Handwriting notes with Apple Pencil

I see a lot of people talking about handwriting notes with their Apple Pencil. How is this better than just typing the notes in?

This is the big reason I’m experimenting with the Apple Pencil for note taking (and the reason I often used a pen and notebook before that). In a meeting around a conference table with a lot of two-way interaction with other people, handwriting notes (whether on paper or an iPad) presents very differently than typing. With typing it’s easy to give the impression that you’re not paying attention and a laptop or an iPad on a stand presents a barrier between you and other people at the table.

A less interactive setting like a large lecture hall is a different deal, one where I’d be more likely to type.

For me, it’s about speed. If I am the presenter or chairperson, I prefer to hand-write notes, because I can take down actions or input very quickly this way.

If I’m a participant with less responsibility to “drive” the meeting, typing will usually give me much fuller and more complete notes.

I use both methods, depending on context.

I use both typed notes and handwritten. For some of my meetings (typically one on one), I will spend just as much time sketching graphs / figures as writing text, so I’ll hand write since it is easier to switch between the two. For meetings where it will be mostly text and I’m just one in a room (and most of us are on laptops) I’ll use the keyboard and then occasionally draw something with the pencil as needed.

For me personally, writing things down is the only true way to “wire things in” so to speak when it comes to developing an understanding of something I’m reading or reviewing. I seem to get more out of condensing and rewording my notes on something I’ve read/lecture/conversation that makes learning from such experiences more readily available in my memory. When I type up my notes, they are as good as forgotten (unless I’m specifically using a knowledge instiller like Anki)


I’m a typist at heart, but the pencil lets me get down more visual ideas. If the number of notes I need to take is low, it doesn’t hurt to hand-write them with the pencil since I won’t miss anything. Drawing with the Pencil (doodling?) is also fun and engaging, which helps some meetings or lectures go better.

I use both, which is one of many reasons why I now use my iPad Pro 12.9 as my default computing device. Attached is a picture showing an example from just this morning. I used the Apple Pencil in Apple Notes to brainstorm a faculty/staff devotional I am preparing on Wisdom. After brainstorming, I start typing the presentation in Ulysses. When finished it is finally sent to Pages for when I give the devotional. I do this because I may want to make a final annotation or two with the Apple Pencil a few minutes before I speak.

Here is a screenshot.

I also hand write notes when conducting an interview and other meetings. Occasionally, I will type notes in a large meeting that I am not leading.

As others have mentioned, there are cognitive benefits to writing with a pencil on “paper.” Here is a great example from a Cambridge U. medical student.


Nice! I love using Notability for sermon prep. It sticks so much better in the end.


It has been proven that handwriting is better if you want to retain more of what is taking place in a lecture hall, presentation, meeting, etc. It engages more areas of the brain and this improves comprehension and recall.


That video was good, thanks for that.


Nice approach.

It’s interesting that a Google search on “note taking” gets 3.1 billion ghits.

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I teach classes on effective note taking and research suggests that hand writing means you process the information much better than when you take notes on a keyboard. You remember more and learn more.

It is also better if you’re in a meeting, typing means you end up focusing on the screen rather than participating.

An example of a study that backs this up: https://linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/Teaching/papers/MuellerAndOppenheimer2014OnTakingNotesByHand.pdf


That makes sense to me. You do more summarizing when you handwrite than if you type verbatim what is being said.

I’d say it is more a hierarchy of memory. If I don’t take any notes at all in a meeting, then I will remember very little. I’ll remember more if I type notes and remember the most if I handwrite.

The salient point of that article really is that even though typing notes in class appears to be “active” it’s really more of a passive process of just typing verbatim. Where students fall apart (and it took me some time to learn this) is that they fail to update their notes after class, make outlines, or continue to process them using multiple methods. Instead, they rely on their digital notes to just casually re-read over and over, hoping it will stick.

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One issue not mentioned is handwriting. I can type faster than I can write legibly. Handwritten notes don’t do much good if you can’t read them later.

I hand write out my day so been using Noteability to jot down a few tasks and note for each work day.

So why not try and write slower and condense the information to what is actually being said? That’s the benefit of hand writing.

That has been helping me so much. I think I got the idea from @MacSparky I love the capability of my task manager (todoist) but I also love the connection of writing in a system like Bullet Journal.

To me the main benefit is that over the years I’ve concocted an unofficial system of squiggle-underlines and trapezoid boxes and the like when quickly taking info-heavy contemporaneous notes. If there’s a brief pause I can scan what I’ve written and jump up to one of my attention symbols and scrawl additional info or thoughts on something.

That’s near-impossible to replicate with typing, despite my being able to type faster than I write. Handwritten notes also have the unique ability to jog my memory later during review in some way from just looking at the size/style of the handwriting alongside those hieroglyphic symbols.

I’ve never tried notetaking with an iPad that had a Pencil but I’m intrigued to see if it’s good enough to let me go largely paperless.

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That’s cool. It’s hard to reproduce systems that work. Just like those crazy highlighters lol.