A 2009 study from Applied Cognitive Psychology suggested that folks who doodle while listening to a speaker may retain about 30 percent more information than nondoodlers. Of course, in the quest for the paperless office, perhaps such doodles—not to mention more directly relevant writings, such as meeting notes and action items—could be better made on an electronic device.
Of course, being that this is 2012, there is an app for that. Several, in fact, whether you're talking an Android phone or tablet, or an iPhone or iPad, as your new-age notebook. Beyond the doodling and note-taking, you'll find several other apps available on all platforms that can help you get more out of meetings. Here are a few of our favorites.
Take, Keep, Organize
For Android: GenialWriting (free version standard; buy the license for $2.99 to eliminate ads and unlock more features). Publisher: zenpie studio. GenialWriting is a simple tool for your Android device that allows you to doodle (or take notes) without pen and paper. Your finger is the pen, in fact; just "write" on your touch screen in a color and thickness of your choosing. When done with a word, you push a virtual button, and the note is shrunk and placed neatly onto simulated lined notebook paper, the look of which you can choose. Unlike real paper, you can also import pictures onto your note, and export your notes as a jpeg file via email, Dropbox (or other file-sharing programs), MMS messaging, Twitter, Facebook or many other programs for sharing and/or later use.
For iPhone: Handwriting (free). Publisher: Cocoa Box Design. Similar to GenialWriting, with an extremely simple interface, this may be the ticket for unobtrusive digital-age doodling and note-taking during a meeting. Simply write with your finger, move the canvas with two fingers, when you run out of room, and export to a variety of venues when done. There is a "shake to undo" option, which is fun yet somewhat undignified for meetings. Luckily, the traditional iOS "two-finger double-tap" to undo works as well as of version 1.2.
For iPad: Penultimate (99 cents on iTunes). Publisher: Cocoa Box Design. If your corporate culture is such that taking an iPad into a meeting is OK, Cocoa Box's premiere handwriting app, takes advantage of the tablet form. Key features include a "wrist protection" mode that minimizes stray marks from users' palms; native handwriting format import/export; a slick, realistic-looking interface; photo import; in-app editing/merging/duplication; and several other bells and whistles, including paid add-ons for additional features. Browsing, organizing and sharing your notes is a snap.
Sometimes a doodle or note just isn't enough, and you may want to record a meeting for future reference. Of course, this is readily possible on a smartphone or tablet.
For Android: VoiceRecorder Pro ($3.00)/VoiceRecorder (free). Publisher: Mamoru Tokashiki. Both versions of VoiceRecorder are as simple to use as pushing a button on an old-school cassette recorder. But recordings on these can also be easily emailed or otherwise exported for playback, sharing and even editing. The native format of the free app is 3gp, so to play on another device you may need to install a new sound player or at least a codec for your existing one (but this is an easy thing to do). The paid version, aside from having no ads, has added functionality of mp3 conversion, recording in WAV format (higher quality, but takes up more room), setting time tags for easy navigation and search by title capability. The bells and whistles on the pro version may be well suited for some situations, but the free version has worked well for me for years.
For iOS: Recorder ($0.99). Publisher: Retronyms. Another app where simplicity rules; push a button to record and you're gold. Email or use Wi-Fi to sync files to your PC. The latest version can even record phone calls, though it will cost you extra (and it does this through employing an outside service).
There will always be business meetings, and there will always be a need to record useful information and action items somehow. And the smartphone or tablet user is better equipped than ever, whether doodling while listening helps your brain do the "recording," whether actual note-taking is the way to go for you or whether you just want to get the whole thing recorded for later use.
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