Noteshelf is a handwriting note-taking app by Fluid Touch Pte. Ltd. It is available for iPadOS, iOS, macOS, Android, and Windows. It costs $9.99 for your iPad and iPhone, $7.99 for your macOS and $5.18 for Android. All these are one-time purchases, not subscriptions. We paid for the second version of the app, but all updates for version 2 have been free.
Creating digital notes
To get started in Noteshelf, you can create the following:
- Quick Note to quickly get started with a single tap.
- Notebook when you have time to customise every detail about your notebook.
- Audio Note is another quick-start option. It doesn’t automatically start recording your audio, though, which is kind of what we expected.
- Import from Photos, Apple Watch, and Files (Import Document)
- Scan Document
Noteshelf has plenty of page and cover templates. Joining the Noteshelf Club unlocks even more templates, all of them free. Each paper template can either be portrait or landscape. You can also choose the paper size for your notebook from several options. Noteshelf has an interesting paper sizing system that uses device sizes. It’s unique and certainly helps you appreciate the paper size you’re using.
For your basic paper templates, you can choose the line spacing you want for your note from four options. You also get several paper colour options. In Noteshelf, you can save custom paper templates to the app’s library by importing photos or documents from Files.
You can choose to auto-backup the new notebook, sync it to Evernote, or enable a password for it. You can use Face ID to unlock your notebooks, which simplifies your workflow. Your notebook is ready for taking notes. Finally, you can name your notebook, and you’re ready to start taking notes.
Noteshelf has two types of pen tools and one pencil tool. It has two ballpoint pens and a calligraphy pen. The difference between the two ballpoint pens is their opacity. Otherwise, they look and feel the same. The ballpoint pen in Noteshelf is still one of the best you’ll get in a note-taking app on the iPad.
Each pen tool has nine fixed pen sizes, but you can also pick sizes between those fixed points, which is awesome. It’s the first note-taking app we have seen to have both systems in place. You can easily customise the default colours for your pen tool. You can pick a custom colour by entering a HEX code or use the different Palettes the app already has. Deleting and adding colours you don’t need is also very simple. You can also rearrange the colours.
Your favourites toolbar is smaller and more mobile. You can move it around the page and place it on any side of the screen. You can also choose to show or hide it whenever you like.
The handwriting experience in Noteshelf has improved drastically. It no longer lags, and the app’s handwriting representation is the most accurate we have seen in the app since we first reviewed it a few years ago. The app has had handwriting-enhancing effects in the past, which seem to have worn off. Your handwriting in the app now looks the same as the one on paper.
Every note-taking app must have a pencil tool. It’s fascinating how a pencil, even with digital note-taking, writes better than a pen tool.
Noteshelf has two types of highlighters, which both go behind your ink. Layering your highlighter doesn’t dim your notes. It has six fixed sizes, and like the pen tool, you can pick any size between the fixed ones. It also has similar colour customisation options to those for your pen tool. You can turn on the option to use a straight highlighter for neater highlights in your notes.
In Noteshelf, you can save pen, pencil, and highlighter tools as favourites and choose to show the favourites toolbar to easily access them. The app doesn’t limit the number of tools you can save, we gave up trying at 15 favourites, still with plenty of open slots. Your toolbar has the option to auto-minimise when you don’t need it. You can put it on any side of your iPad screen.
The zoom tool in Noteshelf can be helpful for writing on plain paper because of its line spacing and margin options. You can switch the buttons on it, customise the margin and line spacing, and turn on auto-advance. The auto-advance feature in Noteshelf is brilliant. It is easy to follow, which makes for a pleasant user experience. When auto-advance is off, you can manually move the tool with the navigation arrows on its toolbar. The window also has a pen, highlighter, eraser, and shapes tools, making them easier to access.
By default, the eraser in Noteshelf erases per pixel. It comes in three fixed sizes, with an option to automatically determine its size depending on how you use it. You can choose to erase per stroke by turning on that option. It can also erase the highlighter only. You can clear the page to erase all the annotations you add to it.
Noteshelf adds your text to a text box that disappears when you stop typing. You can also add it to colourful sticky notes. The app has plenty of fonts to choose from, and if you still need more, it supports custom fonts. Learn how to add those to your iPad here. It displays a Preview for you to see how your text looks as you change it. Previews save a lot of time, especially when you work with text most of the time.
You can make your text bold, italic, or underlined, and select a colour. You can set your changes as the default for all notebooks you’ll create in the app. Noteshelf also saves favourite text styles, which you can access from the keyboard toolbar. The app does not limit the number of styles you save. You can rename, delete, and reorder all your favourites, even the default ones.
The indentation tools are handy for creating lists. Noteshelf doesn’t have a lot of numbering or bullet point options. It only has two that keep recurring. You can add interactive checklists to your notes. The checkboxes are difficult to see on some paper colours. When you complete a task, the app only checks it off. At least the app supports lists, which is better than nothing. Lastly, you can adjust the alignment of your text.
The lasso tool in Noteshelf can pick up everything on the page. You can then:
- Cut, Copy and Delete
- Resize and rotate
- Take a screenshot to share it out of the app.
- Change the Colour of both your ink and text
- Convert to Text
- Bring to front
- Send to back
You don’t need to select the shapes tool to draw shapes anymore. You can now long-press to transform your shapes when using either your pen or the highlighter tool. Noteshelf recognises regular and irregular shapes. Once drawn, you can’t edit your shapes (neither can you auto-fill them) in Noteshelf. For 2022, the shapes tool in Noteshelf is too basic.
Adding items to your notes
You can add photos from your camera or Photos library. Noteshelf can add up to five photos at once, and it supports PNG images. Drag and drop works faster, but in Noteshelf, you can only use it to add photos to the app, not move them to other photos. You can do the following with your images in Noteshelf:
- Edit to crop or erase parts of the image.
- Lock them on the page to avoid moving them with your lasso tool.
- Bring to the front or back of other items on the page.
You can also add stock images from Pixabay or Unsplash and insert photos from Files.
Audio recording has become an industry standard over the last couple of years. In 2022, most note-taking apps support the feature. The app does not sync your audio to your notes, though, which makes the tool in Noteshelf very basic.
You can adjust the audio playback speed to 0.7x, 1.5x, or 2x. You can pause, export,or delete the recording.
You can easily add emojis to your notes in Noteshelf. You can bookmark your pages. Your bookmarks can be colour-coded, which might be handy for research. You get eight colours for your bookmarks. You can also name your bookmarks. It’s easy to find the documents you bookmark in Noteshelf.
Tags in Noteshelf are still not universal; they are limited to notebooks, which makes them a lot like bookmarks. In fact, bookmarks are more useful in Noteshelf than tags. Tags only work if they are universal for the whole app.
You can add a new Page with a similar page template or select a different template. Noteshelf, therefore, supports different page templates in one notebook. New pages can be photos, scans, or imported documents.
Noteshelf imports documents from Files, all of them as PDFs. The app will convert .ppt and .doc to PDF first before you can annotate them. You can also scan documents with the iPadOS scanning engine. You can search through your scanned documents and those you import from elsewhere.
Noteshelf converts your handwriting to text with a single tap. The converted text has the same colour as your ink. The app supports 50+ languages for OCR, which is a lot for a handwriting note-taking app. You can edit any conversion errors in the preview window. Your text font size can either be the Default size (according to your text tool) or Fit to Selection (determined by your handwriting size). You can copy and paste your conversion to paste elsewhere or replace your handwriting with text.
Noteshelf can search through your handwriting and scans. Search results are filtered according to:
- PDF Table of Contents
You can also use these options to navigate through your documents. You can edit the pages of your documents. Once you select pages, you can then:
- Move pages to different notebooks.
Noteshelf supports multiple instances, so you can open one notebook twice. You can also open more notebooks in slide over.
Noteshelf, like most of our top note-taking apps, doesn’t support true dark mode. It only switches the colours in your user interface. For a true dark mode experience, you have to use dark paper templates.
Scribble works in Noteshelf. If you prefer handwriting your notes instead of typing, you’re covered in Noteshelf.
Most note-taking apps are decent PDF readers because of their annotation tools. Noteshelf recognises contents pages in PDFs, which is a must-have for PDF reading. You can’t tap hyperlinks when your pen tools are active; they only work in reading mode.
Noteshelf’s presentation mode is now easier to spot. It can hide your user interface when doing presentations for a distraction-free screen. It also has a laser pointer now, with three colour options. The trail pointer in Noteshelf is permanent, unlike what we’ve seen in other note-taking apps. You have to clear the annotations to erase them, which might be useful in some circumstances.
You can export the:
- Current Page
- Selected Pages
- All Pages
You can export your notes as a PNG, PDF, or Noteshelf format. Exporting PNGs is best for single pages because the app zips multiple pages. HD images are at least three times larger than lower-resolution ones. You can also name your exports and include the notebook title and page number when sharing your notes out of the app. For PDFs, you can also include your page templates, and the app automatically exports active hyperlinks. The .noteshelf format only opens in Noteshelf. You can also export your notes to Evernote.
Noteshelf has some settings for your notebook within your workspace. You can:
- Change the Page Template
- Rotate Page
- Skip to a specific page
- Change the scrolling direction. Noteshelf supports vertical and horizontal scrolling for your notebooks.
- Turn on the zoom window
- Disable your stylus or pick a different one. You can turn on pressure sensitivity and customise the double tap on the Apple Pencil 2.
- Lock the notebook
- Backup to different cloud services: Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and WebDAV. You can also turn on the option to sync with Evernote.
- Get information about your notebook: title, created, updates, category, page number, page updated, and dimensions.
The left sidebar houses all your folders in the app, you can toggle it away for the old Noteshelf look. The app organises the sidebar into sections for:
- My Noteshelf contains your folders in the app. Noteshelf appears to have a two-level organisation system: Categories (containing folders) > Group notebooks. However, you can create groups within groups of notebooks. It is not similar to creating folders, but the organisation setup is effectively the same.
- Pinned notebooks
- Recents for documents you recently opened.
Long-pressing a notebook pops up a menu to:
- Open the notebook
- Open in New window to open it in a new instance.
- Pin Notebook
- Change Cover
- Move to Trash
For your grouped notebooks, you can only open or rename the group. You can select multiple documents to:
- Change Cover
Noteshelf can change the cover on many notebooks at once. You can also rename your notebooks with the same title, and the app will create versions with that title.
Universal search searches through all your documents in the app. Noteshelf takes a few seconds to search and display results, which are organised according to the documents they are in. Scrolling through the results is inconvenient and wastes a lot of time.
- Choose your user interface colour
- Show the date on your notes on the shelf
- Handwriting to choose your writing style and handwriting recognition language.
- Cloud and Backup
- Advanced turns on/off:
- Quick Access Gesture
- Thumbnail Gesture
- Disable Hyperlinks When Writing
- Lock Notebook In Background to automatically password-protect notebooks after inactive for 2 minutes in the background.
- Disable iPad auto-lock will drain your iPad battery if you forget to turn off your iPad screen.
- Available on Android and Windows
- Publish to Evernote
- Unlimited favourites for pens & text
- Add stock images from Pixabay & Unsplash
- 50+ OCR languages
- No drag & drop out of the app
- No collaboration
Noteshelf is a great note-taking app, especially because it is the only app in its category trying to go beyond the Apple ecosystem. While apps like Notability have completely ignored other operating systems, Noteshelf is embracing them. We ought to applaud them for that! If you want an app for taking notes and free basic digital planners, consider getting Noteshelf.