Noteful for the iPad (2022 review)

Noteful is the app that finally replaced Notability in my workflow. That is something no other app has been able to do since I went paperless, back in 2017.

PROS

  • cheap
  • customisable and moveable toolbar
  • tags & folders
  • audio recording
  • page layers
  • nested outlines

CONS

  • no handwriting conversion
  • can’t export outlines

Rating: 8.5/10

Pricing & supported OS

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 (with some limitations) that you can try first before purchasing it.

Creating digital notes

It is very easy to quickly get started in Noteful. When you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, you can start taking notes with a single tap. You can determine the defaults you want for your quick notebooks, templates you frequently use.

New notebooks

When you have a bit of time on your hands, you can customise every important aspect of your new notebook. You can:

  • name it.
  • add tags. Noteful uses tags for organising your notes, which are much better than folders.
  • pick a paper template from your recently used paper templates, or go to all the templates in the app. You get different kinds of paper templates:
    • basics
    • storyboards
    • music
    • others.

These can either be portrait or landscape and of any three colours: white, beige, and black. You can choose a page size; A3A5, Letter, Legal, and Tabloid.

If you don’t want to use any of these templates, you can import your own. Noteful can import .doc, .ppt, and PDF files. All the types of documents you import are first converted to PDF. You can even import multiple documents. The app will import them as separate documents. That way, you don’t waste time importing one document at a time when you need many.

User interface

The user interface in Noteful is minimalist. It doesn’t have too much going on, and it looks modern. Exactly what you’d expect from a note-taking app in 2022. By default, the toolbar is on the left side of your screen, which works. That is why we have left it there. However, you do get an option to move it to any side of the screen you want. You can also move your tab bar to the bottom if you prefer that. For an even more minimalist look, you can turn off your iPad’s status bar.

You can also customise your toolbar to determine which tools go on it. This ensures that you only keep tools you use on your toolbar, which helps with decluttering the app.

Pen tool

Noteful has three types of pen tools; ballpoint, fountain, and brush. All have a size range from 0.10 – 5mm. The app allows you to save five favourite pen thicknesses. These are more than enough for most note-taking needs.

Your colours go below your tools in the app. This toolbar currently has eleven colours, and there seems to still be room for more. At least ten colours for a colour palette are usually enough. You can easily adjust any of the colours using the grid or wheel. They recently added a colour picker and Hex code. Those are all the colour-selecting options you need for a note-taking app. You can also add more colours to the palette and even rearrange them if you like.

Noteful uses vector ink, which does not pixelate when you zoom in. It would help to know how zoomed in we are on pages because this app has insane zooming capabilities. Displaying a percentage zoom would make our lives easier. It does indicate when you fit a page to the screen size, which we’ve found useful when zooming out.
The handwriting experience in Noteful is awesome. There is no lag; palm rejection is perfect.

Highlighter tool

Your highlighter has a size range of 1-10 mm. It has a different colour palette (which makes sense), and it goes behind your ink. Even if you layer it, it does not dim your text.

Shapes tool

The shapes tool, under the plus icon in Noteful, works more like stickers. Just tap on the shape you want, and it’s added to your notes with a single tap. You can also draw your shapes directly on the page. Noteful supports both regular and irregular shapes, which you can adjust after you’ve drawn them. You can easily resize and rotate your shapes in the app. You can also style them to your liking, by changing the:

  • border colour, thickness, and type
  • fill colour: it can be opaque or translucent.
  • opacity of the entire shape.

At the moment, your shape border and fill can only be the same colour. We hope that in the future we’ll be able to have different colours for them.

Eraser tool

Your eraser tool has five fixed sizes. It can erase per stroke or pixel. The pixel eraser is not very accurate, though. It needs a bit of work. You can set it to erase the highlighter only. Noteful also has an option to erase notes around your shapes without erasing the shapes themselves. It’s quite handy. Auto-deselect immediately switches you back to the tool you were using before the eraser. You can also clear everything on the page with one tap.

Zoom tool

The zoom tool in Noteful supports auto-advance but doesn’t have a dedicated setting to turn it off. To turn it off, you have to decrease the auto-advance section until it’s barely noticeable. A page margin sets the starting point for auto-advance, in case you don’t want to start writing your notes from the very edge of a page.

You can also manually move the zoom tool using the navigation arrows on its toolbar or just position it where you want it. Your zoom window toolbar can also house your writing tools, which can switch positions with your navigation arrows.

Noteful can move your zoom window to the top of your screen, which could help left-handed writers. It also supports Right-to-Left writing for auto-advance. We haven’t seen either of these options in any other note-taking app.

Text tool

Your text goes in a text box, which disappears when you stop typing. You can:

  • change the colour of your text
  • make it bold, italic, underlined, or strikeout.
  • style your text box by picking its:
    • background colour
    • text box style
    • text box border thickness
    • opacity of the text box and its text. Let’s hope that in the future, we’ll be able to save some of our favourite styles.
  • resize and rotate the text box

You can add web links to your notes. It underlines them and makes them blue. To open one, long-press the link to get a prompt to open it. We’re happy because we couldn’t do this all along.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool in Noteful can pick up specific items on your pages; handwriting, highlights, text boxes, images, and shapes. You can also pick any combination you like. Whatever you pick, you can:

  • take a screenshot and you can determine the size of the image. You can export the image anywhere you like.
  • drag and drop the screenshot out of the app
  • resize and rotate
  • cut, copy and delete
  • style works best when you select one item at a time; text alone, for example.
  • move your selection across pages.

Adding items to your notes

At the moment, you can’t add a lot of items to your notes in Noteful. We hope that changes as we get more updates for the app.

Images

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 & drop them into the app from anywhere.

You can then crop your images freehand 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 the colour of your frame. Noteful has opacity options for your images, which we absolutely love.

Audio recordings

You can record audio while taking handwritten notes in Noteful. We hope the feature will also extend to text in the future. Most users prefer syncing their audio to handwritten notes, which the app has covered. Your recordings are organised according to the date and time you recorded them. You can rename or delete them. You can also export out of the app.

During playback, you can rewind or fast-forward 10 seconds at a time. You can now skip through the audio by tapping sections of your notes. You can speed up your playback or slow it down.

Tags

You can tag your pages in Noteful. When the tag you want is not there, you can easily create a new one. The app adds your tag to the page, which you can edit anytime. We hope in the future we could play around with our tag colours. Colour-coded tags would be helpful.

The awesome thing about tags in Noteful is that they are universal, you can access them for all the notebooks in your app. They are an easier way to bookmark pages you want to quickly access from the home page. You can place your tag anywhere on the page, somewhere you can spot it while scrolling through your notes.

Page layers

Layers offer a smart way of creating digital notes that we haven’t yet explored. It might seem difficult at first, but once you understand it, it’s an excellent way to create notes, especially study notes you wish to revise.

You can name your layers, so you know what each layer contains. You can easily delete all the information on a layer for the entire notebook or just the page you’re on. It’s good to have both options. You can delete the layer, which deletes everything on that layer, and lastly, Noteful can merge your layers. When you don’t want to see the information on a specific layer, you can hide it. Let us know what you’ll be using layers for in your notes.

iPadOS support

  • Multitasking: Noteful supports multiple instances. You can, therefore, open the same notebook twice. You can open multiple tabs, which opens even more documents at once. Multiple instances and tabs are the ultimate multitasking combo.
  • Scribble could be a workaround for those who need handwriting conversion in the app. At the moment, Noteful does not support handwriting conversion, but Scribble can fill that gap.
  • Dark mode: like most note-taking apps on the market, Noteful does not support dark mode. Your best shot at it would be to use the app’s dark paper. That means your paper and ink stay the same when switching between different modes.
  • Gestures: Noteful has unique gestures that you can choose to turn off in the app’s settings. You can tap with two fingers to undo (tap NOT swipe). Then tap with three fingers to redo. These override the default three-finger swipes for iPadOS. If you’re used to those, then you can ignore this. The single taps are better, though. They are easier to use and offer a better user experience.

Navigation

You can view all the pages of your document. In Noteful, you can adjust the thumbnail of each document using the zoom gesture. Zooming out fits more pages on one screen, making it easier to scroll through them. Zooming in allows you to see the details of your pages, in case you’re looking for something. You can then:

  • insert a new page from any template
  • copy a page for pasting
  • rotate your page. Noteful has proper page rotation, which rotates your ink as well as your page.
  • tag a page
  • delete
  • extract a page to create a new notebook, which creates a copy of the page in that new notebook.

You can select multiple pages to copy, rotate, tag, delete, extract, or share. You can also rearrange your pages in this window.

Outlines

Noteful can recognise document outlines in your PDFs. The app also lets you create your own outlines for your document, even if it means adding to an already existing one. Another cool feature in Noteful is that you can nest your outlines. A lot of you guys have asked us about an app that can nest your outlines, perhaps it’s worth switching from GoodNotes. Let us know; if you need to nest your outlines, is it worth changing your note-taking app? Do tell!

Unfortunately, at the moment, Noteful does not export your documents with their outlines. So if exporting outlines is a big part of your work, you might want to wait a little bit.

Bookmarks

You can bookmark your pages with a single tap. Noteful then gives you an option to Rename your bookmarks or delete them. You can rearrange your bookmarks if you like.

Three-dots icon

Under the three dots icon, you can change the Paper template for the currently opened page. Noteful, therefore, supports different page templates in a single notebook. You also have the option of changing all the pages in your notebook.

You can search your notes in Noteful (just text). The app displays your search results (and their pages) on a pop-up sidebar. You can then scroll through to see what you’re looking for.

You can skip to specific pages in your document if you know the page number. Pinning pages makes them easier to access on the homepage. You won’t be wasting time scrolling or navigating your document to find pages in the app. Simply pin it and pick up where you left off when you return.

Draw with Touch lets you draw with your finger, meaning you can use passive styluses in the app.

Homepage

The app’s homepage displays your tags and folders on the left sidebar. You can create hierarchies by dragging and dropping folders into other folders if you prefer the folder feel. It’s easier to understand how your folders are related to each other. Your pinned notebooks and pages are at the very top.

Universal search in the app is currently limited to your notebook titles. We hope that in the future we’ll be able to search through the contents of our documents as well. Your notebooks can display as lists or thumbnails, and you can sort them by date or name.

Selecting multiple documents gives you options to share, duplicate, edit the tags, or delete them. Noteful is a minimalist app with very few settings. You can turn on iCloud sync and auto backup. A note-taking app needs both. At the moment, you’re limited to using Google Drive only. We hope to see other popular cloud services in the future. For your backup, you can choose to include/exclude some tags, and your backup can either be the Noteful format or PDF.

Noteful is an amazing note-taking app for the iPad, one we don’t hesitate to recommend. Our team loves it, and we prefer it to Notability or GoodNotes.

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