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Ask Your (Virtual) Assistant to Take Notes for You

Ask Your (Virtual) Assistant to Take Notes for You


Echo Dot, Black, Bookshelf.jpgAmazon Echo Dot


If you like to jot down notes throughout the day, the easiest way to do so is definitely with an assistant. Just ask your assistant to write it down, and you're done. Unfortunately, you probably don't have a real-life personal assistant and your school doesn't make one readily available but you may have access to a digital assistant that would be more than happy to take those notes for you.


Voice notes or memos are a simple way to record your voice and review the audio later but dictating a note to a virtual assistant is different because what you say is written out, already transcribed and easily accessible, waiting for you when you need them.


The general idea is that you simply tell a device that you want to take a note, and it will do just that. If you are using a PC running Windows 10, a Mac running macOS 10.10 or later, an Android phone, an iPhone, or a home device like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can tell each system's digital assistant to perform many tasks for you. One of the most useful is to take a quick note. This can happen on your commute, before or after a class, or any time you're not teaching.


There are so many ways to do this that it might seem overwhelming. So let's look at a few of the most common and readily-available options and try to figure out which might work best for you during those moments when you just need to jot something down.


SiriNote.gifTaking notes with Siri on an iPhone



If you're using an Apple iPhone or Mac with Siri, you have everything you need to take notes. You can simply tell Siri to "take a note" and she'll ask you what you want it to say. Then she'll add it to the Notes app on your iPhone, Mac, or both, if you have iCloud set up correctly. Since every Apple device has the Notes app, there is nothing else to install. You can also create different folders in the Notes app and assign your note to a specific one.


If you prefer to use other note-taking applications, I've got some good news for you. Assistants like Siri are updated frequently with new functionality and connections to other apps. I like to use Evernote so I ask Siri to "take a note in Evernote."





Windows 10 users can ask Microsoft's Cortana to take a note which will then appear within OneNote. This action doesn't seem to work with Cortana on other devices, but if you have a PC and use Microsoft Office, Cortana could save you a lot of time. Tap on the Cortana icon on your PC or say "Hey Cortana" and then "take a note." You'll find your notes in the OneNote app across all your devices.




Devices with access to Amazon's Alexa assistant have a built-in note-taking feature that by default adds your note to a to-do list. Just say, "Alexa, take a note" and she'll reply with "What can I add for you?" or "What's the to-do?" You can access the items on your to-do list by asking Alexa to read it to you or through an Alexa app on a mobile device.


Fortunately, Alexa can create other lists for you by simply asking. Try saying "Alexa, create a new list called Calculus 101" and she'll walk you through the process. From then on you can specify which list to add a note to.


Amazon is primarily an online retailer, so the default note features still seem to focus on shopping lists and simple to-do lists, including a 256 character limit per note. While Alexa devices are great at reading note back to you, your options for accessing written versions are more limited.


Google Assistant


Google's digital assistant is simply referred to as Google Assistant and responds to "Google." Google Home devices and newer Android phones come with Google Assistant and there is also an iOS app available. Depending on your device, saying "Hey Google, take a note" currently produces different results. On a Google Home device a voice will tell you "I can't do that yet" but on an Android phone you'll see a list of apps installed on your phone that can save your dictated note.


The default option for Google's notes is to send an email to yourself with the subject "Note to self." If you've ever opened an email application to write a note, you'll feel right at home.


Many Options


Using your phone may be the easiest solution since it is with you most of the time but some of the devices mentioned here are so small and affordable that you may want one in every office or classroom you use. Regardless of with assistant you choose, they are all receiving new features and functionality on a regular basis by way of updates and new app connectivity. Some of these assistants are even able to talk to each other.


If you don't like any of these options, you can look at new apps for each assistant or the service IFTT which connects many devices and apps to each other using "applets." For example, with IFFT I set up an icon on my Apple Watch that allows me to dictate a note into a specific spreadsheet on my Google Drive.


While I love the flexibility of IFTT, I mostly use the default note-taking features available. I suggest you give them a try and discover how easy note-taking can be.

Tweet: Here's some great ideas for using Alexa and Google Home in the classroom:

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