iPad Apps: Best App for Taking Notes

Q: I'm an iPad owner that is overwhelmed by the number of applications available. Where should I start if I'm looking for something with which to take notes?

Note_Taker_HD_iPad_App1.png

NOTE TAKER HD

$4.99 | Version: 4.1 | Software Garden

iPad owners who want to handwrite on their touchscreens confront an ugly truth about their beloved devices: sketching apps are lousy for scribes who want to scribble. Enter Note Taker HD, an ingenious solution that really works for most people. Its main innovation: a secondary, zoomed-in-view writing pane that lets you compose on a magnified section of the canvas. It's kind of like having a magnifying glass to write on. You write in this enlarged area and what you add shows up simultaneously, normal sized, on the main canvas. It sounds complicated, but in practice it's not. You also can highlight text and draw diagrams, but writing legible text: that's the show stopper.

PENMANSHIP TIP: The app's page or so of instructions is worth reading -- nothing complicated, but the special mini-editing frame takes some getting used to. A how-to video (http://bit.ly/bxpy2s) shows the basic steps. Highlights: Tap the Edit 2 button to summon the magnifier pane. When your writing reaches the edge, tap Advance to jump the magnifier ahead on the main canvas.

FINGER OR STYLUS: Fat-fingered folks may want to experiment with some of the iPad-friendly styluses sold by firms like Pogo. Many find them hopeful, but approach with realistic expectations. It's more like writing with an extra thumb than a pencil: its fat nub has to occupy that width for the touchscreen to recognize it.

HONORABLE MENTION: PENULTIMATE

$2.99 | Version: 2.1.1 | Ben Zotto

Sketchbook doodlers, this one's for you. Don't expect to get a significant amount of handwriting done; if, say, you're a student taking lecture notes, you're much better off using a writing app's onscreen keyboard (or an external, Bluetooth one). But when words are only a small part of your idea-catching toolkit -- if you like to doodle, sketch, and illustrate in a way that comes closest to what visual types have done for ages -- this elegantly designed, simple-to-use app is picture perfect. Press and hold the pen icon to choose different ink colors and line widths; the eraser's next to it. Not much else to know other than that: just draw.

HONORABLE MENTION: NOTERIZE

$2.99 | Version: 3.4 | Robert Stretch

Noterize is noteworthy for its wide range of talents. Lecturegoers will love its built-in audio recorder, which works as you type or write (yep, you can do both). PDF regulars will love how the app makes hay of importing, adding a signature, and then exporting a page with your John Hancock. Research types will wanna write home about the web page clipping tool: grab anything you see online by using the built-in browser, slap a note on it, and add it to any project you're working on. Everyone will appreciate the app's integration with online doc sharing services Box.net and Dropbox. So where does the app fall short? Only in the slightly steep learning curve; you'll want to spend some time with the fairly readable user's guide while making that journey.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

Excerpted from Peter Meyers' Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders. Copyright 2010 O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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