Top 6 Best Note-Taking Apps for iPad to Boost Productivity at Work

The digital note-taking apps are mixing the best features of paper planners with the benefits of online access. They offers users a way to organize their life while still allowing them to be productive and efficient when taking notes.

In short, you keep the benefits of handwriting notes but enjoy the advantages of digital features.

weekly planner template goodnotes free

Why do people use iPad note-taking apps?

People love the best note-taking apps (and their Apple Pencil) because they can get more done! They can create notes and access them from any device or location, making them more productive and efficient.

Additionally, many people appreciate the ability to customize their planners to fit their needs.

Professionals find that they can accomplish more work when they use a digital planner to keep their minds clear, stay organized, and be on track with their projects.

Is handwriting notes a waste of time?

There is a lot of debate surrounding handwritten notes at work. Some people feel that taking notes by hand is more personal and allows for a greater creativity level. Additionally, they may think that written notes are more beneficial for learning and retaining information.

On the other hand, some people prefer to use typed notes because they believe they are more efficient and easier to organize. Additionally, they can easily share typed notes with colleagues and partners.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when taking handwritten notes versus typed notes. It ultimately depends on your personal preferences and what works best for you.

The good news… things have changed!

Over the past 5+ years, there’s a trend to take handwritten notes on iPad with the Apple Pencil, which mixes both worlds.

It is like bringing the old paper planner to the iPad, using it everywhere, searching through notes, and erasing your mistakes quickly.

Tools to start with digital planning

  • an iPad (preferably iPad Pro 11 inches or bigger) with a compatible Apple Pencil, 
  • an apple notes app (I will list the best note-taking apps below) and 
  • the best iPad note taking templates (PDF documents) to write notes.
GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf-note-taking-26

Benefits of using note-taking app for iPad

1 | Improved Productivity

In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, being more productive has become increasingly important. However, this often means sacrificing the “human touch” to stay on top of your numerous responsibilities. That is why an iPad note-taking app can help those who want their work life to be as seamless and efficient as possible.

How do you think your favorite note-taking app affects your daily productivity?

An iPad note-taking app can help with organization and time management skills. When people can write ideas, annotate PDFs, and access them easily on all Apple devices, they’ll spend less time rummaging through their desk or searching for the missing piece of paper with the information they need.

2 | Accessibility

You can easily access your plans and tasks from any iOS device or location with a digital planner. It means that you can stay on top of your responsibilities even when you’re on the go. Additionally, it can be helpful for those who need to share their handwritten ideas with coworkers, clients, etc.

3 | Organization

Digital planners can help you to organize your thoughts and ideas better. It is constructive for those who often feel overwhelmed by the numerous tasks on their to-do list. Using a digital planner lets you brain-dump your mind, like on the paper, and make sense of your responsibilities to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

4 | Simplicity

Digital planners are like paper planners, just on the iPad. So they often offer a more simplified way to write notes and manage tasks. It can be helpful for those who prefer not to be bogged down by unnecessary details, alerts, or notifications. Additionally, it can make it easier to find the information you need when you need it.

5 | Cost-effectiveness

In many cases, a digital planner can be more cost-effective than their traditional counterparts. You may find that you no longer need to purchase physical supplies (e.g., paper, pens, etc.), which can further save you money in the long run.

6 | Convenient Mobile Use

A notetaking app offers a convenient way to take notes and manage tasks on the go, on the iPad, and similar tablets. Additionally, you can also sync your planner with your Mac or iPhone to ensure that you always have the latest version of your notes with you.

7 | Environmentally-friendly

Digital planners are a more environmentally-friendly option than traditional paper planners. It is because they don’t require the use of physical resources (e.g., paper, pens, etc.).

free digital planner templates

Are the iPad notes apps the future of note-taking?

We’ll all find it soon! There’s no perfect PDF annotation app that can cater to everyone’s needs. Yet mixing paper with the digital advantages and the possibility of writing searchable handwritten text opens up new horizons.

Here are 6 of my favorite iPad note-taking apps (also known as PDF annotation apps) to host your digital planners and write good notes! Don’t forget that you will need an Apple Pencil for the actual handwriting.

digital planner for ipad Goodnotes work pack

The BEST Note-taking Apps for iPad

1 | GoodNotes 5 (iOS) 

Goodnotes app is one of the best note-taking apps to take handwritten notes and annotate PDFs. It includes useful features for organizational purposes, such as creating folders, adding labels for notes, and searching through notebooks.

Why iPad users love it: Goodnotes is one of the best notetaking apps that makes handwriting on the iPad with the Apple Pencil as natural as writing with pen on paper. The app is packed with functionalities to help you type notes with ease, draw, add images, move pages around, and more. It automatically uploads your documents to Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive for safekeeping while you’re working on your papers.

What they don’t like: Switching between editing and viewing mode is inconvenient, and most people new to good notes struggle with that at first. Viewing mode allows you to see your notes in full view, while your screen feels too cramped up with all the editing tools in the editing mode.

How to use Goodnotes 5?

To create a digital notebook in Goodnotes 5, follow these steps:

1. Open Goodnotes 5 and open a “Folder” to host your new notebook.

2. Tap on the “+” button in the top-left corner of the screen.

3. Give your notebook a name and then tap on the “Create” button.

One of the most remarkable features of Goodnotes 5 is the efficient built-in conversion tool. It allows users to convert their handwritten text into typed text, which can be exported and shared with colleagues, or professionals.

Another great feature of Goodnotes 5 is the ability to add images to your notes. It can be helpful if you want to include a diagram or chart in your notes, or if you wish to add a personal touch to your pages.

Goodnotes 5 also makes it easy to share your notes with others. If you need to get your remote team on board with a project, you can invite others to view your notes in a browser. To do this, tap on the “Share” button and then select “Share Link,” and turn on the option to “Get Shareable Link”.

Overall, Goodnotes 5 is an excellent app for writing plans and ideas at work. It has a wide range of useful features that make it easy to use, and it’s also very affordable.

2 | Notability (iOS, Android)

Notability is an app that allows users to write and take notes on their iPad as if they’re writing in a physical notebook. Use it to record audio, as well as to import PDF files and images. Notability has been used by students and professionals to take notes in class, record lectures, and even create presentations. It is a powerful tool that can help you be more productive and organized.

Notability lets you brainstorm, organize and share your work in a single app. 

Why iPad users love it: It’s one of the best note-taking apps with a superior audio recording feature. By far, the best app to record your lectures! Notability can back up your notes to one of several cloud storage services (like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive). This is a one-way backup, so deleting a note in Notability does not delete the backup copy.

What they don’t like: Notability does NOT support custom page templates! That’s crazy because you can be really creative when using custom templates for meetings, habits, crafts, etc. 

How to use Notability?

To use Notability, first, download it from the App Store. Next, open the app and create a new note or import a document from your iPad by tapping the + icon in the top right corner.

Once you have created a new note, you can start writing or adding content to it. To add audio to your note, tap the Microphone icon and then start recording.

Notability is a powerful tool that can help you be more productive and organized. It is available for free on the App Store, but you’ll need to upgrade for more functionalities.

3 | Noteshelf (iOS, Android)

Noteshelf is another great note-taking app for the iPad that allows you to take handwritten notes, draw diagrams, and more. It’s a great way to keep your notes organized and accessible, and it’s beneficial for students who want to be able to take their notes with them wherever they go.

If you’re looking for the best note-taking app to stay organized and productive, Noteshelf is an excellent option. It’s easy to use and has various useful features that make it a perfect tool for students and professionals alike.

Why people love it: It provides the perfect platform in making proper and artful notes. It also has a favorites toolbar to easily access your favorite pens’ styles and colors. Use it for both digital note-taking and audio recording. It also handles bigger PDF files (more than 10 MB) better than other apps.

What they don’t like: The typed text does not offer the same customization as the Goodnotes app — and that’s such a shame!

How to use Noteshelf?

To get started with Noteshelf, open the app, tap the + icon to create a new notebook, or import a PDF file to annotate.

When you’re finished taking notes, you can save them to your device or share them with others (as PDF files or images).

Noteshelf is a great option for students and professionals who want to be able to take their notes with them wherever they go. With so many productivity-driven features, it is an excellent tool for staying organized and productive.

Eager to discover which app is best for you? Grab a coffee and read:

— best practices to create, manage and navigate digital notebooksGoodnotes vs Notability vs Noteshelf side-by-side part 1
— how to take notes, use images and shapes: GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf part 2

best digital planner free download noteshelf

4 | ZoomNotes (iOS)

It’s a versatile note-taking app for iPad that has handwriting recognition.

Why people love it: It has many note-taking features you can choose from.

What they don’t like: There is a huge learning curve, and the User Interface is not the best.

5 | XODO PDF (iOS, Android)

It’s a free-to-use program that enables editing, annotating, signing, and filling PDF forms.

Why people love it: It’s free and it works on both iPad and Android.

What they don’t like: It needs more improvement in its functions especially on editing and duplicating documents.

6 | Metamoji (iOS, Android)

It may be the only digital planning app that works across all mobile platforms.

Why people love it: It’s a free all-in-one note-taking and sketching app, PDF annotating tool, and even an interactive web browser.

What they don’t like: It has no iCloud, Google Drive, or Evernote integration.

Overall, the handwriting experience can be different on each app.

So, you’ll want to test them all and see which one you like. 

Just don’t get limited by my list since any app that allows you to annotate a PDF document can handle a PDF digital planner. You have to try a few free apps to find out where your handwriting is best, where the features are more to your liking, and where your preference lies.

taking digital notes on the ipad

Ready to start taking digital notes?

To get started with digital planning, you first need to:

  1. grab an iPad (preferably iPad Pro, iOS 14+) with an Apple Pencil (and optionally, a screen protector)
  2. find and install the best note-taking app for your needs. There are a variety of notetaking apps in the AppStore, so it’s essential to find one that’s compatible with your lifestyle and goals
  3. import a digital planner template and start taking notes.

If you’re using your iPad to take notes at work, I am going to give you my best 4 digital planner templates I recommend for work, meetings and team management. And you can try them free.

Try my 4x BEST Digital Planners for iPad, in the Good notes app. It’s FREE. You will love them!!

note taking template goodnotes notability

Warning: it may get addictive to using my pack with 4x pdf planner template

Want to learn more? 

Check out my Beginners courses to Goodnotes, Noteshelf, and Notability on how to get started with digital note-taking on your tablet.

Clear Your Mind and Make High-Level Decisions in Minutes

Grab the Ultimate Digital Planners Pack to kick-start this year. Reach out to me, and I can help you figure out which planner will suit you best.

Find more about me on my Facebook or Instagram accounts.

What Others Had To Say (Reviews) 

Read what Outline Planner users say about their experience, and see whether paperless planners are right for you… 

“These templates were just what I was looking for to help keep my sewing projects in one place and in order! The design and layout are perfect for what I need and I LOVE them so much! Thank you so much!!!” – Nancy (May 2020)

“Can’t say enough good things about the planner and the owner. Very professional and courteous. I will be buying all my future planner needs from this shop. I’ve bought multiple planners and never left a review. Some I still really love. But they didn’t hit all the check boxes I needed to work. I purchased this last week and can already seen my productivity go up. I’ve even been able to be more creative with this very elegant design. I work in software UI design and the flow and ease of use is excellent. The UX definitely rocks like no other!” – Jennifer (April 2020)

What is your favorite note-taking app? Are you using other apps for digital planning? Let me know in the comments.

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