Before reading this please note you can listen to some of the music I create by using the player on the right.
The iPad comes with a memo pad – it’s OK but it’s very limited. Once you start taking notes, you start to realise what other features may be of use. So let’s look at some that are available. Using current Note Taking Apps you can:
- Write or type on to a “page”
- Organise pages into note books
- Export what’s created into different formats (docs, pdfs, etc…)
- Send your notes out via email, or to cloud type storage systems
- Synchronise to the same app or others on other devices
- Format the information
- Add images which can be written or drawn on, or used as illustrations or backgrounds
- Draw or write freehand with multiple mark making tools (e.g. pens, markers, paint brushes, and erasers etc.)
- Use automatic shape makers (grids, text boxes, tables and solid shapes)
- Record sound and synchronise it to what’s been written or drawn as the recording takes place so that it can be reviewed by clicking on the typed text or drawn images
- Insert images from the camera, or image library
- Insert information found on the internet, including words, images, audio, and video
- Write large letters but have the text appear small on the page
- Convert handwriting to text
- Integrate with other software such as mind mapping, organisation or project Apps
- Include some formula / calculation functions
- Allow copy, cut, and paste of all content, within a page, notebook, or multiple pages
- Add check boxes
- Give good tuition, support and updates
If you just bothered to read through that list then you may be a little disappointed to find out that there isn’t one App that does all these things. Even the brilliant non iPad, Android Galaxy Note S Note App doesn’t have all these features! So, when choosing which Apps to invest your minutes, megabytes and money into, try to work out what features would be really important to you.
For instance, I imagine many journalists would find the ability to make synchronised recordings invaluable, whereas someone researching a subject using the internet, may find the ability to drag info from the internet very useful. Given the costs of the Apps and the ability to transfer data between the Apps, I can see that many people will probably go for a collection of note taking Apps. So now let’s take a look at some of those I’ve had a look at recently. If there’s any that you think I should include, please drop me a line and I’ll see if I can add them.
Notes Plus 9/10 £2.99 plus £1.50 for adding the writing to text plug in.
I’m going to start out with Notes Plus which is one of the most feature rich Apps in the note taking category. For me this scores a 9/10 because, having tried all the other ones, this is the most useful one out there – BUT let’s look at its shortcomings first. Although this can record sound and attach the recording to a page, it cannot tie both writing and drawings so that, upon playback, the user can tap the words or drawings to prompt the recording to play what was recorded as those words or images were created. I know I’m going on a bit about this but I personally think this is an important feature and should exist in the top note taking Apps. The second criticism is the lack of ability to choose any colour one would like from the colour palette for text or drawing tools.
OK now for the good points: I have this App on both my main iPad and my mini iPad, which are both kept up to date with each other when I use this App via drop box…. Brilliant!!! What is also great is that I can write freehand in a “close up” box which writes my writing out on a line on the page in a much smaller form than I could have written without this feature. I can then draw a line around my writing and, if I’ve paid for the add on, can opt to have my writing converted into text. I found copying the handwriting first to another page useful when doing this so that I had the original to refer to in case some of the conversion was less than accurate which, with my scribbly scribe, it was! (be warned the installation of the handwriting to text add on was a bit of a palaver)!
The interface for dragging information from web pages, including pictures and writing straight into the document, was simply excellent. However, it couldn’t drag videos in, which was a pity and IS an option in Scrapnote.
Notes Plus is easily the most useful all-round note taking App if you wish to use handwriting and draw. However, if you’re going to be sticking to just typing, then I’d seriously recommend Evernote. It’s one of the best note taking Apps out there and, on top of that, it’s free.
Evernote – Free 9/10
Evernote is more like a word processor, which automatically sync to my other devices, including my Android mobile phone, and my computers (PC and Mac) so that any of the text, recordings and photos I’ve inserted into the note, are added to all devices logged into my Evernote account. Sadly, Evernote does not allow you to sync recordings to notes in the manner I described earlier but recordings can be attached to notes.
It is also possible to use third party Apps with Evernote that will allow you to write and draw things and then import them. However, this is not a very seamless way of working. It is also possible to handwrite something in one of those Apps and get Evernote to use it to do handwriting recognition, although I haven’t worked out how to do that yet… any help would be gratefully received and credited! Even though Evernote lacks built-in freehand functionality and the ability to sync notes to a recording, it is still a top scoring App in equal first place. A must-have (especially because it’s free)
This app is more orientated toward freehand and drawing but does allow Notes be written in text. I found this quite good when using it with Evernote as they seem to compliment each other and Integrated with each other well but ultimately I think it would be better to just have this as part of Evernote rather than a separate App.
Scrapnote is more of a scrapbook App than a notepad one as it allows you to bring in multimedia from the internet as well as one’s own creations. For me this is one of the must-have Apps. However, it isn’t necessarily the best note taking App. I especially think this is good if you’re trying to research and collate information from the internet or build up digital scrapbooks. It also allows you to create a function within the browser that allows you to pull web pages straight in to Scrapnote whilst browsing without having opened Scrapnote in the first place… a kind of add to Scrapnote favourites button.
Possibly one of the most useful notetaking Apps because it allows you to record and sync your writing to what you’re recording so that you can click on your writing later and it will play back the recording at the moment you wrote it. For instance, you may be listening to a lecture and writing notes, and later find that your notes don’t make much sense. However, you can click on the note in question and you’d be able to hear the part of the lecture in question play back. This would also be especially useful for journalists (who are renowned for getting their facts wrong). If it is essential to have recordings that can link to drawing too, then you really should look at SoundNote too, which is far simpler and has this feature.
SoundNote is a basic version of Notability and for the difference in money, I would say go for Notability… However, it does allow you to play back from drawings so if that’s important get this one too.
This is quite a sweet App as it allows you to write in quite large freehand and then it shrinks the writing. It will also allow basic sketching, You cannot, however, type or dictate into it. It does allow images to be imported as backgrounds but not as images that you can insert as part of your notes. Given that all these features appear in some of the other Apps mentioned earlier, I would say don’t bother with this one if you can get them.
This is more of a drawing program than a notetaking one. However, it is so simple and so beautiful, that it’s worth a mention here because it can be used for freehand notetaking and graphical journals. I see it more as a sketchbook program and not really a proper drawing one either. It pretty much has its own niche but it is worth having a look at the free version, and, if you like that, you can pay the extra money for brushes and colour if you so wish.
This is a complex note taking and mind mapping App. Presently, it only allows for typed text input but apparently, in the future, you will find multimedia and freehand dimensions to it too. Meanwhile, for those of you needing to take down complex notes which need to be moved around and connected in different ways to each other, then this is the App for you.
Well that’s my quick round up of note Apps for late 2012. Sorry I didn’t create a table showing comparative features or include all the prices. I hope it helps and, if you have any suggestions, then please feel free to leave comments or message me.
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Thank you to Susan Baldock for proofreading this for me.
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