Best complete note taking app?

Hi everyone,

I’m struggling to find a note taking app that suits my needs. The perfect app would have:

  1. Ability to take notes on Apple Pencil and Keyboard seamlessly
  2. Ability to scan documents and then anótate them seamlessly
  3. No concept of pages

I have tried:

Goodnotes - unable to switch between typing and handwriting easily (you need to add text boxes). You also need to swipe through pages which causes friction and is a bit pointless when going paper free

Notability - similar to Goodnotes it has pages, but is more seamless as they scroll vertically. Adding documents via the app is clunky as it goes in small and over the existing text. Using another app (e.g. Scanner Pro) is better, but it adds it to a new page.

Evernote - you need to add a sketch rather than seamless switching between Pencil and keyboard. Expensive.

Apple Notes - not seemless between Pencil and keyboard, which is surprising for a 1st party app.

Any other ideas that might work well?

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Concepts by TopHatch, Inc. maybe?

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ZoomNotes (

This is a hard one – the app needs to be responsive to the pencil and keyboard without your intervention to tell it what you’re doing. The object and window architecture of iOS makes that a challenge.

I’d go with @TheMarty – ZoomNotes

@HeyScottyJ just showed me an iOS keyboard that resembles the Palm stylus keyboard. Might be worth a try?

When it would do the translation locally rather than through servers, I would download it in a heartbeat. Gotta love those days of being able to write text using Palm transcriptions. :slight_smile:


I add my vote for ZoomNotes. Take the time to learn how to set up a Workspace to

  • restrict the location of your documents to one folder
  • restrict the number and type of tools that show

The new infinite whiteboard mode with side-bars is a great. Here’s a snapshot to show an example of my restricted Workspace setup.

This alone has finally brought my iPad + Apple Pencil 2 in line to replace all paper + pen work that I do.



I’m testing notes plus.

If your handwriting is halfway decent, GoodNotes and Notability (and several other apps) will convert a selection of handwriting to text on the fly. YMMV.

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Notes plus also does this. In fact, notes plus combines some of the best features of Notability and Goodnotes and Nebo. I’m finding it to be the superior note taking app. Still testing however.

I have used Goodnotes, Notability, Noteshelf and Noteshelf 2 and in the past also Penultimate. I like the calligraphy possible with Noteshelf, as it has italic nib options, so it’s usually my app of choice; it has pages, but it does allow you to scan documents, they show up filling the page and you can annotate them.
A benefit of Notability over Goodnotes and Noteshelf is that Notability is also available on Mac, which is great if you want to sync between iOS and Mac.

GoodNotes 5 for macOS is in development (beta) and already supports viewing and exporting documents synced from iOS. GoodNotes 4 for macOS was deprecated with GN5 came about, so the app needed a rewrite.

ZoomNotes for macOS is also available.

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One of the significant downsides for my purposes is that Notes Plus is not available for the Mac.

Why not the apple notes app?

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This is a pretty interesting thread. It had not occurred to me until now that there are many people who view writing by hand as being as important and serious as writing on a keyboard.

Maybe most people.

I wonder if this is the year when writing by hand on the iPad (and perhaps other tablets and devices) starts diverging from just digitizing what you can already do on paper?

As for me: I aspire to be able to write well by hand but I’m fully committed to typing at this point.

My main use of writing by hand is for brainstorming speeches and other presentations and taking notes in meetings, especially one on one meetings. I find it much better for thinking and mind mapping various talks. Also, the research is clear; taking notes and writing by hand improves memory and understanding of the content versus typing. I also have a lot of meetings where I am listening carefully and taking notes with a prospective employee, a current employee, or someone else sitting in my office. Taking notes with a pencil is more natural and less intrusive than with the screen of a laptop standing vertically between you and the person with whom you were conversing.

The thing I like about the new Notability app is that it will now recognize and convert hand writing. That way, I can have the advantage of handwritten notes when thinking through presentations Or taking meeting notes and then converting them to text for use in other applications. With the new iPad and Pencil 2, we now have the best of both worlds. :slight_smile:


I like to change it up. I use Nebo (handwriting recognition) for shorter emails. I use ZoomNotes during meetings (people tend to think you are not listening if you type) and for general note taking and brainstorming. I always use keyboard for longer writing.

Although you can do so much stuff with ZoomNotes. When you use bookmarks and sub-pages, you can create complex databases. You can have main site of a project with various sub-pages (areas) for certain documents. You can bookmark them, make indexes … it’s like a visual DEVONthink.


I would guess 90% of my notes on iOS are handwriting. Usually several dozen (virtual) pages / day. For a couple of months I have been running an experiment to see if handwritten note taking on iOS is preferable to the Moleskine Pro notebooks I used for years. I think iOS is winning the experiment, because I can paste info into the iOS note from elsewhere, but I miss paper note taking.

But all of my writing (as opposed to notes), as well as notes on macOS, is typed.

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Why is Apple Notes not considered seamless between Pencil and keyboard? Is it because they can’t co-exist on the same horizontal line? I happily switch between the two inputs in the same note.

For me, precisely. When brainstorming for presentations or a large writing project, I want to be able to mix typed text and handwriting both vertically and horizontally.

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