Turn the iPad into a Paperless Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide (updated 2023)

Buy an iPad. Throw away the paper planners. The paperless planners are here to change the planner game. Get an annotations app, pick a PDF planner and get ready to turn your tablet into a mighty digital planner.

Best productivity tool in 2023

Digital planners are the determining factor between organization and pure chaos. They are also a source of calm: an outlet for creativity, thoughts, and future plans. Between beautifully simple bullet journals and intricately designed weekly/monthly digital planners, choosing one can be quite the challenge, but their goal is typically always the same: skyrocketing your productivity. 

book tracker journal-outline planner
View inside the Mini-Bookshelf Digital Planner for iPad by Outline Planner.

Turn the iPad (or any tablet) into a paperless planner

The good news is that paperless planners are here to change the note-taking game: they’ve come to revolutionize the way we can use and carry our planners and ultimately, the way we take better notes. But what are paperless/digital planners? 

Simply put, digital planners allow you to turn your tablet (Android or Apple) into a planner. You can do this by downloading a note-taking app such as GoodNotes 5, Notability, or Noteshelf, which require a small one-time payment to download. Then you choose your favorite digital planner, import it into your preferred app, and voila: your digital planner is ready to use! 

They typically have the same look and format of physical planners (weekly and monthly overviews, to-do lists, scheduling, note-taking, etc.) with many other advantages, which we will talk about later. 

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Too scared to try something that new?

Don’t be! Digital planners are ideal for all ages and occupations because they are so customizable and easy to use. Outline Planner users are typically between 20 and 80 years old, and range from stay at home parents to students, entrepreneurs, mental health enthusiasts and business owners. If they can, you can use it too!

If you already know how to use a physical planner, you will very easily understand digital ones: no real tech skills are required.

Paperless planners are also extremely convenient as they can easily be saved in the iCloud so that you reduce the risk of losing essential notes.  Plus you can share your notes with your remote team with ease.

Put all your paper notebooks, stickers, stamps, and stencils away … and feel the freedom of the digital life!

Get started with the BEST digital planner for Goodnotes

Let me guide you through the steps of transitioning to a digital planner…

Step 1: How to choose the Right Planner

One of the best aspects of digital planners is the wide range of availability and customization. You may no longer have to purchase a planner for home, work, and journaling since you can choose an all-in-one digital planner. And you’ll no longer need to search for an hour to find that one sticker you need, because you can now store them all in one place using a Digital Stickers Book!

Begin by listing out all of the things you would like your planner to include to have a good idea of what to look for. These can include: 

— Monthly overviews

— Weekly overviews 

Habit Trackers

— Note Sections

— Daily Schedules 

— Empty spaces for decoration

And many more!

book notes templates-outline planner

Step 2: How to use a digital planner

This step can be the most intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

  1. Pick up your tablet, which can be either Android or Apple; you can either use your tablet’s keyboard to type things into your planner, or use a digital pen/pencil such as the Apple Pencil for free writing. I actually use both 🙂
  2. Choose which note-taking app you find most interesting: GoodNotes, Notability, or Noteshelf are all excellent choices. I found Noteshelf app to be the most user-friendly, but if you want to learn more, I have written this article.
  3. Next, choose and purchase your digital planner. A great way to start is by checking out free testers available on all my bestsellers digital planners
  4. Finally, import the planner to the note-taking app. The fastest way is to download your planner directly into your tablet, then import it to the app.

DISCOVER: Which is Best for Handwritten Notes?

Step 3: Explore more options

Explore all the details and aspects of your new digital planner and start adding in all the details. You can use custom fonts, or even decorate it by adding digital stickers.

If you are new to digital planning and would like to learn more about taking notes on the iPad, you can check out my digital planning videos on Youtube. 

2023 planner diary-best goodnotes templates-best way for note taking (5)

Warning: it may get addictive to using these pdf planner templates

The Pros & Cons of a Paperless Planner

All great products have pros and cons 🙂 so it is essential to learn about them and make the right decision. I have underlined the most important ones to boost your start into the digital adventure. 


— You can keep everything in one planner: from home life to work and everything in between (even crafts planning!)

— Digital planners are very forgiving: easily erase any mistake you make

Organize and reorganize as much as you want: digital planners allow you to move your content around, even if you have handwritten it. Simply select it, drag it to another location on the same page, or copy-paste it on another page

Never lose your information: it is very easy to save copies of your digital planner, both locally and if you choose to do so, on a cloud. Stay safe: do weekly manual backups to shared folders such as Dropbox and Google Drive

Can decorate the pages: decorate it as much as you like, add stickers to it (keeping in mind file size), and organize the tabs. If you’re in love with fancy fonts, learn how to install custom fonts on the iPad before using them inside your digital planner.

Real paper feel: if you enjoy writing in pen or pencil, using a device like an Apple Pencil to write in your digital planner will allow you to keep that pen-to-paper feel. To improve your experience (and your handwriting), try using a paper-like screen protector

Extremely portable: it only gets as heavy as your tablet already is, no matter how many pages or digital notebooks you add to it! 

Environmentally friendly: a digital planner allows you to save some trees by going paperless

Easy to share with others: easily share and send your planner to other people by using the sharing functions in the note-taking app. You can share both images of your pages or the entire planner as a PDF file

Adapts to you: do you usually use your planner late at night, next to someone who is sleeping? Then choose a dark mode digital planner as a daily companion.

It allows you to zoom in: it is great if you struggle reading smaller letters or really enjoy making intricate designs in your planners


Needs charging: tablet’s battery don’t typically take very long to load and last a long time when charged, but it is important to note that unlike physical planners you must remember to charge your table 

Will not sync to digital calendars: like its physical counterpart, a digital planner cannot sync with calendars like Google Calendar or iCal. Your events will unfortunately not sync with Outlook or other appointment apps either

Requires a (one-time) paid app: you must get a note-taking app to use your digital planner, but this app will also cover all of your other note-taking needs, so it is convenient to have  

Size depends on the tablet: the size of your pages will depend on your tablet size, but since you can easily zoom in or out, this tends not to be a huge problem 

Poorly optimized planners will lag. So I highly recommend my lag-free planners for Goodnotes.

What Others Had To Say (Outline Planner Reviews on Trustpilot)

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best digital planner review

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