Jnotes for Android (2024): complete review

There are apps you love that you use every day for everything, and there are also apps you absolutely can’t stand or dislike. Then there is Jnotes.

Jnotes is a handwriting note-taking app for Android by Jide. It costs $8 a year or $11 for a one-time purchase. The app is free to download if you want to try it first before purchasing it. It is currently on sale for 45% off, but we’re not sure how long that will last or if it’s even a real sale. We’ve been seeing the same numbers for weeks now. Jnotes is available in many App Stores, not just the Google one. This review focuses on the premium version of Jnotes.

Creating new notes

We’re not sure why Jnotes needs to access your music and audio to let you create new notebooks in the app. We tried denying the app access, and it wouldn’t let us create new notebooks without allowing it access to our libraries. That raises a lot of red flags, which makes us uncomfortable. I mean, why bother asking for permission if you are going to force users to give it to you?

Creating a new notebook is straightforward. The app has many page templates in several categories and page sizes. Jnotes has B-size pages, which we haven’t seen in any other handwriting note-taking app. The page sizes are not that many. You get three A-sizes and three B sizes; chances are, you use either A or B. When you factor that in, you only have three sizes for your pages, which is not much, but better than nothing. Do any of you guys use both A and B paper sizes? Let us know.

Your page templates can be white, beige, or dark grey. Dark grey is an odd colour; why not just black? They can be portrait or landscape. The basic templates also have a line spacing option ranging from one to eight. It’s a decent variety that covers most note-taking needs. Your notebooks can have covers, but you can choose not to use them. Always happy to see that option. Who else dislikes page covers, or is my minimalism a bit much?

You can add custom templates for both pages and covers by taking a photo with your camera, which takes several steps. You can also add a photo from your device’s Gallery or a PDF. Naturally, we wanted to use our digital notebooks. Unfortunately, Jnotes limits the number of pages you can import from a PDF to just 10. But it lets you choose what those pages are. So, at least, it doesn’t just take the first page of the PDF like most handwriting note-taking apps, especially on the iPad. Still, we have to import our digital notebooks to use them Jnotes.

User interface

After naming your notebook, you can start taking notes in Jnotes. On a tablet that is 12 inches or bigger, Jnotes does not look good. It feels like the app is meant for much smaller screens. You even see this on the homepage with the massive text and ridiculously massive icons that look like they are zoomed in. The app looks better when your device is in portrait mode, at least the main toolbar does. It doesn’t waste as much space as it does in landscape mode. Let’s hope the developers can make the app more responsive so it can look and feel the same, no matter the size of the user’s device.

On the big screen, full-screen mode looks good, and toggling back is easy. You can change the colour of your top toolbar from twelve options. You can adjust the screen for different activities and environments: reading, outdoors, and night. Jnotes also has a blue light filtering option, that can make the screen easier on the eyes. Which of these looks do you prefer?

Jnotes does not show the status bar of your device. The information on the status bar of a device is very important. It tells us the time, date, and battery percentage. When taking notes, it’s very easy to lose track of time. We should be able to at least check the time without exiting the app. Let’s hope the developers can give users the option to turn on the status bar if they want it.

Pen tool

Jnotes has a ballpoint and fountain pen with three colours and three thicknesses on the toolbar. We are always unhappy when we see that, but at least the app lets you determine the three colours on your toolbar. The pen tools have different colours, and that’s helpful because it gives you more colours to work with.

Custom colours are easy to use in Jnotes. You can add them from the grid, spectrum, colour picker, or hex code. Those are all the options you need for using custom colours in a handwriting note-taking app. Colours in Jnotes also have an opacity option, which directly affects the pen tools. So, if you like opacity options for your pen tools, you will like Jnotes.

Pen thickness ranges from 0.1 to 3mm for both pens. The range is more dramatic on the ballpoint pen than the fountain pen. The difference between the two extremes of pressure sensitivity for the fountain pen is hard to see. At 100%, it looks like the fountain pen has a slightly thicker stroke than it does at 0%. Can you also see that? The ballpoint pen doesn’t have any pressure sensitivity, and that’s to be expected. 

The pencil tool in Jnotes has a cool feature we’ve not seen in any other note-taking app: tilt angle. It will probably work better with a different stylus because of how the S Pen is designed. But still, we got a glimpse of the effect, and it’s quite cool. The pencil also has pressure sensitivity options, which makes the pencil darker. At this point, we started thinking the Jnotes developers have a different definition for pressure sensitivity. The tool has three colours that can be different from those of the two pens but have a similar thickness range.

The handwriting experience in Jnotes is great. Not many handwriting note-taking apps have an issue with that in 2024, so we expect nothing less. Palm rejection is perfect, and your handwriting looks the way it does on paper. However, the app icons are not always responsive to the stylus. So, tapping on them most of the time will force you to tap two or three times before the app responds, and for that, we’ve found it best to tap on icons using your finger. It’s too much to remember because after testing the app for all this long, we’re still not getting used to it, and that makes using the app unpleasant. Let us know your note-taking experience in Jnotes and which device you’re using it on.

Highlighter

The highlighter’s opacity ranges from 0 to 90%, and you definitely don’t want it set to 90% because it goes in front of your ink. So, it dims it even when it is not layered at high opacity levels. A good highlighter tool in a note-taking app goes to the back of the ink to make your notes stand out, not dim. The thickness range is similar to that of the other writing tools in the app. But, naturally, 0.1mm of a highlighter should be much thicker than that of a pen tool.

Favourites toolbar

Customising these tools every time you want to use them can be tiring. That is why we like the favourites toolbar in Jnotes. It can house more than 20 of your favourite writing tools: pen, pencil, and highlighter. The toolbar is mobile, so it can go to any side of the screen you like, and it is easy to tuck away when you don’t need it. What more can you ask for?

Eraser tool

The pixel eraser is not smooth, so it’s not fun to use. On the other hand, the stroke one is faster and erases more with less effort. The app has both, so you can choose the one you prefer. The eraser tool is selective, allowing you to erase only the highlighter. The app supports auto-deselection to quickly switch to the pen tool. It doesn’t go back to the previous tool you used before the eraser.

We’re still not used to seeing a pressure sensitivity option for an eraser tool, even though we’ve seen it in Notein. That’s probably because the tool doesn’t seem to work in both apps. Nothing jumps out at us to show what the effect does. Notein and Jnotes seem to use the same source code for the eraser tool. The tool also has a wide size range, and you have three thicknesses on the toolbar. We wish we could add the tool to our favourites toolbar for easier access.

Zoom tool

Jnotes doesn’t have a zoom tool, so you can only zoom directly on the page. The zoom range feels a bit off, though. 100% can’t be that small for an A4 page. The app displays the zoom percentage on the page when you’re zooming in. That’s to be expected. You can lock your zoom level if you don’t want to change it accidentally. Your ink does not look pixelated, which is good enough.

Adding items to your notes

Text boxes

Text goes inside text boxes that disappear when you stop typing. The app has a lot of fonts, and you can also use custom fonts in Jnotes. We love how easy it is to add them to the app. Anyone who loves fonts will love this setup. We wish there were a faster way to get to the fonts, though. Perhaps a search option. Your font size range is a healthy one. It starts from six to 200, and we assume these are points. You can’t change the font size for a few selected words, which can be limiting. Your font colour palette, too.

You can format to make your text bold, italic, and underlined. Rarely do you ever want to format everything in a textbox. We should have the option to select a few words for formatting. There is no option to strike out your text, though, and there isn’t much you can do with your text after that. A lot of things are missing for text boxes, which we hope the developers will add in the future: lists, borders, background colour, alignment and line spacing.

Shapes

Jnotes can transform shapes that you draw freehand. The app supports regular and irregular shapes you can adjust immediately after drawing them. Once you deselect them, you won’t be able to adjust them ever again because Jnotes doesn’t select shapes on your page to change how they look. We should be able to adjust our shapes whenever we like. You also have a dedicated shapes tool for drawing straight lines with solid, dashed, and squiggly strokes. You can add arrows, some regular shapes, and even 3D shapes.

Freehand shapes have a translucent fill colour that is the same colour as the shape border. Shapes drawn with the shapes tool don’t have a fill colour. We hope that in the future, we’ll be able to add and remove fill colour from all our shapes in the app. You can change the colour and opacity of your shape. We’re always happy to see opacity options for shapes. Jnotes can resize, stretch, and shrink your shapes. You can also rotate them.

Photos

The app supports PNG images. You can add photos you take with your camera or those stored on your device. The app adds one image at a time, which can waste time if you have many photos to add. You can then resize or rotate your image. You can do both simultaneously, but doing one without the other is very easy. Cropping your images supports both rectangular and freehand crop. You can only select photos when the image tool is selected, which is a massive limitation for digital note-taking.

Stickers

Jnotes has a decent collection of free stickers. They are cute and make your notes fun. We were hoping our handwriting would stick to the sticky notes, though. So we look forward to having that ability in the future. Stickers are effectively images, so you can resize and rotate them. It’s annoying that we can select them only when the sticker tool is active. We hope the developers fix that because we can’t always go back to tools to select their items on the page. Tapping an image or sticker with a finger should select the object when we’re using the pen tool. You can also crop your stickers as rectangles or freehand.

Custom stickers are currently limited to images on your device. You can’t create stickers from handwriting or text like you can in most handwriting note-taking apps that support this feature. Stickers from images alone are not fun at all. You also can’t edit the default collections in the app, only the ones you create yourself.

Tape

Jnotes has cute tape with four options and size ranging from 0.4, which is very thin, to 24 pixels. Tape is mostly used for active recall to cover some parts of your notes that you want to learn. When you tap on it, it reveals the answer. The app can hide or show all your tape at once, which is super useful. Where typically, you’d have to tap to reveal and tap again to close; you can do that for the tape in your notes. It saves you some time and just the hassle of repeatedly showing and hiding each tape. You can erase the tape only; the eraser tool is selective for it. Are any of you guys using the tape for something else that is not active recall? If so, let us know in the comments so we can learn some creative ways to use tape.

Audio recording

We were excited to see pixel syncing for an audio recording feature in a handwriting note-taking app. While most apps have audio syncing, it’s not always to the pixel. Sadly, though, our excitement was short-lived because Jnotes does not sync to text and tapping on your notes does not skip through your audio playback. You have to use the timeline for that, which isn’t the most accurate way to find specific parts of your recordings. Jnotes also doesn’t have rewind and fast-forward options. But, you can change the playback speed. That’s something, right?

You can rename your recordings. When you merge audio recordings in a handwriting note-taking app, you expect the two to become one, but Jnotes has a mind of its own. There’s definitely plenty of room for improvement, but at least you can record audio along your notes without needing another app. We’ll take what we get.

Lasso tool

A selective lasso tool is the only type of lasso we should have in a handwriting note-taking app. Jnotes can pick up only your handwriting, highlighter, shapes, tape, photos, and text boxes. Naturally, you can also pick up different combinations of items from your notes. 

Though you can resize, stretch, or shrink specific items on a page, you can’t do that when you’ve selected everything on the page. Unbelievable! We should be able to rotate and resize everything at once. For now, you can only move your selection around the page, which is not enough considering that Jnotes can’t move even items across pages in the same notebooks.

Another frustrating issue with the app’s lasso tool is that you can’t freely tap and select different items like shapes, photos, or stickers. You have to select them with the lasso tool, or activate their respective tools on the toolbar. Even that works for a few items, which is simply too much work for digital note-taking. On a brighter note, you can take screenshots of your selection. The app isn’t selective for it, though.

For your handwriting, you can only change the colour of your ink. Both the rectangular and freehand lasso tools have the same options. There’s no need to have both in the app in that case. Which lasso tool do you guys prefer: rectangular or freehand? I am naturally inclined to use the freehand one.

Handwriting recognition

The OCR in Jnotes is not accurate at all, which is a shame because we like how the app can convert all the handwriting on a page without selecting anything. Of course, if you want to convert a few words, you can. But, however you look at it, you will have to spend a lot of time correcting the conversion. It is the worst OCR we have seen in a handwriting note-taking app. Coupled with the fact that it doesn’t automatically replace your handwriting with text, there is really no incentive to use this feature.

The ICR (Instant Character Recognition) is a lot better. It might take a second to convert, but it is more accurate and less work. You just have to get used to the thick pen tool. Your converted text goes inside a textbox, so you can edit it if there are any errors, but you won’t be doing that as often as you do with OCR.

Page editing

You can view all the pages in your notebook. Jnotes can display them as thumbnails of two different sizes or lists. We feel these probably look better on smaller screens. It would also be more useful if we could rename them because the page number doesn’t give us much information. The small thumbnails make the most sense of all the options we have in that app, not only do they display several pages on a single screen, they also give useful previews of the pages. 

The sidebar is resizable. You can make it as small or as big as you like within the app’s limits, of course. That is very cool, and we’ve not seen it in any other handwriting note-taking app. Jnotes can also display the sidebar on the right side of the screen, or in full screen if you prefer that. That is plenty of personalisation for how you view and edit the pages of your notebook.

Bookmarking pages helps you find important information faster. But what if you could add a few notes explaining why you’ve bookmarked the page? That is cool, right? If only! We were thrown off by the remarks label on the bookmarks. But, with only 60 characters, you can’t share much thought, so it’s simply a name. Jnotes does that a lot, actually. It’s probably a translation issue, but some of the app’s terminologies are off by miles. We still like the idea of writing paragraphs on bookmarks. It can actually be a useful feature.

You can rearrange the pages in your notebook and also add new ones. Jnotes supports different page templates in the same notebook, we expect nothing less. You can change the page template for all the pages in your notebook or for a single page. Jnotes does not rotate your pages. You just have to use a different page orientation, but it’s not the same as rotating a page now, is it?

In most cases, that would be a dealbreaker, but the app makes up for it in many other ways. You have two- and four-page views in Jnotes that support both horizontal and vertical scrolling. The two-page view makes a lot of sense for big-screen tablets, but only when you’re using horizontal scrolling. For vertical scrolling, you won’t appreciate them much. The app has both paged and continuous vertical scrolling. Paged vertical scrolling is annoying and confusing, we probably don’t need that option. Let us know what you think. Is page vertical scrolling useful? Do tell.

Linking pages

Hyperlinks in a handwriting note-taking app are awesome. Not many apps have them, and usually, we appreciate those that do. Jnotes can link to anything you add to your notes because everything your lasso tool can select has the option to create a link for it. You can paste that link anywhere in the same notebook in a text box. Like with everything else, navigating the hyperlinks is cumbersome in Jnotes due to the selection issues in the app.

Images and text boxes can link to pages in other notebooks, but you have to know what page you want to link to because the app doesn’t preview the pages in the notebook you’re linking to. That makes it difficult to use, and we hope the developers can let us see the pages we’re trying to link to.

Once you have created your hyperlinks, though, they are extremely difficult to navigate. Jnotes has the worst hyperlink navigation system we have seen in a handwriting note-taking app. Because of how it’s set up, the app can’t even navigate existing hyperlinks in your PDFs or digital notebooks, and that is a huge limitation that will frustrate you. Hyperlink navigation should be intuitive and easy, not something users need to figure out like it is rocket science.

Search tool

Jnotes can search through your documents. The result previews are not great, but it’s better than not having them at all. The app filters your results to focus on text, bookmarks, and outlines. Handwriting search is hit-and-miss like the app’s OCR. We can only hope that it improves over time, but you probably won’t rely on it much for now. The search results even show incorrect conversions. We have seen better search tools.

Presentation mode

For making presentations from Jnotes, you get a laser pointer that can be one of four colours: red, blue, purple, or green. The app also has a laser trail for drawing and writing on the screen if pointing is not enough. That’s pretty much all there is to the tool. Do any of you use these laser pointers to present from your note-taking apps? Do tell.

Exporting notes

Jnotes can export your notes as editable or flattened PDFs. Editable PDFs are great because they keep your hyperlinks and outlines active, and Jnotes can do that, which is surprising because you can’t navigate them in the app. It’s a pleasant surprise. The app takes time to create the export, which might test your patience. It’s the longest wait we’ve ever endured to export anything out of a handwriting note-taking app. So, exporting long documents might not be a good idea. You can also export a native document that remains editable when imported into Jnotes; that’s to be expected. The app can export specific pages out of your notes, but that option is not available for exporting PNG images. You don’t get any options at all when exporting PNG images out of Jnotes. Overall, the app has decent exporting options.

Organisation

The organisation within the app’s workspace starts with outlines that support sub-levels. Every note-taker loves nested outlines, right? The page numbers in Jnotes outlines are less distracting than those in Notein.

You can access the documents in your app without going to the homepage. The app can also search your notebook titles to find them faster. We love it when we don’t need to return to the homepage to open a new notebook or return to the workspace. This is standard in most handwriting note-taking apps, but it’s still unpleasant.

On the homepage, Jnotes has six cute colours for your folders and supports subfolders for more than five levels. That is more than enough for digital note-taking. Navigating the folders is unpleasant, though, because you have to ‘dig into’ them to get to your notes.

Syncing and backup

Jnotes can back up your notes to Google Drive or OneDrive. However, we have not seen any information about syncing across devices.

Android support

  • Jnotes can split view with other apps, but you can’t open it twice. You also split view within the app, but the app can’t split the same notebook. Coupled with tabs, switching the documents you’re split viewing is amazing. Tabs also work independently, and it’s impressive.
  • Dark mode changes everything in the app, even PDFs. But, when testing this, there were times this didn’t work, and we are not sure why. We are always happy to see true dark mode in a productivity app.

Planning in Jnotes

Jnotes lets you plan basic tasks like revision or reviewing documents in the app. You can name your task and add details to it, then add associated documents. The last action involves picking a date and time for the task before saving it to the app. We hope to get a better time picker in the future. This is such a useful feature for professionals and students alike. The app is supposed to add your tasks to Samsung Calendar, but some are not appearing. Each task has a useful countdown; you don’t have to worry about remembering the tasks.

Completed tasks are hidden from your incomplete ones but close enough to check them. The app ticks and strikes them off: justice for a completed task. The feature feels like a separate part of the app, though, and we can’t help but wonder if it would work better when integrated into our notes. It’s definitely our favourite feature in the app, and we hope to see it in more handwriting note-taking apps.

PROS

  • Supports 3D shapes
  • Create to-dos

CONS

  • Privacy concerns
  • Simple text boxes
  • Very difficult to navigate hyperlinks

Verdict for Jnotes

There are apps you love that you use every day for everything, and there are also apps you absolutely can’t stand or dislike. Then there is Jnotes. The app triggers no emotions, good or bad, because, for every feature that is almost exciting, there is something to water down that excitement before it even builds up. That, coupled with our privacy concerns, doesn’t build a reassuring case for the app’s developers. We also dislike how difficult it is to select and deselect icons and features in the app using your stylus. You have to get used to using your finger for all the interactions in the app for the best user experience, and that feels like too much work. Do you guys also feel the same?

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