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View Full Version : A look at the 18 notepad apps currently on my iPad




caubeck
May 31, 2010, 05:59 PM
I've bought far too many notepad apps looking for the right one to suit my needs. I wish I hadn't wasted so much money on them, but...whatever. At least maybe I can help someone facing the same problem.

My needs, I thought, were few and very simple. I wanted a virtual notebook where I could type, scribble and possibly paste photos, and then email the resulting "sheets" wherever I wanted. Here are the apps that are still on my iPad (I can't imagine how many I've already deleted). These are my personal views about apps in the version I have them today, on May 31st 2010. I am sure many will get better with updates over time.

Desktop. A very useful app that splits the screen in two and allows either half to work as a notepad, calculator, web browser, etc. I use it every time I work on a translation (my job) because I can have the original on one side and the translation on the other, and consult the net for tricky expressions. But it's not a fully fledged notepad per se, so I didn't stop downloading there.

PaperPad. I like this app a lot. It lets you scribble in different colors and thicknesses and create a PDF with the result. Your shaky lines get smoothed out as you make them. The app is fast and doesn't have a column of wasted space on the left showing an index of saved notes when in landscape mode. You can doodle or write on PDFs and images but you can't type or paste typed text, so it's nice to have but doesn't meet my needs.

Notes N More. This one's okay. I didn't know you could change the texture till a week after I downloaded it because the option is in the iPad general settings, not in the app. Even so, I don't like any of the crinkly or woven textures and there's no plain white. There's also a column of option permanently on view on the left, wasting screen estate. Hmm.

Pages. Of course Apple worked hard on this app. It does everything, except it strips out footnotes and creates PDFs that my Windows computers can't open properly. I don't like the interface, I'm always hunting in the toolbar for the functions I need. And I can't scribble with it if I needed to. So sadly that was ten dollars put on hold till the developers get around to adding more features, if they ever do.

Office HD. This was the first app I downloaded, I think, and recent updates have improved it a lot. I don't want to criticize too much because it's pretty good for office work, but it isn't the friendly notepad I was after.

Penultimate. I don't see what's attractive about an endless conveyor belt of identical brown notebooks where you can scribble in black ink. Dull, depressing and missing all kinds of functionality. It's not for me.

PaperDesk. This one is pretty good. I can type, record audio, doodle...if I could paste images too I'd have stopped my search here. It doesn't waste space with columns on the left, it's big and bright and simple.

Notes (not the native app). Interesting, but this is a sticky note or post it theme (with pins no less) and I'm not into that unless it's really special.

MaxJournal. This is a wonderful application for taking typed notes associated with particular dates. It's like an agenda or diary, with dates running down the left hand side. Very smart. Nice scrolling. Not what I need right now but I've been using it occasionally. You can send as email, PDF, text, it lets you search, and so on. Very attractive theme, good design.

WritePad. I bought this because I was curious about handwriting recognition. I used the same app on my old PDA. The trouble is that it made sense on the little PDA, but the iPad has a great keyboard. WritePad is a little too simple in design, too, so it looks like you're using a beta version of something. Not the right functionality for me anyway.

Notes (the native app). No options, themes, PDF out, images in, or anything worth my while. Huge column of wasted space on the left. Annoying yellow and leather theme, can't stand it.

Mental Note. I use this, it allows typing and scribbling and importing images and exporting as PDF. The trouble is that images can't be resized currently, which is annoying. But I've been using it for a few weeks and look forward to the next few updates.

Notably. Very pleasant notepad app. I've been writing a book chapter with it. Very little functionality, though, so it's just good for typing. Big column on the left makes landscape mode a bit pointless (except for the larger keyboard, but I want to visualize my documents better horizontally too), but the developer says they'll work on that.

Infinote. This post-it style app has a lot of potential, more than others of its kind. I've used it, and will do so again. I like how you can structure your notes and thoughts with its unique layout. Just needs a few more features, such as to be able to mix images with text, and it'll be very good indeed. A more formal skin would really help. The developer said he was working on improving functionality so we'll see.

Browser Notes. Like Desktop above, with fewer options and features.

Diary Book. Okay, this was embarrassing, and not cheap. I thought I was downloading another take on the journal-that-lets-you-mix-text-and-images-and-mail-it kind of app, but it's a girly notebook for 12 year olds that might as well say Hello Kitty on the front. I will delete it right away (...there, done).

miWriter. This app supposedly helps you create a book you can send as a PDF afterwards. But the controls are clumsy, images can only be resized by squashing them and I can't tell if you can drag them because the app is really confusing. If you paste text it has to go into a text box, but then this doesn't automatically resize to the right width, and...well, Ill leave it at that.



"And the winner is...."

Okay, I think at long last I found my ideal notepad app.

WhiteNote. Not a name I'd read much, and the icon is so run of the mill you'd be forgiven for not even bothering to take a look. But this one is superb. It is smooth, it allows you to combine text and images and handwriting, drag and resize images, play with the texture and use your own. You can change the fonts, colors, line thickness. You can send sheets as PDFs. You can access the Internet from within the app, and your PDFs and images, and take screenshots to add to the page you're working on....really, this one has it all. It's also relatively cheap.



awmazz
May 31, 2010, 06:55 PM
Thanks for the reviews. I'm going to try WhiteNote myself now.

For a pure type-only note app, I've found Notebooks for iPad to be the best so far.

Dillenger
May 31, 2010, 07:04 PM
Thanks for the reviews. I'm going to try WhiteNote myself now.

For a pure type-only note app, I've found Notebooks for iPad to be the best so far.

Does Notebooks for iPad allow you to edits imported notes or just read them? I need a note app that will allow me to import a Pages doc but edit it if I need too.

KandyKane
Jun 1, 2010, 06:48 AM
Wow thanks for your reviews. Was about to buy daily notes but no one had reviewed it anywhere (googled it)

caubeck
Jun 1, 2010, 07:41 AM
I have found a bug in WhiteNote and have spoken to the developers about it. They are correcting things already. The problem was that adding a long text (25,000 characters) caused it to act strangely and I couldn't scroll down. When the bugs are ironed out this may be the one I'll use all the time.

Smooth scrolling is important in notepad apps. I also think having the whole landscape screen as your writing desk makes more sense than seeing a column of options or files permanently fixed to the left. Also, in this age of iPads, email and digital media I see no reason why images can't combine with text and audio. One obvious problem is that the resulting file may be annoyingly large to receive or send via email, and these writing (and photo) apps give little indication about the size of the attachment.

Hopefully Documents to Go will solve some of my compatability issues at work - hopefully that update isn't getting mysteriously delayed at Apple HQ, just as the world starts downloading iWork on their new devices - and an app like WhiteNote will cover my other needs.

GoCubsGo
Jun 1, 2010, 07:49 AM
I totally appreciate the write up but do you have anything more extensive? I am considering Penultimate, I have PaperDesk but I found weird behavior in it and I'm not sure I like the way it works, and WritePad is something of interest to me.

caubeck
Jun 1, 2010, 08:13 AM
I totally appreciate the write up but do you have anything more extensive? .

No.

tdream
Jun 1, 2010, 08:48 AM
You didn't check out sundry notes or soundpaper?

Whitenote looks very amateurish.

sracer
Jun 1, 2010, 09:47 AM
"And the winner is...."

Okay, I think at long last I found my ideal notepad app.

WhiteNote. Not a name I'd read much, and the icon is so run of the mill you'd be forgiven for not even bothering to take a look. But this one is superb. It is smooth, it allows you to combine text and images and handwriting, drag and resize images, play with the texture and use your own. You can change the fonts, colors, line thickness. You can send sheets as PDFs. You can access the Internet from within the app, and your PDFs and images, and take screenshots to add to the page you're working on....really, this one has it all. It's also relatively cheap.
I WAS a huge WhiteNote fan. (I'm WillysJeepMan on the app store) But with each subsequent release, for every bug that is squashed 2 more nastier ones are introduced.

1.7 (released yesterday) fixes the bug where entire pages of text were deleted when exiting the app... but another "losing text" bug was introduced. And there is still no "undo" option.

There's a lot of promise in that app, but I've lost too much data to rely on it anymore. If they ever get those bugs ironed out, it will be the best, IMO.

edit: One thing that the developers did early on was to change from the traditional curved tabs (like Excel tabs) for more rectangular looking "buttons". That wasn't a good decision IMO.

sracer
Jun 1, 2010, 09:49 AM
You didn't check out sundry notes or soundpaper?

Whitenote looks very amateurish.
I've checked out Sundry Notes. IT is the one that I found to look amateurish. Not to mention that long delays switching pages. It has a clunky mechanism for switching between notebooks and pages. If they could improve the performance and provide a nicer method of switching pages/notebooks, It would be a contender.

caubeck
Jun 1, 2010, 10:16 AM
I WAS a huge WhiteNote fan. (I'm WillysJeepMan on the app store) But with each subsequent release, for every bug that is squashed 2 more nastier ones are introduced.

1.7 (released yesterday) fixes the bug where entire pages of text were deleted when exiting the app... but another "losing text" bug was introduced. And there is still no "undo" option.

There's a lot of promise in that app, but I've lost too much data to rely on it anymore. If they ever get those bugs ironed out, it will be the best, IMO.

edit: One thing that the developers did early on was to change from the traditional curved tabs (like Excel tabs) for more rectangular looking "buttons". That wasn't a good decision IMO.

Good to know. Meanwhile I'm becoming a beta tester to see if I can lend a hand. The features in this app are exactly what I need, either fortunately or unfortunately.

Treebark
Jun 1, 2010, 01:12 PM
Tried many of the above but find myself liking the ones where you have an area on the bottom of the screen to write, but the app shrinks your ink to the insertion point above. Both Note Taker HD and FastFinga do this. FastFinga currently has very nice inking, almost like penultimate in how it looks "real" but overall I don't find its categorization of notes too handy.

Note Taker HD currently is my main one. According to an email with the author, it sounds like different colors and a few other things, such as improved ink output (not that it is bad now, just not as good as 1-2 others out there). I think multiple sheet notes is coming too.

The ability to have different tags and folders for notes is great.

There is at least one youtube video if you can't get your head around what I mean by write big/normal on the bottom of the screen to have the ink in smaller, normal writing at the insertion point in the screen above.

reiichiroh
Jun 1, 2010, 01:25 PM
I use Simplenote/Evernote/Sundry Noets.

sorsha
Jun 1, 2010, 01:47 PM
Note Taker HD currently is my main one. According to an email with the author, it sounds like different colors and a few other things, such as improved ink output (not that it is bad now, just not as good as 1-2 others out there). I think multiple sheet notes is coming too.

The ability to have different tags and folders for notes is great.

There is at least one youtube video if you can't get your head around what I mean by write big/normal on the bottom of the screen to have the ink in smaller, normal writing at the insertion point in the screen above.

Oooh, Note Taker looks great! One thing I didn't see, though--is there any way to move text around on the page after you've written it? Either select and move, or copy and paste? One of the things I really like about Fast Finga is that I can insert new text in between lines I've already written if I want to.

Treebark
Jun 1, 2010, 08:46 PM
Oooh, Note Taker looks great! One thing I didn't see, though--is there any way to move text around on the page after you've written it? Either select and move, or copy and paste? One of the things I really like about Fast Finga is that I can insert new text in between lines I've already written if I want to.

In the current version no way to move ink, so quite paper like in that. Lol. I haven't found the need to do so that great though.

Before the iPad came out I saw pad note demo on YouTube and envisioned moving text, ink, graphics all around the page in a onenote or evernote style organizational scheme but that app doesn't exist. If it did and worked well I would pay $75 for it even.

Actually that (evernote) is an app I hope adds ink and robust editing. They have note organization and synching between multiple devices/computers down pretty well and their roots are in inking on the first tablet pcs probably a decade ago, so here is hoping.

MadDog31
Jun 5, 2010, 11:22 AM
I picked up a Pogo Sketch yesterday and downloaded Penultimate. Overall it's a pretty nice app for basic notes (in terms of organization), but the one gripe I have is when I'm writing and my hand hits the bottom right of the page, it turns to a new page. I almost wish there was an option to move that to the top right instead.

They could use some better organization, allow you to write on the notebook cover, etc...but all of these apps are in their infancy still, really. I'm willing to give it time, especially since Pogo told me they are announcing new stuff hopefully at the end of the summer (as opposed to the mid-May many of us heard before).

srl7741
Jun 5, 2010, 12:01 PM
Great review/over view of note apps. Thanks

I've been using PaperDesk and Simplenotes and I'm still not satisfied with PaperDesk. Simplenotes is great, it's a keeper.

I may try WhiteNote tho to see how well it works. Great thread. :)

.

caubeck
Jun 5, 2010, 01:14 PM
Great review/over view of note apps. Thanks

I've been using PaperDesk and Simplenotes and I'm still not satisfied with PaperDesk. Simplenotes is great, it's a keeper.

I may try WhiteNote tho to see how well it works. Great thread. :)

.

WhiteNote is making a massive debugging effort right now. It does have all the features I need but until they're sorted I can't completely recommend it. Once it's fixed it must be great on account of its wide array of functions.

glitch44
Jun 5, 2010, 08:06 PM
Do any of these notes apps encrypt the notes with password unlock? I need to keep some banking info on my ipad.

srl7741
Jun 5, 2010, 09:10 PM
Do any of these notes apps encrypt the notes with password unlock? I need to keep some banking info on my ipad.

I think 1Password or DataVault may be a better friend for your protected information. If it's worth protecting it's worth the Apps. Both are great and 1Password is 50% off at the moment I think.

Jeff Flowerday
Jun 8, 2010, 10:14 AM
I'm using Note Taker HD. Really liking it.

The update that came out yesterday has really taken it to another level.

sracer
Jun 8, 2010, 10:35 AM
I'm using Note Taker HD. Really liking it.

The update that came out yesterday has really taken it to another level.
WhiteNote 1.7.6 was released yesterday... one of the new features is "Note Taker HD"-like handwriting. If the developers can tighten up the quality of their updates then WhiteNote will be a contender.

caubeck
Jun 17, 2010, 12:43 PM
Having just redownloaded WritePad I must say the latest version looks much nicer with a more attractive feature set. It's no longer colorless and overly simplistic, and I think I'm going to use it quite often now. I love returning to apps I bought and deleted to see what's changed.

SmartNote is another app I have started to use. It seems more stable than WhiteNote although there are still some bugs in both. They are very similar but SmartNote is generally more reliable at the moment, with an attractive notebook theme (the kind of theme Penultimate should adopt).

TraceyS/FL
Jun 17, 2010, 01:00 PM
I wonder how write pad would do with my kids writing?

I have the iPhone version, but I'm not sure the input area would work. Would you say it is worth $10 at this point??

Dillenger
Jun 17, 2010, 01:02 PM
If you happen to use the Mac and iPhone version of SOHO Notes, it will work on your iPad. I'm hopeful that they will eventually do a universal on the iPhone version.

afireintonto
Jun 17, 2010, 02:13 PM
Soundpaper all the way. I just wish I could draw a graph or something when I need too.

malbright
Jun 18, 2010, 12:39 AM
And of course, Evernote. Brilliant, beautiful, super easy, highly functional ... and free.

uraniumwilly
Jun 18, 2010, 11:42 AM
Soundpaper all the way.

I'd like to echo this sentiment. The support guy for Soundpaper demonstrated the finest response to an app problem I've ever experienced, and, it turned out it was user error. I love this app. It's especially great for students.

Thanks to the original thread-starter and app-tester who tried out so many different types of doc making apps. Very helpful.

I only have one other sort of document app that I use and that is 'Chronicle.' It's a journal function allows you to password lock your journal and back up to googledocs.

Great thread!

iLeo
Jun 18, 2010, 05:08 PM
You know what?

I use Jot!

This might be surprising, but I really like the way I can:

- type wherever I want on the page,
- draw wherever I want on the page
- the simplicity of the app

I don't know, maybe cause I'm usually a "messy" note taker on papers :o, this was the only app that made me stick with it!

there's a free version of it, if you guys wanna give it a try! :)

doobry
Jun 21, 2010, 03:36 PM
Soundpaper all the way. I just wish I could draw a graph or something when I need too.

THanks for this! You've just lightened my bag by removing my Black n Red and my dictaphone... What a great app! As for the graphs, why not email the app dev's. I'm sure they'll add it in if you give them a good reason!

doobry
Jun 22, 2010, 04:25 PM
***update***

First use of Soundpaper in anger in a customer meeting today. Never met the guy before. Best icebreaker ever was explaining the app to him.. ;)

Worked flawlessly, just played it back and the note skipping feature is truely fantastic..

If you need something to take notes in meetings. Get this, you will *not* be disappointed..

rldunn
Jun 22, 2010, 04:35 PM
***update***

First use of Soundpaper in anger in a customer meeting today. Never met the guy before. Best icebreaker ever was explaining the app to him.. ;)

Worked flawlessly, just played it back and the note skipping feature is truely fantastic..

If you need something to take notes in meetings. Get this, you will *not* be disappointed..It seems ok, but it desperately needs an eraser. Tapping each letter one by one then hitting the delete button gets old fast if you need to delete a section.

IrishVixen
Jun 22, 2010, 05:39 PM
I haven't had the chance to really put SoundPaper to the test yet, but I grabbed it to use at an upcoming conference. What I've seen so far, I like well enough, at least for strict note-taking using the keyboard, nothing fancy. The timed recording feature is a huge plus.

My primary app though, is Notebooks. The ability to created infinite nested notebooks appeals to my sense of order, and it reminds me a lot of my OneNote days way back when. I've been using it for close to a month now, and it's been worth every penny. Just wish they'd add an RTF editor and sound file recording capability, but neither is a deal breaker for me.

There are some reported glitches with saving typed notes (versus clipped web pages or imported images/files); so far (knock on wood), I've found that so long as I "vanish" the virtual keyboard before I exit a note, I don't lose any data. I do this even with the BT keyboard--eject it, bring up the virtual, use the lower right keyboard button to vanish that one. Still, just in case, I'm backing up the important stuff in either Sound Paper or MaxJournal until the developer gets the next version through to the App Store--supposedly that one corrects the glitch with saving.

Even with that nuisance factor, the convenience of being able to have everything in one place is huge. I regularly clip webpages to it, store images from the web, or add PDFs to various notebooks. It's easily my most used app after Mail and Safari.

richimages
Jun 25, 2010, 09:10 AM
It looks like the original poster was not too interested in writing notes ... and I can understand that ... but, I would love to add my 2 cents worth along apps for taking notes in hand writing.

I have found handwriting apps that do a better job of smoothing out zoomed in jaggies ... but none are too useful for full sized pages with normal sized handwriting except for Note Take HD (IMO) ...

I would recommend getting a stylus, and taking the time to learn the app ( 20 minutes ) and used EDIT 2 mode with auto scrolling.

Here's a sample (http://richimages.net/BetaTesting/note-taker-hd.pdf) where I was trying to be neat, but not going slow, or re-doing anything. Pretty similar to writing on a normal sheet of paper. Output as PDF to email.

richimages
Jun 25, 2010, 09:34 AM
... but the one gripe I have is when I'm writing and my hand hits the bottom right of the page, it turns to a new page. I almost wish there was an option to move that to the top right instead ....

I've seen some artist-types use a glove on their drawing hand with the fingers cut off the glove for similar reasons ... you might not have to go to that extreme for writing apps ... perhaps you might try folding a simple handkerchief for a few layers and laying that across the ipad where your hand might touch. Just a thought ...

TraceyS/FL
Jun 30, 2010, 12:38 PM
It looks like the original poster was not too interested in writing notes ... and I can understand that ... but, I would love to add my 2 cents worth along apps for taking notes in hand writing.

I have found handwriting apps that do a better job of smoothing out zoomed in jaggies ... but none are too useful for full sized pages with normal sized handwriting except for Note Take HD (IMO) ...

I would recommend getting a stylus, and taking the time to learn the app ( 20 minutes ) and used EDIT 2 mode with auto scrolling.

Here's a sample (http://richimages.net/BetaTesting/note-taker-hd.pdf) where I was trying to be neat, but not going slow, or re-doing anything. Pretty similar to writing on a normal sheet of paper. Output as PDF to email.
I took the plunge and just bought Note Taker HD.

I'm going to have my kids use it for school work - i've emailed the Dev and got a mega fast response to some questions. He's working on a few of the things i asked about, so i think it will get more useful in time for me.

My kids all have a variety of issues getting things to paper, and i'm hoping this helps. The youngest two aren't at an age where they can just type everything, but giving them a different way to work on expressing themselves should help (they both love their iPad time).

Anyway, not a traditional use - but i did write a paragraph to try it and i could use it for sure.

It would be kinda cool if i could send the completed files to Notebooks for filing....

iThinman
Jul 2, 2010, 10:52 PM
In Soundpapeer, can i export the PDF to Goodreader or DocstoGo, or do i need to email it to myself?

Also, does it embed the audio in the PDF?

Thanks in advance!

IrishVixen
Jul 3, 2010, 12:40 AM
In Soundpapeer, can i export the PDF to Goodreader or DocstoGo, or do i need to email it to myself?

Also, does it embed the audio in the PDF?

Thanks in advance!

Looks like email only, no option to export to another program.

Interestingly, when I just tried it, it sent the text portion of the note as plain text in the email, while the audio portion came through as .m4a, which the Mail app offered to open in GoodReader. Audio played fine in that app, but no sign of an actual PDF of the text.

Edit--OK, very odd. The PDF comes through fine, but you can't see it through the Mail app on the iPad. Gmail through Atomic or Safari, I can see it as an actual PDF file. So it does send one. Unfortunately I can't get it to download properly in either, can only view it in HTML--I'd bet on user error for that part though! Anyone else?

applesupergeek
Jul 20, 2010, 07:02 AM
My main gripe with all these are two simple yet highly required measures:
Encryption
Syncing across devices

I really can't believe no one has really done this...

Important pluses which I see are already available are recordings and hand written notes.

glitch44
Jul 21, 2010, 12:29 AM
My main gripe with all these are two simple yet highly required measures:
Encryption
Syncing across devices

I really can't believe no one has really done this...

Important pluses which I see are already available are recordings and hand written notes.

Well if encryption is so simple, especially across multiple devices, why don't you whip up an app and make millions?

caubeck
Jul 21, 2010, 09:02 AM
I have just bought Noterize 3. It's quite good. Audio playback quality could be crisper but it's passable. Why must it use yellow paper? I'm beginning to think everyone in the USA writes on yellow notepads.

iThinman
Aug 14, 2010, 10:17 AM
Has anybody taken another look at WhiteNote recently since it was updated? I finally picked it up and while it is getting fairly close, it still feels a long ways away.

It is overall sluggish and I didn't get a big confidence boost trying to create multiple notes and pages. Several times when attempting to delete the only page of a note, the previous content would be shown as 'page 0'.

Also, It does not appear to do anything with audio recordings at all. No export option and I annotate find them in the apps folder structure. Can't record audio if I can't do anything with it outside the app after.

Overall, I really like this app though. The feature list and layout work for me, but I am starting to fear the dev may be in over his head. No offense to him/her at all, but I'd love to see what a seasoned coder could do with the framework as-is.

Overall though, this app is #1 on my list of 'damn I hope that becomes awesome soon' apps.

tiestomate
Jun 18, 2011, 06:06 AM
WhiteNote. Not a name I'd read much, and the icon is so run of the mill you'd be forgiven for not even bothering to take a look. But this one is superb. It is smooth, it allows you to combine text and images and handwriting, drag and resize images, play with the texture and use your own. You can change the fonts, colors, line thickness. You can send sheets as PDFs. You can access the Internet from within the app, and your PDFs and images, and take screenshots to add to the page you're working on....really, this one has it all. It's also relatively cheap.

How to browse the internet within the app?!:confused:
I often use online dictionary to translate unfamiliar words and keep them saved for future references. It's a bit annoying leaving the app to translate a word going to Safari. I couldn't find any infromaton regarding the internet on the whitenote userguide.