Writing & Notetaking - Starting Grad School


I’ve been reading a number of forums, trying to decipher the best software fit for my needs. I think Scrivener may fit the bill, but I’m not sure whether it will be the best fit, or whether I will need to pair it with another program, such as Journler or Circus Ponies.

Basically, I am starting grad school in September and I’ll be attempting to complete a 24 month program in 12. I need to be extremely organized and efficient to make it come together. My basic needs are:

  • note-taking during lectures
  • compiling research from various sources (websites, scholars portals, PDFs, excel spreadsheets, perhaps audio/video, scanned documents etc.)
  • organizing research/notes/drafts for 10 - 15 different research papers and one thesis simultaneously

I don’t really care about integrating my calendar, iTunes, contacts, photos etc into this program, I basically want it to deal with school, anything beyond that would be gravy.

I’d really appreciate any comments on whether/how Scrivener will meet my requirements, or whether there are other programs I should use instead of or in conjunction with Scrivener.

Though it may not be possible, I’d also really like to be able to use a WACOM tablet with the program, especially during lectures, but also during the essay writing process. I think better when I write by hand, but writing on paper creates an extra step I’d like to avoid. Though I’ve never used it, I understand that Office OneNote works well with a tablet for note-taking purposes. Of course, OneNote isn’t compatible with OS X and I’m not interested in putting Windows on my computer. So, any suggestions on this front would also be great.

Many thanks, I look forward to your replies!

With the tablet, the next time you plug it into the computer, go to System Preferences and check out the Ink preference pane. It only appears when you have a tablet plugged in. Set that up how you like it, and give it a go. You can basically write anytime you want, and your writings can be dumped into nearly any application. The handwriting recognition is decent; good enough for notes that you are going to have to go over later anyway.

Storage for notes and research is a vast topic with a lot of opinions. Currently we have an interesting thread going on in the Software by Other Folks board. It started out one way, and ended up getting a little theoretical, but you might get some ideas out of it. Beyond that, the Software by Others board has a lot of threads relating to research and archival software. Given that most of us have to handle a ton of background material, there is a lot of collective wisdom represented here.

There are about a dozen really top-notch archival and information management applications for the Mac, and all of them have a slightly different character–some wildly different. Finding the right one for you is definitely going to be up to taste, as much as up to capabilities. There is no single “best” answer given the list you provided.

I think there is one person on the board who is effectively using Scrivener as a research archive. Most people here have at least one or more external applications though.

Hi Jazzz:

I’ve tried both Journler and Circus Ponies - CP twice, when it first came out and then again about 6 months ago; Journler just recently. I was unable to warm up to either application - just seemed like too many integration features that I’d never use…I also wonder if Journler would offer ongoing support, positioned as donation/free ware, and found the date & other formatting defaults cumbersome.

I’ve only been using Scrivener for 3 days, and so far I like it, but have only scratched the surface. I have over 20 years of journals that are in various formats, many hand-written, some in WORD .docs and some in a home-brewed FileMaker Pro data-base. At this point I am trying Scr. as the place to organize and edit these writings and my initial impressions are favorable…

Best wishes with Grad School!


Support for Journler in my experience is patchy at best and Circus Ponies have ceased trading. The nearest Mac equivalent to Journler is MacJournal which is actvely supported.

OneNote is available on the Mac either direct from MS or via the App Store.

Others on here use Devon Think which offers a lot but may be overkill for simple note taking.

Considering that the OP asked eleven years ago and might have moved on since, I think your (very helpful) response earns you the golden internet archaeology award. :smiley:
No offence BTW

None taken. It’ll teach me to check the date on posts before replying. My sole defence is that it was early in the morning before the first of the caffeine shots had taken hold… :smiley:

And you are a historian …



The Classdojo educational app can come in handy. It is not only making notes and combining schedule but also allows to cooperate with other students and teachers. There is a digital portfolio for a classwork and other tasks. Teachers can apply this app to cooperate with parents and all the class. Very convenient stuff. Here is the review on its features. Hope it will come in handy.