Better Note-taking


Note-taking is one of the most important cognitive activities. It focuses your mind on the most relevant information. It allows you to keep a permanent, concise record of complex source material. It helps you to learn, solve problems, and build new products.

But guess what? Most adults have practically given up on note-taking! They read documents, listen to podcasts, watch screencasts, and attend meetings, and now relatively rarely take notes (compared to the amount of information they process).

Why? Because they wouldn’t be able to get back to the source materials. With paper, it’s easy (if you can find the source): write on the page, or attach a sticky or looseleaf notes to it. But most information these days is in electronic form.

If you don’t take notes on what you read, was it worth reading in the first place? Ditto for podcasts, screencasts, etc.

Hook re-enables note-taking, by linking your notes to what they are about.

Link source materials to new or existing notes

Suppose you are reading a PDF and want to take notes about it. Just invoke Hook and select “Link to New”. This will create a new note in the app of your choice, and link them together.

Use your favorite editor as a note-taking tool

Have you ever tried to take notes in a PDF editor, like Adobe Acrobat, or in Microsoft Word? While they have their place, the “in-line” note-taking editors embedded in these apps are extremely limited and cumbersome. For example, they don’t support outlining or embedding graphics. Plus, they stash away your notes in a way that makes them hard to find outside the document.

Moreover, in-line annotation is not suitable for taking notes that synthesize multiple documents.

There are many great note-taking apps, like OmniOutliner, nvALT, and Apple Notes. In fact, even drawing apps (like Sketch and OmniGraffle) and mind mapping software (like Curio and iThoughts X) can be used for note-taking.

Why limit yourself? Hook enables you to treat excellent apps as note-taking apps.

Ever want to take notes about a web page or long email?

How often have you wanted to take notes about a web page or a long email?

With Hook, simply use the “Link to New” command, and start taking notes in the app of your choice.

Note-taking about a topic (multiple documents)

When you are researching a topic, you typically need to consult multiple documents. At this point, it is very helpful to create a document that contains notes that combine ideas from several documents. (This is what Mortimer Adler called “syntopical reading” in his famous book, How to Read a Book).

With Hook, you can easily create a document for taking notes about several documents sources. Just use “Copy as Link” from any PDF or web page, and then “Link to Copied Address” on your notes document. Hook enables you to rapidly navigate between your “notes” document and the documents to which it links. Your notes document becomes a “hub” for your reflections about the topic, problem and literature.

For example, if you are researching insomnia, just create a new note about insomnia, and link this note to any important document on insomnia. Then you can quickly navigate between your insomnia notes document and the web pages, PDFs and ebooks about insomnia.

Link notes in Evernote, DEVONthink and EagleFiler

If you use Evernote, DEVONthink or EagleFiler for storing your notes, don’t worry. Hook has you covered there too. You can link arbitrary information to notes in those information managers.

Also for students and their parents

Note-taking is obviously essential for students. If you’re the parent of a high school or university students, then you should get your children a copy of Hook, to help them become better students.

Do you do personal research on the Internet (shopping, medical concerns, self-help)?

If you ever do personal research on the web, then you need Hook right now, so that you can rapidly take notes.

  • Take notes about information you read on the web.
  • With Hook you can create a global notes document that aggregates information from many different sources.

Hook enables you to rapidly navigate between your notes and what they are about.

Hook notes can be stored almost anywhere

You can store your Hook notes in any folder on your Mac, in iCloud, Dropbox, Evernote, etc.

Do you use bookmarking services (Pinboard or Pocket)?

Pinboard is an excellent bookmarking service that also allows you to take notes about web pages. We use it and love it! However, its note-taking tool is quite limited, and it’s buried in a web window. Use Hook instead (or in addition to it), and take notes in the app of your choice. This will also make it easier to find your notes, and navigate back to their sources.

We also use Pocket, and the same principle applies even more to it, because it doesn’t have a note-taking field.

If you’re a Pocket or Pinboard user, you should really use Hook too.

(Teaser: Stay tuned for some amazing additional integrations between Hook and these bookmarking services!)

Hook and bibliographical citations

If you are a researcher (faculty, student, journalist, blogger, etc.), you need not only to take notes, but keep a citation or reference of that which you are taking notes about.

Only Hook makes it possible to quickly, robustly and flexibly link your notes to that which they are about. Hook provides a uniform method for doing so (“Copy as Link” and “Link to Copied Address”), which is second nature to Hook users. The link between your note file and the document the notes file is about can be used as a citation. (You can later copy the link, which includes the name of the target, and paste it anywhere).

Hook can also be used with ReadCube’s Papers, a bibliography manager. Just select a document in Papers, invoke the Hook window, “Copy as Link”, and paste the link wherever you want to refer to the PDF. You’ll have a fully formatted reference that is also a hyperlink to the PDF.

But you don’t need a bibliography manager to get these benefits. Use Hook to get the address of any PDF or web page. Then select the bibliographical reference in your document, and link it to the address.

On the importance of note-taking and the difficulty of doing it without Hook

The following books and websites explain the benefits of note-taking and provide guidelines for note-taking.

However, those documents do not deal with the challenges of taking notes with technology. For that, you should read: Cognitive Productivity books. Cognitive Productivity indicate how to solve those technical problems (the second one in particular deals with Hook and compatible macOS apps.)

You can start linking your notes today by downloading Hook. You’ll be surprised how a few very simple commands (“Link to New”, “Copy as Link” and “Link to Copied Address”) can help you take notes more rapidly and get more out of them.