Do you love the tactile experience of taking notes on paper but prefer the organization features of digital note-taking apps? We do, too.
- Notability is an app for the iPad designed to help students jot down notes for school, home, or work. If you want to incorporate PDFs or take notes from documents, Notability is the best option for you. This can help you use lecture PowerPoints, study sheets, or essays and take additional notes on those documents.
- Sep 19, 2012 Notability is a versatile note-taking iPad app. Learn the ins and outs of this wide-ranging yet intuitive app.
Notability from Ginger Labs, is an excellent, general purpose note-taking app for the iOS platform. It has won multiple awards over the last several years. This app allows the user to combine.
And until recently, the best compromise we’d found was taking notes on paper and then scanning them into an app like Evernote.
While this approach worked, it wasn’t as seamless as we wanted. So for a while now, we’ve been experimenting with ways of taking handwritten notes with an iPad. And we’re excited to share that we’ve finally found a method that combines the best parts of writing by hand with the best parts of digital note-taking.
The key is to use a quality stylus, a screen protector that mimics paper, and, most importantly, the right note-taking app.
In this post, we’ll show you six of the best note-taking apps for the iPad. With a bit of practice, these apps will give you all the benefits of writing by hand without sacrificing the convenience of digital organization.
Note: All of the apps below work for both the iPad Pro and Classic, though the Pro’s larger screen size makes note-taking easier.
If we had to recommend just one iPad note-taking app, it would be Notability. The app offers a delightful writing experience, yet it also makes it easy to embed images, annotate PDFs, and even record voice memos.
Sketching and drawing in Notability is easy and downright delightful. Being able to doodle and quickly sketch out illustrations is one of our favorite things about taking notes on paper. Notability does an excellent job of emulating this experience, while also allowing you to do things you can’t do on paper such as resizing and moving your drawings.
In addition, Notability includes a variety of flexible layout options. This allows you to, for instance, have a slide or reference material open on one side of the page while you take notes on the other.
And beyond the layout of individual pages, you can also organize your notes using digital “Dividers” (which is perfect if you’re used to taking notes in a physical binder).
Finally, Notability gives you plenty of options for exporting and sharing your notes, including Google Drive, Dropbox, and AirDrop.
Check out the video below to see Notability in action:
Noteshelf was our favorite note-taking app for the iPad before we discovered Notability, and it’s still a superb option.
It has many of the features we love in Notability, including the option to annotate PDFs and multitask with the iPad’s split screen. You can also record voice notes to go along with your handwritten notes, which is perfect for recapping a lecture or meeting at a later date.
If you speak/write multiple languages, you’ll also be pleased to know that Noteshelf can recognize handwriting in 65 different languages. This makes it a powerful tool whether you’re taking a language class or learning a language on your own.
Finally, Noteshelf lets you export your notes to iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Evernote. The option to export to Evernote is noticeably missing from Notability, making Noteshelf our top pick for serious Evernote users.
Apple Watch users will also benefit from the app’s ability to record voice notes using the Noteshelf Apple Watch app.
3. GoodNotes 5
Up next, we have GoodNotes 5. This app has everything you want for taking notes, including the ability to switch between typing and writing. Plus, you can choose from several built-in note layouts and templates, as well as import your own.
Notably, GoodNotes 5 lets you adjust the sensitivity and palm recognition of the pen to match your writing style. This is perfect if you’re like me and tend to press very hard when writing.
Finally, GoodNotes 5 includes a “Presentation Mode” that lets you turn your iPad into a digital whiteboard. Using either AirPlay or an HDMI cable, you can project what you’re writing onto a larger screen while still being able to see the GoodNotes interface on your iPad. This is handy whether you’re giving a class presentation or pitching a business idea.
Want to learn how to take better notes? Check out our guide to the best note-taking systems.
4. Apple Notes
We couldn’t discuss iPad note-taking apps without mentioning Apple Notes. The app comes free with macOS/iOS devices, and it does a great job of letting you type or take notes by hand. The app’s drawing features are also solid, making it easy to add sketches and illustrations to your notes.
Aside from being free, the biggest advantage of Apple Notes is its deep integration with iOS. If you use iCloud and other Apple devices, you can effortlessly switch between taking notes on your iPad, iPhone, and Mac.
Plus, everything you create is automatically backed up to iCloud, and you can even create voice notes using Siri while you’re on the go.
Developed by Evernote, Penultimate is designed to be the go-to note-taking app for Evernote users. It has all the standard note-taking features you want, including a variety of layouts and the ability to search your handwritten notes with optical character recognition.
If you already use Evernote, then you can seamlessly add Penultimate to your workflow. Once you sign into the app with your Evernote account, all your notes will automatically sync to the Evernote notebook of your choice.
While the additional writing features of Noteshelf still make it our preferred note-taking app to use with Evernote, Penultimate remains a solid choice (especially if you’re looking for a free app).
6. Microsoft OneNote
Odds are, you’ve used (or at least have access to) Microsoft OneNote at work or school. But did you know that the OneNote iPad app allows you to take handwritten notes?
OneNote lets you write notes either on a blank page or a layout that emulates a sheet of lined paper. The general setup of the app mimics a physical binder, allowing you to organize your notes by topic.
OneNote for iPad also offers a variety of multimedia features. You can type text, insert graphics, and even include voice recordings. You can also search notes for specific words and view your notes across devices. And everything you create in OneNote is automatically backed up to OneDrive.
If you’re already a serious Microsoft app user, then OneNote will integrate seamlessly into your workflow.
Price: Free (with a Microsoft Account)
Start Taking Notes With Your iPad Today
I hope this article has shown you the exciting options you have for taking notes with your iPad. It’s now easier than ever to get the benefits of writing on paper without sacrificing the organization features of digital apps.
Of course, to benefit from taking notes, you need to make it a habit. If you’re looking to build the habit of taking notes (or another productive habit), you’ll love our latest course.
Click the button below to learn how you can take it (and thousands of other classes) for free:
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If you do creative work—writing, taking photos, making videos and music, etc.—then this class will help you boost your output and take that work to the next level.
Notability is an iPad app that is used for note taking and assignments in class. Sometimes, you will need to remove and redownload Notability if there is a problem with the app or the device. This can cause you to lose all of your saved notes if they are not backed up properly. This guide explains how to backup Notability to multiple sources, and how to restore your notes if needed.
Backing Up Notes
The best way to ensure that all of your notes are stored safely is to back up your notes to iCloud. Please follow these instructions if your iPad is not signed into iCloud: How to Sign In to iCloud on iPad.
Follow these steps to set up iCloud backup for Notability:
1. Open Notability, and tap on the Settings button in the lower left-hand corner.
2. Tap on the iCloud tab.
3. Switch iCloud to ON.
4. A message will pop up on the screen explaining that your notes are being moved to iCloud. Tap “OK” to begin the transfer.
5. An image of a cloud with a spinning circle will appear.
6. When the cloud disappears, you may Close the settings page.
7. Your notes will continue to download in the background. This could take a while depending on how many notes you have.
Your notes will now automatically sync with iCloud. Any changes made to existing notes, or new notes that are created, will be saved to iCloud. Please note that any notes that you delete will also be removed from iCloud.
Google Drive Backup
Google Drive is a secondary backup solution. Notes are not as easily restored from Google Drive, but it does offer an archived backup that could help restore previously deleted notes that are no longer on iCloud. Follow these steps to set up Google Drive backup for Notability:
1. Open Notability, and tap on the Settings button in the lower left-hand corner.
2. Tap on Manage Accounts, then tap on the Log In button next to Google Drive.
3. On the next screen, enter your Glenbard email address. Tap Next.
4. Enter your password for Google Drive. Tap Next.
5. Tap the Allow button to give Notability access to save notes in your Google Drive.
6. You will be brought back to the Settings page, and Google Drive should now say Log Out to indicate that you are signed in.
7. Tap on the Auto-Backup tab, then tap on Google Drive.
8. Tap on the blue Settings button next to Google Drive.
9. Keep the Destination as “/Notability/.”
10. Change the Format to Note.
11. You may change which subjects are backed up, however, it is best to have them all backed up.
12. Return to the Settings page and Close the page.
You will periodically see a small circle in the lower left-hand corner next to the words “Backing Up…” This indicates that Notability is currently backing up notes to Google Drive.
Please follow these instructions if your iPad is not signed into iCloud: How to Sign In to iCloud on iPad.
Repeat the process above for iCloud Backup. Your saved notes will begin to download after turning on iCloud Backup. This will also restore your Subjects.
Google Drive Restore
Follow these steps to restore Unfiled Notes from Google Drive:
1. Open Notability, then tap on the Import button in the top right-hand corner.
2. Tap on Google Drive. You will be asked to sign in to Google Drive if you are not signed in already.
Ipad Notability App Store
3. The contents of your Google Drive will appear on the screen.
4. Tap on the Notability folder.
5. You will see all of your Unfiled Notes, plus your Subjects organized in folders.
6. To import all of your Unfiled Notes, tap on Import All. Tap on individual notes to import only the ones you desire.
You cannot import entire Subjects directly from Google Drive. Follow these steps to restore the notes inside of each subject:
1. Open Notability, then tap on the Subject you wish to import to, or create a new Subject.
2. Tap on the Import button in the top right-hand corner.
3. Tap on Google Drive. You will be asked to log in to Google Drive if you are not already.
4. The contents of your Google Drive will appear on the screen.
5. Tap on the Notability folder.
6. Tap on the Subject that you wish to import.
7. Tap Import All to import all of the notes from that subject. You may also tap on individual notes to import only the ones you desire.
8. Repeat this process for all remaining Subjects that you wish to restore. Remember to Close the Import screen and tap on a different Subject before restoring more notes. Repeat steps 1-7 to restore all of your needed Subjects.