A quick glance to the banner photo at the top of every page of this site will tell the eagle-eyed reader that I'm something of an aficionado of writing by hand: there are four fountain pens to the left-hand side of the laptop, and one just in front of it. I collect pens - mainly wonderfully over-the-top creations from Chinese penmakers, via this excellent online seller - and tend to carry at least three around in my bag, each filled with a different colour of ink. I'm quite a 'visual' learner, so, for me, it's important to have brightly (and, crucially, multi) coloured notes. When I come back to look at them later it really helps me to retrieve information - I tend to colour-code, so with a different colour (and usually italicised) for quotes, another ink colour for paraphrases / summaries, and another for my own thoughts.
However, as I noted above, going digital is an obvious and necessary move - I discovered during my MPhil that it just wasn't practical to be dealing with so many sheets of paper notes, and the PhD will undoubtedly involve at least three times as many notes! I have aspirations to transfer to an Apple computer at some point, mainly so I can take advantage of DevonThink and its beautiful full-text-search abilities. This sort of organisation, searching, and cross-referencing just isn't possible with hand-written notes.
So, basically, I've been trying to figure out how best to transfer my 'visual method' to note-taking on a laptop screen. I've experimented with using styles in MS Word, which I've talked about previously, but whilst I absolutely appreciate their value in terms of navigation and creating a table of contents, I've found them to be a bit fiddly for formatting whilst writing. Changing to a different style or, even worse, changing formatting manually mid-flow feels a lot more disruptive than capping one pen and grabbing another. I also find the Word interface a bit distracting for composition - because of all of the useful styles stuff it's a bit cluttered, auto-correct can get in the way for certain things, and the red and green squiggles for spelling and grammar can be annoying during composition as opposed to proofreading. I've downloaded a trial of Scrivener, but I'd rather save my allocation of free days for testing its usefulness for composing longer pieces of work, and for all of the recommendations of my science-y friends I just don't have the guts to try out LaTeX.
However, I think I may have stumbled upon a solution. I was in a workshop yesterday and, yearning for something a bit simpler (more, perhaps, like scrap paper for messy notes, to use a non-digital analogy), remembered that most basic of word processing programmes - Notepad. On a whim, I opened it up, and took my notes in it, with the thought in mind that I could transfer them to Word afterwards and tidy them up. I developed a sort of on-the-spot 'code' in place of formatting (Notepad has none!), for example, asterisk's to represent instances where, in Word, I would format a subtitle bold.
What about others? Does anyone have any good tactics for on-screen notetaking they'd like to share?