Putting Thoughts into Action

One of the first apps I purchased for my iPad was ThinkBook. This app lets you write, plan, outline and take notes and makes heavy use of gestures. My work involves meetings and conversations about a variety of projects. Those meetings – the good ones, anyway – inevitably lead to action items. I have long wanted a tool that would build a To Do list that consolidates all the action items from my different meetings and discussions. Otherwise, I need to return to my meeting notes and extract those action items manually.  Before I had my iPad and ThinkBook, I used to take my old paper notepads when I had a cross-country flight and spend an hour extracting  forgotten action items and other tidbits before I discarded the old notepads.

ThinkBook allows me to keep track of those action items in a much more efficient way. It can be used to create notes about any topic – in the form of a page or workbook of pages. But within any page, in addition to adding a note, I can add a To Do item – easily visible by the customary checkbox icon.

I can then use ThinkBook’s tagging feature to label a To Do item with any tag I wish to create. By double-tapping on the item, I bring up the option to add a tag.

I created a tag “High Priority” as well as ones for specific projects or teams and people that I manage. By creating what ThinkBook calls a To Do Find at the top of a page, I can set it to list all To Do items that contain a specific tag, such as “New Student Orientations.”   All of my action items related to New Student Orientations will appear on the page — or dashboard as ThinkBook calls it. The items appear whether they came from notes in my Education Librarians Team notebook or my Publicity notebook or wherever.

The To Do item includes a note indicating its source, as in From: Liaison’s Report. One drawback is that the source is not a live link. Once I have created the To Do Find for this ‘dashboard’ page, it will serve its purpose for as long as I need it.

Another convenient feature: once I check the box that the item is done, it is gone from my To Do Find list, but still remains in the page where it came from, with a satisfying checkbox indicating its completed status.[image from marketing page]

I have been using this feature in a number of ways. I set up a Master To Do dashboard that finds all To Do items, no matter what I tagged them. But then I also set them up within different  pages, so they appear at the top of those pages or notebooks. For example, if I go to my SMT (Senior Management Team) notebook, I immediately see all the To Do items that I generated in meetings with the Senior Management Team.

Other ways to utilize tags with To Do items is to use tags to assign items to different members of your team. Then use the To Do Find to pull up the items for a team member when you meet with them to discuss their assignments. If you have tasks that need to be done on a routine basis, you could tag them for days of the week and pull up all your items for Monday or Tuesday etc.

ThinkBook has many strengths. Today I am focused on this unique feature of the To Do Find. But I can’t talk about ThinkBook without also mentioning the user interface, which actually makes all this quite easy to do. ThinkBook is a great app to use to really explore the potential of the iPad, because it takes full advantage of the finger swipe interface. Items are added, deleted and moved on the screen with a series of finger swipes and taps. It takes some getting used to, but once you master it, it is quite easy to use. The virtual keyboard on ThinkBook  adds to the superior user interface. For example, it allows you to move the cursor backwards and forwards a letter or a word at a time.

There are some downsides to ThinkBook. I already mentioned that there are times when I think it should be automatically linking me to content, but it does not. Most notably, there is no web or desktop version, so whatever you create in ThinkBook stays on your iPad. However, you can email the contents of an individual note, page or notebook. So if I am using ThinkBook to collect ideas during a meeting I can easily email them to myself and reuse the notes in a Word document or wiki or whatever is convenient. Like many mobile apps, it allows you to backup the content to DropBox. If I access DropBox from my desktop, I can bring ThinkBook content into Word or any other text editor.

Despite these limitations, I am sticking with ThinkBook because it allows me to manage my thoughts so easily. In a future post, I will tell you how ThinkBook works as a note taking tool, compared to more traditional note apps. Let us know if you have any note-taking favorites that you can’t live without.

Published by

Gail Persily

Gail is Director of Educational Technology Initiatives at UCSF Library.

2 thoughts on “Putting Thoughts into Action”

  1. There are many note-taking apps out there, and we’ll be reviewing more of them here at Mobilized. The “best” one really depends on what features are most important to you, and ThinkBook has some unique ones. You might want to try out SimpleNote which is very streamlined but does allow tagging (so you could create a “todo” tag in order to find those notes later.) For more bells and whistles, look at Evernote or Springpad.

Leave a Reply