Note taking apps

I’ve had a bit of a resurgence with OneNote over the last few weeks. I’ve been using it for over 10 years in varying capacity but since changing jobs last month, I have started making more use of it. This has been facilitated, mainly, by the company being even more heavily invested in Office 365 for collaboration than my last job, so Teams, OneNote, SharePoint and the rest of the O365 suite is open on my machine every day.

This brings me to note taking apps, specifically handwriting apps, that can be used in meetings. Goodnotes and Notability spring to mind but while both apps will work across all iOS devices, nearly everything I read is geared towards using it on an iPad, invariably with an Apple Pencil.

Does anyone use either/both of these apps on an iPhone and how useable are they, a) on a smaller iPhone form factor, and b) using your finger to write instead of an Apple Pencil?

Taking handwritten notes on a phone is painful (in more ways than one) and, for me, sloppy, in GoodNotes, Notability, Notes, etc. I prefer to use iOS’s speech-to-text features on my phone.

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I have used both but prefer GoodNotes. They are great on the iPad with a pencil- I use a Bamboo on an Air2 iPad.

Both apps (and I would guess any competitor/future apps) are hard work on the phone because of the physical size limitations and as said above the handwriting readability goes down significantly when using your finger. But the bamboo does work on the phone so it all depends on what’s around when you want to take the note.

I only ever do “ahh forgot that bit” type notes on my phone now as it’s not fun. I personally would rather use paper and pen, and scan capture it, if my iPad wasn’t around.

Although it has apparently been around for some time, I just found out about Nebo a couple of weeks ago. The jury is definitely still out, but I’ll play around with it a bit longer. It does seem to have good character recognition and can pretty accurately convert to text. I had a problem with the Apple Pencil making dotted lines at first, but this may have not been a problem just with Nebo, though. It also does reasonably good handwritten-to-text formula conversion.

There are a couple of drawbacks. It’s only available for iPad, so you have to export to another format to be able to much with it. It’s $7.99 with no trial.

Definitely no endorsement from me, but might be worth a look for you.


The Apple Notes refresh in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina seem to have some very nice advancements. It hasn’t been written about much but was the focus of the last episode of the AppStories podcast: