5 Must-Have Note Taking Apps for iPad


Since Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad in 2010, critics have slammed the tablet as little more than a toy. For years, the iPad couldn’t run hallmark productivity apps like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and as a result, some consumers questioned the iPad’s purpose. But with the introduction of iOS 9 and the (relatively) super powerful iPad Pro, many people are starting to reexamine the iPad as a productivity device; with this new iteration, Apple is attempting to make the iPad more productivity-friendly with additional hardware options like the Surface-like keyboard and Apple Pencil, but there have also been upgrades on the software side. Apple and third-party app developers have been working on making their apps work better for people who want to use them for, well, work. Here’s our list of the 5 must-have note taking apps for the iPad.

5. iA Writer ($9.99)

iA Writer has been a staple of iPad productivity for years, and the good news is that the new upgrades to the iPad just make iA Writer easier to use. While iA Writer may not appeal to everyone looking for a great note taking app, it’s simplicity is great for people who get easily distracted. Sometimes note taking apps get cluttered with gimmicky features, but iA Writer is strictly a note taking app for text documents. As long as iA Writer is open, you’ll practically be forced to be productive.

When it comes to saving your work, iA Writer saves your documents as .txt, and it syncs over iCloud. If you’re a Dropbox user, iA Writer has built-in support, so you can save your documents there as well. iA Writer is truly one of the must-have note taking apps for the iPad.

On the downside, however, iA Writer is not the most inexpensive note taking app you could pick, and at $9.99, it’s a tough sell for many people just looking for a simple word processor.

4. Evernote (Free)

Evernote is a really popular choice for a lot of people. In fact, some Evernote users would be completely and totally lost without this app; it has become such an integral part of the way some people work. But Evernote has branded itself as more than just a place to work; instead, Evernote is a workstation for your life. Surely, some of you are raging that Evernote is number 4 on our list.

Evernote has some really incredible features, including clipping things from the web; sharing notes and syncing across phones, tablets and computers. You get all of these things with a free subscription, but to make the most of Evernote, you’ll have to cough up some cash. Evernote’s free plan (called Evernote Basic) is really just a sample of what Evernote can do.

To do things like saving emails into Evernote, adding passcode locks to your notes, having offline access to them and annotating PDFs, you’ll have to spend $49.99 annually. (Evernote also has a smaller plan, Plus, for $24.99, but its features are pretty limited. If you’re interested in Evernote, we’d suggest buying the Premium $50 plan.)

For most people, Evernote is probably overkill. But if you’re a student or a business owner, Evernote could be the perfect app for keeping your digital life synced with your actual life.

3. Drafts ($9.99)

Drafts has been a popular app for the iPad for years, and with iOS 9, the team over at Agile Tortoise have really outdone themselves with the number of upgrades and extra features they’ve added to this note taking app, including a companion Apple Watch app. The new Drafts app uses the iPad’s new multitasking capabilities to the next level, allowing you to work with another app (like a web browser) at the same time.

Drafts uses mail-like organization, complete with an inbox, archive and flags for drafts that you want to locate quickly. It syncs through iCloud, so all of your devices will be update. But one of the most useful aspects of Drafts is its Action Directory, which gives you access to actions that make Drafts even more convenient; you can also create your own custom actions for things like social media platforms and emails.

At $9.99, Drafts isn’t a cheap app, but it’s comparable to some of the other apps on our list.

2. Notability ($5.99)

Notability is one of the most popular note taking apps for students. If you’re looking for a note taking app with a few extra features, Notability might be the app for you. Notability makes it easy for you to categorize your notes and easily access them later. You can also share your notes through the app, making it easy for groups to communicate with one another. Notability is also great for people who like to draw, adding a lot of color and visual aids to your notes.

It works well for students because the app has a built-in feature for attaching audio files to notes, so you can take notes in class and record your professor’s lecture at the same time, making it an easy way to keep up with your classes. If you’re not in a class, however, Notability might be too much for you, though.

1. Notes (Free)

Apple’s built-in Notes app is sure to be a controversial choice, but with iOS 9 (and OS X El Capitan), Notes is truly a powerful app. For years, Notes was a boring word processor with really limited features, but iOS 9 and El Capitan bring Notes up to speed. You can take clips from the web, draw sketches and more in addition to your normal word processing and text editing. Adding images is one of the most important new features in Notes. This gives you the ability to add visuals to your notes and make annotations on them.

The best thing about Notes is that it’s free, and because it’s a native Apple app, you can rest assured that all your notes will be synced across all your iOS and OS X devices.

While Notes is still limited in comparison to some of the other paid apps out there, it’s more than enough for most people, people who are looking for a basic word processor that also has some extra capabilities (just in case).

Which note taking apps do you use for your iPad? What are your must-have note taking apps for the iPad? Let us know in the comments below.

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Justin McGee

Writer. Editor. Teacher. Thinker. Follow Justin on Twitter @jstnmm.

2 Comments

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  1. 5? Really? I *must* have 5 different note taking apps (costing $25.97) on my iPad? And here I’ve been getting by (or so I thought!) with just the 2 free ones.