How to Take Notes on an iPad With a Pen Stylus

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Taking notes on your iPad with a stylus requires a handwriting or drawing app that supports a smooth virtual ink flow. Several apps are available, each with varying features. For example, Penultimate is a highly rated choice for drawing and handwriting because it has extremely responsive virtual ink flow, but it does not have many other features. Apps such as Notes Plus, PaperDesk and SmartNote let you hand write with a stylus but also support typing or even audio notes. WritePad and PhatPad both support handwriting-to-text conversion for your handwritten notes, and Evernote may add this support soon.

Things You'll Need

  • Handwriting or drawing app
  • iPad stylus
  • Download a note-taking app from the App Store and allow it to install on your iPad, if you have not done so already.

  • Read the in-app instructions to find out how to move around between pages without affecting your handwritten notes. For example, normal swipe gestures for scrolling may be taken as pen input when you are in handwriting mode, so you may need to use two-finger swipes or other gestures to navigate.

  • Read any other in-app instructions that describe your app's handwriting input functions.

  • Locate the app's "wrist guard," "palm pad" or similar feature. This is a feature that lets the iPad respond to your stylus input while ignoring the pressure of the side of your hand resting on the page as you write in a natural position. Turn the feature on or position it as necessary, depending on your app's internal instructions.

  • Hold your stylus as you would a normal pen or pencil and rest your hand on the wrist guard/palm pad area if one is specified. Only iPad-specific styluses may work on the iPad. If you have a stylus for certain smartphones with reactive rather than capacitive touchscreens, those styluses will not work for the iPad.

  • Write your notes as you normally would with a pen. Some apps have a handwriting input panel that allows you to write in large strokes, and then shrinks the notes to a more compact, readable form. Try using that feature for the clearest handwriting results if your app supports it.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice writing notes several times to get used to the feel and the results before you use the iPad to take notes at important meetings. If you are unsure about your handwriting's legibility, consider using an app that records sound notes as well, linking them to the writing on the page. With these apps, you record as you write. Then, you can play back the sound and tap anywhere on the page to rewind or fast forward the audio playback to what was said as you wrote that note.
  • Not all iPad styluses are the same. You may need to try a few before finding one that works well for you. Ask a staff member at a store that sells iPads and accessories to let you try out a stylus on your own iPad or a demo model.

References

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