Top 5 Best Digital Note-Taking apps to use in 2022 (on the iPad)

In today’s digital age, more and more people choose to go paperless at work by writing their notes on the iPad, using work related digital planner templates.

Writing inside a digital planner is like writing in a paper planner… except you’re taking notes inside a digital file that you can export and share later.

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And it’s easy! You can take handwritten notes on the iPad and flip the pages just like you would do with a paper planner. And you can do SO MUCH MORE than that:

You can move notes or erase them in seconds without leaving page marks.

You can create endless digital notes, add stickers and voice notes inside the digital paper notebooks.

And you can have all your notes in one place, easily searchable and organized.

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

Note-taking on the iPad can boost your productivity.

If you want to be more productive, you’ll love to use a paperless planner consistently. It will help keep you on track with your day-to-day tasks, but it can also act as a digital scrapbook for all of your ideas, inspirations and vision boards.

You can use the note-taking app at work to ease your workflow. Once you start with a notes app…

… you can import one or more PDF templates for your project planner or project timeline and keep track of project notes;

… you can import a meeting planner to take meeting notes;

… you can import PDF files to sign documents;

… you can import a PDF digital planner and brain-dump your thoughts inside blank pages.

BONUS: you can take private notes that you can easily share with your remote team.

(1) Start with installing the best note taking software for iPad and then (2) import your favorite PDF templates to organize your handwritten notes at work.

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Tools to start with digital planning

With a paperless planner and the right annotations app, you can easily take organized notes during meetings, stop losing important projects details and keep private notes of your team members.

What is a digital planner PDF?

A digital planner PDF file (like this project planner) is a document that can be opened on an iPad, iPhone, or Mac using a PDF annotation app. The digital planner PDF file contains hyperlinks to other pages within the document to quickly navigate to the right section when you’re handwriting vital notes in your planner.

The best iPad note-taking template is mainly a PDF file with hyperlinks that will only work inside a notes app (like Goodnotes or Noteshelf).

A digital planner can include monthly, weekly, or daily planning pages, meeting sections, project sections, etc. This can make it easier for you to stay organized and be productive.

If you’re looking for digital planner templates that will help you stay organized the entire year, then download and try my best digital planner templates for FREE. These digital planners are available as PDF files with hyperlinks, and they can be used on the iPad with the Apple Pencil and a notes app. You’ll get to try the yearly digital planner, the meeting book, the project book and the people book all in one pack.

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What is a PDF annotation app?

A PDF annotation app also called a notes app, allows you to write on and interact with PDF files. There are many different PDF annotation apps available, so take some time to test and choose the best note-taking app for iPad with Apple Pencil.

Popular PDF annotation apps include Notability, Goodnotes 5, Noteshelf, Zoomnotes, and Zinnia Journal.

These apps enable a beautiful handwriting experience and robust handwriting recognition to easily convert your notes to typed text.

And I have listed important details about each below.

goodnotes 5 digital planner template

1 | Notability (iOS)

Notability is a powerful digital planner and note-taking tool that can be used to keep your life organized. Use it to take quick notes, make to-do lists, track actual events or add web links to your notebooks. You can also use it to store files, such as PDFs or images and add annotations. Notability’s searchable handwritten notes make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Notability is also great for storing and organizing research materials.

Notability app is a favorite notes app among students for its voice recording feature. Allowing students to record lectures and take notes simultaneously can be a lifesaver during busy weeks.

Teachers, professionals and creatives also use Notability to create videos and notes that they share with students, colleagues or clients.

The app also has built-in Dropbox and Google Drive integrations, so students can easily store and share their notes with classmates or teachers. The iCloud syncing makes it easy to sync Notability across multiple devices.

The bottom line is that Notability is a full-featured note-taking app and an excellent tool for learning that can be used on all Apple devices.

Some of the reasons people love Notability are:

– great for lectures: take handwritten notes and record lectures at the same time

– supports hyperlinks in PDFs: Notability supports interactive PDFs (with hyperlinks), so you can click on links to jump to pages or open websites

– a powerful search tool that can save you time when looking for a specific note

all in one digital planner: with all of your notes and ideas in one place, it’s easy to plan out your day or semester

cross-device compatibility: use Notability on your iPad, then open your notes on your Mac to add more content

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 on the iPad. Next, open the app and create a new note by tapping the + icon in the bottom 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 Pricing

The Notability app has changed its payment model over the years.

Today it offers two pricing plans for users to choose from. The “Starter plan” includes limited note edits and only three favorite tools. In contrast, the “Plus plan” includes unlimited note edits, twelve favorite tools, iCloud sync across devices, handwriting recognition, auto-backup, math conversion, and regularly updated content.

best free digital planner for goodnotes

2 | GoodNotes 5 (iOS) app

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.

Good notes also offers a wide range of features, including the ability to add hyperlinks to webpages, images, and audio recordings to your notes.

You can also use Goodnotes to scribble or type your digital notes, sort notes, and share individual notes with others. The app has a built-in PDF viewer to open and view PDF files with hyperlinks. The hyperlinks are not a must for your PDF files, but they are handy for digital planning because they allow you to easily navigate between pages in your planner.

Some of the reasons people love Goodnotes are:

– the app is smooth and feels natural when you write your notes on the digital paper

– you can create folders and sub-folders to organize your paperless notebooks

– there are lots of digital stickers available in the Elements tool, that you can add to your planner pages with a simple drag and drop

– it’s easy to use and doesn’t require a lot of steps to get started

– has the most extensive text formatting options

– you can add hyperlinks to web pages

– the search tool works beautifully, quite as impressive as in Notability

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”.

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 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.

If you want to get started, then check these 10 best goodnotes templates to write better notes at work.

Goodnotes 5 Pricing

Good notes offers a one-time payment for the app. The app is available on the iPad, iPhone and Mac. However if the team decides to make massive improvements on the app, they may charge for it at launch (as it happened in 2019, when switching from Goodnotes 4 to Goodnotes 5).

download goodnotes template noteshelf app

3 | Noteshelf (iOS, Android)

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.

You can take notes, create to-do lists, and track your progress on projects. It syncs with all your devices that have iOS14+, so you can access your digital notes from anywhere.

The Noteshelf app is a digital planner annotations app used on an iPad and iPhone. Just like Notability, the Noteshelf app can annotate PDFs and record audio. This makes it a second favorite tool by students and working professionals.

You can also select notes to share with others, making it easy to collaborate on projects. Simply download the app from the AppStore and write notes on digital paper to get started.

Unlike Goodnotes 5 or Notability, Noteshelf app is available for Android too, however the app is basic, and does not connect with the iOS version.

Some of the reasons people love Noteshelf are:

– the app can be used to annotate PDFs, presentations, and more

– it is easy to fill out forms and sign contracts within the app, with the Apple Pencil

– highlight a specific note for better legibility

– work on multiple documents simultaneously with ease

– record lectures or meetings as you write them down – this is a great feature for students

– take handwritten notes in a hurry and play back the recording later

– special handwriting recognition and text conversion are available

handles bigger size sizes with little to no lag (you’ll love it for that!)

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

Noteshelf Pricing

The app has a very user-friendly interface and is loved by many users. It is available on the App Store for a one-time payment. If you are looking to embark on the digital planning journey, Noteshelf is your app!


Eager to discover which app is best for you? Grab a coffee and discover: Which is Best for Handwritten Notes?


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4 | Zoomnotes app (iOS, Android, Windows)

Zoomnotes is a digital planner that allows you to take notes and sync them across devices.

To take digital notes in Zoomnotes, simply create a new note or open an existing one, then scribble or type in your text. You can also add images, audio, and calendar events to your notes. Once you are done, Zoomnotes will save your notes in the cloud, and you can access them from any device.

Zoomnotes app involves a huge learning curve. So it’s best for patient people, teachers, and students who need to take notes or sketch ideas on their iPad, iPhone, or Mac.

It has many of the same features as Goodnotes, such as creating and editing PDF files, handwriting and drawing with a digital pen, and adding hyperlinks.

If you’re looking for a digital planner that lets you add your own links between pages, Zoomnotes is an excellent option. You can import PDF digital planner documents and create your own customizable digital planner document.

The app automatically shows events from the Calendar app on the monthly, weekly, and day planner pages.

Some of the reasons people love Zoomnotes are:

– smooth ink in eight different pens

– import and write over PDF, MS, and PPT documents

– create your own digital planner document or import a PDF digital planner document

– automatically show events from the Calendar app on the monthly, weekly, and day planner pages

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

Zoomnotes Pricing

The Zoomnotes app is available for free on the App Store, and you’ll be able to upgrade for more functionalities. Although the interface looks outdated, and there is a big learning curve with Zoomnotes, it’s a great tool for taking notes and staying organized, and it’s definitely worth checking out!

free planner template work life planner

5 | Zinnia (iOS)

There are a lot of debates on goodnotes vs zinnia apps for digital planning. However I feel that the new Zinnia app is fantastic for you if you want to get started quicker! It has so many features that bring the look and feel of creative journaling and planning to your iPad and iPhone. You can explore a huge catalog of design elements like lettering packs, washi tape and stickers.

Use a variety of practical habit trackers to enhance your productivity. Transform your organization with a vibrant selection of calendar layouts and themed journals.

You can use the app on your iPad, iPhone and Mac. The Zinnia team is always updating the app with new features and designs, so you’ll never get bored!

Some of the reasons people love Zinnia are:

– huge catalog of design elements

– a variety of practical habit trackers

– transform your organization with a vibrant selection of calendar layouts

– themed, ready-made journals

Zinnia pricing

If you’re looking for an amazing digital planner that lets you customize every detail, the new Zinnia app is perfect for you! The app is available for free on the App Store, and you’ll be able to upgrade for more functionalities.

download planner template digital goodnotes

The Verdict? Which app is best for notes?

When choosing a note-taking app, you must consider your main goal. In the end, it’s up to you why you want to start with digital planning.

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

So, whats your goal: Focus on planning -or- on page decoration?

If you want to decorate on digital paper, Goodnotes 5 or Zinnia apps are best for you.

If you’re committed to being productive and making new notes faster, use Notability or Noteshelf.

If you need to sync your calendar with the planner, check out the Zoomnotes app.

Join the Vault with digital planners

If you’re seeking paperlike digital planner templates that will keep you organized every year, download my best digital planners (access opens every September). These digital planners are available as PDFs with hyperlinks and may be used on the iPad with the Apple Pencil to:

de-clutter your mind and focus on the bright side of living

– write important notes about your team, your customers’ needs, and one-to-one meetings

– lead your team to results, delegate tasks, and stay on track with your projects

– be overall more productive

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People often ask me…

1 | Do I need an Apple Pencil for my digital notes?

Yes. To enjoy the full experience of note-taking on the iPad you will need and Apple Pencil and a paper-like screen protector.

The Apple Pencil is coming in two versions (each are compatible to different versions of iPad)! One with an attachable cap that doubles as a Lightning connector and the other just a plain old pen-like design. The attachable cap version would make charging and keeping track of the Pencil more accessible, while the simple pen-like design would be more affordable. 

The Apple Pencil is a fantastic tool for digital planning, and it has a lot of features that you can take advantage of!

For example, you can use it to:

Take handwritten notes inside the notes app

Annotate PDFs and screenshots

Draw in many different apps like Goodnotes or Procreate

Select typed text in a digital planner to move it around or delete it

The Apple Pencil is also pressure-sensitive, so you can control how thick or thin your lines are, and it has tilt detection so you can change the angle of your strokes for even more creative options!

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2 | Do I need an iPad paper-like screen protector?

There are a few reasons you might want to use a screen protector when taking notes on your iPad.

Using a paper-like screen protector will help enrich your handwriting experience.

Using a screen protector will help keep your iPad screen clean and free from scratches. Additionally, using a screen protector can also help reduce glare and make the iPad easier to see in bright light.

If you’re looking for the best screen protector for digital planning, I recommend using the paper-like screen protector. That way, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Apple Pencil’s features and have a writing experience as close to pen and paper as possible!

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3 | How do I start taking handwritten notes on the iPad?

Digital note-taking is a powerful way to organize your thoughts and ideas and quickly access them when needed.

When using a note-taking app, there are a few simple steps to ensure that your digital notes are clear and concise.

  • First, identify the general idea or theme of the notes.
  • Next, create a title for the digital notes that accurately reflects the contents.
  • Then, start jotting down your thoughts on the topics.
  • As you write, be sure to use bullet points or small paragraphs to make your notes easy to read.
  • Finally, add any relevant supporting details or visual aids.

These simple steps will help you take great notes inside your paperless notebook!

And if you’re not yet convinced… there are many benefits to taking handwritten notes, such as improving focus, memory, and creativity. Additionally, taking handwritten notes can help you learn and retain information better.

And the best part? 

If you’re looking for digital planner templates that will keep you organized for the entire year, download your favorite digital planners today. These digital planners are available as PDFs with hyperlinks and may be used on the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

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4 | Who else uses a digital planner?

Digital planners are perfect for anyone who wants to get more organized and productive. They’re great for teachers, social media managers, artists, fitness lovers, busy entrepreneurs, working professionals, and active grandparents!

People also use Digital Bullet Journals-a digital way of keeping track of your to-do lists, goals, and thoughts. They’re perfect for anyone who wants to de-clutter their mind and focus on the bright side of living!

Try a paperless notebook today and see how it can help you live a more productive life!

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)

Next…

Download my FREE digital planners now and gain access to digital planners for meetings, projects, people, plans, and more!

And let me know if the comments what note-taking app are you using to write on the iPad?

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