Nebo complete for the iPad (2023 review)


  • On most operating systems
  • Best handwriting-converting engine
  • Mixes handwriting and text
  • Supports 66 OCR languages
  • Useful gestures
  • Custom dictionary
  • Actual backup


  • No support for multiple instances
  • You can’t drag & drop images
  • No recycle bin

Rating: 8/10

In 2023, Nebo is still the best handwriting-converting note-taking app for anyone who needs instant character recognition (ICR). Its technology converts your handwriting to text in real time as you take your notes. It’s the perfect note-taking app to take to meetings, especially if you need to share the notes with colleagues who prefer not to deal with your handwriting.

Supported OS

Nebo is available on Windows, iPadOS, Android, and ChromeOS. Its cost differs depending on the OS you’re using. You can access your notes on pretty much any device you pick up, which is perfect if you don’t want to be limited to a single ecosystem.

Creating digital notes

In Nebo, you can create three types of notebooks:

  • notes for freely writing your thoughts on an infinite canvas
  • documents for structured Word documents. They can convert all your handwriting to text in just a few taps.
  • PDFs for annotation.


Documents, in Nebo, are ideal for structured content. They are a way to handwrite Word documents, for those that dislike typing. The document paper template is lined, with a few page colour options. You can adjust the font size and line spacing to make widen or narrow the lines of the page template. For what Nebo is used for, those options are enough.

Pen tool

You can handwrite or type your notes, in Nebo. The app supports the use of both active and passive styluses. An active stylus is easier to work with, though. You can mix handwriting and text in your words, sentences and paragraphs. It’s a cool feature we’ve only seen in Nebo. For your handwriting, you have three pen types with six fixed sizes. You also get a testing window to try the different pen options, without wasting time going back and forth from your notes.

Handwriting in Nebo feels smooth, and it doesn’t lag. The app perfectly captures how your handwriting looks on paper, and it can recognise the most illegible scribblings. That is something we love about Nebo. You don’t have to put too much effort into your handwriting when you want to convert it all.

Nebo’s instant character recognition (ICR) lets you preview your handwriting conversion in real-time. You can correct errors as soon as you spot them. If the preview annoys you, have the option to turn it off.


The app might struggle with converting some technical terms for subjects like medicine, pharmacy, engineering, etc. The dictionary helps the app to learn those technical terms to improve your conversion in the app. The only problem is, you can only add one word at a time. We’re still waiting for the ability to add multiple words all at once.  


Nebo’s smart highlighter makes highlighting important parts of your notes a breeze. We love how it transforms to look uniform throughout your notes (no matter how thin or thick your highlighter is). The size options for your highlighter don’t seem to matter, in Nebo.


You can erase individual letters, (even for cursive handwriting) or pixels at a time. Your eraser has six fixed sizes, and it works on both handwriting and text.

Items you can add to your notes

You can add lists, photos, sketches, diagrams, equations, and note sections to your documents.

Multi-level lists

Multi-level lists are very easy to create, in Nebo. They are much simpler to indent in Nebo than they are in word processors. The app supports a decent number of bullet points and numbering options that you can just write yourself, which means you can mix bullets and numbering as you please. The downside to this flexibility is that the app can’t automate your numbering/bullet points like a word processor does.

You can also add checklists to your note, which you can tick off but the app won’t dim or strike them out. Checklists feel incomplete, in Nebo.


Sketches are for items you don’t want Nebo to convert, or those you know the app can’t convert. Mixing hand-drawn sketches with typed notes in your documents is cool, and there’s a place for it. So we love the fact that they have this feature in the app.


Diagrams, ideally are drawings you want to convert. This feature recognises most regular shapes and some irregular ones, arrows and curved lines. Irregular shape recognition has improved, but we’re still getting some errors in 2023. We’re also still missing auto-fill options for our shapes in Nebo.

Equations & photos

Nebo converts maths and chemical equations using LaTex, which will work for basic to intermediate maths problems. The app can also solve your Maths problems if you like, simple maths of course.

You can also add photos from your Photos library, or take one with your iPad camera. Photos have a lot of limitations in Nebo, especially the fact that you can’t rotate them.

Note section

The note section is a smaller canvas like the one you get with note pages in the app. It, therefore, has similar properties and features to those of the infinite canvas, which will cover in a bit.

Lasso tool

For all the items you add in Nebo, you can resize and rearrange them in your notes. The lasso tool for your documents in Nebo is really just a text selector for formatting your text or handwriting. It, therefore, lets you format your selection to make it bold, underlined, struck out or highlighted. It can also indent it, and change the colour of your ink. We’re still waiting for a Hex code system to help us pick more accurate colours in the app.

Converting your handwriting

You can choose to convert small paragraphs at a time, or the whole document at once. It helps to think of documents, in Nebo, as word processors of sorts. That is why it has options to create paragraphs, titles and subtitles (something you’d typically see in a word processor). Taking notes in documents is so flexible, you can even add space between sentences.

Search tool

You can search both your handwriting and text without any problems. The search tool in Nebo is very simple. Navigating long documents, though, can be a bit of a problem.

Sharing your notes

Nebo can export your notes as plain text, PDF, .docx or Nebo format. The best options to share notes with others, who don’t have Nebo, are using PDF and .docx. So those are the options we’ll focus on. You don’t have any control over how your exported notes look, in Nebo, because the app doesn’t have any distinct page sizes. I find the app fits too little information on pages, leaving too much blank space. That’s the best possible outcome. If you have diagrams and sketches, you risk having them cut off at the most inconvenient places. That is more annoying than the blank spaces.

For your PDFs, you can export your handwritten notes without converting them to text. The handwriting remains searchable in other note-taking apps, like Noteful. How decent is that? Word documents exported out of the app also remain editable in word processors.

You can share your notes via the internet by creating a link for them. Your notes can either be public (anyone with a link can view them) or private. Your colleagues can either view these notes on the web or download a copy of them. You can easily update any changes you make to your notes. Sadly, for now, this remains a one-way sharing channel. People can only view your notes, but can’t collaborate with you.


Initially, when the notes pages were introduced, they were basic and only good for brainstorming ideas. In 2023, however, they can do so much more. The infinite canvas expands in all directions, giving you an endless page to write on.

New notes

The app has four page templates, with eight colour options for them. There are no line spacing options, but line spacing is affected by how zoomed in you are on the page. It’s difficult to understand how line-spacing works in notes pages. The zoom range varies from 30 – 400%. We love that you can now lock your zoom, and not have to worry about it changing while you’re taking your notes. The 150% zoom level seems to have the most ideal line spacing.

Writing tools

Zooming also affects your pen thickness. Trying to strike a balance between line spacing and pen thickness using the zoom tool is the worst pen customisation we have experienced in any note-taking app.

Once you’ve written your notes, you can still change their colour, but nothing else. You can use the smart highlighter that straightens out to make your highlights look neat or use the freehand one. Both go behind your ink, so they don’t dim your notes. You can layer the freehand highlighter, but not the smart one. Nebo now lets you erase just the highlighter only, which is great.

Adding items to your notes

You can add photos and text boxes to your notes. Nebo supports PNG images that you can resize, shrink or stretch. We would love the ability to rotate and crop our images as well. You can format your text to make it bold, underlined, double-underlined, struck out or highlighted. You can also change your text colour and size. Nebo has never had font options, so that’s not surprising to see.

The app supports different kinds of lists; numbered, unnumbered and checklists that you can add levels to. Checklists still need some work, because ticking the check box alone is not enough. The app should at least dim or strike out completed tasks. Both would be better to have.

Notes pages in Nebo also support shapes; regular, irregular, straight and curved lines as well as arrows. Drawing lines and arrows for mind mapping is especially difficult, though. The app makes errors that keep reappearing even after you’ve fixed them, which is frustrating. You also can’t do much with most of your drawn shapes except resize, shrink or stretch them. We hope to see the flexibility we have with straight lines on all our shapes as well, especially irregular ones. We managed to adjust one shape, though.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool can pick up everything to move or resize it. You can’t rotate it, though. Picking up images, shapes and text boxes alone is easy. Even though the lasso tool has no selectivity options, you can pick up handwritten notes even when they are very close to other items on the page. Nebo can also pick up single words from text boxes, which is a cool feature we haven’t seen anywhere else. We are not sure how useful it is, though, but we love it.

You can convert your handwriting to text, or copy to paste it as text, sketches, maths and diagrams to your Nebo documents. It helps if you’re using the notes pages for brainstorming.

When you need more space to write, simply add it between already existing notes. This is not the only gesture you have. You can also make your text (or handwriting) bold and the eraser gestures work.

Search tool

The infinite canvas makes it easy to spot search results, for small notes. We’re still to test this on bigger canvases. Nebo highlights your results so they are easy to spot on your page. The app searches through both your handwriting and text. It doesn’t search through words in your images, though. It’s a bit of a limitation.

Final thoughts on notes pages

Nebo is evolving into a unique note-taking app, and we’re excited about that. However, the zoom, shapes and pen tools still need some polishing to improve our user experience in this part of the app. To be a full-blown handwriting note-taking app, Nebo is still missing a few features but we’re thinking they might not be necessary. Do you think the current features in Nebo’s notes pages are enough to take decent handwritten notes?

Import PDF

Most of us were hoping Nebo would convert our handwritten annotations to text. That was probably the reason why this was one of the most requested features on our wish list for 2020. Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out that way.

You can only use your pen tool, highlighter and eraser to annotate your PDFs. Most PDFs don’t come with extra space around the edges for annotating. That is the first challenge you will face annotating PDFs in Nebo. Unless your PDF already has plenty of room for you to write on, Nebo’s not the app you want to use for PDF annotation.

The highlighter for your PDF annotation goes in front of your text, which dims it. For digital notes, it’s better when the highlighter goes behind the text. This PDF annotation feature is still too basic; you can’t even use any Nebo gestures. A lot is still missing for a full PDF annotation experience.

For freeform pages & PDFs

Both your PDFs and freeform pages have similar options for the three-dots icon except for convert all because they don’t convert your annotations and notes, respectively, to text.


You can sync your notes in Nebo via iCloud (if you’re in the Apple ecosystem), Dropbox or Google Drive (if you use multiple platforms). You still need a MyScript account to sync your notes. Nebo uses both your cloud storage & MyScript account.


You can manually back up your notes to a location of your choice; locally on your device or to a Cloud service. Manually backing up notes is not ideal; auto backup is much better because you don’t have to worry about forgetting to back up your notes.

Learn about syncing and backing up your digital notes.

The homepage


The app has a three-level hierarchy system. It has:

  • Collections: folders containing folders
  • Notebooks: folders containing pages
  • Pages for your topics/notes on the right. 

Long-pressing a page lets you: 

Nebo pagesFreeform pagesPDF
Export astext, HTML, PDF or WordPNG, PDF or SVGPDF

For Notebooks and Collections you can Edit, or Delete

Exporting multiple topics

You can Select pages, to pick multiple topics for exporting out of the app. You can choose to export them as Text, PDF, Word or Nebo formats if you’re exporting Nebo pages (the pages that convert your handwriting to text). When exporting the Freeform pages, you can choose one of these formats: PNG, PDF, SVG and Nebo. Only PDF and Nebo formats are common among these formats, so those are the only two options you get when you choose to export a combination of Nebo and Freeform pages. 

Export FormatNebo pagesFreeform pagesCombination
Export options for sharing multiple topics out of Nebo

You can choose to Combine into one file to export all your selected topics as a single document and you can name it. You can also export multiple documents separately and individually at once; separated. That is efficient and will surely save us a lot of time. You can Preview your documents before exporting them; a feature we’ve not seen in any note-taking app


Nebo remains the best handwriting recognition app on the market in 2021. It solely focuses on OCR whereas most apps offer it only as a feature. If handwriting recognition and conversion are a big part of your note-taking style or if you struggle reading what you’ve written two weeks down the line, consider getting Nebo.

Check out Nebo’s updates through the years

3 thoughts on “Nebo complete for the iPad (2023 review)”

  1. I like your reviews on note taking apps. Very precise & comprehensive. My favourite app is notability but agree that it is not very good on the organizational level. With iOS 14 apple notes might become the app I’ll use the most due to handwriting recognition, but it lacks organization ability. OneNote is probably the most comprehensive note taking app, however that is its downfall too. It can be too difficult to use for quick notes

  2. I just bought this app.
    – automatic handwriting recognition is excellent
    – generation of latex code of equations is perfect
    – everything else.
    Only one font is available for text !
    Export as PDF does not allow you to control the format of the page: equations or drawings that spread over 2 consecutive pages and are cut in 2 parts
    Export to text only exports the text part, not the latex code for equations.
    Rather than buying this app, I recommend to use its free online demo version.

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