Virtual note taking is the ability to take notes virtually on computers or mobile devices. This can be accomplished by using a number of different programs or mobile apps. In addition to creating new notes, many programs allow for annotation of other document types.
This guide covers some of the major tools available for virtual note taking but it is not an exhaustive list - you may find alternatives that work better for you!
Files on a laptop or desktop can be easily transferred to mobile devices.
For iPads and iPhones:
For Android devices with a Windows computer:
For Android devices with Mac OS:
Cloud storage is one option for sharing documents across devices. The most common providers are OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox, as well as iCloud Drive for Apple users. All offer online storage with sync capabilities, allow for easy collaboration with others, and integrate with most note taking apps or programs. The main differences are storage space and price of premium accounts.
Tip: Most of the cloud storage services provide 2-step verification. Typically, a code is sent via text message when setting up an account or accessing for the first time from a new device. It is highly recommended that this verification is enabled, as it gives an extra layer of security when using these services.
Accessing documents on iPads and iPhones can be done in one of two ways. If the document is saved to the device within a specific note taking app, then there should be the option to open that file within the app. If a document is saved in another app, look for the option to 'Open In...' or the symbol. Choosing this option will provide a list of apps installed on the device that the document can be opened in - search for the note taking app of your choice.
Many resources from the MSU Libraries, such as journal articles and ebooks, can be used with virtual note taking apps if they are saved as a PDF first. The PDF file(s) can then be opened in or sent to your note taking app.
There may be some limitations to functionality depending on what type of PDF the publisher makes available:
If the PDF file is 'readable', meaning the content can be scanned and searched by other software, there should be no limitations on note taking functionality and any app may be used. If you can highlight individual words or sentences and use features like highlight, strike through, or underline in an annotation program your PDF is readable.
If the PDF is a flat image it may not be possible to make annotations such as highlighting or underlining, although freehand annotations and sticky notes may still be possible to add to the document.
One option to try is to first use a program with optical character recognition (OCR) to generate a copy of the PDF that is searchable and readable. Otherwise apps that support freehand annotations are the best choice to use with this type of PDF.
If the PDF is protected by digital rights management (DRM) it means that the content cannot be modified and annotation capabilities are limited. The best choice for annotating these PDFs are apps that allow for freehand annotations as the annotations are treated as a separate layer added on top of the original document. You may be limited in syncing or exporting these files beyond the note taking app.
Accessories can be extremely helpful when taking notes on mobile devices. A stylus can closely replicate the same experience as using a pen and paper, and an external keyboard may be easier to use than the one provided on the device's screen. Below are some reviews of styluses and keyboards that may help you determine which one(s) to choose.