Apple Notes and Freefrom updates in iPadOS 17: what’s new? 

So, the public beta for iPadOS 17 is finally here! And naturally, I had to check out Apple Notes first. Add links – are those hyperlinks!? Exciting times ahead of us! 

Apple Notes updates

PDF annotation

PDF annotation is the most exciting update we couldn’t wait to try out in Apple Notes. We were hoping that it would mean adding an icon on the top toolbar for adding PDFs, but I guess not. This is definitely not the setup we had in mind when we requested this feature in our wishlist. We were hoping that PDFs would open as notebooks do, not as attachments.

You have thumbnails at the top of your inline PDF to quickly navigate through its pages, which helps. Apple brought all the Markup features to this new setup. So, we can rotate our pages, and insert blank pages or other documents. The horizontal scrolling is a bit uncomfortable, especially when the pages of the PDF are portrait. It helps when you zoom in, but it’s not the same if you prefer vertical scrolling.

You can view your PDFs as small, medium or large. For a person who always wanted to annotate PDFs away from Markup, I see myself going back to using it. It feels more natural, without the constraints you feel with this inline annotation. I prefer using the whole screen dedicated to annotation, with nothing above or below the document. However, the inline option might be handy for quick notes and mostly reading.

Link your notes 

Linking ideas in a note-taking app is such an underrated feature amongst developers. This is why we are super excited that in iPadOS 17, we can link our notes in Apple Notes, as well as to other apps and websites. How awesome is that!
Links can stand alone or be linked to notes. Not to sound ungrateful, but we look forward to linking different parts of the same notebook. It would also be great if our notebooks had links, so we can link them to other apps.

Our wish list from iPadOS 16

Naturally, after those two updates, we went to check our wish list to see if we were checking off anything this year. We didn’t get vector ink, which is disappointing. But we got an additional drawing tool, the crayon and they managed to differentiate it from the pencil tool. Unlike in most apps, the two don’t look the same at all. We hope they updated it for all apps.
We also got a darker ruler tool, which will take some getting used to. The lighter colour looked better, I think. Which one do you prefer?

We can also add stickers to our notes now. They go behind our handwriting and have basic features to let you cut, copy, duplicate or delete. We love that they mix with handwriting, that’s when they’ll be more useful. You can also rotate and resize them, which is awesome! 

Apple Freeform in iPadOS 17

We recently did a complete review of Apple Freeform. So, we were really curious to see what updates we were getting for the app because it needs a lot of improvements. 

New toolbar 

We were excited to try the improved drawing in Freeform, and got even more excited when we saw that they had brought in the toolbar from Apple Notes! Not only do we now have more writing tools (another ballpoint, the calligraphy pen, and watercolour brush), but the writing experience has improved dramatically! We absolutely love it! 

We can now draw shapes that transform automatically using our writing tools. The fill tool also now draws perfect shapes, which is wonderful. Both tools work with regular shapes only, though, and we hope to see that extended to irregular shapes. We also have a highlighter tool now. Can you believe we didn’t have a highlighter tool before? Let’s hope we’ll also get one for our text too, in the future.

The notes I wrote with the pencil tool are now dim, making them unusable. Updates shouldn’t change existing notes. It’s such a massive headache. This updated toolbar is now available for PDF annotation, even if it is from a different window. After the PDF inline feature in Apple Notes, we really appreciate the Markup window now. Never thought I’d say that.  


Connectors are brilliant! They are like smart arrows helping to connect the items on your board faster (without needing to reach out for the arrows under the shapes tool). Your connectors are still customisable like any other arrow, which is the best part. So you can change their thickness, colour, type and stroke type. They make our boards look and feel like proper whiteboards. Love them!  

Other smaller updates

  • The app is no longer freezing at 400%. We’re happy to see that! 
  • It’s easier to switch between templates.
  • We now have stickers. 

Like with Apple Notes, we didn’t get a lot of updates in Freeform. So, this is all the developers came up with in 12 months. App development is hard work! 

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