The 7 best handwriting apps for iPad and iPad Pro

The iPad is an excellent handwriting tool, and the new Apple Pencil makes the iPad Pro superb for taking notes. Now you just need a brilliant handwriting app. Here are seven of our favourite iOS writing apps, and how to get more out of them.

by


  • Notes
  • Paper
  • Penultimate
  • Notability
  • MetaMoJi Note
  • 7Notes
  • 7Notes recognition
  • Mazec
  • More stories
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Best handwriting apps for iPad: Using Notes for handwriting

Apple's Notes app is a great starting point for handwriting on the iPad Pro. The default drawing tool is a pen, and you get a horizontal sheet of paper to draw on. One nice touch is the slight paper grain on each note (you can see this in more detail by pinching to zoom).

Notes is an easy app to use, but it has limitations and they quickly become apparent. The drawing tools are limited, and there's only one type of pen. You only get a single sheet to draw on, and can't expand it. You can't change the sheet of paper to lined or graph paper.

So while Notes is easy to use, there are plenty of excellent alternatives to check out as you'll discover here.

You might also like: Apple Pencil review

Read next: Best iPad & iPhone apps

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Apple's Notes app is a great starting point for handwriting on the iPad Pro. The default drawing tool is a pen, and you get a horizontal sheet of paper to draw on. One nice touch is the slight paper grain on each note (you can see this in more detail by pinching to zoom).

Notes is an easy app to use, but it has limitations and they quickly become apparent. The drawing tools are limited, and there's only one type of pen. You only get a single sheet to draw on, and can't expand it. You can't change the sheet of paper to lined or graph paper.

So while Notes is easy to use, there are plenty of excellent alternatives to check out as you'll discover here.

You might also like: Apple Pencil review

Read next: Best iPad & iPhone apps

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: Paper

Price: Free
Download: App Store

Paper is one of our favourite iPad Pro apps. Originally designed to work with FiftyThree's Pencil, the app has taken a wider lease of life since the Apple Pencil arrived.

Paper shares some of Notes' limitations: you can't expand the single sheet of notepaper, for instance. Even worse, it doesn't work in Split View mode so you can't take notes alongside another app.

But it has a much nicer selection of drawing tools, including a stylus that is much slicker to write with than the regular pen. You can also pick any colour you want, and create documents with lined and graph paper.

Paper is the one app here we'd want alongside Notes.

You can also use FiftyThree's stylus with this app, and many more. Here's our run down of the best styluses for iPad.

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: Penultimate

Price: Free
Download: App Store

Penultimate has the advantage of being integrated with Evernote, an effective Notes replacement all of its own. You can connect Penultimate with Evernote and create handwritten notes that are searchable within Evernote itself. This search ability is perhaps the most powerful aspect of Penultimate.

There are other advantages too; we especially like the way you can quickly add additional pages to your notes. And you can choose from a wide range of lined, graphed, dotted and preformatted sheets (such as a To-Do list or Day Planner).

While you only have one pen to choose from, you can pick from five different nib sizes. And you can quickly change the colour and highlight documents.

Penultimate is probably the most practical of all the options here. A solid choice for those who take lots of notes in a professional setting.

See also: iPad Air 3 rumours

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: Notability

Price: £9.99
Download: App Store

If you're looking for an app that's like Notes, but just a bit more powerful, then Notability is the one to go for. You can quickly jot down ideas, and while it has a few options for the pen, it doesn't overwhelm.

It's also very easy to customise the style of paper. While it doesn't have the choice of Penultimate, we think it's a bit more focused on what you might use (lines and graphs).

We quite like the ability to draw figures in a large, separate window and add them to graphics (that can be resized and moved). Notability also supports Apple's Split View mode, so you can use it alongside other apps.

It's less fussy than Penultimate, although not as quick and easy as Paper. On the whole it's a grand choice for those looking to recreate the experience of writing on a notepad. The only downside is the price, which is up against a range of free alternatives.

Read next: Best iPad cases and covers

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: MetaMoJi Note

Price: Free
Download: App Store

MetaMoJi Note is a lesser-known app for iPad that enables you to take handwritten notes.

The interface reminds us of a web browser, with tabbed notes along the top. The toolset is basic, but you can quickly access different coloured strokes and a highlighter.

It's very good at handling multi-note documents, however, and you can add additional notes using a sidebar. Like some other apps here it allows you to change the document's paper to graph or lined (man, we wish Notes would let us do this). A gold service allows you to download user-generated paper collections.

Note is an interesting app because on the surface it seems basic, and you only start to discover how detailed it is during prolonged use. It has a built-in cloud service; you can add objects and audio recordings and even create jump points and zooms for a presentation.

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: 7Notes

Price: Free
Download: App Store

7Notes is an app from the same makers as MetaMoJi Note, but it predates it. The old-style interface looks a little dated, but it is one of the few apps to feature handwriting recognition.

Unlike most of the note taking apps, you don't draw directly where you want the words to appear. Instead, you draw inside a box at the bottom, and your letters are then transposed into the note. This makes notes neater, and it's obviously much easier for finger-writing; but it does remove some of the accessibility of an app like Notes (where you draw directly on the paper).

We'll look at 7Notes' handwriting recognition capabilities in more detail in the next slide.

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: 7Notes handwriting recognition

Price: £7.99
Download: App Store

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of 7Notes is its ability to recognise your handwriting, and then turn it into typed text (that is easy to read and can be scanned and searched through).

As you write in the box, the words appear above it. Tap the correct word to select and insert it, or when you get to the end of the line, you'll add the whole sentence. We found it more accurate than we expected, given the scrappy nature of our handwriting. But it struggles with certain details, such as full stops and other punctuation.

Perhaps more importantly, the same handwriting technology has been added to a keyboard app with Mazec, our final pick.

 

Best handwriting apps for iPad: Mazec

Price: £4.99
Download: App Store

Mazec isn't technically a handwriting app. Instead, it's a keyboard app that recognises your handwriting and transcribes it into text. So you can scrawl your letters by hand, rather than type them.

Like 7Notes, the app that spawned it, Mazec is great at recognising text but less hot at punctuation. It's also a bit difficult to edit and change letters without going back to the keyboard. But it is great for spotting words and turning them into text, and can be used with any app.

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