Back in 2015 when I started developing the first ColaLife dashboards, Excel on the Mac was going through a sticky patch. Microsoft had issued a new version that simply didn’t work very well. At the time, some described it as “beta at best”. It just wasn’t reliable for anything beyond the basic functions. So I bought a Surface Book so that I could develop and test the dashboards in Excel for Windows. After a year or so, Excel on the Mac settled down and I reverted to development on the Mac. However, in the meantime, I’d got addicted to OneNote and more specifically, keeping hand written notes using OneNote. I haven’t used pen and pencil to take notes since 2016.
Using OneNote on a Windows machine has always been slightly irritating – for example, sometimes the Surface Book simply wouldn’t switch on – wait for 5 minutes at it was fine – and other such glitches. But having your handwritten notes in one place, shareable and searchable, outweighed these irritations. Then, last month, the Windows Pen started playing up – I’d write here and unintelligible squiggles would appear over there. I tried various fixes which didn’t work. All of a sudden I’d lost the note-taking system I’d used pretty much everyday since 2016.
So I looked for alternatives. By now Apple had got its act together on the pen (pencil) front and there were plenty of people recommending OneNote on the iPad as the best handwritten note taking system. So I decided to go for it.
I’ve not been at all disappointed. Immediately my on-screen handwriting got better – the Apple Pencil is miles better than the Windows Pen. Then I got a ‘paper-like’ screen protector and things improved even further. It is just like writing on paper. Add to this the fact that the iPad comes on every time I want it to, the copy and paste from iPhone to Mac to iPad and the “touch and hold space bar” to move the cursor and this transition represents a serious upgrade.
The details of my set-up are:
- iPad Pro 12.9” 512GB 3rd generation £450 on eBay
- Apple Pencil 2nd generation £75 on eBay
- JETech Write Like Paper screen protector £15 on Amazon
Why did I buy secondhand? Two reasons, I didn’t want my purchase to directly trigger the manufacture of another iPad and it was a lot cheaper than buying new.
Having got the iPad, I now realise that I won’t need to carry my laptop with me on short trips away from my desk. With access to all my files through Dropbox I’ll be able to do most things on the iPad.
So I’m grateful to the Surface Book for getting me into handwritten note taking at a time when Apple weren’t really interested in this technology but I’m now pleased to have moved on. Interestingly though, the software I’m using (OneNote) is a Microsoft product.