From Notes To Noteworthy: These Note-Taking Apps Will Transform Your Grad School Experience And Keep You Ahead

Dec 1, 2023 | Art Insights

If there is one thing that I know for sure, staying organized in graduate school can be a challenging. Especially for future art historians and curators, where the need for impeccable citations and copious note-taking are often par for the course. Thankfully, these applications are steadily evolving in terms of features somehow delivering a futuristic appeal with the traditional feel. When I first began writing about Black art history, specifically using documents over portraits as my foundation—I needed strong system to establish order. You will cycle through a few of your own in order to come to what feels best for you. I would suggest watching some videos and even taking a look at the blogs. The blogs reveal some highly creative ways people use the apps. 

Here are some of my selections: 


Goodnotes differentiates itself in the crowded space of note-taking apps by offering a natural handwriting experience that mimics the feel of writing on paper while providing all the conveniences of a digital app. This app is a favorite among students, professionals, and anyone who prefers handwritten notes over typing.

User Interface and Experience
Goodnotes is known for its impeccable user interface that is both clean and intuitive. It offers effortless organization of notebooks and documents, catering to individuals with multiple projects or subjects to manage. The homepage resembles a well-organized shelf or binder, making it visually pleasing and functional.

The writing experience in Goodnotes is impressive. The app’s ability to capture handwriting is impressive, and it offers a variety of pen types and colors. The smoothness of writing is often highlighted by users as a key feature. It’s responsive and closely replicates the feeling of writing with a real pen on paper.

Key Features
Customizable Notebooks

You can choose covers and paper types 

Search Handwritten Notes

The app’s ability to search through handwritten notes is a game-changer. It uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to make your handwriting searchable, which is incredibly useful for reviewing notes.

Annotation Capabilities: Goodnotes is not just for note-taking; it’s great for annotating PDFs. This makes it a valuable tool for students and professionals who need to review and markup documents.

Sync Across Devices: With iCloud sync, your notes are available across all your devices. This seamless sync makes it easy to switch between your iPad, iPhone, and other Apple devices.

Sharing and Export Options: Goodnotes allows you to share your notes in various formats, including PDFs, which is great for collaborating or distributing notes.

While Goodnotes excels in many areas, there are a few limitations:

Platform Availability: It’s primarily an iOS app, so Android and Windows users are out of luck.

No Audio Recording: Unlike some of its competitors, Goodnotes doesn’t support audio recording within the app, which can be a downside for those who like to record lectures or meetings.

Price: Goodnotes is a paid app, which might be a consideration for those looking for a free alternative.

2.Notion: The All-in-One Workspace
At its core, Notion is a multi-faceted workspace that combines note-taking, task management, databases, and project management. Its appeal lies in its versatility and user-friendly interface, making it a popular choice for individuals and teams seeking a consolidated platform for their organizational needs.

User Interface and Experience
Notion is renowned for its minimalist user interface, which is highly regarded by users. While there is a moderate learning curve, the possibilities are endless once you get the hang of it. With drag-and-drop functionality and a variety of templates, you can easily customize your workspace to meet your individual or team needs.

Flexibility and Customization

Flexibility is where Notion really shines. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, or part of a large team, Notion adapts to your workflow. You can create anything from a simple to-do list to a complex project management board. The capability to interconnect pages and databases provides a level of organization that is difficult to find in other applications.

The capability to interconnect pages and databases provides a level of organization that is difficult to find in other applications.

Collaboration and Integration

For teams, Notion’s collaborative features are a big plus. You can easily share pages, assign tasks, and track progress. Moreover, it integrates with many other tools, like Google Calendar, Slack, and Trello, streamlining your workflow.

Performance and Reliability

In terms of performance, Notion is reliable, with sync across devices being seamless. However, it can feel a bit sluggish with larger databases or complex pages. Also, the mobile app, while functional, doesn’t quite match the desktop experience in terms of ease of use.

3.Google Keep is Google’s simple, straightforward, note-taking platform. 

Launched in March 2013, Google Keep represented Google’s foray into the realm of digital note-taking, a domain already populated by established players like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote. However, Google Keep distinguished itself through its integration with other Google services and its emphasis on a user-friendly interface.

The Interface: Simplicity Meets Functionality
One of Google Keep’s most lauded features is its minimalistic interface. This simplicity is not just aesthetic but functional, reducing cognitive load and allowing users to focus on their content rather than navigating a complex interface. The tool’s ease of use is particularly beneficial in academic settings where students and educators are inundated with information and require quick, uncomplicated methods to record and retrieve notes.

Integration: A Seamless Ecosystem
Google Keep’s integration with Google’s ecosystem, particularly Google Drive, provides a seamless experience for users. This interconnectedness means that notes taken in Keep can be easily accessed from other Google applications, enhancing productivity and collaboration, especially important in academic research and collaborative learning environments.

Features: Beyond the Basics
While Google Keep’s primary function is note-taking, it offers a range of features that extend its utility:

Voice NotesThe ability to transcribe voice notes is a boon for users who prefer speaking to typing, offering an alternative way to capture thoughts and ideas.

Image Capturing and OCR:Google Keep’s ability to extract text from images using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is a game-changer, particularly for researchers who need to digitize printed material.

Reminders and Collaboration: The app’s reminder system, which can be location or time-based, and its collaborative features, where notes can be shared and edited by multiple users, make it a versatile tool for project management.

Google Keep in Academic and Cultural Contexts

In the context of Black culture and history, Google Keep can serve as a powerful tool for educators and students. It can act as a repository for historical facts, a space for jotting down ideas for cultural exploration, or a collaborative platform for academic projects. Its accessibility and simplicity make it an ideal tool for capturing the rich tapestry of African American history and culture.

Limitations and Considerations

Despite its strengths, Google Keep is not without limitations. Its simplicity, while a boon for ease of use, means it lacks some of the advanced features found in other note-taking apps, such as extensive formatting options or in-depth categorization. For in-depth academic work that requires robust data organization, users might find Google Keep’s features somewhat limiting.


Each of these apps offers unique features to cater to different note-taking styles and needs. As a graduate student your choice will depend on your personal preferences, study habits, and the nature of your coursework and research. Experiment with a few to find what works best for you, and here’s to a more organized, efficient, and successful graduate school experience!

Let us know: Have you tried any of these apps? What’s your go-to note-taking strategy during grad school? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!