Note Taking Apps are Driving me nuts!

Discussion in 'iPad Apps' started by Onemorerun, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. Onemorerun macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011
    Note taking apps are driving me bonkers. I've searched and bought and continue to be unsatisfied. What is driving me crazy is that every app will be missing something. So, so close, but far away.

    What do you guys think should be the core functionality of a note taking app?

    Here are my thoughts:

    Side note...I used to want a Note Taking and PDF annotation app combined. However, I have realized that with multi tasking it is easier to switch between two apps than internally between the two. Switching in UPAD for example takes longer than multi tasking between two apps.

    1. Good Ink - should be #1 . Pentultimate, Upad, and Bamboo Paper are the best in this area. *Others are questionable in my opinion.

    2. Allow text - it's not that I want to type a lot, but I want to copy and paste from the web or PDF into my notes.

    3. Allow Copy/Paste. Penultimate has a pretty nice function in this now.

    4. Import image and be able to click and move after placement. Penultimate allows this, for whatever reason Noteshelf does not.

    5. Reorder pages.

    This is what I want as my core functionality in an app., but I don't think there is one app out there that has just these 5 things.
  2. Pete the Geek macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2011
    Sioux Lookout
    There are so many choices and each have strengths and weaknesses. I agree with your list of five features and would add that an essential feature for me is TV Out support.

    I've been using Note Taker HD consistently for a couple of months and while it has it's quirks, I like the file management system and the relatively easy way it has for switching between tools such as ink and text. The big quirk is adding text (and shapes for that matter) You have to "drag" it from a side-panel that pops up in text mode. It would make more sense to tap a spot where the text box will be placed, or drag if you know how big you want it.

    I've tried other note taking apps such as Notes Plus, UPAD, Penultimate and GoodNotes and with all the recent updates to these apps, I really should give them each another trial. I remember that Notes Plus was really strong except that it only really worked in portrait mode. GoodNotes was all around great except that the ink really lagged.

    Last week I challenged myself to "go digital", so I'm not carrying a notebook!
  3. swedefish macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2008
    I've been trying to love Note Taker HD for over a year now, but the app just falls short for me. If the app had line smoothing akin to Adobe Ideas, it would be amazing, but right now my writing looks horrible with the thinnest tip but going up one size in thickness makes it illegible because it's too thick (I write in cursive). This seems like it should be simple to fix, but perhaps it's not. All I know is that because the writing looks so bad and the text box interface is clunky, I don't use it like I would like to. Shame.
  4. Onemorerun thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011

    I like the gel ink. I really like the writing of Bamboo Paper but it has no functionality. It is free. Check it out if you haven't.

    For me, I think there should be a core of functionality that should be basic, and then all those other "added" features would allow you to differentiate yourself. Smoothness of writing should be #1. It is why Pentultimate that has almost no added fuctionality has done so well.

    I was almost excited to find Noteshelf until I saw that it has no text input. I really like the text input of UPAD, but then found it doesn't have Copy and Paste and you can't reorder pages. It drives me bonkers.

    What I want to do is sort of create "collages" of research from other PDFs and the Web and take notes/comment on them in a notebook. Basically, I would just need my core fuctions I listed. But there is no one app.
  5. ctbear macrumors 6502a

    Dec 6, 2010
    To me it's down to Penultimate VS Noteshelf.
    They both have excellent natural ink and responsiveness. They don't have text input but I value natural ink over typing.
    Penultimate has a much superior wrist guard and copy/paste, while Noteshelf has much better control on ink customization and has a zoom feature.
    In the end I'm sticking with Noteshelf, because the lack of zoom plus relatively thick ink in Penultimate kills it for me.
    You might also check out Notes Plus, which has a ton of great features. It has really terrible ink though (especially after the last few updates) but a complete redesign of the app is coming soon.
  6. epicmar macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2008
    Northern Florida
    I think that Note Taker HD currently meets all of your requirements and that Notes Plus will also meet your requirements when version 3 is released (probably sometime in mid November). I have Note Taker HD, Notes Plus, Notability, and 7NotesHD Premium. I find that handwriting is smooth and quite satisfactory in all of them since I purchased a couple of styluses from iFaraday. The iFaraday stylus is incredibly smooth and in my opinion makes it almost effortless to create very legible script and print handwriting in all of these apps.
  7. Onemorerun thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011
    I actually have most of the note taking apps listed in this thread. I keep them on my IPAD praying that they will have an update.

    I was actually impressed with The last Penultimate update. The way they implemented their copy and paste is really excellent.

    However, I don't know how anyone lives without text in their note taking apps. To be able to copy and paste from webpages and PDFs into your notes is a must.

    I personally think a developer could copy Pentultimate, add text, a touch of notebook management, and better export features...and they would have a winner. Keep it super simple, but the core excellent.
  8. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    as a general rule of thumb, i think it is good on the ipad to use multiple apps with overlapping functionality. this is especially true with the frequent updates that cause trouble or take one app into a totally new, and exciting direction. you can keep looking for an uber app, but there is always something (in my case, at least) that is lacking.

    anyhow, here is my list of apps i use. penultimate fell off a long time ago and will probably never be back. that is one of the few apps i have been truly disappointed using.

    handwriting: note taker hd, notes plus, 7noteshd prem, and noteshelf

    notetaking (keyboard input): evernote, notebooks, plaintext, voodoopad, simplenote, index card, pages

    i would say my most often used apps these days are evernote (pretty much everything ends up there as a pdf or typed note) and note taker hd.
  9. blow45 macrumors 68000

    Jan 18, 2011
    i find most apps lacking too, it's self evident.
  10. Onemorerun thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011
    As they say, "it's all about the software ." And luckily that software is less than 10 bucks, so no huge loss testing. However, I must say that with some of the apps I am buying/trying are closer to 10 bucks so it is adding up (design apps).

    As I said, I think splitting the PDF annotations and note taking makes sense with multitasking making it faster to switch between the two. I think that is optimal.

    I do understand that you can't expect a lot for a sub 10 buck piece of software, but what I am seeing are apps WITH a lot of functionality but lack some of what I think are the basic core features (as above) that all apps should have and then go from there.

    I think a lot of people shake therir heads at Penultimate and can't understand it's popularity due to its lack of functions. However, the handful of functionality it does have it does better than anyone (Pen, copy/paste/,reorder pages).
  11. grimstock macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2011
    the offerings from PhatWare have some interesting features
  12. swedefish macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2008
    I actually bought and played aorund with Penultimate today. I am not adamant about being able to type notes, so that is not the dealbreaker for me. What i'm really after is a notepad style app that feels organic to use (Note Taker HD definitely doesn't feel natural to use for me). I am actually quite impressed with Penultimate. A few improvements that I's like to see:

    1. Better wrist/hand rest funciton. I keep marking the bottom of the page where I rest my hand.
    2. More options for paper templates (wider ruled would be perfect as the current ruled paper has too little space between the lines (which brings me to the next point)
    3. This is not Penultimate specific, but the functionality of this app is imparied by the fact that there is not pointy, proper stylus, which means we have to use inaccurate, clunky rubber-tip pens which make writing in small print very difficult.
    4. While I prefer not having to zoom in order to write in small print, with the clunky stylus options of today, I think a zoom option would be ideal in order to allow for neat notes.
    5. Dropbox or evernote sync.

    This app is definitely worth its price. I much prefer it to Note Taker HD which has what must be the WORST "ink" of all the handwriting apps. Also, Note Taker has an incredibly ugly UI overall.
  13. Onemorerun thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011
    I would double check your wrist position settings if you haven't already.

    Also, you can add and create your own papers. Create a paper via a drawing app. Then add it to your photos. In Pentultimate under the add papers you can add your photos as backgrounds to your notebook. You can have multiple backgrounds in a single notebook.
  14. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i'm actually pretty keen on the apps i have and satisfied overall. thanks to them i've been able to transition almost entirely to the ipad. my point was that (for various reasons) it is good to rely on several apps that have overlapping functionality. the search for an uber notebook app isn't likely to be fruitful.

    as for penultimate, the writing looks terrible and when i export to pdfs it's like a child with a blurry crayon wrote it. the app is pretty, but my complaints come from following advice, buying it, and finding out later that there are several MUCH better apps out there for handwriting. i tried it out again a few days ago, but my opinion remains unchanged.
  15. swedefish macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2008
    I have fiddled with the wrist position setting but none of them are ideal for me. What the developer should do is create a journaling mode (ie continuous text from top to bottom) whereby the app will register input that follows upon the latest input in order to avoid misregistering hand/wrist input at the bottom of the screen.

    I don't think one should have to create one's own ruled pages, especially seeing as with the available stylus options, very few people will be able to use the default ruled space to comfortably and legibly take notes without skipping a line.

    Do you really think Note Taker HD is better than Penultimate for Handwriting? I think my NTHD notes look absolutely horrendous, mainly because the ink and line smoothing is awful.

    Which would you say is the best app you have tried that works as Penultimate (i.e. natural writing on a page like one would write in a notebook and not in a special field like with Note Taker HD) that also has some sort of line smoothing feature that make cursive notes look decent?
  16. Onemorerun thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 9, 2011
    I'm actually getting excited for Notes Plus Version 3 update. The developer mentions on his webpage that the new ink engine will be as good as Pentultimate, Noteshelf and UPAD. It's due out sometime in November.

    I am a bit overly obsessed with finding a note taking app that fits my needs. Notes Plus may be it if 3.0 is what he says it's going to be.
  17. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Yes. No doubt. See my images. The Penultimate one is a blurry mess, and I had to work hard to write that at a decent size. The NTHD one was no problem writing, and it turned out beautifully. I think there is no comparison between the two, and there is no way I will use Penultimate for my notes.

    Notes Plus looks great. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to catch my strokes as well as NTHD. It misses, for example, the downstroke of a capital T or the horizontal stroke in the middle of a capital E. I had to give up on it. However, I do prefer the UI and the way the zoom box works.

    Attached Files:

  18. swedefish macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2008
    Hmm... I suppose my handwriting is a bit better than yours but point taken. My biggest problem with NTHD is that the automated shifting of the text box as you write doesn't allow me to dot my i's and cross my t's, which is a real problem because my way of writing doesn't work letter by letter. I suppose I will fiddle with Penultimate until the Notes Plus update comes out and we'll see if that one does anything to improve ink and recognition.

    I don't understand why Apple won't make it's own handwriting app--seems like a no-brainer for the iPad and should be an option in the otherwise useless default notepad app.
  19. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    My handwriting isn't pretty, and the handwriting apps don't make it look any better!

    Over the years I've just switched to writing with caps so I can be 100% sure that I can read it later. It turns out that this is a great way to write with the handwriting apps :)

    As far as I know, the Note Taker HD box doesn't automatically shift. In other apps, like NotesPlus, you can slow down or speed up the automatic movement of the zoom box, so that shouldn't be a problem. Give it a try.

    As for Apple making this, I think they don't like the stylus much, so I doubt it. More importantly, the app would suck. Think about it. What app does Apple have that works well?

    I think I will say that Pages is pretty nice. I haven't bought Numbers yet. I am still on the fence. Keynote is OK, but has lots of annoying features (like not being able to practice your presentation without being plugged into a TV or projector--stupid!).

    Newsstand? Calendar? Music (dumbed down version of the OK iPod one)? Mail (Can't even copy my own headers)? Safari (Can't change the encryption or any number of other fabulous options other browser developers have incorporated)? Ugh. I consider that crap to be bloatware on the iPad. Some of it we have to use. Some of it gets banished to never-visited pages. If Apple put the effort into it, sure, they would do well. But, for some reason, they don't care.
  20. wizee macrumors member


    Mar 16, 2011
    The only one I see not mentioned is Good Notes, give it a try.
  21. mquadagno macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2013
  22. Luis2004 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 30, 2012
    I can't believe how many people love Penultimate but fail to point out that it doesn't have a zoom box feature. So if you want to doodle like a 3 year old, then yeah, by all means.

    NotesPlus is my daily driver right now because of good ink, excellent zoom advance features, and the ability to convert it to text, which is surprisingly accurate. The shelf UI is a disaster, but it's true, you can't have it all.
  23. saberahul macrumors 68040

    Nov 6, 2008
    Having owned and used many, I'm yet to find one better than Notability. Plus it's super cheap.
  24. mrdee0 macrumors newbie

    Mar 15, 2012
    I have used noteshelf for over a year or so and its been great especially after the retina update. The ink engine is fast and smooth. The organisation of notebooks with customization covers is nice.

    However I recently went back to explore other notepad apps to see what had changed since I reviewed them from way back.

    I can now say that Goodnotes has improved a lot. It used to feel very laggy but they have improved things there and now the engine is very similar to noteshelf.

    One thing that has now swayed me to Goodnotes is the 'page'. Noteshelf feels to me now to be a small sized notebook in that I have only 24 lines to write on. Goodnotes has way more lines and looks like an A4 page. I have always written physical notes on A4 size pages so Goodnotes offers an exact replica of this. With Noteshelf it always felt like I had limited space to write notes and made it feel like an A5 paper in terms of a physical counterpart.

    I like the pages overview in Goodnotes, the one in Noteshelf just doesn't feel right with my brain- and I feel some lag in my brain as it tries to get a quick overview. I think this maybe because Noteshelf displays it all in one column, from top to bottom which requires scrolling down. Goodnotes does it over three columns, left to right, very much like laying out a book. My brain gets this straightaway.

    The other thing I like about Goodnotes is the pdf backup sync. I know I can now access pdf replica's of my notes on any computer. With Noteshelf I had to sync/send one page at a time. Its such a boring task I haven't bothered to do any synching/backup.

    So I am now in the process in rewriting my notes from Noteshelf and I will be removing it once I am done.

    Hope this helps people. At the end of the day you need to try them out if you have the funds and see what suits you and what functions you will need. I think the inking engines have come a long way since a year ago. I'm excited to see what the future will bring -especially as new ipads come out!
  25. jimcartermdw macrumors newbie

    May 23, 2013
    I gave up on note taking apps on ipad. easier to take notes on a page and then taking a photo of it with iphone, ipad if you do not want to keep paper notes. Simply from practical point of view. Unless if you want to annotate on pdf notes, so that you do not need to print them. Then it would be more useful than just taking notes.

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