Posted in Analog, Techniques, Tools

Digital note-taking isn’t ready for prime time

There has been a long aspiration in the tech communities to replace paper and pen and go pure digital. “It’s easier to organize.” “It’s faster to access.” “It’s more intuitive.” When it comes down to it tech wants to replace something that has been around for thousands of years and proves time and time again to be a more reliable solution.

Typically you’ll come across posts such as “The top 5 digital note taking devices of 2020” or the like showcasing the latest in handwriting tech and identifying “transformational” new ways to capture your notes and thoughts with a stylus. I’ll admit I’ve been seduced by the talk in the same way going back to the days of Palm Pilots and Windows CE devices only to be let down time and time again.

I’m not saying you may not find the perfect tool for you, but what I am saying is the technology both hardware and software have been found lacking in my book. Whether it’s an uncomfortable stylus (I’m looking at you Samsung) or an exceptional expensive device (hey, Sony) the chance for digital handwriting to replace traditional pen and paper still has a huge way to go.

Now some may say I’m not being fair about this. “People have terrible handwriting,” or “There are so many styles to account for” that it’s too much to ask for perfection. You’re probably right, but that doesn’t change the fact that traditional pen and paper can handle those situations at a fraction of a fraction of the cost.

If you’re looking to move to digital note-taking and don’t want to be tied to a keyboard, just remember what you’re asking to happen. If you’re inclined to tell someone, “oh my handwriting is terrible” how do you expect a computer to make the interpretations of your chicken scratch. I’ve got a crazy idea. Rather than spending hundreds of dollars on tech to compensate why not spend some time working on your handwriting and note taking skills so it’s not an issue in the first place.

You can use scanning tools and smart pens such as LiveScribe or Rocketbooks, but neither will fix unintelligible handwriting. This is a skill that pays dividends for the rest of your life no matter what happens with technology. In this period of stay-at-home and social distancing, put some of that time to use to work on that penmanship so the digital translation isn’t the issue it has been.

I’ve included some links below to articles that may help you turn that chicken scratch into something you don’t mind reading and sharing.


How to Improve Penmanship – The Art of Manliness

How to Improve your Handwriting – Bullet Journal