Taking notes on the iPad – Noteshelf and Boxwave

Just a quick note that will hopefully save some new iPad owners some money.

I love to take notes on the iPad. The ability to scribble away on in a virtual notebook is just freakin’ cool. That being said, I still do my serious (as serious as it gets with pen and paper) writing in traditional notebooks. Still, if you want to take notes on the iPad there are some choices to make.

After spending far too much money making bad decisions, I found that some of my first decisions were the best. Here’s a summary.

The Pen: Boxwave brand stylus. Hands down this is the best stylus you can buy. Gone are the cruddy foam tips of old, this slick rubber job slides across the iPad’s screen like a dream. I’d suggest you get one with the built-in pen for its length…the pen is nice too I guess but the longer stylus in the pen model feels a little more like the real thing than the pen-deficient models.

The Apps

Noteshelf

Might as well get the best out of the way first. Noteshelf is the best of the note taking apps out there (for hand written notes). There’s no typing in this app and image insertion is limited to some stamps. However, this app’s responsiveness to the pen is unrivalled. Every other note taking app (‘cept Penultimate) seems…clunky. This app has a fantastic zoom writing feature which helps with legibility. Explort to dropbox, and the usual others (email, iTunes, etc..) is also supported. Forget the rest, get Noteshelf.

The rest hardly bear mentioning. Penultimate is responsive but lacks zoom mode which limits its ability to take good dense notes. Notes Plus, Note Taker, PhatPad, and WritePad all convert your text to line art, smoothing it out. I find this very annoying. It also lowers the responsiveness of those apps considerably. My handwriting is bad enough as it is, I don’t some app making it look worse!

I’d love to recommend Note Taker HD but sadly it’s text conversion (icky response) combined with some major redraw issues in zoom view (no data loss, just very disconcerting seeing what you write disappear and reappear randomly) and some UI clutter make it less usable than Noteshelf.

In an ideal world I’d like to see a program that could combine typewritten notes with handwritten notes but nobody has done it seamlessly. I want to be writing and then immediately switch to the keyboard (I’ve got a bluetooth one) and have my typewritten text follow my handwritten notes.

Every app that combines media makes me jump through hoops to switch between modes and that is just too slow for my needs. I’d rather double-tap my home button and immediately be in Notebooks (my typewritten note app of choice) than fiddle with some cumbersome UI.

The handwriting recognition in PhatPad and WritePad are nothing more than a novelty. Albeit one that works better than I expected…I just don’t want to be forced into a ‘mode’ for it to work and it’s not up to the rigours of heavy note taking by any means

I love doing research with the iPad. If anyone has stories to tell about their trials and tribulations please comment below.

3 Comments

Filed under iPad, Research, Writing

3 responses to “Taking notes on the iPad – Noteshelf and Boxwave

  1. Glad to see you back on this blog. Here is a tweet that I sent to you on Feb 6, following up on your post about iMandalArt from 2009: @happycatmachine From your old blog – Puzzled by iMandalArt HD for iPad? Get the aesthetic perspective! http://bit.ly/g6yxzz

  2. Willa

    Does Noteshelf convert handwriting to text? That what I’m most interested in.

  3. jacqui

    I am thinking of buying an ipad and wondering which is better for hand note taking at meetings to be converted to text? Phatware or writepad? and is either of them them word searchable after conversion into text?

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