Many of us these days use a tablet for taking notes — and for a lot of us, that tablet is an iPad. We’ve explored some note-taking apps for the iPad before:
- Brian Croxall introduced us to Moleskine’s app: “Taking Notes with the Moleskine App.”
- Ian MacInnes offered suggestions about features to consider when choosing an app: “Finding the Best iOS App for Annotation and Note-Taking.”
- I took quick looks at Penultimate 4 and OneNote.
Both have features that are important to me: the ability to write by hand (for some things, I’m still old school), and the ability to record audio. Both also offer a close-up writing mode, which is really convenient at times.
OneNote also features handwriting (though it lacks close-up mode) and audio recording. Like Notability, it also offers palm rejection. (NotesPlus seems to lack this feature, unless one is using a bluetooth stylus.) Since I’ve replaced Evernote with OneNote as my digital filing cabinet, theoretically I could just use OneNote to take my notes.
There are two reasons why I haven’t done that. First, even with palm rejection, the handwriting experience is just not as good in OneNote as it is in the other two apps. (To be fair, I use an iPad Mini 2. The experience might be better on a larger tablet.) Second, I take a lot of notes that I don’t need to keep long-term, and I’m using OneNote for my digital archive. Creating content there doesn’t make a lot of sense unless I know in advance that it’s something I’ll need to be able to access long term. Most of the time, it’s better for me to create content elsewhere, then make a determination about whether I should store it in OneNote or just delete it once it’s served its purpose.
After experimenting with both NotesPlus and Notability for a while, I settled on Notability. Close-up mode is equally useful in both apps, but Notability’s palm rejection is a nice added touch.
Where Notability really shines, though, is in how easy it is to get content into other applications. NotesPlus makes it easy to export notes as PDFs. Dealing with recordings, however, is problematic. To get those into another application requires a multi-step process that’s a significant hassle. It’s necessary to connect the iPad to a computer to access the audio files. Then, since NotesPlus stores the files in .caf format, one has to convert the files to .mp3 or .m4a for them to be much use elsewhere.
In contrast, Notability’s export options are simple, and they include a .zip option. Choosing that option results in a .zip file that includes a PDF of the note and .m4a files of any associated recordings. Beyond unzipping the .zip archive, there’s no conversion necessary to get notes into other applications.
What about you? What do you look for in a note-taking app, and how does it fit into your workflow? Do you have any favorite apps to recommend? Let us know in the comments!