Tips for apps that help you read, take notes, and give talks


Today I’ve got some software tips for you. These are apps that help you retain more of what you read, take better notes, and give memorable presentations. Sound good?

Getting more out of what you read with Readwise and Instapaper

For more than a year now, I’ve been a Readwise fan. It’s an app to help you get more out of books. My favorite feature: Readwise sends me an email every day with a number of passages (you say how many) that I’ve highlighted in the books and articles I’m reading. You connect Readwise to your Amazon account, and anything you highlight on your Kindle is automatically linked to Readwise.  

Readwise is such an easy and effective way of retaining more of what you read. It’s got me reading more actively and highlighting loads (and occasionally regretting that I’ve read so many physical books in the past, where of course highlights won’t automatically go to the app. You can actually use Readwise to lift highlights from real books, though. That works surprisingly well. 

I also use Instapaper to save longer articles for reading later. The brilliant part is you can also connect Instapaper to Readwise, so highlights from the pieces you read are available in Readwise too.

Your own personal Wikipedia with Obsidian (or Roam)

The notes I take fall into two categories: 1) Notes I take during meetings or if I just need to jot down something quickly and 2) my long-term digital archive, where the idea is to generate a digital card file of your thoughts, so you can group ideas at will and arrive at smarter next steps. 

For category 1, I still use Evernote – but with less and less enthusiasm, I have to say. Since the latest update, Evernote’s become incredibly sluggish. But I’ve got a good workflow going for snail mail to-dos, using the Scannable app, and I can find my templates and checklists easily. If you don’t use Evernote already, don’t start. Doesn’t look like things will be improving any time soon. 

For category 2 notes, I tried the web-based Roam Research for a while. I recently made the switch to Obsidian, mainly because it’s just a bunch of text files that live on my machine. The apps have some differences, but the idea behind them is the same. When your work entails coming up with new ideas, then these apps help you create a personal Wikipedia of sorts, where you can then uncover all kinds of new connections and parallels.

That appeals to me a lot, but it comes with a price tag: You have to first invest countless hours building up your database. 

It’s worthwhile considering whether you want to set up your own database of knowledge. Being able to find ideas, agreements, and other useful information is an undervalued quality, as far as I’m concerned. Both Roam and Obsidian are set up so you can take all your information with you, so you won’t get stuck using one or the other. It’s a little like planting a tree: The best time to start was 20 years ago. The second best time is today

A lot of people swear by Notion, which could offer a solution for both categories of notes I take. (Then again, that might make it too general for either.) I hear OneNote mentioned a lot, and the same is true of Bear

Forget Google Slides and PowerPoint. Pitch is fantastic

I’ve created loads of presentations using Google Slides. And not because they look great. (Things never look great in Google Slides.) I worked with it because Slides made it easy to collaborate with others on a single presentation. Then not too long ago, I tried Pitch for the first time. I was an instant convert, for two reasons: The standard templates look really really nice, and Pitch makes it super simple to work together. 

If you’re looking for highly specialized features, Pitch may not support everything. But for team updates, a pitch deck, or other straightforward talks, I definitely suggest you give it a try.

How about you? Have you discovered a new app lately (for reading, note-taking, or presenting) that works wonders? I’d love to hear about it.

Have a good week,