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  • Writer's pictureKarl Sander

This Thing is reMarkable

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a pun.

But it's not my pun, mind you. It's a trade name, so it's the manufacturer's. So don't groan at me.

I’ve got myself a new toy – tool, that is – and I’m pretty excited about it.

Throughout graduate school and for the past ten months or so as a writer, I was fishing for ways to do research and revise my work. For research, I tried Evernote, which I find useful for some tasks – but I struggled to organize things the way I wanted. I liked OneNote, with the ability to have a notebook for each project and then tabs for separate sources. It was great for school papers, especially when I found a reference online and I could copy and paste what I wanted into OneNote – and then again into the paper.

But writing for a professor is different than writing for a client.

For one, I tend not to need as many direct quotes. In fact, they’re often not helpful at all. So having digital text so readily available wasn’t an advantage. Many times, it turned out to be a disadvantage: copying and pasting text into a document made it harder to craft information into readable content. Plus, there was that annoying need to switch between windows (I don’t have a multiple monitor set-up... yet).

Eventually, I went back to taking notes by hand in whatever notebook I had handy around the house. It was slower going, a more significant investment of time up front, but I found it made the actual writing more natural. I had a better idea in my head of the information I had than when I had merely copied and pasted digital notes. There’s research that supports this concept. And what I wrote turned out to much more organic and natural sounding than when I was trying to be all hip and digital. Probably because in capturing information in a generative way, I was getting a head start on synthesizing it.

At the same time, my first several months as a working writer taught me that I’m horrible at editing off a computer screen. I was resigning myself to the prospect of having to buy a printer – and then endure the recurring costs of toner or ink, as well as paper ... in addition to bulk cases of notebooks.

It was in a discussion along those lines that someone clued me in to reMarkable.

This gem is a tablet, but not like an iPad or Android. Its display is meant to mimic paper, and you write (or draw) on it with its proprietary marker. Since it's not the glass surface that normal tablets have, the display is less prone to causing eyestrain.

There is a companion app for your computer and smartphone, so what you write on reMarkable is synched and available across as many of your platforms as you want. Even though it has WiFi to make that syncing easy, there’s no web browser and no apps. That’s a helpful touch since it eliminates a potential source of distraction. You can organize what you create a couple of layers deep, so you can have a folder for each project and as many "notebooks" or documents as you want, up to 6.5 GB.

(Not how I make a to-do list, but you get the idea)

It supports PDF documents, too, which is how I’m able to use it to edit. When I finish a draft, I save the file as a PDF and upload it using the app on my computer. Then, I can step away from the monitor, and mark up my drafts as quickly and effectively as if I was working with paper.

It's not exactly cheap (and they didn't cut me a deal for a review... but then, I never asked). Still, I figured it was a worthwhile investment that would off-set both the initial purchase cost, and ongoing cost of ownership, of a printer. It ought to be easier to manage than loads of notebooks stacked and stashed all over the place.

I only wish I remembered who suggested it to me, because I think I owe that lady a "thank you."

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