iPad Notetaking 101

iPad Notetaking 101

iPad Notetaking: What it is and how to do it. Plus extra tips to improve your iPad notetaking.

If you’re in college right now, then you have probably seen at least one student in class with an iPad. Or maybe you’ve been on Instagram and stumbled upon a post with very aesthetically pleasing notes written on an iPad. So what is iPad notetaking and how do they do it?

What is iPad Notetaking?

iPad note taking is just that: taking notes on an iPad. The key point is that you get to make handwritten notes in a digital format.

Be aware that an iPad is not meant as a replacement for your desktop or laptop computer. Not even the iPad Pro, which is advertised as the “computer that is not a computer” can, in my opinion, replace your typical PC. Especially if you are a student that uses heavy software on the daily, like for programming, you can not use an iPad as your only computer.

However, I will explain why I recommend switching to digital notetaking on the iPad

Pros and Cons


  • Handwritten notes (helps you learn better)
  • All your notes in one place
  • You won’t have to carry many things, very portable
  • Digital format lets you send your notes to multiple devices
  • You can backup your notes, so it is hard to loose them
  • Easy organization of notes
  • Save paper


  • Not the same feeling as writing on paper
  • You need to keep your electronic charged
  • Because you are using an electronic, you may be limited when not in a place with wifi

For me the the pros far outweighed the cons. The biggest motivator for me to get an iPad was the ability to make handwritten notes but in a digital format. I have always liked handwriting notes because it is easier to memorize and learn that way, but I have always preferred the portability and organization that typed notes offer. However I really dislike typing up my notes, because after a while of typing notes in class, I don’t really pay attention to what I am typing, I am kind of on autopilot so I don’t really retain a lot of the information I type. Which is why when I found out about iPad notetaking, it was such an obvious move for me to switch over.

Choosing an iPad

So you decided you want to convert to digital note taking, then which iPad is the best for that? That depends on your budget and what you need in an iPad. To look more into which iPads support the Apple Pencil, I recommend this post from Business Insider by Dave Johnson. However, I’m assuming you are a student, and if that is true then there is a clear choice…

My Recommendation: iPad 6th or 7th Generation with the Apple Pencil 1st Generation

These iPads are the best bang for your buck, which is especially important as a student. They are the cheapest iPads that are compatible with the Apple Pencil. As of writing this, the iPad 7th generation is going for around 330 US$ for the 32GB Wifi model. Both are plenty enough for your day to day classes. One can take notes with the Apple Pencil, look at presentation slides, work on essays, browse the web, watch videos, and many other tasks.

You can choose between the 9.7 iPad 6th generation and the 10.2 iPad 7th generation with either 32GB or 128GB of storage. Plus you have the option of either getting a wifi only compatible iPad or a wifi and cellular compatible iPad. Any of those combinations are good, but I would advise against getting a wifi and cellular compatible iPad, since there is no need to connect your iPad to a cellular data network because the majority if not all of the time you will be connected to your school/dorm/home wifi network.

I currently use the iPad 6th generation, with 32GB storage and wifi only compatibility , and it has been great. Everyday for classes, I login to my school portal on my browser, download the presentation slides, then open them in an app to take notes. Not only do I take notes for school, but I also use my iPad for digital planning. I also sometimes watch videos for online classes or open up Microsoft Word to start the beginning of an essay. After school, I watch videos on youtube, play games, and watch Netflix. My iPad does everything I need for the day. The only times I use my laptop is when I have to do a programming assignment or work with heavy software.

Choosing an iPad Notetaking App

When looking for an iPad notetaking app, you have several options. It all depends on what you want in a notetaking app. Some options you have are:

  • GoodNotes 5
  • Notability
  • Noteshelf
  • Apple Notes
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Nebo
  • and many more

Each one with their own advantages and disadvantages. There are too many to cover so I will talk about the one I recommend.

My Recommendation: GoodNotes 5

GoodNotes 5 iPad notetaking app

GoodNotes 5 is my favorite notetaking app. I use this app for my notetaking, class assignments, and even digital planning.

GoodNotes 5 app document creation.

It has so many options when making a new document. The ‘Import’ is especially handy. I use it to import my digital student study planner to digitally plan and for when I have homework. Normally, the teacher will post a homework as a PDF file so I just download it to my Google Drive and then import it to the app. From there, I can annotate it, once done, I can export the file as a PDF that has all my annotations and submit it. This method also works with PowerPoint files that a teacher posts, where I like to import it and take notes while I follow in class. This is so helpful as you won’t have to print everything out and always carry around so many papers. You will have everything in one place and easy to carry.

GoodNotes 5 notebook creation.


Creating a Notebook

GoodNotes 5 digital notes


My CompSci Notes

I normally make a notebook for each class that I have and take notes on there. Even if you have hundreds of pages of notes, you can assign certain pages and title then in the outline option, dividing them up easily. This is really handy when studying as it is easier to find out what pages have what information.

With GoodNotes, I also really like how much you can customize the colors of your pen and highlighter. It is not just black, blue, or red like in some notetaking apps. This really makes your notes pop out and make studying somewhat fun.

You can do so much with the GoodNotes app, I have only covered the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more functions in the app, you could do so much with it. The app is so versatile and it is truly my favorite notetaking app for the iPad.

Extra Tips

#1 – Matte Screen Protector

Matte screen protector is recommended for iPad Notetaking


Matte Screen Protector (see how you can’t see my reflection on it)

If you get a regular glass screen protector for your iPad, writing can be a little uncomfortable. With the glass protector, the Apple Pencil will just glide over the screen, but if you decide to get a matte screen protector, there will be some traction when writing, so it will feel more like writing on paper. You can also find matte screen protectors that are marketed as paper-like which I especially recommend as they offer even more traction when writing.

#2 – Thin Case

When I first bought my iPad, I made the mistake of getting a very rugged case. I bought one of these thinking I needed to really protect my iPad.

UAG Rugged iPad Case, a case which I don't recommend for iPad notetaking


UAG Rugged iPad Case

But it turns out that unless you are taking your iPad out with you on a hike or while doing sports, there is no need for such a case. Especially as a student, your iPad will mostly be on your desk, in your backpack, or just in your hand while holding it so not really in danger. In fact, when taking notes a bulky case will only get in the way and make it uncomfortable when writing.

I really recommend a slim folio case. That way the iPad will still be protected and you can rest the iPad in different positions. Also, if you go for a regular iPad (6th or 7th) and a first generation Apple Pencil, then you should get a case that has an Apple pencil holder. That way everything is there together and you won’t have to buy a seperate case for your pencil. I had a case for my Apple Pencil, which was fine but it took up space in my bag. Also having to carry my iPad in one hand and the pencil case in the other is kind of bothersome, but that’s just me being picky.

#3 – Apple Pencil Rubber Sleeve

Another concern I had is that when writing, the Apple Pencil can get slippery since it has a metal body. That can be easily fixed by getting a rubber sleeve specifically for your Apple Pencil. I prefer that it covers the cap of the pencil, that way it won’t be easy to loose the cap.

#4 – Apple Pencil Tip Cover

Something else that could be a concern is that when writing, the noise the pencil makes when coming in contact with the screen can be a bit noisy. Normally you won’t hear it at all, but if you are in your dorm late at night and you are trying to study while your roommates are sleeping, then the sound can feel quite loud. For this problem, I recommend getting a rubber tip to put on your Apple Pencil tip. Not only does it solve the noise problem, but writing also feels nicer and it protects the tip from wearing out too fast.


If you are a student, and you have the budget, I really recommend adding an iPad in your daily school life. It has really made a difference in mine.




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