The best note-taking apps for iPad

By , Apr 23, 2013

Note-Taking on iPadThe iPad can be a workhorse for your productivity needs if you know how to use it. Whether you are building a business network, making your way through college, or just trying to run a brick-and-mortar record shop, the iPad can be one of your greatest allies.

The iPad is the perfect sized tablet for taking notes. If you are in a meeting, listening to a lecture, or coming up with ideas for your next masterpiece, you can find an app that will accommodate your needs. We’ve got a list of the best note apps for iPad that we think rise to the top. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section…

Best apps for taking notes

Penultimate IconPenultimate

One of the best features of this note-taking app is that you can handwrite your notes. If you are not comfortable using the iPad’s touch screen keyboard and haven’t already invested in some kind of keyboard case, you will love being able to write on your iPad like a note pad. Of course, you’ll need a stylus in order to make the most out of your chicken scratch. However, Penultimate features smooth, realistic handwriting simulation with multiple paper styles and a variety of pen color options. You can search your text, save your ideas to Evernote, and share single page images or full PDF notebooks to others. You can import images, annotate files, and sketch ideas. Available for free.

Bamboo Paper IconBamboo Paper – Notebook

This is another great note-taking app that lets you handwrite your ideas using a realistic pen and paper simulation. Wacom took things a step further by making a line of stylus pens to work with the app. Not that you couldn’t use any stylus, but Wacom makes some of the best. Bamboo paper features the ability to zoom in so you can write smaller notes without having to change your handwriting. You can save your notes in Dropbox and Evernote and there is even a feature to allow you to post your ideas to Facebook and Twitter. The app includes one free notebook. You can unlock the full version, which gives you unlimited notebooks, for $1.99. Available for free.

Myscript Notes Mobile IconMyScript Notes Mobile

This is probably one of my favorite apps because of its many, innovative features. Not only can you handwrite your notes, but you can turn your notes into text so that others don’t have to try to figure out your sloppy handwriting. Your handwritten notes are also searchable and you can look up definitions of words, or search for them on the Internet. The app also lets you use a wide variety of gestures to edit text and you can import PDFs for annotation, or add images to your document. Files can be saved to Evernote and Dropbox and can be posted on Facebook or Twitter. This is one of those apps that utilizes everything the iPad’s technology offers to create an exciting and inventive app. Available for $7.99.

Notability IconNotability

If you are in college, you kind of need this app. Not only can you handwrite notes, but you can type text as well. It includes a full-featured word processor with the ability to spell check, add bullet points, and more. You can annotate PDFs, so if your professor sends out a worksheet, you can write notes directly on the iPad without having to switch to a different app. The most useful feature of this app is that it records audio. You can record a lecture while taking notes. The app syncs what you type with what was recorded so that, when you go back over your notes, if something you wrote doesn’t make sense, you can tap a word and it will play back the section of the lecture that took place at that time. Available for $1.99.

My Sketch Paper IconMy Sketch Paper

This is less of a note-taking app and more of an idea-sketching app, but I felt that is was important to include it for our creative readers. Users can take notes using the text editor and freehand sketch ideas, or simply doodle in the margins. You can also change the type of paper you are using from plain white, to a variety of lined options, including list making and grid paper. You can even change the background from textured paper to stark white or antique. For a few dollars with in-app purchases, you can add a whole lot of additional backgrounds, pen and paintbrush options. My personal favorite is the sheet music notepaper. Available for free.

These are what we believe to be some of the best apps for taking notes. What are your favorites and why? Make sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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  • Charles Riedmueller

    Notability, for all the reasons you mentioned. Also, I direct at a local theater, and the ability to record audio while taking actors’ notes is invaluable… I often can’t remember what my chicken scratches meant by the end of the act.

  • Carlos Cedeno

    Note plus is another great one.

    • Chris Topher


      I’ve been using it for more than 2 years now.

      Their support forum/community is also pretty active. I also like the open development, so everyone can have a look what features will and are being implemented.

      • Carlos Cedeno

        I was mostly impress with there tutorials. Made the app easier to understand and not that complicated.

  • asdlb4

    Goodnotes is great! Simple and efficient. Readdle makes great products.

    • Aizzat

      Yes agree.. I have used Goodnotes extensively for my research. I cannot find any other apps that is able to beat Goodnotes. Simple but it does the job…

  • Salman Arif

    Noteshelf is one that should be on that list. I’ve personally been using it for over a year now. Absolute excellence.

  • Steven Malnati

    I’ve been using Notability throughout my undergrad and it’s been the single greatest tool when it comes to studying and taking notes. I rarely have to bring paper to class and all of my syllabi(?) are right on my iPad for easy access. Good job on noticing that the app was made for college students lol.

  • Cezaa

    What about a good stylus??? Can you make a video on that or talk about it? I don’t trust the other reviews out there 😉

    • Damian W

      Adonit makes the best and most professional looking styluses.

  • Zach Krase

    I’m in college and I use Notability. It is the best I don’t carry around any notebooks! My iPad is my notebook! It’s awesome


      Does it work great? I’m having hard time to decide what to use. And for textbooks pdf, do you recommend anything?

  • Steve S

    Notability is a page 1 App for me. One of the key features of this elegant app is the organization via a 2-tier folder filing system. Much better than Evernote and the developers keep improving it without taking anything away or changing its basic structure. An essential app that you will use more and more! I hope syncing with SugarSync is coming soon – for now Dropbox works.

  • 茶米

    Used to love UPAD, now I use Goodnotes. Both are pretty good.

  • Anand Betanabhotla

    I would add NotesTab. It lives up to its reputation for taking notes quickly and to easily add rich text to a note. It has the basic feature of opening with a new note with the virtual keyboard open and ready to start typing. No waiting, no plus button, no title to create, no tags to mess around with. A super fast search function allows notes lookup. Don’t believe me, check it out. I am just a user, not from the other side.

  • Ben

    Wow, this is an amazingly well written article. Thanks!

  • Andrieux Querido

    But the question is… theres a good Pen , because all pens i know are so bold

  • RyanB

    I can’t believe Note Taker HD isn’t on this list!

  • Jordan Dixon

    I use Outline+ for iPad to take notes in lectures, and then they all get synced to the Outline for Mac app automatically. It’s so good, but a little expensive.

  • MrElectrifyer

    All fall short in comparison to OneNote RT, not on the toyPad just yet.

  • Robert John

    I prefer Evernote to Penultimate (I know its Evernote’s app). I use Evernote with my CamNote notebooks and app. I recommend it – you write in a CamNote notebook, digitise using CamNote app, it automatically syncs to your Evernote :)

    (If ur thinking ‘Why not just use Evernote?’ – CamNote makes notes really legible)

  • Patrick Ambrogi

    Hi all, Notability is an application that allows you to make beautiful notes, but you can not have a professional use. What do you do with your notes then? Personally, I think it lacks some good applications like Evernote, Beesy, which is superb and syncs with Evernote, and I forget others…

    • David Vincent

      The notes made with notability are easily imported into other more business or professionally focused apps like Circus Ponies Notebook for instance, or for that matter evernote and any other of the higher profile note organiser apps.

  • katiehins

    An other and great one for taking note on iPad is Beesy

  • Shantiom

    Have you ever heard of Note Anytime? It is available on ALL platforms, in 13 languages, has the largest white space of all the note takers I have tried (and you list), vector graphics, hand writing recognition/conversion and much more… and it is free too! You should test drive it. It deserves it.

    • kkristofferr

      Yes the base is free, but all the add in options are not and several of the items you noted and other items needed to be truly functional are not free …

  • gaylerenee

    Can you use these apps and styluses mentioned for the i-pad #1 ?
    I have been waiting for something like this forever. Heard the Samsung Note has great hand-writing recognition; but think the larger size of the original i-pad will work better for incorporating this app.

  • zlib2

    I recommend Lecture Notes for iPad. In this app I can type text and headers with predefined styles, draw any difficult symbol/formula and insert it into the text string like normal character!

  • Chris Gilmore

    Notability is $2.99.

  • Aidan

    Hello Buddies,

    Your app list is really nice. I appreciate all. I would like to share another
    amazing app “NotionNote”. It is a great productivity app It has
    multiple features like voice recording, video, geo tracking, share all
    the information by dropbox, airdrop and many more. Interestingly it is
    free of cost. Enjoy!

  • David Yana

    Free apps worth checking out: for Profesionnal use you can use iTakeNotes and since June 2014 you can also use iTakeClassNotes released which is a complete course notes app that uses all the media features of the iPad (photo, mic, drawings) and allows you to share the notes on the cloud (Dropbox, GoogleDrive) or social networks (Facebook, Twitter)

  • David Yana

    With your iPad you can also use iTakeClassNotes released in June 2014 which is a free complete course notes app that uses all the media features of the iPad (photo, mic, drawings) and allows you to share the notes on the cloud (Dropbox, GoogleDrive) or social networks (Facebook, Twitter); for professional use, you can turn to itakenotes, free too!