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Taking Notes By Hand vs. Computer: Which Method Is Better?

Learn everything you need to know about taking productive meeting notes, plus why taking notes by computer is better.

By Fellow.app  •   January 18, 2023  •   6 min read

For decades, researchers have done studies to see whether writing notes by hand or with a computer is better. Wondering what they’ve found? Read on to settle the taking notes by hand vs. computer debate and learn what else matters when taking meeting notes

Is it better to take notes by hand or by computer?

Generally, it’s better to take notes by computer rather than writing by hand. This is because, when you take notes on your laptop, you can type faster. That means you probably won’t easily fall behind or scramble words messily all over your paper. Plus, when you go the computer route, you can more easily edit, collaborate and share your notes with other people.

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Benefits of taking notes digitally 

Although you may have grown up taking notes using a classic one-subject notebook and those cute multicolor pens, taking notes electronically is the better choice. Below are some of the benefits of taking notes on your computer. 

1Easier to edit your notes

When you take notes electronically, you can quickly delete and rewrite anything you may need to edit. For example, maybe you took some notes and then realized you totally misunderstood what your manager said. If you did this when taking handwritten notes, you’d have to erase everything and rewrite it all. And you’d have to do it while trying to keep up with your manager. When you take notes electronically instead, you can easily correct your mistakes in just seconds. 

2Easier to find keywords 

Let’s say you’re starting a big task today but you had your team meeting about it last week. You probably need a refresher on everything from your meeting. Instead of wasting time searching page-by-page in your paper notes, you can just do a simple search in your computer notes. This will save you tons of time so you can get right to the task at hand. 

3Easier to keep track of 

Be honest: How many times have you lost your notes after a big meeting? Or maybe you start your workday and realize you forgot your notebook at home. When you take notes on your laptop, you’ll never again come into work in full-blown panic mode. Instead, all of your previous organized meeting notes are just a few clicks away – talk about easy access!

4Easier to share

Computers make sharing notes a breeze – long gone are the days when you needed to use the copy machine to send your notes around. With just a few clicks, you can share your computer notes with your whole team

5Better collaboration

Since computer-based notes are easier to edit, track, and share, they build team collaboration way better than paper notes. When you’re working on a team project, you can send your notes to everyone else pretty much instantly. With some online notes programs, you can see who changed what in your notes, and that’s a great way to hold everyone accountable. Plus, when everyone can edit the notes, you’ll get your most important information flowing like never before. 

Factors to consider when deciding how to take notes

When you first join a meeting, do you automatically grab a notebook and a pen, or do you open up your laptop? Although your method of choice might be a habit by now, you should consider the below factors to see whether it’s time for a change. 

1Conceptual or factual learning

Before you choose a note-taking method, think about whether you’re in conceptual or factual learning mode. Conceptual learning involves wrapping your head around ideas. Factual learning is all about memorizing things. 

For factual learning, taking notes on a laptop may be more beneficial – you can type faster and jot down only the most important details. As for conceptual learning, a 2014 research study is often cited as favoring paper notes, but most other research has shown that computers are better.

The 2014 study is titled “The Pen is Mightier Than The Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand over Laptop Note Taking.” It was said to have shown that students taking notes by hand during a TED talk recalled concepts better than students who took notes electronically. But when other researchers ran the same experiment, they found different results. The key takeaway here is that taking notes by computer is always a great starting point.

2Access to online resources

When you write notes on a computer or electronic device, you have access to all kinds of outside resources thanks to your internet connection. This can be a huge advantage, especially if you’re unfamiliar with any topics in your meeting. 

For example, maybe your manager is discussing the different sleep stages as part of your work for a sleep app client. Taking notes on a laptop means that if you’re just not getting it, you can find something to read quickly online. And from there, you can jump right back into paying attention and taking great notes. 

3Access to tools 

You can also use specialized note-taking software when you take notes electronically. That means more than your email inbox or phone’s basic notes app. For example, if you’re leading a meeting, you’ll do great with meeting management software that turns your notes into seamless streams of information. 

Fellow, for example, is a meeting management platform that’s great for taking electronic notes (and it’s free if your team is at most 10 people!). Link it with your calendar to load your meeting agendas right into your video calls and take notes right where you’re seeing your team. This way, you can take effective notes during your meetings without jumping around chaotically between a bunch of tabs. 

4Distractions

Whether you choose to take notes on paper or write them electronically, you’re bound to find a distraction somewhere. Admit it: Back when you were in school, there were times you were taking notes, then suddenly, your page was covered in doodles and squiggles. You can try your best not to doodle, but the temptation is real. There is less of a chance for that temptation, and better to manage distractions, by taking notes on your computer.

On the other hand, when you’re taking computer-based notes, you have the entire internet at your fingertips. You can avoid that being a distraction – just block certain websites and programs during notetaking time. Then, once your meeting ends, you can easily unblock everything and go back online. 

5Meeting length

Most people can type faster than they can write, and that’s really important during longer meetings. For example, maybe you’re spending an hour going over a new project that includes all kinds of new ideas. If you take notes by hand, you might have to leave out important details since you need to write faster to keep up. Typing notes allows you to keep up and add all the key parts. 

Take notes digitally with Fellow

When it comes to taking notes by hand vs. computer, digital notes win. To start taking effective notes, you’ll need a platform where you can write and share notes with the whole team. With Fellow, you can create your own meeting notes templates and share them with your entire team. It’s time to ditch the pen and paper – now, you can write and edit your notes in just seconds.

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