The paperless office may still be a distant dream for most people, but there's a fair chance that the last piece of wood pulp to be banished from the desk will be the humble sticky note.
Despite all our progress, many great ideas are still birthed on the back of an envelope or beer mat, and birthdays remembered by attaching a piece of paper to a screen.
It shouldn't be this way. There are hundreds of ways to jot down thoughts or timely pieces of information as a silicon scribble, the challenge is making them more useful than scraps of paper.
Good computerised notes can be created, accessed and edited as quickly as pulling a pen from your pocket and from wherever you are. Once that's cracked, being able to note something down on your mobile or netbook while you're out and have it instantly available on the desktop back home can change the way you work.
Here's our run down of the seven best ways to do it no matter what device or platform you use.
This incredible app puts to shame the likes of Microsoft (only works if you have access to Exchange), Apple (needs Mobile Me, yuk) and Google (Notebook has been discontinued). Whatever platform – Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, Blackberry, Pre, WinMob, Blackberry or just a browser – there's an Evernote client that will take written, pictoral or audio notes and sort them into searchable notebooks.
All local clients stay in sync with the cloud, so you keep filling pages and reading filed copy when you're offline, which makes it much more versatile than an online only option. The only thing it doesn't do brilliantly is ToDo lists and syncing with clients like Thunderbird, but since the basic version is free and all you need for most tasks, we can forgive it that.
2. Luminotes (Free)
Underneath the straightforward and elegant interface Luminotes works by writing your notebooks and notes to a personal wiki page. It's simple to use, though, and there's no need to resort to markup language – you wouldn't even know it's a wiki if it weren't mentioned on the homepage.
There's an web-based version of Luminotes and there are clients for Windows and Linux (with an OSX one on the way) but frustratingly no way to sync between them. Which means if you're working on an online notebook, it won't be accessible if you're out of data's reach.
3. Celtx ($50 per year)
The renaissance app of notetaking, Celtx is a professional program designed for multimedia production, but its advanced interface for storyboarding and layering notes within notes can easily be abused to make it capable of organising everything about your life. There's no Mac or mobile clients yet, and online syncing means subscribing to the five-user Studio service, so it's overkill for most, but great for starting out on a creative project.
4. Toodledo (Free)
Primarily designed for to do lists rather than notes per se, Toodledo's integrated notebook still does the job admirably well, although it doesn't have the clever audio note syncing and so on of Evernote. The only natively supported local client is an iPhone app, which costs £1.79, but there is a handy plug-in for Outlook available for Windows users and it uses iCal for publishing read only streams to the likes of Google Calendar and Mozilla's Sunbird/Lighting and OmniFocus on the Mac.
5. Ubernote (Free)
A close rival to Evernote, the Ajax-based Ubernote is fast and flexible. New notes can be updated by email, Firefox add-on, iGoogle gadget or Twitter, but the only way of viewing them offline is to download the entire notebook as a large, uneditable HTML file. No good if you need your research notes on that secluded Spanish writers' retreat, then.
6. Corkboard (Free)
Taking the traditional push pin and paper as its leitmotif, Corkboard is a hybrid between an online notebook and Delicious or Tumblr. It's not the simplest way of keeping track of things and the web interface is noticeably slower than its rivals, but you can share any pertinent notes with the larger Corkboard community.
7. Zoho (Free)
Zoho is Google Apps with more muscle tone. It does everything Google doesn't including an excellent Notebook with a brilliant filing system and sticky-type visuals, if you want them. The only reason Zoho isn't among the finest here is that there's no offline mode for the Notebook yet, and it's not included in the pared down mobile interface either.
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