Best Note Taking App for iPad – Noteshelf App Mini-Videos Guide (updated 2021)

I’ve tried five PDF annotations apps in the last 2 years. So far, Noteshelf app is the best note taking app for iPad! It’s stable, user-friendly, and works great with my digital planners.

best note taking app for iPad - 2021 digital planner in noteshelf

Hey, paperless professionals: You CAN take searchable handwritten notes on your iPad and waste ZERO paper! All you need is an iPad, the Apple Pencil, and the best note taking app for iPad: the Noteshelf app! Ready to see a preview, watch how I transformed my iPad into my best 2021 digital planner using Noteshelf app.


Eager to try it before jumping into details?

Download my FREE 2021 Digital Planner and import it to Noteshelf app today.

What is the Noteshelf app?

If you’re done with the bulky paper notebooks, tired of the never-ending phone to-do lists, and you own an iPad, then it’s time to meet Noteshelf app – the most fluid and friendly digital note-taking app. Noteshelf app lets you take handwritten notes in endless digital notebooks and annotate imported PDF, images, and Powerpoint documents directly on your iPad.

The Noteshelf team is also working on a MAC version and we hope it will be released soon. Apart from that Noteshelf has released a basic Android version too, that does a decent job. And no, the Android and iOS versions of the Noteshelf app DO NOT SYNC, so if you’re using an iPad and and Android phone you can’t sync between these devices.

Why use a note-taking app?

Note-taking is a new trend, but it’s not for everyone. It’s an excellent option if you’re often taking personal notes, family notes, work notes or, lecture notes … and you want to:

  1. stop carrying around so many heavy paper notebooks
  2. have all your notes and documents neatly organized and always with you
  3. take notes by hand (so you can remember them better), yet easily erase mistakes without leaving marks
  4. search and find what you wrote
  5. share your notes with family and colleagues

What CAN you do with Noteshelf app?

Whether you’re creating default digital notebooks or annotating imported PDF documents, you can use Noteshelf app to:

  • write good notes inside a digital planner
  • capture your mind and feelings inside a digital diary
  • keep clients work organized in work digital notebooks
  • take meeting notes using a simple meeting note template or a ready-to-use digital appointment book
  • create your to-do lists every day
  • capture memories and vacation images
  • scribble and share your notes during ZOOM calls (share your iPad screen for everyone to see)
  • create a workout planner and track your fitness progress
  • keep track of your meals inside a meal planner or meal diary
  • take notes during lectures (and capture audio)

What you CAN’T do with Noteshelf app

Using the Noteshelf app for digital note-taking is like writing on a paper notebook inside your tablet. So there are some limitations like:

✘ it does NOT sync with Google Calendar
✘ it does NOT sync with Outlook Appointments
✘ it does NOT send reminders
✘ it does NOT create links between notebook’s pages

10 reasons Noteshelf is the best note taking app for iPad!

1. Organize your notes in Categories and groups (from the slide-in menu)

Working with Categories

In Noteshelf you can organize your good notes inside categories, move digital notebooks between categories, and erase categories with a slide of a finger. The categories are listed in Alphabetical order, so if you want to add a particular category on top of your list, add a number before the category name: “0.category name“.

To create a category tap the + Folder icon >  Name the Category > Create

To move a notebook to a new Category tap and hold on the notebook thumbnail > Move (in the fly out window) > Select a Location > Move.

Working with Groups

When you’re moving a notebook, just before you hit the last Move button you have the option to Create a group within the category. You can also create a group when drag & drop a notebook on top of another notebook. To remove a group you’ll have to move ALL the notebooks outside that group and it will automatically delete.

Working with the slide-in menu

The slide-in menu can be accessible from anywhere (even when you’re inside a notebook) if you slide your finger from the left edge to the center of the screen. Inside this slide-in menu you can access:

the best digital app for ipad
  • your categories and create/trash categories
  • recently opened notebooks
  • pinned notebooks (this is really useful!)
  • settings area

2. Organize notes with Tags and Labeled Bookmarks

Working with Tags

Tagging a page would come in handy when sorting and looking for specific information inside a notebook, like finding all notes for “John Smith Project”.

To create tags in the digital notebook:

  1. Go to the page you want to tag and tap on the + icon on your Notebook’s toolbar
  2. Tap on the Tags menu (3rd option from the fly-out window) and select Page Tags
  3. After typing the tag, press Done on the keyboard to save the tag. Next time you want to tag a page with the same tag you’ll do the first two steps above, then select the previously saved tag

One other way to tag pages is from the Page finder menu (multiple pages icon):

  • Go to the page finder menu and locate your page to tag
  • Tap and hold on the page thumbnail, then tap on Tag (in the fly-out menu window)
  • After typing the tag, press Done on the keyboard to save the tag

Working with Labeled Bookmarks

When it comes to bookmarking, Noteshelf does an amazing job, allowing you to add both a title and a color to your bookmark. So if you like to keep bookmarks for different sections in your planner you can do so with the color codes. If your planner has built-in templates like the 2021 Outline Planner, you can Bookmark all templates with their dedicated name, but make all these bookmarks red. Next time you look for them, you’ll now that the red bookmarks are built-in templates only.

To create bookmarks in the notebook:

  1. Go to the page you want to bookmark and tap on the + icon on your Notebook’s toolbar.
  2. Tap on the Tags menu (3rd option from the fly-out window) and select Bookmarks
  3. Toggle the Bookmark ON then, pick a color and add a name
  4. After typing the bookmark’s name, press Return on the keyboard to save the name

One other way to bookmark pages is from the Page finder menu (multiple pages icon):

  • Go to the page finder menu and locate your page to bookmark
  • Tap and hold on the page thumbnail, then tap on Bookmark (in the fly-out menu window)
  • Toggle the Bookmark ON then, pick a color and add a name
  • After typing the bookmark’s name, press Return on the keyboard to save the name

To edit a bookmark:

  • Go to the page finder menu and locate your bookmarked page
  • Tap and hold on the page thumbnail, then tap on Bookmark (in the fly-out menu window).
  • Change bookmark’s color or name, then press Return on the keyboard to save the changes

3. Performance and speed

Noteshelf is the best note taking app for iPad when it comes to speed. It’s the fastest and most stable app when it comes to importing PDF files, saving notes and rendering my digital planners (even if the files size exceeds 10mb). However, I have seen some people complaining about Noteshelf being slow. So you may want to check the app updates and iPad storage status.


4. Navigate digital planners using the hyperlinks

This is a time saver feature and it’s my favorite! In Noteshelf app, you don’t have to change the pen tool to be able to click through pages (like you do in Goodnotes) and you don’t have to click on a link-to-page preview (as it happens in Notability). You just write your notes, and click the links with no interruption what so ever!!


5. Use templates to organize daily, good notes

I put a lot of effort into creating my digital planners with 50K+ of hyperlinks. So, whenever someone wants to use one of the 17 templates included inside the digital notebook, I really want them to be able to copy-paste those templates inside the custom designed digital planner WITHOUT losing up the hyperlinks functionality.


6. Record and playback audio

Thank you Noteshelf for allowing me to record audio while taking my meeting notes!! While notes are not automatically synced with audio recordings (as it happens in Notability) I still like to use it to record my meetings or Skype discussion while talking notes on my dedicated Digital Meetings Book.

Record and playback audio in Noteshelf 2 app - digital planners for iPad - business planners - students planner

7. Easy drag & drop text, photos

It’s easy to drag & drop text, photos from other apps or web pages into Noteshelf with Multitasking. Drag and drop images or text from any websites and start scribbling the changes. Whenever you drag and drop a text you can place it wherever you want inside your notebook page (in Notability I did not find this option).

Split view - multitasking - drag and drop in Noteshelf 2 app - digital planners for iPad - business planners - students planner

8. The new multi-window feature

You can now have up to 3 active sessions of Noteshelf ✍️ and many more in the background! Check their video.


9. Decent storage required for my notes and audio recordings

Definitely Notability app is the best at this chapter, but Noteshelf app is quite good too! I do keep my digital planners and notebooks inside the app for 1-2 years, so keeping the storage size as decent as possible is a must.


10. Automatic backups and faster synchronization of notes

Noteshelf support auto-backup with Dropbox and OneDrive only. Plus, you can use iCloud to keep your notes synchronized across your iPad and iPhone. However, even the automatic backup works, I still recommend my clients to MANUALLY backup their documents every month, just to be on the safe side.

Plus, a lot more flexibility to edit the digital notebooks:

  • Paper customization: While you can’t move multiple pages at a time, you can change a page template without changing the whole document
  • Easy to add images or import new documents inside an active notebook
  • Great handwriting experience – great sizes and color choices for the ink, and highlighter
  • The text editing feature has lots of formatting options. Just double tap ANYWHERE on the page to start writing. For an organized content you can choose to use headings, checkbooks and other useful settings
  • Convert handwriting to text works pretty decent in Noteshelf
  • Advanced lasso tool – This works very well! You can move the selection around the page, copy it, delete it or resize it! For the handwritten content you can also change the pen color or convert it to text
  • The eraser tool works super smooth – it can delete parts of the stroke, the entire stroke or the highlighter only giving me so much more flexibility when taking notes
  • The search feature – Because I work with Bookmarks, Tags and the Table of Content, I rarely need to search thorough my planners and digital notebooks. However, Noteshelf team has indicated in their product description that, the app can search your handwritten notes in 65 different languages!
Convert handwriting to text in Noteshelf 2 app - digital planners for iPad - business planners - students planner

While I do love Noteshelf, here’s why I am not 100% sold to it

  • You can’t add links to pages – Being able to add a link from one particular note (like the client’s name) to another page inside your notebook (like the client’s profile page or project’s page) may be excellent. Still, Noteshelf app has not yet implemented this feature.
  • DOES NOT recognize dates links, emails and phone numbers so I CAN’T use them directly from my notes to add events to the calendar, call a phone number or write an email (you can do this with Notability instead). If Noteshelf would implement this too, then I am 100% sold!
  • Go Back / Go to Page buttons – I got used to these 2 buttons when working in Goodnotes 4 (“Go Back” no longer exist in Goodnotes 5 app either!) so I could see how massively useful they are! If there is one NEW feature that I would like to see implemented in Noteshelf that would be the “Go Back” Button

That’s my experience with Noteshelf so far. Again, I mostly use it to keep all my personal and work notes organized inside my carefully designed digital notebooks, while I still take fast notes using Notability.

How about you? How are you using the Noteshelf app? Are you using it in conjunction with another PDF annotation app?


Eager to try it before jumping into details?

Download my FREE 2021 Digital Planner and import it to Noteshelf app today.

Learn more about Digital Planners

(and some info about the 2021 Outline Planner)

4 thoughts on “Best Note Taking App for iPad – Noteshelf App Mini-Videos Guide (updated 2021)”

  1. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs
    really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your
    website to come back later on. All the best

  2. I just bought an iPad Pro for college note taking and wanted to download the note shelf 2 app, but there is only a noteshelf app. Is it the same? The noteshelf 2 link in this blog just takes me to the noteshelf app. I am just learning this stuff so I may sound dumb for asking but before I pay $9.99 I want to know if I am getting what I expected.

    1. Stancy, yes they are the same!! They have changed their app’s name from Noteshelf 2 to Noteshef in the last months, but it’s the same app. Actually, at this point the app is much better and updated than when it was named Noteshelf 2!

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