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7 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes on iPad (Students & Professionals)

7 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes on iPad (Students & Professionals)

Discover the best ways to take notes on iPad with our comprehensive guide on various methods and applications.

Whether you are a student, a professional, or an individual exploring note-taking options on your iPad, this article covers different iPad models, accessories, and applications that can enhance your note-taking experience.

Most Effective Ways to Take Notes on iPad

There are premium note taking apps (I reviewed 26 of them) that allow for advanced organization systems, templates (built-in), audio recording to text, handwriting to text via goodnotes, and full apple pencil compatibility.

Choosing between GoodNotes (or Notability) to take your note on iPad is a pretty big debate amongst students and professionals of all types.

Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut
Goodnotes has some of the best free bullet journaling apps

A study by William R Klemm (Ph.D) that shows writing by hand can actually make you smarter… (and he has strong evidence here) – So It might be ideal to grab an Apple Pencil or another stylus if you’re a student.

Best Bullet Journaling apps on iPad and how to use them
You can see the 12 Best Digital Bullet Journal Apps on iPad (and How to Use Them)

The Study highlights that handwriting, including cursive, enhances cognitive development as it engages multiple brain areas related to sensation, movement control, and thinking.

Related: See the Best iPad model choice for note taking in school or work

Apps aren’t the only thing you’ll need. Read on to learn how to take notes on iPad… I’ll cover the most effective note taking systems, types of note taking, and different methods you can use (as well as how exactly you can take notes on iPad)

7 Most Effective Ways to Take Notes on iPad

1 7 Most effective ways to Take notes on iPad

Using an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil blends hand-written and typed notes for optimal organization, especially when combined with the free Apple’s notes app or a paid app like the following.

Keep in mind that utilizing a top note taking app like GoodNotes, Notability, or Noteledge (to name a few) along with accessories like the Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard and Paperlike screen protector, can assist quite a bit in the note-taking experience on iPad.

Also see: the 7 Best Stylus For IPad Air (Different options to take notes with)

1. Use the Audio Recording Feature of an App like GoodNotes or Notability

2 Use the Audio Recording feature of an App like GoodNotes or Notability

One advantage of using apps like GoodNotes or Notability is the integrated audio recording feature. This allows you to record audio while taking notes, making it perfect for recording lectures, meetings, or interviews. With the ability to listen back to the audio later, you can focus on capturing key points without feeling pressured to write down every detail.

See: How to use Notability on iPad, Mac, and iPhone (Tutorial)

Side note: Keep in mind that audio files can take up a significant amount of storage space, so make sure you have ample room on your iPad before recording lengthy sessions. Also, remember to seek proper permission for audio recording during lectures or meetings, as it might be against the rules in some institutions or organizations.

2. Use the Cornell Method in a Note Taking app on iPad

3 Use the Cornell Method in a Note Taking app on iPad

The Cornell Method is a proven note-taking system that helps in organizing notes efficiently and in a more digestible format. To implement this method using an iPad, divide the note-taking page into two primary columns.

Cornell method notes ipad
Phot credit: GoodNotes (its also the app being used in this example)

Also see: 26 Best Note Taking Apps for iPad

The larger right-side column is for jotting down the notes and elaborating on topics, while the smaller left-side column is reserved for comments, questions, or keywords. You can also add a summary at the bottom of each page to review the crucial points later, further enhancing your understanding.

There also the boxing method (see photo below)

boxing method taking notes

Also.. Apps such as GoodNotes and Notability can support the Cornell Method with ease, allowing you to customize the page layout accordingly. By following this method on your iPad, you can transform your notes into an organized, logical, and easily understood format, which is perfect for effective revision.

3. Write Visual Notes with Diagrams using NoteShelf or NoteLedge

Visual note-taking, or sketchnoting, is a method that combines both texts and visuals to enhance understanding, recall, and creativity. Apps like NoteShelf and NoteLedge cater specifically to this note-taking style, offering features such as brushes, colors, and scalable canvases to create visuals and diagrams that complement the text.

This method is ideal for subjects where the content is naturally visual in nature, such as anatomy or chemistry. However, even in other subjects, you can utilize visuals and diagrams to emphasize important points or create connections between various topics.

By incorporating visual notes into your iPad note-taking process, you can create a more engaging, appealing, and memorable set of notes.

4. Use a free note-taking app like Apple Notes or Bear

In the realm of note-taking, sometimes the best tools are the ones that are readily available and free. Apple Notes and Bear stand out as two such tools that offer a seamless note-taking experience without burning a hole in your pocket.

Apple Notes, as the default app in the Apple ecosystem, brings simplicity and efficiency to the table. Its intuitive interface, combined with features like handwriting-to-text conversion, makes it a favorite among many iPad users. The quick note feature, especially on the iPad Pro, ensures that you can jot down thoughts instantaneously. However, it does come with its limitations, such as restricted organizational options and lack of support for certain formats.

Bear, on the other hand, is a testament to the blend of style and functionality. With its unique markdown editor and innovative organization through linking notes and using hashtags, it offers a different yet effective approach to note-taking. The native Apple Pencil support further enhances the experience, allowing users to switch between typing and scribbling. While the basic version is free, the Pro version unlocks additional features, ensuring a more comprehensive note-taking experience.

Both these apps cater to different user preferences. While Apple Notes is perfect for those who prefer a straightforward and no-frills approach, Bear appeals to those who appreciate a touch of innovation in their note-taking journey.

5. Use Charting Method

charting method taking notes

The Charting Method is a structured system that organizes information effectively in a tabular format. To create charts, you can use apps like GoodNotes or Notability, which in turn facilitates comparison and emphasizes core concepts explicitly. The charting process involves adjusting information to fit into columns, emphasizing categories, and using concise bullet points.

When implementing the Charting Method on your iPad… keep in mind that its best suited for subjects where comparison plays a substantial role, such as history, literature, or even contrasting elements of various scientific topics.

This method (may not be ideal) especially for subjects that require expansive explanations or elaborate content development. However, when used appropriately, it can be a highly efficient method for recording and organizing complex information in an easy-to-understand format.

Related: Best Note-Taking apps for Samsung Galaxy and Pixel Devices (Android tablets)

6. Use Mapping Method

mapping method taking notes on ipad

The Mapping Method, often referred to as mind mapping, offers a visually structured way to capture and retain information. This approach allows you to start with a central theme and branch out into related concepts, creating an interconnected web of ideas. This format boosts creativity, enhances understanding, and makes absorbing new information a more enjoyable experience.

One advantage of the Mapping Method is that it provides an at-a-glance overview of the connections between various elements, allowing you to create memorable mental images. You can use different colors for different branches, making the diagrams even more visually appealing. Keep in mind that you can utilize apps such as MindNode or a drawing tool like Procreate on your iPad to create intricate maps with ease.

Side note: while the Mapping Method has its merits in portraying relationships among ideas effectively, it may not be suitable for all learning styles or subject matters. The effectiveness of this approach could be limited in terms of sequential or linear information.

7. Handwritten Notes

Handwritten note-taking on the iPad combines traditional handwriting with the advantages of digital tools. Using a stylus, like the Apple Pencil, you can harness the benefits of hand-written notes, such as better retention, while avoiding the organizational pitfalls associated with pen and paper. It is also possible to customize your note-taking style with different colors and formatting options, replicating the physical experience of writing on paper.

Several apps on the iPad, like Notability and GoodNotes, offer exceptional tools for taking handwritten notes. This is why Using an Apple pencil and a Note Taking app can certainly be worth your time; especially if you’re in school or attending college lectures.

They feature a wide range of templates (GoodNotes), extensive color palettes, and convenient arrangement features, bolstering both creativity and productivity. One advantage of this method is that you can use these apps for both handwritten and typed notes, reaping the benefits of both styles.

Related: 15 Best Notion Templates for Anything You Need

However, keep in mind that incorporating an intuitive handwriting-to-text conversion tool, such as Nebo or MyScript Stylus, can further optimize your handwritten note-taking experience on the iPad.

8. Convert Handwritten Notes to Typed Text

A significant advantage of the iPad lies in the ability to convert your handwritten notes into typed text easily. This functionality enables you to retain the benefits of handwriting notes while enjoying the organizational perks of typed text. For this purpose, you can use built-in iPad features or third-party apps to facilitate smooth handwriting-to-text conversion.

Apple Notes, iPad’s default note-taking app, offers a native handwriting recognition feature called Scribble. With Scribble, you can directly convert your handwriting into text, search through your handwritten notes, and even copy and paste your handwriting as typed text into other apps.

On the other hand, third-party apps such as Nebo and MyScript Stylus provide a dedicated interface and advanced tools for handwriting recognition. These apps offer seamless integration with other note-taking apps and support multiple languages for added convenience.

Related: What Stylus Pen Do Artists Use To Draw On IPad?

Additional ways to take notes using an iPad Pro or Air

Outline Method

The Outline Method is a highly organized note-taking technique that arranges information hierarchically using bullet points and indents. Main points are placed at the highest level, while related sub-points are grouped underneath, creating a structured format that is easy to review and visualize.

When using the iPad for the Outline Method, you can benefit from the numerous editing features available in note-taking apps like Notability, Evernote, and GoodNotes. They offer various formatting options and features like collapsible sections to ensure that your information stays organized and easy to revisit.

Keep in mind that while the Outline Method is well-suited for capturing the structure and hierarchy of information, it might not be ideal for subjects that require diagrams, charts, or visual explanations. It is essential to consider the compatibility of this method with the information you need to capture.

Sentence Method

The Sentence Method is a traditional approach to taking notes where each piece of information is written as a single sentence on a new line. One advantage of using this method on an iPad is that it enables you to take concise notes without losing the context of the topic. With the iPad’s touch screen and Apple Pencil, you can jot down each sentence with ease and make quick edits if needed. Side note: to make your notes more organized, consider numbering or using bullet points for each sentence.

Another advantage of the Sentence Method on the iPad is the ability to add multimedia elements to your notes, such as images, audio clips, and even videos. This can help reinforce your understanding of the material and provide a richer learning experience. However, keep in mind that integrating various media types into your notes may require using a more advanced note-taking app that supports multimedia features.

Overall, the Sentence Method on an iPad strikes a balance between the classic handwritten approach and digital note-taking with added functionality. It remains a practical solution for those who appreciate brevity and simplicity, while still taking advantage of the multimedia capabilities modern technology has to offer.

Examples of Good Note Taking systems

There are several effective note-taking systems to consider when using your iPad. They include the Charting Method, which involves organizing information in a chart-like format, making it ideal for comparing and contrasting information.

boxing method taking notes 1

The Mapping Method creates a visual representation of your notes in the form of a mind map, which helps establish relationships between different ideas or concepts.

The Outline Method is another popular technique, as it structures your notes using bullet points and indented sub-points, making it easy to identify the hierarchy of information. Lastly, the Sentence Method involves summarizing each idea in a single sentence, facilitating better understanding of individual concepts.

Also see: The top Digital Bullet Journal Apps on iPad

How to take better Notes using the Apple Pencil

When using the iPad and the Apple Pencil as your primary note-taking tools, several techniques can make your notes more effective and visually appealing. First, practice your handwriting with the Apple Pencil to ensure your notes remain legible. This can be achieved by finding the right pressure sensitivity settings and adjusting the Pencil’s tip to match your writing style.

Second, learn shortcuts and gestures that can optimize your note-taking process. For example, tapping the Apple Pencil on the lock screen will open the Notes app, enabling you to take quick notes without unlocking your device. Utilize the double-tap feature of the Apple Pencil to switch between tools or change colors seamlessly while taking notes. This not only saves time but also helps maintain the flow of your thoughts.

Finally, explore various note-taking apps specifically designed to work with the Apple Pencil. These apps offer an array of tools and customization options that can significantly enhance your note-taking experience. Some popular options include Notability, GoodNotes, and Evernote, each with their unique features tailored for creating organized and visually engaging notes.

How to Take Notes on iPad using a third party Note Taking app

There are numerous excellent third-party note-taking apps available for the iPad, each with their own set of features and benefits. When selecting a note-taking app, consider factors such as syncing capabilities, support for multimedia elements, integration with other apps, and customizable options (including templates, pen styles, and colors).

For instance, Notability and GoodNotes are excellent choices if you’re looking for an app with handwriting recognition and support for images, audio, and even video clips. These apps also offer a wide array of templates, allowing you to customize your notes and improve organization. Evernote, on the other hand, is ideal for users who prefer a more robust ecosystem, with seamless integration to other cloud-based services and the ability to collaborate on notes with a team.

Upon choosing the right note-taking app for your needs, take the time to explore its features and learn how to optimize your workflow. Familiarize yourself with keyboard shortcuts, annotation tools, and organization systems, giving you a seamless note-taking experience that best suits your working style.

Pros and Cons of using Handwritten Notes instead of Typing Note on iPad

Using handwritten notes on your iPad brings several benefits, such as improved retention, increased focus, and the freedom to develop unique and creative visual aids. Handwriting on the iPad allows you to use colors, diagrams, and symbols, providing you with a highly personalized and engaging note-taking experience. On the other hand, typing notes on the iPad can be faster, more organized, and makes searching for specific information easier.

However, there are some disadvantages to handwriting notes on the iPad. It might take more time to get accustomed to writing on a screen than on paper, potentially affecting the speed and fluidity of note-taking. Moreover, sharing handwritten notes with others might not be as convenient as sharing typed notes, especially if your handwriting is not easily legible.

Ultimately, the choice between handwriting and typing notes on your iPad depends on your personal preferences, the nature of the subject, and the teaching style of the lecturer. It may be helpful to experiment with both techniques and determine which approach best suits your learning style.

Is a bigger iPad better for Note-taking?

An enlarged iPad provides extra space, ideal for students requiring diagram drawing, yet the iPad Mini’s zoom feature offers ample room too. Assess if iPad use rivals Laptop or PC frequency. Indeed, larger displays aid studying, but solely when serving as the principal note-taking tool, not laptops.

See the Best computer for taking notes, where we reviewed the ideal laptops for taking notes

When it comes to note-taking on an iPad, screen size can play a significant role in your overall experience. A larger iPad, such as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, offers several advantages, including more screen real estate, enabling you to have multiple windows open simultaneously. This can prove particularly useful when researching, as you can view reference materials alongside your notes without constantly switching between apps.

However, a larger iPad can also be more expensive, heavier, and cumbersome to carry around. Keep in mind that there are smaller iPad models, such as the iPad Mini or the standard 10.2-inch iPad, which can still meet your note-taking needs without breaking the bank or weighing down your bag.

In the end, the decision between a larger or smaller iPad for note-taking will depend on factors like budget, personal preferences, and intended usage scenarios. Consider trying out different iPad models in person to determine which size feels most comfortable and complements your note-taking style.

Different Reasons you would want to take Notes on iPad

An iPad can be an invaluable tool when it comes to taking notes for various purposes, including online lectures, courses, events, books, handouts, learning, or even day-to-day note-taking. For instance, during online lectures or courses, having an iPad can help you keep track of information more effectively, as it allows you to quickly jot down key points or create illustrations to solidify your understanding of the content. Side note: an iPad can also be useful during live events, such as conferences or workshops, where you might want to capture important insights for later review.

When it comes to reading physical books or handouts, an iPad can help digitize your study experience by making it easy to scan and store relevant information. This eliminates the need to carry around multiple books or papers, ultimately easing your study process. One advantage of using an iPad for day-to-day note-taking is the accessibility it provides, making your notes available across various devices, ensuring you are always supplied with the information you need.

My Personal Experience Taking Notes on iPad

As a student pursuing higher education, I found the iPad to be a game-changer when it came to managing my notes and staying organized throughout the school year. With the help of an Apple Pencil, jotting down key points during lectures was not only fast but also allowed me to add intricate designs and illustrations when necessary. The ability to import and mark up PDFs, images, and other course materials made it easier to annotate my notes and add valuable insights during study sessions.

Moreover, the iPad’s compatibility with various useful apps made it simple to create efficient workflows and reduce the time spent on managing notes, ultimately helping me achieve better academic results. Being able to access my notes on different devices ensured that no matter where I was, I had all the information I needed readily available, making my study life significantly smoother.

How to take Notes on iPad using Apple Notes and an Apple Pencil

With the combination of Apple Notes and an Apple Pencil, taking notes on an iPad becomes a seamless and efficient experience.

First, open the Apple Notes app on your iPad and create a new note or folder dedicated to a specific subject.

Next, use the Apple Pencil to start writing your notes directly onto the iPad’s screen. Equipped with palm rejection features, the Apple Pencil allows you to write and draw naturally, just like using a pen and paper, making your note-taking experience remarkably smooth.

As mentioned earlier, it’s shown in studies that Note taking by writing, not typing, has benefits:

There is a whole field of research known as “haptics,” which includes the interactions of touch, hand movements, and brain function.

William R Klemm (PH.D)

Keep in mind that Apple Notes offers various formatting tools, which enable you to customize your notes according to your preferences. For instance, you can change pen styles, colors, add highlights, or even insert tables and checklists. Utilizing these tools can make your notes more visually appealing, making it easier to study and recall information later.

Do all note-taking apps on iPad cost money?

It’s important to note that not all note-taking apps on the iPad require payment. While some popular apps, such as Notability and GoodNotes, do come with a price tag, there are many free alternatives available on the App Store.

For example, Apple Notes is a default app on iPads and offers a range of features suitable for basic note-taking requirements. Other free options include Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, and Simplenote. Each app comes with its own unique features and functions, so it’s essential to explore various options and determine which one aligns best with your needs and preferences.

Also see our comparison between OneNote and GoodNotes: Comparing Note-Taking and Digital Planning for School

Bottom Line

  • In order to take notes on iPad, you’ll need a note taking app and a stylus pen such as the Apple Pencil (or another third-party stylus). Keep in mind that if you choose a third-party stylus, they may not have pressure sensitivity. Once you download a note-taking app, you can adjust the pen settings and begin writing notes right away without any other required steps.
  • Combining hand-written and typed notes using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil offers the best of both methods… and the choice of iPad model depends on personal preferences and budget, with the iPad Pro 12.9 being the most advanced option.
  • GoodNotes, Notability, and Noteledge are just a few well known note-taking apps for iPad users, offering various features for customization and organization (and are Apple Pencil compatible
  • Using iPad for note-taking can significantly improve organization and efficiency in different scenarios, such as online lectures, in-person events, or day-to-day note-taking.
  • A combination of accessories like the Apple Pencil, Magic Keyboard, and Paperlike screen protector can enhance the overall iPad note-taking experience.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ