Noteful is the app that finally replaced Notability in my workflow. No other app has been able to do that since I went paperless in 2017.
Noteful is a handwriting note-taking app for the iPad and iPhone by Noteful Technologies Ltd. It costs $4.99, a one-time purchase and has a free version you can try before purchasing it. You can also use the app on M-series MacBooks, but not on Intel ones.
Creating new notes
Creating new notebooks is intuitive in Noteful. The app has many page templates with customisation options for colour, size, and orientation. Page colours are no longer limited, and you can now save custom templates to the app’s template library. Where most note-taking apps can only save single pages, Noteful can save complete documents. We can now save our digital notebooks in the app (with all the pages, hyperlinks, and all). How fantastic is that?
We already loved the app’s user interface (UI); the moveable toolbars and tabs are awesome. In 2023, we can now choose to have a dark or light toolbar. How do you feel about the white toolbar? I’m having a hard time getting used to the light toolbar. As if the app wasn’t minimalist enough, we can now add and remove tools from the toolbar. Simply turn off features you don’t use.
Noteful has three pen tools: ballpoint, fountain, and brush pens. All have a size range from 0.10 to 5mm. The five thicknesses we could save before were decent. Even better, though, is that we can now save our favourite pens on the toolbar, making them accessible with a single tap. The colour palette now doubles as a favourites toolbar. That is a commitment to minimalism! Don’t you just love it when developers add more features without adding more icons? Noteful uses vector ink, which does not pixelate when you zoom in. We’re still waiting for the app to display the zoom percentage on our pages.
To further improve how our pen writes, the developers have added more features that we can play with for the best handwriting experience. Pressure sensitivity is a common feature that we have seen in many apps. It makes the pen tool sensitive to how lightly or hard you press on the Apple Pencil on your iPad screen when you write. It makes writing in the app fun and more natural.
The width option lets you choose the thinnest your fountain and brush pen get at the tips of your letters. You can also make your width smooth, and we are still to figure out exactly what it does. Perhaps it just doesn’t work with my handwriting. Pressure and width options are only available for your fountain and brush pens. Your ballpoint pen does not have those options.
The only feature common to all the pen types in the app is motion smoothing. It adds a pleasant elastic feeling to your ink, which makes handwriting in the app amazing. With all these options for the pen tool, Noteful now has the best handwriting experience you will get on the iPad. The trick is to just figure out which options work best for you.
You have two types of highlighters in Noteful: a freehand and a straight one. Both have a size range of 1–10 mm and go behind your ink, so they don’t dim your notes even when layered.
The handwriting experience in Noteful is awesome. There is no lag, but palm rejection has not been perfect. Sometimes, your zoom changes when you rest your palm to write, which can be annoying. The zoom tool sort of makes it better.
The eraser tool erases per stroke and pixel. It also has five fixed sizes and can selectively erase highlights and shapes. You can auto-deselect it to automatically revert to the tool you were using before the eraser.
Like zooming, the zoom tool in Noteful has an impressive range. It supports auto-advance and has a page margin and toolbar that you can customise. The app also supports left-handed and right-to-left writing. We haven’t seen those two options in any other note-taking app.
Adding items to your notes
Noteful supports regular and irregular shapes, which you can adjust after drawing them. You can easily resize and rotate your shapes. The app lets you change the border colour, thickness, and type for your shapes. It also supports autofill, even if it shares the same colour with your border. We are still waiting for the option to make the two different. Lastly, you can adjust the opacity of the entire shape.
Tape is a handy tool for students or anyone trying to learn something. It lets you cover a part of your notes and reveal the answers with a single tap. The tape in Noteful comes in three types. You get your freehand, straight and rectangular one. Chances are, you will find one that works for you. You can then choose the size for it from 5 options and a pattern, which is basically its colour. You can even use custom colours for your tape, if you like. The eraser is also selective for the tape. So, you can erase only the tape without deleting your notes. We love that because it makes it easy to correct mistakes, in the case you cover the wrong part of your notes.
Your text goes into a text box that disappears when you stop typing. You can change the font, its size and colour. Formatting makes your text bold, italic, underlined, or strikeout. Noteful also styles your text boxes to add background colour, change border thickness and style, or even adjust its opacity. You also get alignment and line spacing options. Text boxes in Noteful are fun to play with.
You can resize and rotate your text boxes. The app can also save one favourite style for the text box. We look forward to saving more styles in the future. The app supports web links to your notes, though they are not well dressed. At least you can add web links, it’s better than not having the feature at all.
Images and stickers
Images are a must-have for a note-taking app. Digital notes are just not complete without diagrams, right? You can add images from Photos, take some with your camera, or drag and drop them into the app from anywhere. You can then crop your images freely or as a rectangle. Resizing it gives you rotation options as well. You can add a frame to your image. The frames look cooler with freehand-cropped images. You can also determine your frame colour and the opacity of the images.
Noteful supports the stickers features in iPadOS 17. You can add stickers using the text box feature by accessing them from the native keyboard. This means you can use any stickers that you have purchased to use on your iPad in Noteful, without a problem. The stickers are easy to add. You can resize and rotate them. All that makes for decent stickers.
You can record audio while taking handwritten notes in Noteful. We’re still waiting for the developers to extend the feature to text. You can rename, delete, or export your recordings out of the app. Playback can rewind or fast-forward 10 seconds at a time, as well as speed up or slow it down. You can also skip through the audio by tapping sections in your synced notes.
You can tag your pages in Noteful. Tags in the app are universal. You can access them for any notebook. They are perfect for bookmarking pages you want to access from the home page.
Layers are easily our favourite feature in Noteful. They add a layer of complexity to digital notes that we love. We’ve compared them to flashcards, but they can be so much more! The ability to compartmentalise notes has many applications.
The lasso tool in Noteful can pick up specific items on your pages; handwriting, highlights, text boxes, or images and shapes. You can also pick any combination you like. It is exactly what you would expect from a lasso tool in 2023. You can also take a screenshot of your notes, group them or arrange them. The app can put items in front or at the back of other items on the page. For your handwritten notes, you can change their colour.
- Multitasking with multiple instances can open the same notebook twice. You can also open multiple tabs to read even more documents at once.
- Scribble is the only handwriting conversion you get in the app.
- Dark mode still does not convert your pages. When switching between dark and light modes, your paper and ink stay the same.
For faster navigation, you can view all the pages of your document. Zooming out fits more pages on one screen, making it easier to scroll through. Zooming in lets you see more details to confirm the pages you’re looking for. You can select multiple pages to copy, rotate, tag, delete, extract, share, or rearrange them. Noteful supports both vertical and horizontal scrolling.
Noteful can recognise and edit document outlines in your PDFs. The app also lets you create your outlines from scratch, which you can nest. This feature will be perfect once we can export the outlines we create.
With outlines and tags, you probably won’t need bookmarks as much. The app still has them, though; you can name and arrange them if you like.
Noteful only searches through your text. It does not search through your handwriting. The app displays your search results (and their pages) on a pop-up sidebar. That’s the most ideal way to display search results, isn’t it?
Universal search on the app’s homepage searches through your notebook titles and tags. We’re still waiting for the ability to search through the contents of our documents as well.
Noteful organises your notes with folders and tags, both of which support infinite organisational levels. You can pin notebooks for easier access, and they can display as lists or thumbnails. You can resize your thumbnails, which is cool. The app auto backs up to Google Drive only in two different formats. You can choose to exclude some tags from your backup.
- tags and folders
- page layers
- nested outlines
- save PDFs to app’s template library
- no handwriting conversion
- can’t export active hyperlinks
Noteful is our team’s go-to note-taking app, and we absolutely love it. However, its lack of handwriting conversion and search might put some note-takers off. But it has a free trial, so you can try it before purchasing.