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Sitting on your arse all day for two days at a conference is surprisingly tiring work. I’m cream-crackered, despite having had what I thought was two good nights’ sleep in posh hotels. Having said that, last night I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth and wondered where the enormous bags under my eyes had come from.

The conference this week was the first one I’ve ever attended and taken contemporaneous electronic notes. In the past, I’ve always felt like it would be better to take notes by hand as I felt more able to write down one point while still listening and catching any other points made. But my handwriting is awful at the best of times and trying to write quickly while not really looking at the page meant that more often than not I ended up with notes that were illegible, certainly if I looked them more than a couple of days after writing them.

My typing, on the other hand, is half-decent. While I would never make a living taking dictation, my typing is much better than my handwriting and, even with some typos, it’s easier to work out what I was trying to type than trying to interpret a manual scrawl. To an extent, autocorrect has helped in that regard, even if that function does get some deserved flak on occasion.

The main reason I switched to electronic note taking this time was the fact that I had my MacBook Air with me with the app Day One running on it. Day One’s a journalling app and I mainly use it for work, although I’m trying to get more into the habit of using it to record other stuff (eg calls to useless telecoms suppliers who fail to turn up to appointments). The thing about Day One is that there’s also iOS versions for it so you can update and access your daily journal pretty easily. As it happens, I took my notes in Day One mainly on my laptop but with a few updates going in via my phone, especially when the battery on my laptop ran out.

Apart from a nice journalling app that keeps notes in an organised (by date) manner, Day One also uses Markdown for its formatting. Markdown is in essence a shorthand formatting convention that is readable as just plain text but appears nicely formatted if the file’s read in a compatible app. This makes it great for note-taking because I can easily denote various levels of headings by using the appropriate number of #s, for instance, and numbered lists are as simple as typing 1, 2, 3 at the beginning of lines. Looking back at that last sentence, it sounds really stupid that that’s considered a special language but the magic is in the automatic formatting you get from it when used in the right place.

I’m still trying to turn Day One into more of a habit than it is, but it’s getting there and with every update I feel like it becomes more the kind of app I want. High on my wishlist is the ability to embed tweets nicely and some sort of magic auto-import of tweets and Facebook statuses and when that happens, I’ll probably feel more like Day One is a true journal of my life rather than simply a work log with some more personal bits sprinkled in.

Post title lyric taken from The Beautiful South – My Book