Ultimate Electronic Brain

For the last 5 years or so I’ve been in search of the best way to take notes, record ideas, keep track of my tasks (yes, this is why Tasks was originally created), etc. I won’t keep you in suspense, I still don’t have a perfect solution.

Here are some of the things I’ve used over the years:

  • Pen and Paper – the tried and true, the thing is, it isn’t searchable.
  • Newton 130 and 2000 – not bad at all for the time, but handwriting is slower than typing.
  • Palm III – grafitti is worse than the Newton handwriting recognition.
  • Palm V with Stowaway Keyboard – this worked pretty well. I used this for about a year, putting all my meeting notes into Mini DB. The fatal flaw was needing a flat surface for the keyboard.
  • Palm i705 with add-on keyboard – thumb keyboards just aren’t fast enough.
  • Sony Picturebook with an early, early version of what would become Tasks – this worked great in meetings, etc. but not so well for the “on the go” ideas you want to record.
  • Treo 300 – see Palm i705
  • Aiwa Voice Recorder – nice for during the commute, but not handy enough that I used it enough.
  • 15″ PowerBook G4 with Tasks – fantastic for meetings, searchable data that is accessible from any computer. Best solution so far.
  • Treo 600 – see Palm i705
  • Current solution: laptop (PowerBook or Dell 700m) with Tasks Pro™, with occasional access from the Treo 600. I’ve even found a way to do UI diagrams in this solution. :)

Unfortunately, my current solution is still sub-optimal in a number of situations so I’m looking to augment it. For example, I’d like to have something on the nightstand for those late night brainstorms; perhaps pen and paper is the solution there. I’ve also wanted to have a better “in the car” solution – currently I jot a note in the Treo or use SoundRec. Generally, I need a solution for when it isn’t realistic to pull out a laptop.

One of the fellows I work with on my contract gig uses the Logitech Digital Pen which is actually a lot cooler than I expected. I wonder how well the second generation version works. Of course, this is a PC only solution which is less than ideal, and the handwriting recognition is suspect. The problem with trying to do handwriting recognition after the fact is you don’t know when you have something to correct (a word that isn’t recognized).

Perhaps a tablet PC would have been a better choice than the Dell 700m, that would have given me the option to record digital ink with the ability to correct as I go, but it isn’t as portable (or as “instant on”) as the digital pen and paper solution.

I imagine a bunch of you have followed a similar path and may have some interesting solutions; I’d love to hear about them in the comments.