CollaNote vs Noteful for the iPad: ultimate comparison

Noteful and CollaNote are gaining a lot of traction on the App Store. Noteful didn’t make its debut until October 2021, while CollaNote was introduced in December 2020 (some ten months earlier). Which of these two new apps do you need for your digital workflow? That’s what we’re here to find out. As usual, we’ll break down this comparison into three sections:

  • Similarities
  • Why Noteful is better
  • Why CollaNote is better then we’ll give you guys our final verdict.

Similarities: CollaNote vs Noteful

This section examines features that are comparable across the two apps and make it difficult to decide which one to choose. You might also be interested in the following:

Page templates

Though CollaNote has a larger collection of page templates, the vast majority of us will never use most of them. More, therefore, is not necessarily better. However, we must admit that the app offers an impressive paper template library with some rare templates you won’t see in any other note-taking app.

The planners that appear to be free in CollaNote are actually just branded samples. To get full copies of them, you’ll need to purchase them outside the app. We don’t mind note-taking apps that include in-app stores where users can purchase digital stationery. It helps developers and end users alike. In-app stores are a great alternative to subscriptions.

In contrast, Noteful has a smaller but respectable collection of paper templates, and you have more options for customising them. Although CollaNote’s page sizes work, it would be better if we could set them ourselves and also choose their orientations like we can in Noteful. 

CollaNote has a lot of page colours, which is surprising for an app that doesn’t have any page customisation. The app gives you the freedom to choose the exact hues for each notebook you create. On the other hand, Noteful only supports three page colours for your templates.

Our team doesn’t use any app templates in either app, though. We instead use our digital notebooks, which you can purchase from our store. We’ll have a link to them in the description down below. What matters more than thousands of templates is the option to import your own preferred templates when an app doesn’t provide one that you need. You can easily import your chosen templates into both CollaNote and Noteful.

Text tool

Your text is contained in text boxes for both apps. In addition to the standard bold, italic, and underline formatting options, Noteful also has a strikethrough feature (which CollaNote does not). 

Both apps allow you to use your own fonts. You can also adjust the font size, change the colour, and align your text with ease. Where CollaNote highlights your text, Noteful changes the background of your text box instead. Which option works for you really comes down to your personal preference. You can always highlight the text using the highlighter tool in Noteful.

You can customise the appearance of your text boxes in Noteful by applying a variety of styles, which change the border type, border thickness, and background colour (as well as its opacity). You can even change the opacity of the whole text box. Noteful can also rotate text boxes 360 degrees. 

CollaNote doesn’t customise text boxes. It can, however, save many favourite text styles (whereas you’re limited to one in Noteful). The app can also duplicate your text boxes, but Noteful only supports copy and paste. 

CollaNote gives you options to edit all your text, selected text, and sometimes specific paragraphs. When text is selected, only the selection should be automatically changed. When you don’t select anything in Noteful, for instance, the app modifies all the text in the text box. But, when you select some words, it only changes those (no additional options are required). 

The differences in text options will not sway your decision towards either app. Both are first and foremost handwriting note-taking apps. It’s probably safe to assume that you’ll be writing most of your notes by hand rather than typing them. You may need a different app if you start typing a lot.

Audio recording

CollaNote and Noteful both allow you to record audio in sync with your handwritten notes, but not your typed ones. It’s a bit limiting, but better than not having audio recording at all. If you need to record audio as part of your workflow, having a note-taking app that also supports audio recording is important.

Both applications offer similar audio playback experiences, with a lot of background noise. To reduce it, we recommend recording your audio while using headphones or earphones. They tend to help with noise cancellation. 
You can tap your notes to skip through the playback. Both apps can do the following:

  • Rewind or fast-forward: Noteful has 10-second intervals, while CollaNote supports 5-second ones.
  • Speed up or slow down the playback as needed.
  • List all of your different recordings, which allows you to export them individually.

Noteful also lets you rename your recordings. It helps organise them so they are easier to find.

10 ways Noteful is better than CollaNote

App build

Noteful is more sturdy than CollaNote. From the homepage, its modern icons make it a more elegant app than CollaNote.  We also like how minimalist it looks. CollaNote is cluttered with redundant tools: the many pen colours, extensive settings in the app’s workspace, and the ruler tool, which serves little to no purpose (given that the app has an excellent shapes tool). 
It’s hard to take CollaNote seriously as a note-taking app because of how it looks. Even though we shouldn’t, we often judge a book by its cover. In terms of aesthetics, Noteful is by far the superior app.

There’s more to it than that, though. To better organise your workspace, Noteful allows you to reposition the toolbar to the left, right, top, or bottom of the screen. To get an even more minimalist look, you can hide the Status Bar. The app also allows you to move your tabs to the bottom of your iPad.

CollaNote allows you some degree of UI customisation. You can choose whatever colour you want for the UI. We thought it would do something as eye-catching as switching to dark mode. However, only some toolbar icons changed. The real change occurs in your tool settings.

You can even change the background behind your notes. We find it distracting, so we never use it. Most of CollaNote’s UI customisation doesn’t contribute to a better user experience. They are extras that we can do without.

Still on app build, Noteful is a much more stable app than CollaNote. It has fewer hiccups and bugs, making it more convenient. From our experience, something doesn’t work as it should in almost every CollaNote session. It’s not as polished as Noteful. However, we can’t deny that CollaNote is getting steadier than it used to be.

Eraser tool

Both apps can erase per stroke or per pixel. CollaNote’s pixel eraser is smoother. They can also auto-deselect to revert to the tool you were using before the eraser. CollaNote’s eraser size adjusts with a simple tilt, which is better than Noteful’s fixed-size approach. You can also erase items using the scribbling gesture available in CollaNote. It is an excellent choice to have. However, this gesture is always hit-and-miss in every app that supports it. It’s unreliable; using the eraser tool is easier.

Although Noteful doesn’t work with the scribble-to-erase gesture, it does give you more control over which parts of your notes you delete. You can erase the highlighter alone, shapes only, or any combination. The eraser in CollaNote is not selective. Noteful only erases a highlighter that’s not straightened.

Lasso tool 

Noteful’s lasso tool is more selective than its eraser. You can select text boxes, photos & shapes, handwriting, and highlights only. You can also pick up any combination or everything on a page. You can then drag and drop them into other apps. Noteful also supports drag and drop into the app.

However, you can’t drag anything out of CollaNote. Even the lasso tool is limited. It can pick up handwritten notes and their highlights, or everything on the page. Both apps have freehand and rectangular lasso tools. They can also move your selections across pages.

Zoom tool

Noteful’s zooming capabilities are unparalleled! CollaNote’s zooming range is, therefore, limited compared to Noteful. However, we love how CollaNote shows how much you’re zoomed in and the ability to snap to different zoom levels.

Noteful also features a zoom tool, which CollaNote lacks. It’s a new feature, and we couldn’t be happier about it! The zoom tool supports:

  • Auto-advance with a page margin marking its starting point
  • Navigation arrows on the zoom toolbar
  • Writing tools
  • Left-hand mode
  • Right-To-Left writing


Items on a page are considered “layers” in CollaNote. You can, theoretically, move some handwriting behind or in front of an image. Unfortunately, ever since we began testing this app, this feature has consistently failed to function.

For digital note-taking, Noteful’s layers are a game-changer. You can read our article on the differences between flashcards and page layers to fully understand the power of layers in Noteful.

Layers are an advanced method of organising the information in your notebooks and documents. If you accidentally enter information on the wrong layer, you can simply move it to the right one. 


You can scroll vertically in both apps. Additionally, Noteful supports horizontal scrolling, and toggling between the two modes is simple.
Bookmarking pages is a simple way to ease your navigation through your notes. It helps you find important pages faster. Both apps let you bookmark pages, rename your bookmarks, and rearrange them.

CollaNote also lets you choose an icon and its colour for each of your bookmarks. You can also change the page without returning to the workspace. It’s helpful in case you accidentally bookmarked the wrong page. Quick Bookmark allows you to quickly save pages with a single tap, perfect for when you’re short on time.

Outlines are organised bookmarks that are used to build custom contents pages. You can create outlines for your documents and notes in Noteful. The app nests them to add organisational levels that make it easier to navigate documents. Outlines are more useful than bookmarks; however, CollaNote lacks this feature.

Page editing

CollaNote’s page editing is a little cumbersome because you can’t modify multiple pages at once. Your page editing capabilities are limited to changing the page template and applying the template to all new pages. You can do the same thing in Noteful.

Both apps can add blank pages between existing ones in your PDFs. You can customise the page in Noteful before adding it, while in CollaNote you can only do that after you’ve added the page. Where CollaNote duplicates pages, Noteful only copies and pastes them. You can reorder your pages, but it’s easier to do in Noteful which displays more pages on your screen than CollaNote. To see even more pages at a glance, you can zoom out your thumbnails in Noteful (which you can’t do in  CollaNote). You can also do the following with your pages in Noteful:

  • Copy the page template of the page you’re currently on.
  • Import documents into your opened notebook. The app adds it below the page you’re on, exactly where you want it.
  • Merge notebooks
  • Select multiple pages for editing.
  • Rotate pages
  • Export or share specific pages. CollaNote limits your exports to a range of pages or single pages. Noteful lets you pick the exact pages you want to share.
  • Extract pages into a new notebook. We love this feature and hope that in the future we’ll be able to extract them into existing notebooks in the app. You can’t do any of this in CollaNote.


Both apps support multiple instances, meaning you can open each of them twice. CollaNote, however, can’t open the same notebook twice. It kind of defeats the purpose of having multiple instances. Noteful can open the same notebook twice, without a problem.

The tabs in CollaNote are a little confusing; they take some getting used to. Noteful, on the other hand, has more intuitive tabs that are simpler to use. They also just look better than the ones in CollaNote.


CollaNote saves some of your notes in iCloud Drive and others on your device. The notes in iCloud Drive are accessible on any device. Noteful, on the other hand, has a superior setup; all of your notes sync via iCloud and all have a local copy.

Both apps can display your notebooks as thumbnails, but in CollaNote that is the only option you have. Thumbnails tend to fit fewer documents on the screen than lists, especially if they are as big as the ones you get in CollaNote. Lists are more convenient, and in Noteful, you can even resize the thumbnails.

Both apps support an infinite number of folders within folders. Noteful’s sidebar folder structure is a faster way to navigate folders than CollaNote’s setup. Particularly since CollaNote lacks universal search on the homepage.

We really like how, in CollaNote, you can access your homepage without leaving the app’s main workspace. Very few note-taking apps offer that feature.

Noteful, in addition to folders, can use tags to organise your notebooks and their pages. Because they are universal, you can apply them to any document or page in the app. We’ll get into why tags are better than folders in a different video. 


It’s important for a note-taking app to offer both syncing and backup features. CollaNote only has syncing for some of your notebooks (the ones in iCloud Drive). 

Noteful doesn’t have the best backup options because it only backs up to Google Drive. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than not having a backup for your notes. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t use CollaNote. Anything can happen to an app, so a backup gives me that peace of mind that helps me sleep at night.

6 reasons to consider CollaNote


CollaNote is a free app, whereas Noteful only has a free version that you can try. After that, it costs $4.99, a one-time purchase and you keep the app forever. Cheap is expensive. There is no better way of describing CollaNote. In terms of the amount of time you’ll waste dealing with bugs, CollaNote is actually quite costly. A lot of things don’t always work as they should which constantly slows you down.

Both apps don’t have native macOS apps. They’re only available on MacBooks with the M series chips. I hardly use the desktop versions of handwriting note-taking apps. However, if they’re an important part of your workflow then this is something to note.

Pen tools

Noteful has three pen tools: ballpoint, fountain and brush pen. For each of these, you can save 5 pen sizes that you can adjust any time you like. Though it seems like CollaNote has two pen tools, it actually has one. The second fountain-looking pen tool is really the first tool but with pressure sensitivity turned on. It’s a decent pen tool, though. Especially now because the ink doesn’t pixelate when you zoom in.

Noteful has a wider thickness range for its pen tools than CollaNote. But the reason CollaNote has a better pen tool lies in features it has, which you don’t get in Noteful:

  • Opacity options
  • Writing sounds that make it feel like you’re writing on paper. It strangely improves the handwriting experience if you don’t mind the noise.
  • A pencil tool, which you don’t get in Noteful.
  • Favourite toolbars; one for all the notes in the app and another specific for each notebook. CollaNote is the first app to ever make that differentiation.

In Noteful, your pen colours are easily accessible on the toolbar and you can add as many as you like. Now that we can customise our toolbars, let’s hope we’ll get a pen tool size shortcut like we have with images and text boxes. That would make switching between pen sizes a lot easier.

Shapes tool

In Noteful, you can draw any shape you like; regular or irregular. CollaNote only limits you to six regular shapes and has no support for irregular shapes. Your shape interactions are better in Noteful because you can resize, rotate and adjust them. All options you don’t have in CollaNote. After drawing your shapes, Noteful also lets you change the:

  • border colour, thickness and type
  • fill colour
  • opacity of the shape

It was very difficult to decide which app had a better shapes tool. All things considered, Noteful has an excellent shapes tool. However, CollaNote has unique features you don’t see in most note-taking apps. You can style your shapes fill to be simple or motley with up to four different colours. You can also adjust the opacity of the fill.

CollaNote might not support irregular shapes, but it can draw impressive curves! Drawing proper graphs in the app is very simple, something that would be very difficult in most note-taking apps. You can decide how curvy you want your graph, its thickness and opacity. It is such a practical tool to have in a note-taking app.


You can add interactive links to browse websites right from within the app. It eases extracting notes from websites. Most apps just add a link and CollaNote does that too, in its own unique way. Or you can create a thumbnail. Noteful doesn’t support web links at all and that’s a massive limitation.

Where most note-taking apps can open hyperlinks, CollaNote can even create them. You can, therefore, link to pages in the same notebook to simplify the navigation of long notes. Your hyperlinks can be on pretty much anything: handwriting, images, black spaces.

Stickers and scans

CollaNote has a massive collection of stickers, especially for a free app. You can also create your own collection in the app. After creating a new sticker pack, you can easily add images from your Photos library. Noteful does not support any stickers in the app. Neither does it let you scan documents into the app. But in CollaNote, you can scan documents using the iPadOS scanning engine. We don’t recommend using this in note-taking apps, though, because it creates huge files.


Not many handwriting note-taking apps have collaboration. CollaNote is one of those few, but it’s difficult to get started with it almost every time you want to collaborate. Most of the time it doesn’t even work. To stay sane, we pretend CollaNote doesn’t have collaboration, it’s easier.

Final verdict

Noteful and CollaNote don’t have a lot of features in common and that makes them quite fascinating. The two note-taking apps are very different and will thus appeal to different note-takers. Both apps have some impressive, unique features that you don’t find in other note-taking apps. But if we must choose one, we would go for Noteful because it is the app everyone on our team uses for personal and private notes. It is also the more stable of the two apps. We, therefore, recommend it to anyone who is serious about digital note-taking.

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