows. These tablets are being used as digital note-takers, a fitting use for a slate device. They make good notepads in the conference room, especially if users learn a few simple techniques to get the most out of them.

There are plenty of note apps on both Android and iOS, choosing one depends on personal preference. Many of them allow handwriting on the screen with a stylus as well as entering text with a keyboard (onscreen or external). It comes down to choice, and there is plenty of it available.

Whether you take notes with a stylus or a keyboard, it is important to remember that digital notes on a tablet have a big advantage over the old-school paper variety. That is the ability to search the notes which is possible with many apps.

This is significant after you have been taking notes for a while and have accumulated hundreds of pages of notes. The days of flipping back through paper notebooks looking for that one pertinent note are over. Now you simply search for the note and have it brought front and center.

The first tip is designed to facilitate finding specific notes in the future. Apps make search possible by indexing the text in the background so keywords can be searched. A simple way to make sure you can easily find any given note is to enter a couple of keywords at the top of the note page specifically to aid the search.

These keywords can be whatever makes sense to you at the time, as long as they are unique enough to be useful. A good method that works well for me is to enter the project name as one of the keywords (or phrases), along with a unique description of what the note is going to be about.

This method makes it easy to search not only for that particular note, but for all notes about a given work project. That has proven invaluable for me over the years I have been using tablets for note-taking. Everything ever written about Project X can be found in seconds, even years later.

Many notes are taken during meetings, and a handy tip is to enter the last names of all attendees in the margin. A great use of notes taken during meetings is to jog the memory in the future about the things covered. Anything particular to a given meeting can help remember details of things discussed, and the list of attendees is a good way to remember a particular meeting.

Equally important while taking meeting notes is not to be too wordy. If you attempt to record everything verbatim you will end up missing important discussions. Instead, I use a loose outline form of note-taking that is designed to jog my memory over what was discussed when I see the note. This is also easier to do with either the stylus or onscreen keyboard than trying to capture everything.

If your job has technical terms that frequently become part of your notes, it might be worth developing your own shorthand using acronyms for them. The key is to be consistent in how you use them so they are searchable as covered.

Many note apps have the ability to record audio in meetings while taking notes. While recording entire meetings is not really practical, there is a limited use for this that is invaluable. When you are in a meeting and something significant is being discussed, e. g. a major change in contract terms, just before entering the new terms hit the record button for audio in the app. Most apps synchronize the audio with the note being entered, so if the changes are ever questioned you have the actual discussion to back up your notes.

These tips are simple to implement yet will go a long way to making your digital notes taken on a tablet more useful. The notes will also be far better than the old paper notes we have all scrawled in countless meetings. The ability to search notes, no matter how lengthy or brief, and find them in seconds is very powerful. Those mastering taking notes on a tablet will soon leave their paper scrawling colleagues in the dust.

If you are using a tablet for taking notes, leave a comment sharing the app (platform doesn't matter) you use. Indicate how you take your notes, either text entry or inking with a stylus.


Topic: Tablets

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  • I use springpad on a slate device for taking notes...

    ....springpad, like some other apps, provides access my notes using native apps for android and apple devices (plus browser of course). Mostly text entry but on occasion I'll use a stylus for drawing diagrams.

    Thanks for your article...

  • Evernote

    I'm using Evernote on an iPad and no longer bring any paper into meetings. I try to capture as many keywords as possible and place the notes into folders for each company that I meet with.

    There are many other great note taking apps but I find you have to pick one and use it or if you try to use several you never remember where the heck you put those notes...
  • OneNote 2010 with Active Digitizer Pen

    James - You used to cover active digitizing pen note-taking regularly. I'm hoping a new Windows machine with good handwriting recognition you get from an active digitizer. Most reviewers don't know enough about the differences. Please report on any word on new Windows 8 hardware with a good pen experience.

    I occasionally record meetings with OneNote; the syncing of the audio to your notes is awesome. The Outlook calendar and task to OneNote integration is very helpful.
    • handwriting recognition

      Can you recommend a handwriting recognition system for tablet PC or iPad? I see you mention it above. I am a PC user but could use iPad if that works best. I plan to continue using my desktop or laptop, but need something more easily portable and easy to hold and use (while say standing up) than a laptop for taking notes on the fly. I currently use Evernote for notes. I don't know if you have a specific recommendation but I'd also be game just if you know any good web resources or writers who cover this best. I've heard Lenovo is good.


      Colin Wilder
  • Another Vote for OneNote

    James - first - this was an EXCELLENT article for new and old note takers alike. Thanks for the tips. With the high level of indexing quality of OneNote, this will be a primer for finding everything when you need it.

    I want to second RobHalligan about OneNote. On my Samsung Series 7 S it is the best note taking method I've ever used (including both iPad and HTC Flyer, AND my old, now retired, HP 2740p Windows 7 convertible). I know you are now an iPad convert, but I hope the flood of coming tablets (check out Computex coverage) will re-energize interest in active digitizers. I really hope they catch on (and Apple gets to tout they finally invented the first "quality" pen) because people trying to type in a meeting are an infernal distraction/annoyance.
  • This is a good use for it though there is one issue...

    I had one in the office and I would store work notes on it... My boss looked at me like, "You have work information on your personal tablet?" I had to explain that it was just my notes about the problems I solved and had nothing that was specific to the job.

    Yes, some places are more open to this but, I do see resistance for this stuff...

    I will say, I do not see many people using them for work.
    • Bummer. You missed a great opportunity to reply

      "I can't get the company to authorize me a work unit."
      • If Peter used that reply then I could foresee this outcome.

        I'm sure that his company would authorize a pink slip for poor Peter. Grin.
  • Appropriate use of stylus and keyboard

    This BYOD movement is great for compelling efficiencies into otherwise stagnant IT departments. iPads and Android tablets are finally allowing us to do away with paper. But good grief some notes apps just don't seem understand that these devices are computers! Too many just want to mimic pen and paper instead of taking advantage of the power of these devices. One example: Hey, other people can't read my scribbles and they're not easily searchable. Use the stylus where appropriate: For stetches.

    BeNote is an Android tablet app that has pretty good separation of keyboard and stylus use. It's a newer app, but it has a strong focus on efficient note taking and organization.
  • using Beesy to take my notes easily

    My essential iPad app for business is Beesy. It's a great tool for my everyday life at work. help to sort out and don't forget a thing on my differents projects. Very useful also in meeting with I can take note and send minutes at the end of the meeting by mail very quickly and easily.
  • Meeting notes with

    I was facing the problem not knowing how to sync the meeting notes we made. So I found very helpful. It is a simple online note taking app that allows you to share with friends what ever you have in mind.
    Michael Hamburg
  • Most apps synchronize the audio with the note being entered

    The subject is a quote from the article.

    I have find this feature only at Livescribe, a dedicated imput device that work with their Echo pen and a special paper. When you synch the pen with the computer you get a pdf file with audio and note synched.

    I want to take notes during business meeting in a tablet but I need audio and note synched.

    I can use any tablet, windows, android or iOS.

    Does any one know an app that do the job?

    Thank you.
  • Notesdeck for text-based DISTRACTION FREE notes

    I’m using NotesDeck so my school notes show up on all my devices instantly (iPad, Mac and iPhone). NotesDeck syncs with Evernote and Dropbox so all my notes from other apps are already in it.

    So much cleaner than that yellow Notes app. Much more professional.
  • Handwritten Digital Notes with a Tablet

    I recommend checking out CamNote ( The app works well with a paper CamNote Binder or a dry erase Infinity Binder ( Both options overcome the lack of responsiveness that most tablet notetaking apps suffer from.
  • Google Drive

    .....And make sure you use google drive extensively. Once you get over your fear of the cloud the sky's the limit. (no pun intended)