Let me just make something clear; there’s no such a thing as “best” or “perfect” note taking app! each app offers a different type of experience which in turn makes it unique! and there are plenty of them out there. I’ve tried nearly 30 paid and free versions to realize this! and ended up keeping 7 active for my note taking purposes plus one that I don’t use anymore but I think it’s worth mentioning here (sling Note). There’s a comparison table below which should give you a rough idea of each app’s overall features. I’m going to introduce them and say briefly what I think of each; hopefully you’ll find it helpful in your pursuit of an ideal note taker.
The ever developing Notes Plus is the creation of Viet Tran. It’s one of my favourites simply because it’s has everything you need in an easy accessible manner. You can create folders which is very helpful in organizing your work. The app tends to slow down a little as the page is getting filled and this is more noticeable when you zoom in, but this is common in most apps with vector shapes. The shape detection tool is one of the unique feature of the app which is very helpful for students. Viet usually have weekend’s sales and provide very good support, so feel free to get in touch with him to add your requested feature to his development’s list. I give it 4 stars, but it’s a potential 5 because I’m sure next update will resolve all the missing features and the performance issues.
08/04/2011 Update: In the latest version of Notes Plus there are different paper types you can choose, an easrer and the zoom box window is adjustable.
I use Note Shelf usually when I want to write a letter! the pen feels nice, there’s a good collection of different papers and it’s fast. There are little bugs like the smilies’ window doesn’t open sometimes(e.g. when you have the zoom window open in bottom of the page), but nothing major.
23/07/2011 Update:In this unexpected but certainly welcomed update there are several mew features such as : landscape mode, cut/copy/paste, choosing paper type and the notebook cover independently, improved zoom mode and more!
04/08/2011 Update: New Landscape mode providing more space and a nicer look!
Notify is such a powerful app, in fact it’s so power that it’s a bit complex to work with! The ability to make selection from web and paste it over to your notes is truly amazing and I mainly use it for research and brain storming. As a result of the rich content it slows down quickly. It has good syncing options and the ability to categorise and assign tags to your notes is very helpful. The page size is unlimited which is great for research but this also contributes to the speed of the app and make it a little less desirable for everyday use.
The good news is the performance will be much better on iPad 2. According to Henrik, Notify’s developer, the sketching algorithm used in Notify is multi threaded which means it will take full advantage of the second core of the new A5 processor. Not to mention since the app is already available and works with iphone’s built in camera, it will work with iPad 2′s camera right away so can capture images and import them to Notify directly.
UPAD is such a pleasant experience! The pen tool feels nice and very realistic. The app is well organized and the drawing and typing modes are separated which is actually an advantage and disadvantage at the same time, but UPAD switches between them very neatly. I use UPAD mainly for commenting on photos but it’s a good all in one note taking app.
22/03/2011 Update: In the latest version of UPAD just released you can organize your notes in folders.
13/09/2011 Update: New feature of the latest version (1.90): Page Bookmark, folder password, Image inserting and more!.
04/10/2011 Update: updated the handwriting engine, added area erasing feature.
Tactilis is a simple and easy to use note taking app. It is in my opinion the best free note taker on the market. As soon as you open it and from the layout you know you are going have fun using this! There’s a line tool acting as a ruler for drawing lines and circles which is designed in a very clever and enjoyable way to work with. The pencil tool is surprisingly good and great for sketching. I use it for note taking on the go because I know I can quickly capture my idea in the best possible way. There are some features such as PDF export missing which is according to Satyakam, the developer of the app, will be resolved in the upcoming update.
Note taker HD is now my main note taking app for work. Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be and it’s very convenient to navigate around the app. I find it very similar to Notes Plus, both covers all you need for taking notes, but this one can import PDF and you can assign tags to your notes. The overall notes’ view could get a little confusing when you have a lot of pages there; category or folders would have helped keeping your notes organized easier. Note Taker has the best shapes library and it’s highly customizable.
09/08/2011 Update:Folders, a new UI look,user-settable preset pens, single-file full Backup/Restore and multi-document Save/Load, a zoomed editing wrist guard, swiping and full-screen added to page preview.
31/10/2011 Update:copy/cut/paste of ink and other object between pages, customizable button colours, some UI tweaks
Penultimate is a very simple app with very little features and options. The main strength of the app is the pen which feels very smooth and nice and makes this app worth mentioning. I use it very rarely for a quick sketch but unfortunately it can’t compete with the more serious note taking apps.However, it’s something you will probably keep because of the nice UI and the pen experience!.
03/05/2011 Update:In the new version of penultimate, you can import any image to use as a template, but this option is not very flexible as if your image doesn’t have the
same aspect ratio there’s no zoom or crop options to fill the page with it. There’s also an automated effect applied to your imported image, which is nice actually(sepia colours with paper texture), but limited nevertheless. There’s also a paper shop option where you can buy more papers, but the prices are unreasonable and this is something that should have been included in the first place and for free.
15/10/2011 Update: The ability to copy paste within the notes and importing photos are finally added! Also more colours for the pen and other improvements such as moving pages between the notebooks.
This is an app with a lot of potentials and very similar to Notify; great for research and gathering information thank to the integrated web browser. You can have the browser and notepad side by side in landscape mode which I found very useful. The pen tool is sadly very disappointing and the smoothing method used is slow and changes your writing a little too much sometimes.
I am personally a fan of note taking apps revolved around handwriting ability, simply because of the speed required in taking notes, but if you are more into typing then Notability has all the answers for you! The simple layout, the ability to stylize your text quickly and creatively, and the option for inserting image from the photo gallery, web or your drawing make Notability is very versatile note taking platform. It’s also very easy to organise your work based on subject which is searchable as well. You are provided with plenty options for exporting your notes but what stood out the most to me was RTF, however, there were some compatibility issues when opening in MS Word. (see the table for more export options). For those who record sound as well, you can see at what point of your notes that specific clip was recorded; a quick way to find the related speech to your notes! Overall Notability is great for text-based note taking. There are areas still can be improved such as more options for placing image, arrangement of tools in the UI or the option for direct handwriting input, which I’m sure it will be as the developers of this app has a open line of communication with the users and that’s an important factor in choosing a note taking app.
11/07/2011 Update:Huge interface update to a very nice UI, more flexibility for inserting media including overlapping, more categorizing options for library and more!
11/10/2011 Update: A very good update! Handwriting fully integrated, PDF import, Themes, Paper templates and more.
As you can see it’s very hard to pick only one! but I guess it should be like this; even on pen and paper we don’t just use one notebook for everything. Apps are also developed based on the developers creativity and skills and taste. Some are more technical and some more artistic. You will probably end up like me using a few of them for different purposes. Let us thank all these developers for taking iPad one step further in providing us with more options in our growing digital lives.