Usually I record notes of project meetings in pen and paper (regular notepad). If I am taking notes in a laptop, some people tend to think that I am not paying attention.

I have thought of buying an iPad to get my notes, in any way I want, still keeping the notepad approach.

Any experiences or thoughts related to this?

18 Answers 18


I tried to use the iPad for taking meeting minutes. Even more than a PC, the iPad becomes a barrier to quick notes. The keyboard is useful for short stuff, but longer notes just become burdomsome. In addition, just like with a computer, you are limited to linear text entry. This means no quick memory icons, pictures, drawing lines of relationship, etc.

Honestly, until we have very reliable pen entry tablet devices, the MK I pad of paper is still the absolute best notetaking device there is. I tackled this very topic in a blog a couple months back. While using a computer to take notes may be efficient, it is not effective.

And yes, I have many meeting days that start at 8:00am and go straight through to 5:00pm and I still use a notebook to take notes, even when presenting and reviewing things via computer.

  • Hi, I usually use a notebook (the paper kind) but I feel like the transcribing time is wasted effort. I'm moving to more electronic note taking because of that. Have you found a good way to shorten the transcribing time? Commented Mar 12, 2011 at 18:57
  • 2
    Perry-Part of it comes down to what you are recording. Business note taking is not school note taking. Manager-Tools.com has a great podcast on note taking. It boils down to making sure you capture "Who, does what, by when." So I find my notes to be a lot more concise than they used to be. As for transcribing, I find it to be very important. It solidfies stuff in my mind. The time is not wasted, it is well used. Also I can speed through handwritten notes very fast, so often the paper is faster to find old notes. Commented Mar 13, 2011 at 5:30
  • Those are the kind I take - PMs always want to know who does what by when, and who decided what. Commented Mar 14, 2011 at 17:23
  • +1 for MK I pad of paper. My younger colleagues tease me but paper is reliable, never crashes, doesn't need power, is unaffected by Wifi conditions, etc. Commented Aug 19, 2011 at 13:48
  • 1
    Dina: I've tried both - and they both have their problems. Evernote got blocked by my company's IT team after some unnamed developer uploaded 300MB of unknown data to it (was it personal stuff, like a video? or was it source code? who knows?). Then I moved to Toodledo, which worked fine except the desktop client I used persisted in losing tasks... To cut a long story short, electronic note systems can fail as easily as paper ones. At least the paper ones are nearly always recoverable, and a lot more intuitive besides. By all means transcribe, but be careful of having 1 point of failure.
    – Johan
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 6:32

There is an app that will let you do type, hand and drawing in the same place. It will sync it with your notes in the cloud and make it avaiable in your laptop.

This application is called Note Plus. The you tube video link here, this application together with a stylus will be the ideal match.

Disclaimer: I have not use it myself, I have seen other people. I am planning to buy an iPad 2 to give it a try.

  • I've been using Notes Plus for the past 6 months or so for meeting notes. The ability to do both drawings and typed text in the same note are what made it my choice over the other options I tried. While not perfect, I like it a lot. However, the recent revamp of the interface is still throwing me off at times.
    – Kyle
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 22:13

Well, it really comes to

Is the Ipad really worth it for taking notes.

Being a gadget freak myself, I have ipad as well as android tab. I have tried both the devices for taking notes in meetings with clients as well as meeting with my peers.

Whatever the case may be, the biggest problem I had was

These devices distract my mind, as well as the minds of people I'm working with.

The best thing I ever had has been a simple nice notepad and a pencil. This is the best way to take notes, scribble, draw immediately and show them to the clients.

What Ipad has been useful to me was, when I wanted to show clients some elaborate map of how things would be done and Ipad made it possible to do it in colorful picture. That was really handy and I think it made an impact on the client also.

Biggest advantage I found having these devices for meeting purpose was

  • You appear sharp, more technically advance
  • Yes, some clients do appear to be impressed
  • Its helps to show clients some colorful drawings, samples easily ( laptop is not suitable for this )
  • You can do without laptop, Ipad is enough if you are going to meetings
  • saves space and is lighter
  • collaboration is also possible with these devices and this is the biggest plus point.

So it all boils down to your own person comfort level and preferences.

You should experiment and let yourself discover what suits you the best.


Rather than typing notes in iPad I have found more comfortable recording the meetings. I have been recommended to use Dragon Dictation to record meetings and transferring the conversations into Notes afterwards. These can be edited, converted in PDF and emailed to your colleagues as Minutes. To my colleagues this application has worked very well in 1:1 reviews.

Personally, I have found this app quite sensible to accents and the distance between you and the commentator resulting in odd notes sometimes. In these cases I have had to use my old-fashion notepad for further notes and diagrams that could complement the recordings. However, I had to take some time out to review the notes taken by iPad and amend any strange words. The good news is since you have been listening properly to the entire conversation rather being typing you would be able to amend the recording easily.

By recording the meetings the attendees will not feel that you are not paying attention but it's really important that you check and comply the company's policy for recording meetings. Check in the Apple Store for similar apps.

  • 1
    The problem with this approach is that you get the whole hour-long meeting that you have to listen/read through again afterwards to get the actual action points and decisions. Which means you basically process the entire meeting twice, wasting a lot of time.
    – Johan
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 6:34

Depends on whether you will be typing or using a pen and how detailed the notes are.

If you're using a pen and want the notes to be electronically captured, most people I know use a tablet.

For typing, there are a few option. You can use the iPad's soft keyboard, you can use an external keyboard with the iPad or you can use a laptop or notebook computer.


I am still in the process of wondering whether the cost of this iPad is worth it. I do see a lot of people using them to take notes in meetings and they don't seem to have problems. I think given the size, it's much less distracting than a laptop.

I look forward to seeing other opinions.


I've been using an iPad to take notes in meetings for a couple of months now, using EverNote. For me, the iPad is much less of a barrier between meeting attendees than a laptop would be but has the major advantage that minutes/actions are distributed straight after the meeting, not hours or days later. With EverNote you can record the meeting whilst you're taking notes and you can also take pictures and attach them to notes, so capturing drawings on whiteboards, etc.

Overall I've found it surprisingly useful. I was a bit skeptical when I got it and expected to use it for a few days then revert to pen and paper but in fact I find it's not just replaced pen and paper, it's pretty much replaced my laptop too.


The iPad aside, it's interesting how much answers differ. As in many cases - there seems to be no "silver bullet". To the list of possible approaches, I would only add that co-editing a note might be useful. In practice, I'm referring to a flipchart or whiteboard, where participants jot down actions, decisions, diagrams (with dates, responsible etc.).

Some benefits:

  • More likely all participants are on the same page
  • Encourages "visual thinking"
  • Another way to engage everybody (technology tends to be an obstacle for some)
  • Flexible - we can write/sketch freely, add post-its, draw a table, mindmaps etc.
  • Fast - one of the participants takes a picture with mobile camera / distributes immediately

From my experience the LiveScribe pen is an in invaluable tool. You are not required to audio record, but can if you want. All your notes are transferred from the pen and transcribed automatically. The transcription is fairly accurate but there are some conventions that I had to change b/c the software just didn't get it.

When playing back an audio recording, the way the written notes are synced with the audio is a nice feature too; it definitely helps with context.

The biggest drawback is having to buy the special LiveScribe notebooks,as they are expensive than your standard notebooks.


I've never used it, but James Fallows of the Atlantic swears by the Livescribe pen. As long as it's okay to record the meeting this could be a great tool: all the power of pen for drawing pictures but a recording to ensure an accurate record is available in case anything needs to be written up verbatim.

  • I was about to suggest the livescribe pen. It sounds like the ideal compromise. You get the flexibility that pen and paper give with the benefits of digitally capturing the notes for easy searching. I have not used this product though so may have been sold by the marketing message :-) I still use pen and paper as I like to review my notes when digitising them as it gives me a chance to refresh my mind what was discussed
    – dlongman
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 8:51

Scott Berkun has a great book called 'Making Things happen' and one of the topics is how to lead a good meeting, on which he also speaks about the use of laptops or gadgets in meetings.

If the people in the room don't think what's going on is important enough to warrant their full attention, then they shouldn't be in the room. Face time is precious...

I completely share his view on this:

You can read it here Scott Berkun: Making things happen

I completely agree on this, as I was in some meetings with a colleague the last months and he had an Acer tablet that he used to take notes. First of all, the notes where real crap, andsecond of all, he wasn't meeting actively...


I think it's important to agree and write down the results and this should be transparent to every attendee. So I disagree with Kennethvr.

Especially for the iPad you should take a look at www.agreedo.com. Works great!

  • I never said you shouldn't write down the results, It's of mayor importance to have meeting minutes and notes!!! I'm against the use of technology as it is in more then 90% of the cases only distraction!
    – Kennethvr
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 7:57

My former employer had the most effective note taking setup that I've seen. Each meeting room would be equipped with two projectors. One computer would project the presentation, while another computer would be projecting notes (which were being taken in real-time).

It ensured that the person taking notes wouldn't not be slacking off since all eyes would be on his projector. Also, for participants in the room who weren't paying attention, they could quickly scan the last few notes being transcribed to see what they missed.


I find it funny that people think using a laptop is more distracting and will evoke less respect from your team members than using an ipad. In my opinion, distraction can come from anywhere...even from a notebook if a meeting is boring.

I use a laptop at all of my meetings, and when possible I project my screen for everyone in the room. The main part of my screen is the status report or whatever we're viewing, and then in a corner I will take my notes on an application like Evernote and then upload it to a web based collaboration tool right after the meeting. This allows people to see the notes in real time, and I think it brings confidence to my team members because they can help contribute to the notes and ensure that they are of the quality that they need. I don't think I could do this any better with an iPad, but of course if someone handed me an iPad I would not refuse it. ;)

Now, I've also been in meetings where people who are not facilitating the meeting will come with their laptop (or iPad!) and multitask the entire time, coming in and out of the meeting discussion. So really, the distraction can come from anywhere, it's all about what type of value you bring to your team. If they see the value of your note taking by what you circulate during and afterwards, then nobody will bat an eye if you sit in a meeting with a laptop.


I strongly disagree with Kenneth (sorry :) ).

In presentation good practices, it is said that slides should carry only important info, as the people should focus on the presenter, no the presentation. Apple presentations are a strong example of this : each slide carries 1-2 main info, the rest is said by the presenter. Bottom line : not all relevant information is in the slides (even if many people including me still write novels in their slides ;) ), so people must take notes.

Taking notes serves 2 population:

  • for the note taker themselves
  • the note taker may take notes on behalf of the meeting participants

In the later case notes are meant to be broadcasted, and that's were you find the limits of pen and paper, as transcribing can literally take hours. If you have let's say 3 meetings in a row, you may only be able to send your notes 1-2 days later, which is often quite late.

Digital note taking is a solution, and as such one must accept that people may bring a laptop/tablet for actual work and not just for answering emails during boring moments.


Since my post has been closed (while it was not exactly discussing the same matter, as I was more focusing on the "how" but anyway) :

I'm evaluating the use of iPad for meeting minutes.

Current tooling and process :

  • As presenter : I use my laptop to present the powerpoint, and I take notes on a notepad (pen&paper). I then do retranscriptions of the minutes on MS OneNote and I send the minutes in a mail. I also publish the notes on MS Word 2007 format for storage on network drive / sharepoint to allow access to third parties.

  • As an attendee : I use my laptop with MS OneNote directly, and follow the same publishing process as above.

Drawings : from time to time I need to draw, for which I exclusively use my notepad.

So far I rank this usage as follows :

  • ++Digital notes allow me to search my notes. I have to do a lot of business interviews, and this saves me a lot of time when trying to retrieve info in the mass of data I've gathered
  • ++OneNote provide quite good organization
  • ++Notepad offers good versatility for drawing
  • --still relying on paper notes for meeting where I'm the presenter, so still wasting time to do retranscription

Future :

I'm wondering regarding the iPad, and I have the following questions :

  • I would need to sync notes to my laptop (over 3G or mail), so evernote seems to be a very good choice. Are there other ?
  • Do you recommand a specific keyboard (I'm afraid manual notes will be unreadable, and I type faster than I write
  • Is stylus worthwhile for drawing ? Which app do you recommend for drawings ?

Thanks !


I don't totally know your circumstances - whether you are the meeting organiser or a participant who simply want to get things done. However, either way, if the organiser (you or someone else) doesn't have a structure to the meeting (ie have a goal that is clear and an agenda that is designed to get to that goal) then there's not really any magic way to achieve productivity.

If you are the organiser, then you have to create an outcome goal and an agenda to get there. That way you will actually have some chance of achieving something and your note taking will be less reliant on the ability of the tools at your disposal, and more on your ability to stick to the agenda.

If you're the unlucky meeting invitee to a meeting where there's no clear direction ... your best bet is to insist on an agenda up front to justify your attendance.

As far as tools go, in my experience (I don't use an iPad but some of my colleagues do)- the iPad is less intrusive in that it creates more of an open table environment, and it's harder to actually be detached from the meeting behind an iPad than behind a laptop. However if you are the meeting facilitator/lead, then you shouldn't really be writing notes during the meeting anyway - that should be delegated to someone else.


On my side I have an Ipad since day 1, have been using a lot Evernote for its syncing capabilities but it lacks meetings oriented feature such as actions, to-do and follow-up.
I'm always looking for a replacement App as I think we could gain a lot of time if it was done correctly.
I've tested nearly every notes / todo app on the Appstore in 2 years, I have to admit I'm still amazed how difficult they are to use in a Work environment.
I just discovered an App, Beesy, that seems to have understand note taking from a business perspective. I tried it for 2 days and for the moment I'm quite thrilled, even a bit too powerful at the beginning.
I particularly love the fast and nice Icons to add different kind of notes / actions and the instant meeting minutes you can send.
Another great thing I've been appreciating: it reuses my notes / tasks from the meeting in the To-Do manager, yes you read correctly ! Huge time saver.
Only drawback so far: a few glitches here and there, but nothing compromising the use of the App, the App still in v1.0 and the lack of iPhone sync at the moment but the devs at BeesApps said they're on it for a future release.

My 2 cents on this one

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