Many of these apps are aimed exclusively at Apple users, while others offer an iOS-friendly window into a broader ecosystem. We've put over 30 of the best note taking apps for iPad and iPhone under the microscope in a bid to find the absolute best of the bunch. Here they are. Typing a note on your iPhone or iPad might not be the fastest method of entering text, but it's the best option you have when you're away from a keyboard.
Snapping images or scanning documents with your phone or tablet and storing them in an easily searchable digital archive is a good habit to form. And that microphone allows your device to double as a dictaphone, with many note taking apps supporting audio. For a more tactile experience, why not try hand-writing your notes? Most note taking systems support touch-based scrawl of some type, and others rely on it.
The strides Apple has made with its Pencil stylus on the iPad Pro has not gone unnoticed by app developers. If you've previously written off the iPad as an effective drawing or handwriting tool, it might be time to try again. In any case, no single app is perfect for every use case. It doesn't make a lot of sense to compare a free app that's light on features by design with a pricey heavyweight, particularly when both approaches have their merits. We've tried to find the best note taking apps to satisfy our main criteria, regardless of the approach taken by that app.
We favor apps with unique features or those that are the best examples of their kind. In order to be inclusive of all needs, we haven't limited our selection to plain or rich text apps. Notes may be web clippings, photos, typed markdown, scanned documents, audio logs, sketches, handwritten notes, or diagrams.
In some instances, notes can be a mixture of all of these things. All of the selected apps satisfy our requirements for a common-sense system of organization. This is usually achieved with some form of notebooks, folders, or tags. Access to a reliable search function is another important criterion for selection, and options like the ability to filter, sort, and save search results have also been considered. When it comes down to it, finding your notes is just as important as recording them in the first place.
You also need to be able to access your notes when you need them. All of our selected apps include the ability to sync over the cloud with other instances, either using the developer's servers or iCloud. Some include robust sharing options for providing copies of your notes to friends or colleagues, though this isn't a strict requirement for inclusion. A sense of value is another important consideration.
Some apps are free, others paid for outright, while some make use of an ongoing subscription model.
Most of our paid-for recommendations come with a decent free tier or trial period. Not everyone can justify the expense of a pricey note taking app, but at the same time, some of the best apps aren't free. While many apps can double as note taking apps, we avoided including apps for which recording notes is not the primary purpose. That means we excluded word processors, journaling apps, and sketchbooks, among others. Apple Notes manages to win over many users simply by virtue of it being installed on every iPhone or iPad that leaves the factory.
And that's okay. If you're looking for an easy-to-use note taking app that's ready to go, Apple Notes is an attractive option. Apple Notes can capture rich text and mixed media notes from practically any corner of the iOS operating system.
These notes can also contain checklists, tables, images, Apple Maps locations, audio recordings, and document scans by way of the included document scanner. Tap the plus button while composing a note, and then select Scan Documents and point your camera accordingly.
You can also add your own drawings or handwriting by choosing Add Sketch from the same menu. Your notes are organized into a system of folders of your choosing. Subfolders can be created, but not on iOS devices you'll need to do so on a Mac or via the web interface at iCloud. You cannot organize your notes into tags, but there's nothing preventing you from deploying your own hashtags and searching for them.
While there's no optical character recognition OCR for scanned documents or images, handwritten notes are searchable—provided your scrawl is legible. Apple Notes has a few other smart features for users who want more than basic note capture. You can lock notes by swiping them to the left and tapping the padlock.
6 best note-taking apps for an Apple iPad
Add other users to your notes and collaborate by tapping Add People at the top of the note and entering their email. Because Notes is deeply integrated into iOS, you can save items as notes from almost anywhere using the Share button, then choosing Notes. Sync takes place over iCloud, with all users receiving 5GB of free iCloud storage space. As long as you're logged in to the same iCloud account, synced notes will appear on any other iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac devices and on the web at iCloud.
The clue is in the name when it comes to Simplenote. This is an aggressively simple note taking platform, with a version available for every major platform. The app allows you to capture plain text notes that take up very little space on your device. You can use Markdown by tapping the Information icon and enabling the Markdown toggle, then swipe the page to the right to view a Markdown preview.
You can't embed images or audio files, add PDF attachments, or include checklists. Since everything is stored in plain text, the app is highly responsive, and notes take very little time to render and display. Organization takes place by way of tags alone. There are no notebooks or folders—simply deploy your own system of tags in the tag field on your notes. These tags then live in the sidebar to the left of the screen, so you can browse by tag with a tap if you want. Since Simplenote is free, there are no features hidden behind in-app purchases or subscriptions: You get access to everything.
That includes passcode or biometric security, a dark mode theme, and syncing with other instances of Simplenote. All you'll need to use and sync Simplenote is a free WordPress account. If your idea of note taking relies on the typed word alone, Simplenote is the perfect tool for the job wrapped up in a delightful free package. Standard Notes is a Simplenote alternative with a focus on end-to-end encryption. The app supports locking notes with passcodes or biometrics, archiving notes for later recall, and the ability to work offline. It has a slightly different look and feel than Simplenote while satisfying the same basic plain text demands.
Ultimately, Simplenote's wholly free ecosystem tips it over the edge when comparing the two offerings. Google Keep is Google's own cross-platform note taking app, with other versions available for Android and the Chrome browser and OS. As of this writing, there are no desktop versions of Keep, which is a shame because the native iOS app is a pleasure to use. Google Keep places a strong emphasis on the visual aspect of note taking, presenting all of your notes in a scrolling list on the home screen—it ends up feeling like a scrapbook. The app allows you to take simple text notes, but you can't add formatting.
You can capture checklists, sketches and handwritten notes, audio recordings, and images from your device's camera or the Photos app. It's also possible to mix any combination of these things within a single note.
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To keep your notes collection organized, Keep uses Gmail-like labels. The labels aren't color-coded, but you can apply multiple labels to a single note by tapping the three dots in the lower-right corner of a note and then choosing Labels and ticking all that apply. Tags can also be deployed anywhere within a note like a regular hashtag, allowing you to filter by tag using the search engine.
Finally, each note not tag can be color-coded with one of 12 background colors. These colors help differentiate your notes from one another on the slightly cluttered home screen. There are other ways to keep notes top of mind. At the top of a note, tap the bell icon to turn your note into a reminder at a date and time or place of your choosing. You can also pin a note to the top of your home screen using the pin button. Notes can be collaborative too. Tap the three dots on a note and tap Collaborators to add other users to a Keep note, allowing them to edit the note.
You can also send notes from this menu without having to add users as collaborators. Sync takes place for free over Google's own servers, with anything stored eating into your total Google account storage. While technically a note taking app, Drafts 5 offers so much more in its unique approach to typing on your iOS device. The primary focus is on creating actionable notes, rather than storing anything and everything though you could use it for that too. So what is an actionable note? In this case, it's an email you're drafting, a text message you need to send, a blog post you might be working on, or simply a passage of text that you want to use elsewhere.
When you first launch Drafts, you're greeted by a blank canvas where you can start typing. This is the first major change compared to most note taking apps: Drafts is always ready to go. In no time, you can capture plain text notes and audio recordings. All of your new notes are first stored in your inbox, and from there you can decide what to do with them.
Organization mostly involves tags, though it's also possible to flag and archive notes. Both flagged and archived notes appear in separate sections for easy perusal. You can search for your notes as you would in any other app, or use Drafts' system of filters for applying multiple tags to a search query.
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The real magic of Drafts is what happens to your notes once you've written them. Tap on the Drafts icon in the top-right corner of the screen to see a list of one-tap actions you can perform with your note. These include sending the text to the Messages app, launching a new Mail draft with your text ready to send, or saving your text to Files as a separate file. This doesn't take place via the usual iOS share sheet, but instead instantly sends your text to the app of your choosing.
These actions are varied. You can use Drafts to search Google, create a new Reminder, save to third-party cloud services like OneDrive and Dropbox, compose a Tweet, or create a task in third-party apps like Things and OmniFocus. Not only is Drafts a note taking app on its own, but it's also an extension that plays nicely with some of the other big players like OneNote and Evernote. Take Drafts to the next level with a Pro subscription that allows you to create and edit your own actions, unlock custom icons and themes, use additional widgets and share extensions, and more.
Zoho Notebook is another free note taking platform that strikes a great balance between ease of use and functionality. It's the perfect alternative to Apple Notes for users who don't solely reside within the Apple ecosystem. Effortless document management GoodNotes is a single place for all your documents. Organize your notebooks and documents in folders and use favorites for lightning-fast access whenever you need them.
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