Using Your Notebook

After you’ve made your notebook, you may find that it takes some getting used to. Particularly when your ready to wipe it clean and start over, but there are other questions that may arise. On this page I will attempt to lay out different methods to use The Notebook and some of the advantages and disadvantages of those methods.

What does the writing feel like?

I’m not going to lie to you, writing in your Notebook is going to feel more akin to writing with dry erase markers on a white board than it is to the traditional pencil and paper feel. The key here is to make sure you are relaxing your hand. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to leave a mark. If you decide to go with the Staedtler markers, you can can refill them through capillary action from an ink well (sold by Staedtler), so it’ll be important to preserve the tips of your markers.

The Benefits.

When I write with a pencil or ballpoint pen, I find that my writer’s cramp gets worse. With the Notebook, it all but disappears. There’s no independent experimental data to support that (at least none that I saw during initial searches), but I still recommend that anyone suffering from writers cramp should give the Notebook a try, you may find that you never go back to traditional writing methods.

What marker should I use?

I haven’t experimented with too many different brands of markers. I found that once I verified what worked well, I could just continue to use that method. However there are a few things that can help you decide the general type of pen/marker to use.

  1. Staedtler Permanent– I prefer the linked marker, but the “universal permanent” line comes in a variety different tips so that you can customize your writing experience.
    • Pros: You can write something and it takes about 2 seconds for the ink to dry. You don’t have to worry about sweaty hands or spilling water on the page because the ink will only erase with alcohol (I haven’t tried acetone based products because of the harm it could bring to the laminate).
    • Cons: erasing can be a pain, I have to go over the page 3-4, sometimes 5 times in order to erase all of the ink in the page. Carrying around alcohol is inconvenient, I carry alcohol swabs for quick erase jobs or you can try carrying a small spray bottle of alcohol for convenience. As I highlight in the next section you can also get away with using high-polymer erasers, but I wouldn’t recommend that it be your primary method due to unnecessary wear on the laminate.
  2. Staedtler Non-Permanent/wet erase- I haven’t looked in to the differences between the Staedtler non-permanent pens and a standard wet erase marker, but I can tell you these pens behave in the same way that wet erase ones do.
    • Pros: The biggest advantage by far is the ease of erasing. No alcohol needed. You get pretty much the same writing experience as the permanent pens but all you need is a damp towel to erase.
    • Cons: The advantage of erasing with water also prove to be disadvantage if you’re not careful. The ink takes a little longer to dry which can lead to smudging, and may make your notes unreadable. Wet or sweaty hands are also a problem, and you better not spill anything on your notes.
  3. Dry Erase Markers– There are a few issues that I had with dry erase Expo Markers that I have to troubleshoot before I can recommend them. I explain the trouble that I had with them below.
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Example text- all colors are written with Staedtler Permanent pens except for the black which was written in Staedtler non-permanent ink.

How long can I go before erasing?

I’ve gone up to a week without erasing my notes with no ghosting (when the marker leaves an unsightly after image on the laminate) when using the Staedtler permanent markers or the Staedtler wet erase markers.

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Alcohol provides ease of erasing.

The story is different when I used an Expo dry erase marker. I tried the dry erase on an experimental sheet after I had used a high polymer eraser on the sheet, I attempted to erase the marker immediately after application. I found that it was difficult to remove with a dry paper towel, and a water-soaked paper towel erased a little bit more but it still left a ghost image. I then tried alcohol and the ghosting disappeared but it left an unsightly smudge of color on the sheet. Finally I was able to erase the color smudge with a high polymer eraser.

Two things could have happened with the dry erase marker.

  1. Using the high polymer eraser wore down and “texturized” the laminate. Dry erase ink has the potential to work its way in to porous surfaces.
  2. The marker isn’t compatible with writing on the type of laminate I’m using. Maybe it is incompatible with any type of laminate.

Maybe I will experiment with these ideas at a later date, but seeing as how I’m already happy with my writing implements I definitely won’t be using dry erase on my Notebook.

Note: I haven’t tried the liquid solution made by Expo, because I’m still experimenting with various different notebook solutions. Let me know if you’ve tried it and your results.

Dealing With Glare.

Glare is going to be a real issue when taking pictures of your notes. It’s something that will never go away, but there are ways in which you can dampen the effects of light on the laminate.

  • Keep it your notes away from direct light sources. If you have a light directly over your notes you’ll see that there’s a bright spot. Move the light source or your notebook to solve this issue.
  • Changing the Angle. Sometimes the light is so overwhelming that you can’t seem to get rid of the glare. To solve find something to prop up your notebook to an angle that reduces as much glare as possible.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’m not saying to deal with the very real frustration of glare, but if it doesn’t affect you reading the notes, then why does it matter? Granted this might be unacceptable to some.

How do I keep my notes around long term?

How do we reference something that we’ve long since erased? Isn’t the point of taking notes to keep them around to study from? These are valid questions and concerns, but fear not, for the Notebook templates are designed for one purpose, digital filing and storage.

Digital Storage Methods

In order to maximize your note taking experience¬† you’re going to need a few things to get started. First you will need a smartphone with a camera (or just a camera), and a computer of some kind. Then you will need to decide how you want to go digital.

1. Microsoft OneNote (Recommended)

Since I remade and resumed using my Notebook, I found that there’s really no better way to file away your notes than Microsoft OneNote. The bonus is that you can make a personal account for free (though it does come with limited storage.) If you are a student you can also check to see if your school offers a subscription to Microsoft 365-mine did and now I have pretty much unlimited storage for my school notes.

Make Digital Notebooks

My favorite thing about OneNote is the ability to create notebooks for different areas of my life. I’ll have a separate notebook for each subject that I’m taking, notebooks for different areas of my personal life, and notebooks for old topics. Each “class” of notebook will have a color, for example notebooks dealing with my personal life are purple, classes I’m currently taking are orange etc. Just see below.

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Sections and Pages

After I make a notebook I create different sections depending on how I want to divide my notes up to maximize studying. Below is an example of a few sections that I’ve created in anticipation of my organic chemistry class.

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After creating a section you can put in as many pages as you want. My preference is to create new pages when I switch chapters in my “Independent Chapter Notes” section.

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Uploading Your Documents and Notes

If you use the templates that are provided in the DIY instructions all you will need to do is take a picture of the page, and choose the “Document” option in your OneNote App. You can take the picture directly from OneNote or use a picture from your library. With the templates the app takes care of the rest.

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Everything is uploaded to Microsoft’s cloud service OneDrive, but you can easily save the page as a PDF file, though you may have to play around with the size of the image.

*Note: Glare is sometimes an issue when uploading your files. To solve this problem just make sure your notebook isn’t in direct light. There might still be a little bit of a glare but it shouldn’t be enough to cause any issues with reading the page.

What If I Don’t want to use OneNote?

Evernote

There are plenty of other applications and services out there where you can accomplish the same thing as OneNote, but it might be a little bit more work. I believe that Evernote has the same functionality in cutting out the template leaving you with crisp pages, but I’m not 100% sure about this. I’m the type of individual that finds something that works and sticks to it, so there is a low likely-hood that I will ever try Evernote.

Notability

You can also try one of my favorite note taking apps- Notability, in the same way you would Evernote or OneNote. This user-friendly app will allow you various different ways to organize your notes. The only downside is that it won’t crop out the unnecessary space around the template. The biggest selling point for Notability is that you are able to link up your favorite cloud service for added peace of mind.

Your Own Computer

There’s a certain degree of hesitation that a lot of people experience when using cloud services. What if they crash? Security is also a concern, and what about when you don’t have internet access and you forgot to sync your devices?

Since you’re taking pictures of your notebook you can always just create file folders for all of your classes and organize your notes there. There are plenty of tutorial out there that show you how to effectively merge your pictures and save them as PDF files.

You can also pair an app like the ones mentioned above and export copies of your notes to your computer for a back up storage.

Hand copying notes

If you find that rewriting your notes helps you learn, go for it. Though it defeats the purpose of ridding yourself of clutter and paper waste, I’m sure that someone out there will find this beneficial. You can carry around one Notebook to take notes in, then copy them in to a more permanent form of writing and then erase. At least you’ll only be carrying around one notebook.

Back Up Your files.

As already mentioned, using cloud services can leave much to be desired in terms of assurance that you won’t lose your notes. In my opinion this disadvantage also opens the door for one of the biggest advantages as well. Think about it, by backing up your files you’ve effectively distributed them in a way that ensures that you’ll never lose your notes. After all, you can lose your notes if you have them in a paper notebook as well, and then you’re left with nothing.

Different Clouds

I save my files to various different cloud services such as iCloud, OneDrive, and Google Drive. this way I know that I will have backups in various different locations.

Hard Drives

Whether this be on your computer (as I mentioned above) or an external hard drive, notes saved on hard drives offer extra security and less fear of losing an item. However, be warned hard drives can crash at any time so make sure you aren’t relying on just one.

Hard Copy

This is different from hand copying your notes on to a regular paper. To utilize this method all you have to do is print off pages from your applications of choice. No matter which way you choose to keep your notes there is a way to print them or convert them to a printer friendly document, all you have to do is a little research.

Conclusion

Once you figure out your method, you will feel as though a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. No longer will you have to furiously flip through old notes to find the example problem that you know is there. You will effectively reduce paper waste and lower your carbon footprint; and you will reap the benefits of having well-organized high quality notes. Information absorption will become more efficient and effective. Finally, finding new and innovative ways to organize notes can be a fun journey to figure out what works best for you.

If you have any suggestions that can help improve the information listed on this page please visit the Contact page and let me know your ideas. Likewise, don’t hesitate to ask if you want to write an article for the site regarding your experience using The Notebook.