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The Best Note Taking App for iPad 2024 (Student Edition)

Discover the best note taking app for iPad in 2024, tailored for students seeking to enhance their academic experience.

Dec 13, 2023
  • Student Tips
Bachelor's student using an iPad note taking app

The iPad, with its versatile functionality and budget-friendly price, has become a fundamental tool for students across the globe.

With a ton of note taking apps available, choosing the right one can drastically enhance you learning experience and productivity. This article will cover the best note taking apps for iPad.

Short on time?

The best note taking app for iPad:

  • Overall: Apple Notes, Nebo
  • Free: Apple Notes, Microsoft OneNote
  • Cross-platform: Microsoft OneNote
  • Power users: Noteful

Key criteria for choosing the best note taking app for iPad

  • The app's interface should be intuitive and user-friendly
  • The app needs to be compatible with the Apple Pencil
  • Cloud storage and synchronization need to be available
Disclaimer: While Notability and Goodnotes are the most popular note taking apps, both have moved to a paid subscription model for new users, which is not ideal for students. Hence, the recommendations below are either free or one-time payment only.

Apple Notes

Apple Notes on iPad screenshot
  • Price: Free
  • Pros: Solid out-of-the box solution, iCloud sync
  • Cons: Lacks advanced features, limited canvas width

Apple Notes has come a long way since it's first introduction. While it used to be a simple way to jot down a few words, or make a shopping list, nowadays it's managed to catch up to its competitors.

While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that third-party apps provide, it does provide a solid free out-of-the-box solution that offers most of what the fancier (and pricier) apps provide, such as folders, PDF Markup, document scanning, password locking notes, tables, to-do lists and various grids.

As of iPadOS 16, Apple Notes also has excellent collaboration and features, which allow you to share your notes with others and work on them at the same time (similar to GDocs).

What's more, since Apple Notes is a native app, it comes with three additional benefits: it's completely lag-free, very lightweight on the system, and it has an excellent integration with other Apple apps like Calendar, Reminders and Shortcuts.

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote on iPad - screenshot
  • Price: Free (with a Microsoft account)
  • Pros: Feature-rich, infinite canvas, integration with MS Office
  • Cons: Clunky navigation, typing-first so only one pen type available

Microsoft OneNote is an excellent choice for students who are already working with Microsoft Office. It allows you to embed your notes into PowerPoint, Excel and even Outlook - which makes preparing presentations, sharing notes and studying a lot more convenient than having to manually copy your existing notes.

What's more, it's one of the only free note taking apps that offers cross-platform sync. In other words, if you own an iPad but you have a Windows or ChromeOS laptop, or an Android phone, the notes will be auto-synced and you'll be able to access them easily from any of those devices.

While the app was designed for typed notes, as seen from the limited number of pen styles (there's only one), it does offer stylus support with interesting color options and a few shape templates you can use to enrich your notes.

Nebo

Nebo on iPad - screenshot
  • Price: 5 pages free, one-time purchase of $11.99 for unlimited pages
  • Pros: Seamless text conversions, adaptive dark mode
  • Cons: Laggy at times, inconsistent conversion of equations

Nebo fills an interesting niche in the note taking apps sphere - it tries to bridge the gap between handwritten and typed notes using AI.

The app's main selling point is the ability to quickly and accurately convert handwritten text into typed notes. This saves time on transcribing, sharing and revising notes. A bonus benefit of this feature is the ability to easily search through your entire library of notes and find what you're looking for.

Other helpful features include:

  • Gestures to scratch out text, highlight and add spacing between words.
  • Writing and conversion in 66 languages. You can even mix English with a second language in the same document.
  • Auto-conversion of text between mediums (i.e. if you copy your handwritten text in order to share it via a messaging app, it will automatically convert to typed text)

There are two types of formats in the app: Nebo Document and Nebo Note. Nebo Document is a regular page akin to what most note taking apps have, while Nebo Note is an infinite canvas that allows for freeform writing, typing and sketching.

Noteful

Noteful on iPad - screenshot
  • Price: Free trial, then one-time fee of $4.99
  • Pros: Feature-rich, audio recordings, layers within notes
  • Cons: No search with OCR, no collaboration features

Noteful is a feature-rich app that packs quite a strong punch for its low price. If you're a power user that needs all the bells and whistles, this is the note taking app for you.

Unlike the apps we've covered so far, Noteful offers lots of different and interesting features like audio recordings, tape tool (for revision), shapes, stickers, presentation laser and more.

On top of the note taking tools, the app also gives you a lot of control of how you want to work. You can change your toolbar and tab bar position, page view (horizontal/vertical) and the angle at which you write. One option I really liked was "Keep iPad Awake". It's one of those small quality-of-life things that removes friction and lets you fully focus on your work.

That said, as of writing this article (December 2023), the app doesn't support handwriting search, and the folder system is worse than in some other apps. So, if this is something that's a dealbreaker to you, you might want to avoid this one.

Bottom line

No note taking app for iPad is perfect. Each one is designed for a particular type of user, so you might not be the target audience. When choosing a note taking app, the best approach is to decide what features are a must for your particular use-case, and then what features you could live without.

If you're worried you might make the "wrong" decision - don't worry. All of the apps we covered today are good, and, while some of them might do certain things better than others, all of them will help you study without breaking the bank.

On the other hand, if you're unsure which one you should choose, I'd recommend starting with Apple Notes. Use them for a few weeks or months, and then see if there's any particular feature you're missing, and work your way up from there.

Sara Evans

Author

Sara is the Content Designer at Keystone Academic Solutions, in charge of creating and curating content for students across the globe. Due to her background in UX and teaching, she's always in pursuit of new ways of presenting information more clearly.

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