Clearing Recently Used Fonts from the macOS Font Panel

The macOS Font Panel, for apps that support it like Notes, TextEdit, and XX, allows you to quickly pick a font, point size, and color. It also displays categories of fonts, including a list of the Recently Used Fonts.

It’s not completely clear to me when and why a font is added to the Recently Used List, but the app in which I most frequently use the Font Panel is in Notes. Most of my notes are written in Georgia 14, because it’s easy for me to read even on my iPhone.

As you can see, my Recently Used Fonts is a list of repeated instances of Georgia 14:

macOS Font Panel showing Recently Used Font(s)

The Recently Used Fonts list is derived from the plist com.apple.Recents.collection. The plist is stored in ~/Library/FontCollections.

To purge the Recently Used Fonts List

  1. Close any apps that might use the Font Panel.
  2. Go to ~/Library/FontCollections.
  3. Drag com.apple.Recents.collection to your Desktop or compress it in place.
  4. Open Notes.
  5. Press Command-T or choose Font/Show Fonts from the Format menu in Notes.
  6. Click Recently Used Fonts in the sidebar of the Font Panel.
  7. Your Recently Used Fonts list should be empty.
  8. Delete the com.apple.Recents.collection file from your Desktop or delete the compressed version from ~/Library/FontCollections.

TextExpander

I’ve written about TextExpander before, because I’ve been a constant user for a little more than seven years. And now, with TextExpander 5, it’s even more useful.

Smile Software’s TextExpander is a macOS and iOS utility that saves keystrokes by expanding a short abbreviation that you type, with whatever text you have previously associated with that abbreviation (a TextExpander Snippet). When you type the abbreviation, TextExpander automatically expands it to a short phrase, a date, a name, a paragraph or or pages of text—whatever Snippet you’ve assigned to that abbreviation. You can even create Snippets that manipulate or format text from your clipboard before you paste the copied text to a document. You can share Snippets between your macOS app and your iOS apps.

I use TextExpander all the time for email, for Web pages, for HTML and CSS and for creating templates for various kinds of notes and glosses. I use ddate, for instance, any time I want to insert today’s date in a document, and TextExpander inserts the current  date for me. I write a lot html; while I use BBEdit for most CSS and HTML, when I’m writing blog posts in particular, I rely on TextExpander to quickly insert tags. TextExpander is particularly helpful in terms of short cuts for CSS I and tags like cite or blockquote that I use a lot. I type ,blockquote or ,cite and TextExpander expands the abbreviation to the paired tag, with my cursor right between the open and close tags, so I can easily paste the quotation or or the book title that I’ve previously copied.

TextExpander is a core part of my workflow, for writing of all kinds. I use TextExpander to add closings and sigs to my emails, letting me quickly customize the closing to suit the occasion without taking my hands off the keyboard to reach a menu,  and for the body of emails that I send frequently. I also use TextExpander for boiler plate paragraphs and URLs that I frequently need to send to people. I particularly like that I can rely on TextExpander for names of products and publishers, and be sure that I’m using the canonical name every single time. I have a group of snippets for words that I frequently misspell or mistype. TextExpander inserts the correct spelling for me. I also use TextExpander for templates for documents I create frequently. I have a review template, HTML templates for several kinds of Web pages, a proposal template, and, perhaps most importantly, an invoice template.

I send a lot of emails that are essentially the same, except for the name of the addressee, and a few variables. TextExpander makes that much more efficient and saves me time and keystrokes. Let’s pretend you’re thanking someone for a donation to a charity you volunteer for. Type the abbreviation you assigned to the form letter Snippet, and TextExpander creates a popup form. You enter a name, the amount of the donation, choose a category that the donation will go to from a list, and click OK. TextExpander generates the letter, places it on your clipboard, and you can paste it in whatever document you want, in whatever word processor or email app you favor. The new “Snippet Creation Assistant” (see below) walks you through creating similar Snippets yourself (In fact I stole this example from the Snippet Creation Assistant).

Snippet Creation Assistant

One of the new features in TextExpander 5.x is a Snippet Creation Assistant. This interactive tutorial walks you through creating your own Snippets—and it’s available at any time via the Help menu in TextExpander. The Snippet Creation Assistant walks you through adding several particularly useful groups of Snippets: Auto Correction, which automatically corrects commonly misspell and mistyped words, like that for that; a group of words that strictly speaking require accents, for instance, correcting crêpe to crêpe; and a group of CSS and HTML Snippets that will even create paired tags.

Shared Snippets

Other TextExpander users have created snippets that they share; you can download and install shared snippets, or, if you’re using the subscription version of TextExpander, shared snippets called Public Groups can be added to your TextExpander account.

TextExpander saves me time and keystrokes. At this point, I wouldn’t want to write without TextExpander. I even use TextExpander Touch on my iPhone and iPad. I have access to all my Snippets on my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad via DropBox syncing. With a yearly subscription, you can keep all your snippets (and share them with friends or the public) on TextExpander’s servers.

Suggested Snippets

A new feature of TextExpander 5 and later are “Suggested Snippets.” TextExpander watches in the background while you work, and when it notices you using the same phrases frequently, adds the phrase to a list of “Suggested Snippets.” You can choose to turn Suggested Snippets off of course, but it’s useful to leave it on for a while. You might be surprised at how often you use the same phrases, and Suggested Snippets makes it very simply to turn those repeated used phrases (and sentences) into a Snippet that can reuse with a few key presses.

I occasionally turn Suggested Snippets back on when I start working on a new book or project, and it makes creating project-specific Snippets a breeze.

Take Control of TextExpander

Purple cover of Take Control of TextExpander bookThe built in Help (via the TextExpander Help menu) is quite good, as are the user guides for the macOS and iOS apps, but I got a lot more out of TextExpander after reading Take Control of TextExpander, which is organized so that you can skip around and use the specific parts you need at any given moment, if you don’t want to read Take Control of Text Expander cover-to-cover. It also covers TextExpander Touch for iOS.

This post uses affiliate links.

NIXPlay 10 inch Digital Frame

I bought this NIXPlay Advance 10-Inch Widescreen digital frame for my mom after reading this WireCutter review of the Nix Seed. My mom doesn’t have WiFi, so the NIX Seed wasn’t an option for her. She loves her Nix Advance. It holds a giant amount of images and videos, and so the image is always fresh. And the clock function is useful too.

The NIXPlay Advance has a beautiful wide-screen display. The frame came with an 8 GB UBS thumb drive but it can also take SD/SDHC cards. It displays JPEGs and MPEG-4 videos, including sound. It also has a calendar and clock, and you can set the time to display on the lower right-hand corner.  The motion sensor can be set for a duration so the frame display “sleeps” when there’s no one around to appreciate it. You can have the images and/or videos play back in sequence or randomly, with a variety of dissolves.

The remote is easy to use, as are the button options on the back of the frame. There are a variety of sizes and features available, including NIXPlay frames with WiFi support. It took me all of 10 minutes to set up the frame after coping files to the USB thumb drive that was included with the frame.

I wanted this for my mom, but it’s a great gift for grandparents or other relatives. Pick out the videos and images you want to display on the frame, then when it arrives, copy them to the included USB drive or (the cloud for WiFi versions) and they’ve got a gift rich with memories and joy. Plus, it’s easy to pop the drive off the back of the frame and freshen it with new images. There are a number of options in terms of NixPlay digital frame sizes and WiFi support, including both smaller and larger frames.

NIXPlay Advance 10-Inch Widescreen digital frame Features

  • Photo & 720p HD Video Playback: Mix photos (JPEG) and video (MPEG-4) in the same Slideshow.
  • 1280x 800 High Resolution IPS (16:10) LED Backlit Display
  • Hu-Motion Sensor: Turns the frame on when you enter the room and off when you leave the room, with several durations.
  • 8GB Thumb Portable Thumb Drive Memory Included, frame accepts USB & SD/SDHC Card.
  • Small well-designed remote control, with batteries pre-installed.
  • Clock/Calendar Function, Stereo Speakers, Full One Year Warranty.

Purchase From:
Amazon.com | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK | NIXPlay

On Fountain Pens

I returned to writing drafts in long hand (as a respite from keyboard-related carpal tunnel) in 2012. I used fountain pens fairly often before that, but mostly for letter-writing. Since late in 2016, I’ve been writing long form drafts, note-taking and planning almost exclusively with fountain pens.

I already knew that I remembered notes I wrote by hand better than those I keyboarded. I’m not new to handwriting, but I quickly discovered that writing with a fountain pen was much easier on my hands than using gel or ballpoint pens.

With conventional pens, you’re physically moving the pen across the paper, and exerting force to move the “ball” so that it coats itself with ink, and transfers it to the paper. Because the pen needs to be impelled with some deliberate force to move, writers grip the pen, creating tension in the hand and arm, which often leads to writers cramp or dystonia.

With a fountain pen, the nib (the pointed metal object at the business end of a fountain pen) spreads the ink; the ink is liquid and the pen is inclined to glide across the paper with little force being needed. Moreover, the fountain pen’s tendency, because the ink is liquid, is to join letters, requiring less effort from the writer. Ball point pens, on the other hand, use thicker ink, and require more effort.

Other reasons to consider using a fountain pen, if the ease of writing alone doesn’t tempt you, include the enormous variety of inks; there are hundreds of shades and a number of different kinds of ink (permanent, archive quality, waterproof,  . . . ). If you sometimes need to draw or sketch a diagram or chart, a fountain pen can be a marvelous tool for sketching as well as writing. And, like other analog tools, fountain pens are extremely portable; if you’re not comfortable with the idea of carrying a bottle of ink with you, you can find ink cartridges for almost any fountain pen.

If you’re new to fountain pen writing, a fine point nib or even extra fine (rather than medium or broad or italic or stub) is usually easier to use and still produce legible writing. If you want to use bottled ink (it’s economical, environmentally kind, and there’s an enormous range of color options and ink types), make sure that the pen comes with a converter (an expensive device to fill a fountain pen with ink from a bottle) or that you can purchase one for that specific pen.

There are a number of economical options for those interested in trying writing with a fountain pen before buying a more expensive keeper. There are low-end pens that are $3.00 to $5.00 dollars each, including disposable fountain pens like the Pilot Varsity. The Platinum Preppy fountain is an affordable (c. $3.00) alternative to a disposable pen; it uses Pilot cartridges, so it’s refillable. There are also a wide range of reasonable pens that are under $30.00, like the Lamy Vista, the Lamy Safari, the TWSBI ECO, or the Pilot Metropolitan. These are perfectly good pens and will last for years.

Mottled black-and-white Mead composition notebookYou’ll have better results  with fountain pens if you use slightly better than average paper; a Mead 5 Star notebook is tolerable, but heavier weight paper (c. 70 gsm or better) will work better and you don’t have to break the bank. Ordinary “composition notebooks,” those mottled sewn binding books are often just fine for long-hand drafts in fountain pens; look for composition books manufactured outside of the U.S. (often made with sugar cane or rice bran fibers).

Moreover, you’re not limited by the offerings at Amazon; check out the options at JetPens.com or The Goulet Pen Company, both of which offer reasonable “starter pens” and notebooks or pads of paper suitable for fountain pens.

Bullet Journal App

I’m still using my Bullet Journal® notebook, and Ryder Carroll has released a Bullet Journal app for iPhone, under the name Bullet Journal.app for $2.99. It’s available on iTunes or the app store.

It’s not an app that functions as a an actual journal, rather, it’s intended to help people set up their first Bullet Journal, and be a guide to getting the most out of a Bullet Journal. The internal name is Bullet Journal Companion, and that’s apt; it’s a companion for your analog notebook. The app was released in February of 2017, and while I downloaded it then, I wasn’t really impressed. There have been several updates, and a new feature, the Library, has been added, as of the version released on May 17, 2017.

When you launch the app, the first screen you see is a linked table of contents:

Reflection

The Reflection section is an exercise in mindfulness, as the Web page announcing the Bullet Journal Companion app notes:

Keeping track of what you need to be doing is important. Keeping track of why you’re doing those things is critical. Reflection will help keep you focused on the why through daily trackable reminders prompting you to unplug and review your notes.

The idea is that you set an AM and PM time to reflect each day on why you’re doing what you are doing. There are several inspirational quotations, and you can “log” or track the fact that you did in fact reflect by tapping a calendar date.  If you set up Notifications, the Bullet Journal Companion will remind you to reflect.  I’m not one to find this appealing, but others may.

Library

I think that the purpose of the Library is to allow you to use your iPhone’s camera to take photos of a BuJo® page, give the Bullet Journal app permission to use the photo, and then associate it with a specific journal, date range and one or more tags to create a digital index of sorts. The search function appears limited to tags, rather than actual contents. I suspect that there are plans to allow OCR or some better ways of locating data than tags; as it stands it’s not terrible useful, and it’s certainly not innovative (see for example EverNote or Moleskine notebooks and app or Baron Fig notebooks and Codex.app.

Articles

Most of the articles appear to be also available on the official BulletJournal Website, though I admit I can’t find the one on Reflection on the site. The articles are a useful resource, especially for those getting started.

Guide

The Pocket Guide is a version of the step by step setup guide Carroll wrote for his Website. It goes through the basics of creating your first bullet journal with a blank notebook. It’s quite useful in that respect, and much easier than trying to look at a Web site while you work. I would absolutely have found it helpful when I set up my bullet journal. It’s updated, by the way, when the app updates, but the content is local to your phone, which means you can use it without being connected to the ‘net.

 Store

This appears to be an overview of the Official Bullet Journal notebook, also sold from the Website, but it doesn’t appear to be an actual store in terms of being able to buy one from your iPhone.

The Guide has merit for those starting out, but not $2.99 worth. The free .pdf Starter Guide you can download when you subscribe to the Bullet Journal Newsletter is, in my mind, more helpful. I’m not outraged at spending $2.99, but the Bullet Journal Companion app strikea me as somewhat useless; it’s not going to stay on my phone.

Adding Week Numbers to Apple’s iCal

It is often helpful to know what week, out of the possible 52 weeks in a calendar year, a particular week is. Here’s how to tell Apple’s.app Calendar to show week numbers.

  1. Open Calendar.app(or iCal on earlier versions of macOS) on your Mac.
  2. Choose Preferences from the Calendar menu.
  3. Click Advanced in the Toolbar.
  4. Click the box to the left of Show week numbers.
  5. Close the window.

Now look at your Calendar. You’ll see gray week numbers along the left margin of your Calendar.

Image showing macOS calendar with week numbers
macOS Calendar with week numbers

To display week numbers in Google’s Calendar see this post.

Adding Week Numbers to Google Calendar

It is often helpful to know what week, out of the possible 52 weeks in a calendar year, a particular week is. Here’s how to tell Google Calendar to show week numbers.

  1. Log on to your Google Calendar
  2. In the sidebar to the left, click the pop-up menu for Other calendars.
  3. Select Browse Interesting Calendars from the pop-up menu.
  4. On the top of the Interesting Calendars page, click More.
  5. Click Subscribe to the right of Week Numbers.
  6. Click the Back to Calendar link to see your calendar, now with small blue week numbers in the top right corner of every Monday, next to the time setting at the top of the calendar.

Image showing the week numbers in an image from Google Calendar
Week Numbers in Google Calendar

To add week numbers in macOS / OS X’s iCal, see this post.

Spark by Ergodriven: A Better Way to Test A Standing Desk

When I first started experimenting with a standing desk, to see if it would work for me personally, I used odds and ends of household furniture two create two setups for test-driving standing desks.

But the Spark by Ergodriven is a much better option. It’s a flat-packed sturdy cardboard temporary lift, meant to be placed on an extant table or desk and thereby convert the furniture you already have to a standing desk. The Spark comes in threes sizes, allowing you to choose a desk suited to your height. It’s made out of surprisingly sturdy corrugated cardboard, and it’s pretty easy to assemble.

It’s also dirt cheap. Small Sparks for people under 5′ 4” or Medium Sparks for people 5′ 4” to 5′ 11 are $20.00 from Amazon; Large for people over 5′ 11” are $25.00. And because it’s flat-packed, it strikes me as something to consider if you do a lot of consulting that involves working from hotel rooms. You could have Amazon ship the Ergo Spark to your hotel, or stash it in your luggage and assemble it there. Most hotel rooms have a desk or table, and you can use the Ergo Spark to allow you to adjust your position from cramped and hunched, to standing.

My Bullet Journal Trial

I’ve been using a Bullet Journal for a month now (I started on January 9th, 2017).

General Impressions

My bullet journal trial has been successful. I’m going to continue using it, at least while I have limited ‘net access.

The portability factor of my bullet journal, and the ease of planning and tracking my time without access to the ’net has really helped. My access to the Internet has been particularly spotty due to weather problems, so I started using the bullet journal just in time. While I’m still using my digital tools, I can work without them, thanks to the bullet Journal.

I am not one of the many artistic people using a BuJo, nor am I one with beautiful handwriting and perfect spelling. I use mine to track deadlines, keep lists of projects and due dates, and to track blog posts and writing-for-hire work. My BuJo isn’t pretty, but it is functional and it doesn’t require a lot of effort to maintain, leaving me more to write (and read!).
I’ve pretty much decided on my format. I got some super advice from this post.

How I Use A Bullet Journal As A Writer

I have three broad stages of writing (not counting intermittent stages of pacing, hair-pulling and long walks):

* Research and brainstorming
* Drafting
* Revising

I track all of them in my bullet journal. I brain storm ideas via lists of possible topics for various venues, with short notes about the venue and about points for research. I track research tasks—locating a particular book, obtaining and reading the book, potential interview subjects, etc. (These are lists, but in official BuJo parlance they’re called *Collections*).

I also track pitches, submissions, due dates and publication dates.

My Bullet Journal Set Up

  • I use colored ink (red for deadlines, due dates and holidays, green for other kinds of emphasis) to highlight and differentiate information.
  • I don’t use the standard Bullet Journal “key,” symbols to identify information by type that Carroll created; I use some derived from the lazy genius post I linked to earlier.
  • I use reduced-size monthly calendars, three months to a page through January 2018, for long-range planning.

Image of a hand-written bullet journal future log
“Future log” AKA six months at a glance Image: © Lisa L. Spangenberg

Ryder Carroll calls these pages the “Future log.” His is a list of days/dates; mine is a miniature calendar. I use these for visualizing blocks of time as I plan what I need to do when. The visual indication of blocks of time in a calendar helps me “see” my time.

 

 

I’ve not yet needed the right hand page much, but I suspect I will, eventually.

  • Individual month pages; a list of days and dates, divided into weeks via a separator line.

I list projects due dates, and bills, and tasks that are repeated weekly on the appropriate dates.

  • Daily pages include appointments, tasks, and occasional notes.

I usually create the daily pages (or really, portions of pages; a day’s entry doesn’’t take an entire page for me) the night before the day in question.

I list appointments or items due on that day, and tasks I want to complete. I fill in the box (or diamond in my case) as I complete a task, or partially fill in those that require more than one day to complete.

During the course of the day I make brief notes about things I might want to know later; people I’ve met, birds I’ve seen, sometimes the weather, especially in terms of birds.

Collections

“Collections” in Carroll’s terms describe data that is not primarily task or appointment related. Mine include:

  • Books to read
  • Books I’ve read
  • Things to write & pitch that are not yet contracted
  • Potential blog posts—I move these to specific days as needed in terms of drafting and then publishing them.
  • A list of long term projects in the research phase
  • A list of birds for the year
  • Recipes that I need to use fairly often but don’t know by heart (I prefer paper in the kitchen)

Future Plans: I Need a Notebook

I’ll use the current no-name blank book I have through March, I expect, but I’m going to need a replacement soon,  since I’ll have run out of pages.

While there is an official trademarked Bullet Journal, available from Leuchtturm.us and BulletJournal.com, most of its extra features (three ribbon markers, designated Index pages, a printed key code and guide to Bullet Journals) don’t matter to me.

What I Want in a Bullet Journal Notebook

  • I want something around 5 inches by about 8 inches.>
  • I want better quality paper.

By that I mean paper that I can use pencil on and erase, and that I can use fountain pens on with minimal bleed-through.

  • I think I want dot grid paper. Dot grid paper has faint dots marking a grid. The dots help me keep my handwriting legible, and they’re useful in creating the occasional charts or diagrams I sometimes use in planning writing. That said, dot grid paper is not a deal breaker for me, and paper quality is.
  • Other features that are common—elastic bands that keep the notebook closes, ribbon markers, pockets, pre-printed pages—are less important to me.

Possible Notebooks

I’m currently considering the accepted standard notebook for bullet journals, the Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover, or a Rhodia Webnotebook. Both come in dot grid (as well as graph, lined, and blank). The question of Leuchtturm vs Rhodia is apparently a bit of a quandary for others, too.

Leuchtturm1917 Hardcover Medium

image of a Leuchtturm1917 Medium hard cover notebook with a blue coverThe Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover is an  A5 size hardcover bound journal, available with dotted, grid (“squared”) or lined pages. It’s 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches, and has 249 pre-numbered pages (125 sheets), a reserved set of pages for an index in the front of the notebook, two ribbon markers, and a pocket for notes inside the back cover, and an elastic band to keep it closed.

Rhodia Webnotebook

The Rhodia Webnotebook with dot grid paper. It’s roughly the same size as the Leuchtturm A4 at 5.6 x 8.3. The paper is 90gsm, versus the Leuchtturm1917 which uses 80 gsm paper. But the Rhodia, while it has heavier weight paper, also only has fewer pages; 192 pages (96 sheets).

There are other minor differences (the Leuchhturm1917 has pre-numbered pages, a reserved area for an index, and two ribbon markers, where the Rhodia has one, etc.), but essentially, for me it comes down to a question of more pages (Leuchtturm1917) vs higher quality paper and less bleed- through (Rhodia).

The popularity of bullet journaling has made the Leuchtturm1917 Medium Hardcover scarce, especially some covers in the dot grid paper. But if you venture outside of Amazon, you can find various covers and sizes at JetPens.com (where you can also find the softcover black A5 Medium journal/notebook) and The Goulet Pen Co. Or at Leuchtturm.us where you can find a wide variety of Medium Leuchtturm1917 hardcovers in various colors.

Having just drafted this post and link-checked it, I’ve discovered a third possibility via Amazon. A newcomer called Scribbles that Matter — Dotted Journal Notebook Diary. There are four colors of leather cover, all with icons, but with black, gray, pink or teal backgrounds. The icons on the cover don’t thrill me, but I like the 100GSM ivory dotted paper with185 numbered pages (plus a key page, 3 index pages and 2 pen test pages, two ribbon, markers, a pocket, and a pen loop). List price is $24.99, but right now, it’s $19.99, and I confess, that paper is really tempting. There’s a Scribbles that Matter lined paper journal as well as the dot grid version. I see from the Scribbles That Matter Facebook page that they’re planning on new covers in different colors (possibly including a really nice blue, and contrasting elastics), and they’re at least discussing covers without icons.

I haven’t had a chance to do any local shopping yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find something locally. I quite like the blank book I’ve been using, which has high quality paper with minimal bleed. I’d use it again, honestly, but I do think dot grid paper will be helpful.

Handwriting and Retention

When I got my first laptop (a PowerBook 180) I thought it would be just the thing for taking notes in my graduate classes, particularly since I’ve always loathed my very obviously dyslexic cursive handwriting, and even my more legible (but slower) printing.

I soon realized that for all the ease of formatting my typed notes, I didn’t remember the contents of lectures nearly as well as when I took notes by hand. Moreover, when I began preparing for my Ph.D. qualifying exams, I discovered that it was more effective if, after I compiled my notes on the computer, I annotated them by hand.

There’s a lot of research that supports my personal anecdotal experience about handwriting encouraging retention.

Pam Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel Oppenheimer (UCLA) tested the retention of students taking notes by hand versus those using computers. The students using computers tended to transcribe, word-for-word, the content of the lectures. Even after researchers explicitly told laptop using students not to simply transcribe the lectures, they continued to transcribe word-for-word, and performed substantially poorer on tests than those taking notes by hand. According to Muller and Oppenheimer, “It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently.” The most dramatic result in terms of the two groups of test-takers were in terms of questions that were conceptual; students using handwriting performed significantly better than those students using keyboards.1)See also: (Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension – Association for Psychological Science
A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop
Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?
Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away

In terms of the neurological and physiological aspects of handwriting versus keyboarding, while keyboarding is substantially faster, allowing for word-for-word transcription, handwriting forces the writer to concentrate on the physical aspects of forming the letter while simultaneously visually paying attention to the tip of the pen. Writing by hand uses different parts of the brain, and more of them, than keyboarding does, which may have something to do why those writing demonstrate better retention than those who keyboard.

In an essay regarding the necessity for more research into the complex interactions between our brains, hands, and eyes in writing by hand, researchers Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay note that

Our body, and in particular our hands, are inscribed in, and defining, the writing process in ways that have not been adequately dealt with in the research literature. The current radical shift in writing environments mandates an increased focus on the role of our hands in the writing process, and – even more importantly – how the movements and performance of the hand relate to what goes on in the brain.

Writing by hand changes our mechanics, and consequently, our memory. As we concentrate on forming the letters, we’re using parts of our brain that we don’t use when we keyboard, and that appears to assist both memory and recall. Researchers and Psychology professors Dung Bui, Joel Myerson, and Sandra Hale from Washington University discovered that students taking lecture notes via a computer keyboard demonstrated better immediate recall than students creating well-organized lecture notes by hand, but that about twenty four hours later students who keyboarded their notes performed worse on tests about the material than those who wrote their notes by hand. The researchers concluded that keyboard notetakers had poorer recall than those taking notes by hand because they were not actively summarizing and synthesizing key points, as much as they were engaged in transcription. According to them:2)See also: 3 Scientific Links Between Handwriting Your Notes and Memory

Taking organized notes presumably involves deeper and more thorough processing of the lecture information, whereas transcribing requires only a shallow encoding of the information.

Image showing a fountain pen and cursive handwritingCertainly for me, when I write notes by hand, I am in making the information more mine; I am condensing it and emphasizing key concepts and connections between concepts, in ways that I am not when I merely transcribe. Consequently, the information is mine, and I can recall it more effectively. This same memory effect applies to other kinds of information beyond taking notes; when I write a date and time in a calendar, the appearance and shape of the characters remains in my memory as a visual impression in ways that adding an appointment in my online calendar does not.

References   [ + ]