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macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jun 10, 2021
So, I’ve been using Notability on my iPad Pro for some time to take handwritten notes in class — basically a digital version of a traditional spiral-bound notepad.

Yesterday was the first day of classes this semester, and I used Freeform instead.

I’ll be going straight back to Notability.

I was looking forward to using Freeform. “On paper,” I should really prefer it. I was expecting to have a single board per class, with all the lecture notes in that board. I was most interested in the “infinite page” aspect of Freeform: no more reaching the edge of a page midway through a long equation and having to break it to the next line!

But … halfway through one of the lectures, it started to feel a bit sluggish. Nothing dramatic, nothing that would have been a show-stopper.

But it kept getting slower.

And then I noticed that it was sucking the battery dry.

I had to plug in the iPad to finish the lecture; I think the iPad went from 60% to 10% in under an hour … and, by the end of the lecture, I was hand-writing at least an entire word ahead of the app.

To its credit, it didn’t actually drop anything that I wrote. But it was basically unusable.

I was going to do the usual quit / reboot / etc. troubleshooting things this morning to see if it was just a random (or even unrelated) glitch … but I just opened the same board on my M1 MacBook Air, and it was noticeably slow here, too.

Add in the lack of pen pressure support and the general lack of polish (Notability, in contrast, is quite polished) … and … well, it’s going to be quite some time before I give Freeform a chance again.




macrumors 68000
Sep 18, 2012
I wanted to use Freeform as sort of a desktop dry-erase board to jot notes and doodle on. The infinite canvas feature is very handy for that, but the thing holding me back is that Freeform doesn't recognize handwriting...and therefore cannot search my boards for things I've written. Notes is able to do this, and can also copy handwriting as text.

I certainly wouldn't consider Freeform to be a note taking app for that reason alone, unless you want to read through everything you've written to find what you're looking for, or type things out again. I suppose one could use the pen that immediately converts writing to text for searchability, but I'd prefer to keep it as handwriting. For now, I'm back to using Notes...just wish it had infinite edges, or that Freeform recognizes handwriting.


macrumors regular
Feb 22, 2021
If you take handwritten notes you may move from Notability to Nebo. It turns even impossible handwriting into typed test in real-time with editing features and more as well.If you edit your handwriting then the typed text changes s well. So it is quite different from what you can with Notability and much better unless you want to include photos and sound recording as you can with Notability. - Nebo reads handwriting in a ton of languages, not just a select few "big languages".


macrumors 6502
Oct 26, 2021
I also noticed slowdown and large file sizes when writing notes. It would seem the method they're using for the pencil is intended for graphics or basic drawings instead of handwriting.

One board I started handwriting on would generate an 8MB+ PDF for a while. Since then I converted all of that to text boxes and more than doubled the amount of text in the document and even now the exported PDF is only 4.3MB and is searchable.
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