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Best Note taking Apps for the iPad and iPhone
Whether it be for your meeting with your manager or writing down your grocery list, the sticky note or piece of paper is no longer…
Whether it be for your meeting with your manager or writing down your grocery list, the sticky note or piece of paper is no longer cutting it. The ease of having it on your phone or tablet is much more convenient since you will never accidentally throw away your phone, or at least I hope you won't. We have put together our list of these top 8 note taking apps for the iPad and iPhone to make your life easier.
Sometimes the stock solution is best
I may be in the minority here, but I actually like Apple’s stock Notes app. It’s well designed, available on all your devices, and can receive big new features updates with new versions of iOS. As it is developed by Apple, it also comes with unique features not found in other apps. On iPad, you can tap your screen with Apple Pencil and it will instantly open to a new note. Both iPad and Mac have support for Quick Note which allows a new note to be created just by pulling up from the lower-right corner of the display.
Notes syncs all your notes via iCloud, includes support for folder, tags, and collaborating. Shared notes have an activity feed to show any changes other users may have made. Notes can also contain multiple objects including tables, lists, documents, images, and website previews.
It can be a bit barebones compared to some of the apps on the list but it also is likely the most popular and has the tightest integration with iOS itself.
The most powerful notes app for all your devices
I’ve been an avid fan of Bear (the app, not the furry, honey-loving, tree-climbing animal) since it launched and it has just gotten better. First and foremost, the app looks incredible. It is arguably the best designed on this list with adorable bear animations, various shades of gray, and specifically chosen accent colors. It has multiple themes available so you can further customize its look.
Links and tags are some of the coolest parts of Bear and they can be interwoven among your notes. Add a hashtag and a word becomes a tag that you can click on to see all the other tagged notes. Tags can be nested as well for further organization. When you add a link — be it to a website or email — they can be clicked as well.
You can write in plain text but you can use portable Markdown to add some flair to your notes. Other features include support for sketching with Apple Pencil, an extension for adding images, text, files, and websites, the ability to create Shortcuts, a wide variety of export options, Spotlight integration, and much more.
Bear is a great app and it is not only available on iPhone, but available on iPad and Mac as well.
A third-party solution from Google
Whattttttt, Google made the list of best iOS notes apps? Why yes, yes it did. Google Keep is helpful for those who use iPhones but are heavily ingrained in the Google software ecosystem. i.e. Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, et cetera.
Google Keep, available on iOS and iPadOS, is a simple solution for notes, lists, and ideas. You can sketch, type, or create lists within Google Keep. My favorite part of the app is the landing page. All your pinned documents are at the top and have rich thumbnails including list previews, big images, and various background colors.
There is a lovely dark mode UI for those who prefer the darker aesthetic, ties to Gmail and Google maps if you add contacts or locations to your files, and of course — comprehensive search.
Store your notes, documents, & ideas
Unlike many of the others here on the list, Craft is a new approach to a note app. It does so with newfound simplicity as well as a beautiful look.
When you create a note or document in Craft, you can add various blocks of content. Each of the sections moves as a whole, allowing you to easily rearrange your note just by tapping, holding, and dragging. Blocks can be groups of text, lists, image galleries, tables, and more. Each of the various blocks has their own style that makes them feel cohesive, but still like they were designed with a purpose.
Text is easily formatted with a pop-up menu that can slide around the screen. There are plenty of your basic options — font, color, size — as well as more Craft-specific like different bullet styles, focus, and blocks.
With your notes, you can break them into different folders, change the themes between light and dark, and export them to a variety of formats. Notes can be shared in email, printed, exported as a PDF, or shared with Drafts, Things, OmniFocus, iA Writer, among others.
Was anyone a fan of the OG Apple Notes app? The one that looked like a notepad with yellow paper, brown lines, and a stitched leather binding? For those that were, let me show you N+otes. Yeah, I don’t quite understand the name either.
I wouldn’t say N+otes goes full skeuomorphic, but certainly more so than what Apple does now. Images can be inserted into notes and shown as a 3D carousel at the top, reminiscent of Apple’s Cover Flow UI.
There are several themes for the app including a brown top with lined yellow paper. You can choose from the existing ones or just create your own. The developer is using the classic Noteworthy font for a bit more of a handwritten feel to your typed notes.
For added protection, you can password protect your notes with a PIN to prevent unauthorized access. As a final skeuomorphic touch, you can swipe between notes just like pages in a book with an on-screen animation that feels like real paper.
An oldie but a goodie
I used to be a die-hard Evernote user. I used it countless times a day until there were changes in the business model and I veered away. Recently, I’ve rediscovered Evernote and have been very impressed with all the new features and refreshed interface.
Evernote aims to bring everything together. In the app, the landing page houses your lists, notes, as well as your calendar. Notes can be text, but you can also easily scan documents and business cards. OCR can parse this information and make it easily searchable.
There are extensive formatting options such as many fonts, strikethrough and other styles, support for exponents and other math functions, links, colors, highlighting, and more. If you add tables, each table column header can have its own color and style to help differentiate them. Finally, it can record audio too so while you are in a meeting you can take notes while capturing the audio as well.
Evernote easily syncs between devices including iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
A customized notebook for everything
GoodNotes 5 is a fantastic note-taking tool but it is also more akin to a digital planner. It can hold everything in one place, going behind a simple note app. It does so with a clean look and feels and tight integrations with Apple hardware and software.
For notes, there’s everything you’ll need. You can take a note from scratch and type it in or write/draw with your Apple Pencil. If you don’t create a note from scratch you can pull in a PDF and then annotate directly on it, like if you got an outline for your class and want to take additional notes during the lecture. Sure enough, GoodNotes 5 allows you to fully customize the look of your notebook as well.
You can take your notes and turn them into flashcards for a more effective studying tool. Customize the front and back of the cards so you can study everything from vocabulary to molecular structures.
Beyond that, you can have a planner as well. Your planner shows your monthly view where you can doodle or write on each day. It feels very much like a large desk planner where you sketch or add stickers to the days of the month as well as write down stuff you’ve got going on. Then we have the document viewer. It acts basically as a file repo where you can store all of your files and documents. Pull them into notes, annotate them, or just store them for easy access. Other features include a dark mode, side-by-side editing, and presentation mode.
Popular for a reason
Notability has been a fan-fave for a while and there was no chance I was leaving it off my list. It has continued to get big upgrades over the years making it exceptionally well-polished and reliable.
Sketching is a big deal in Notability, and it should be. A lot of people like drawing or writing their notes and Notability makes it easy and robust. There are tons of colors to choose from, pen types, thicknesses, and options for highlighting. Draw diagrams, write words, annotate PDFs/slides, or draw molecules.
I think an underrated feature for notes apps is the ability to record audio. I could just record the audio in Voice Memos but then I’m splitting my work into two different locations. The note apps that do include audio, usually just append it to the note in question. Notability goes much further. It syncs your audio to your notes so as you playback the audio, you can see that section of your notes. Go back at any time to see exactly what was said at the time you wrote or drew something. It makes combining these two effortless and brings more context to your notes.
Presentation mode is another welcomed feature as well as a side-by-side multi-note mode which is perfect for the larger-screened iPad.
But enough about other people's apps.