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Writing on iPad like a notebook: apps and tips

Technology advances and with it our way of doing certain things. Taking notes, making outlines or even making shopping lists can now be done more conveniently and quickly through electronic devices such as the iPad. In this post we tell you how you can make the most of this device in this sense, regardless of whether you have Apple Pencil or not.

Advantages of using an iPad as a digital notebook

We won’t deny that classic post-it notes or small sheet cuttings can be useful in many occasions to write a quick note when we have to quickly copy a phone number or an address. However, the iPad has many more advantages than we can take advantage of.

  • “Where did I leave the pen?” won’t be a question you ask yourself often anymore. You don’t have to keep a sheet of paper and a pen handy, because you only need one thing: the iPad. In most cases, you’ll probably have it at your fingertips because you’re working with it when you need to write something down, but if you don’t, it’ll be easier to find because it’s bulkier.
  • You will be able to use it on a professional, academic and personal level. No more having a notebook for everything, because in one device you will have everything. In schools it is true that there may be some limitations to using electronic devices, but it is increasingly accepted and in the case of universities or vocational training centers are fully integrated elements.
  • You won’t lose anything, since all of it will be stored on your computer and you can even back it up. Even if your iPad breaks, you’ll be able to save your data, as we’ll discuss in the next point.
  • You’ll be able to access your notes from any device, because most apps you use will sync with iCloud or other services, ensuring that you can access them from your iPhone, Mac, or any other computer with access to that cloud.
  • Share it with whoever you want through messaging services, email or any other formula. With a paper you would have to make a photocopy or ask for your notes to be returned quickly so you don’t lose them, but with the iPad you will always have them.
  • Write wherever you want without worrying about being on a rigid surface, one of the disadvantages sometimes of writing on paper.
  • Everything will be more readable, since you can write it digitally or even have your handwritten notes converted into computer handwriting quickly. For better reading, you can choose from several fonts, choose the size and color.
  • Everything will be more organized, since you can sort it by folders and other methods so that everything is in its place and you don’t have to look through papers to find what you’re looking for.
  • Dozens of tools at your fingertips in one device. Recommended note-taking apps have different styles of pencils, pens, markers, and even highlighters.
  • Draw whatever you want because you can’t just write text. Freehand drawings, more artistic drawings, sketches, and anything else you can think of can be seamlessly integrated into your iPad.
  • There are no more scratches and tedious correction fluid stains. Clearing an error on the iPad is as simple as pressing the respective delete button on the keyboard or using a tool that serves as a rubber band.
  • You won’t take up more space than the storage space on your iPad or the cloud service you use. It’s a good way to avoid filling tables and drawers with notebooks and papers.
  • Add images from the Internet, taken by yourself, or even scan paper documents to take notes on them or simply to have them scanned.
  • You won’t have to spend a single euro on materials. Although there are paid apps like the ones we will see in this article, the truth is that there are free alternatives.

Free native iPad app

Writing on iPad like a notebook: apps and tips
Writing on iPad like a notebook: apps and tips

Notes is an application that comes standard on all Apple devices except the Apple Watch, Apple TV and HomePod for obvious reasons. It is true that it can have many limitations, but it has many strengths among which it is completely free. Even if you have an old iPad that does not update its software to the latest versions, this app can still be used, although what we will tell you is about the latest versions of this app. If you have ever uninstalled it, you can download it again from the App Store.

DownloadQR-CodeNotasDeveloper: ApplePrice: Free

View of the interface, folders and subfolders

You may already be familiar with this app and have not considered several things it has to offer. That’s why we’re going through its interface step by step. What you’ll find in this app as soon as you log in is a view of the folders on the left side and the notes in question on the right side. For the moment we’re going to look at the folder list as if the right side of the screen didn’t exist.

In these folders, you’ll find a summary of all your stored notes – those that are only on your iPad, those that sync with iCloud for access on any device, and finally all the notes you create. To add a new one, just click the lower-left button that says “New Folder.

If you want to sort the folders, you can do so by clicking on “edit” at the top. Those with a three-stripe icon will be able to alter their order by clicking on that icon and scrolling with your finger over other folders. In fact this way you can also create subfolders when you place one of these covering another. This is useful if, for example, you store notes on various things such as shopping lists, and you can have a generic folder with “Shopping” in which subfolders such as “Cleaning products”, “Vegetables”, “Snacks” and so on appear.

If you want to change the name of one of the folders you must also click on “edit”, but this time you must click on the icon with a circle and three dots. You can then change the name of that folder and even delete it , but be careful because they will be deleted along with all the content inside.

Notes removed

Precisely following the line above regarding note deletion, we find a folder called “Just deleted”. This is a way for Apple to save us the trouble of deleting something we shouldn’t have. These notes are stored for a period of 30 calendar days from when they are deleted, so you have plenty of time to regret a deletion. Once these days are over, you will not be able to retrieve them.

If you want to permanently delete one or more notes without waiting for that period to pass, you can go into the folder and slide to the left of each note and click on the red button in the trash. If you want to choose several at once you can click on the three dots icon at the top and select them.

Adding, editing and fixing notes

The moment of truth has arrived when I know how to add new notes. To do this, you must go into any folder and click on the icon at the top right of your screen, which has a square with a pencil as a symbol. At this point you will already be in the note. You can see it in full screen by clicking on the icon at the top where two arrows appear diagonally.

If you have an external keyboard you can start using it to type things. Your note will be able to switch between digitally written text, freehand text, drawings or diagrams, images and even tables. Digital writing can also be done with the virtual keyboard on the iPad itself. In either of these two cases you will see several options:

  • Type of text: you will find it in the lower icon with an upper and lower case ‘A’. It allows you to choose whether you want to write a title to the note, a header, a subtitle, body or write in a monospaced style. Here you can also choose whether to put text in bold, italic, underlined or italic. Also the choice of indents and lists with selection points, numbers or dashes can be added in this section.
  • Tables: you can enter a table in which by default you will find two columns and two rows. Simply tap on each of them to add more columns, rows or even move the table to text without losing the original spacing it had when it was framed.
  • Adding images – the lower icon with a camera symbol will allow you to scan documents in real time by opening the camera and taking a photo of a paper that can then be cropped and adjusted, plus a series of corrections will automatically be made to remove blemishes and other imperfections. You can also take a photo or video to anything else or import it from your iPad photo library.
  • Draw or write by hand: clicking on the pencil icon below will automatically open a pop-up window where you will find different tools such as a pen, pencil, highlighter, eraser, as well as tools for making straight lines or a ruler. On the right side of this panel you will find some default colours to use, although you can choose any other by clicking on the one in the lower right corner. In the icon with the three-point line you can configure that this panel is automatically hidden when you are writing or drawing. If you have an Apple Pencil, this tool will be great, but you don’t have to have it because you can do these actions with your finger.

View notes from other devices and share them

Unless you use the folder called “Notes” on its own, the rest will be synchronized with iCloud. What does this mean? It means that they will be accessible from any other computer with access to this service.

  • iPhone: Entering the native Notes app, you’ll find the same options as on the iPad, only with an interface adjusted to the screen size.
  • Mac: You also have a version of the app on macOS with which you can do exactly the same things as in iPhone and iPad apps.
  • Android: Access the iCloud website from your browser, enter your Apple ID and password. Once you’re in, you can view, edit, delete, and share notes. It’s not as intuitive and convenient as on an iPhone or iPad, but it can get you out of a jam on occasion.
  • Windows PC: following the same method as in Android through the browser and with the same limitations at the technical level, since a web version is being used instead of a dedicated application.

There are options for sharing the notes with other users through various services such as messaging and email apps. It is accessible by clicking on the top sharing icon in which there is a square with an arrow pointing upwards. There is also an interesting function for creating shared notes that can be edited in real time by several people.

Include notes in backups

If you want the notes you’re making on your iPad to be added to the system backups you make with your iPad, go to Settings> (your name)> iCloud. In this section you must activate the “Notes” option. If at any point you need to restore your iPad or buy a new one that you back up, you’ll still have the same notes you had.

Protect notes with password or Touch ID/Face ID

There is a way to make all or some of your notes safe from third parties. To do this, simply go to the note in question and drag it with your finger to the left, then click on the lock. You will now need to select the password you want for this note and from then on you can simply use our Touch ID fingerprint or Face ID fingerprint to access the note. If you are not detected with these biometrics, you will need to enter your chosen password.

Third-party apps with more features

There are interesting applications in the iPadOS App Store that allow us to obtain added functionalities to those of the native Notes app. If you think that the above can help you cover your needs, maybe it won’t compensate you for downloading other apps. However, we believe there are some very worthwhile options, although it must be said that can be paid or require a subscription in order to enjoy all its features.

We have already made a compilation of the best iPad note-taking apps, which we recommend you visit for more information. Below we’ll show you two of the best options in this area, and that’s why they’re usually the most recommended alternatives to Apple’s.


DownloadQR-CodeNotabilityDeveloper: Ginger LabsPrice: 9.99

This application is perfect for the task of converting all our paper work to digital format. It has excellent functionalities with which to drag and drop text and images to feed each note with better content. If there is one thing that stands out, it is its excellent interface , which can be configured in many ways to create a real digital notebook. Even your notes can be made with a background similar to grid or line notebooks to make it easier for you. The Apple Pencil is what makes this app so easy to use.

Goodnotes 5

DownloadQR-CodeGoodNotes 5Developer: Time Base Technology LimitedPrice: 8.99

This app is renewed every year and adds new features. The fifth is the latest version available. Like Notability, it has excellent features for importing multimedia content and handwriting with the Apple Pencil. One of its most outstanding features is the possibility of exporting notes in PDF format, although its great strength is being universal for iPad, iPhone and Mac, finding a complete interface in all of them and with identical functions.

By following these steps or installing these or any other similar app, you can experience the ultimate digital writing experience on your iPad.

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