iPads are terrific note-taking devices. They're light and easy to use, and now with the iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad mini and regular 9.7in iPad all supporting one or other Apple Pencil, everyone can use handwriting to record their thoughts.
There are lots of different apps out there that let you write by hand on an iPad, with each having different abilities and advantages: from proper integration with iOS to converting your handwriting to a typed letter. Here, we've rounded up the pick of the crop to help you find the right note-taking and handwriting app for you.
If you're thinking of buying an iPad soon, there are now several models to choose from, so take a look at our iPad buying guide to see which one suits your needs. We've also got articles outlining the best iPad apps for Apple Pencil and the best iPad stylus for drawing.
Apple's Notes app is a great starting point for handwriting on the iPad. The default 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, with only a single type of pen, pencil and marker respectively. 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 you can download, as you'll discover in the rest of this article.
Paper is one of our favourite iPad Pro apps. It shares some of Notes' limitations: you can't expand the single sheet of notepaper, for instance. But it has a much nicer selection of drawing tools, including a stylus that offers a slick writing experience. You can also pick any colour you want, and create documents with lined and graph paper.
In truth, Paper really shines when you use it to create sketches and drawings, plus there's the ability to pull in photos, crop them using the Pencil, and make impressive collages.
There's plenty on offer in the free version, but if you want to expand the palette then you can pay £5.99/$7.99 to move up to the Pro tier.
Penultimate has the advantage of being integrated with Evernote, an effective Notes replacement all on its own. You can connect Penultimate with Evernote and create handwritten notes that are searchable within Evernote itself.
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 pre-formatted 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 one of the most practical of all the options here, but it hasn't been updated in a while now, which is something of a concern. Hopefully this will be rectified soon. Regardless, if you're an Evernote user then it's definitely worth a go.
If you're looking for an app that's like Notes, only 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, with lines and graphs on offer, plus you can drag and drop images into the note and resize them. We quite like the ability to draw figures in a large, separate window and add them to graphics (which can also be resized and moved).
Notability supports Apple's Split View mode, so you can use it alongside other apps, and even offers that ability to have two notes open side-by-side.
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, considering it's up against a range of free alternatives.
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, 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, but it can be quite pricey, with a single month costing £4.99/$4.99, while the app itself costs £7.99/$7.99 to purchase.
MetaMoji Note is an interesting app because on the surface it seems basic, and you only start to discover how detailed it is after 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.
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.
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.
It costs £12.99/$12.99 for the English version of the app, with additional costs of £9.99/$9.99 for other language packs such as Spanish, German, Japanese and Italian.
MyScript Nebo is a handwriting and note-taking app that works with Apple Pencil. We haven't had a chance to test it out for ourselves, but its quality speaks for itself; it has won several accolades in the past few years including the App Store Best of 2016 and Best App 2017 CES Mobile App, and was featured on the 2018 Best App charts on the App Store.
MyScript Nebo can convert your handwriting into text, so you can easily format your notes into titles, paragraphs and bullet points. You can also convert handwritten equations into editable typed text, draw interactive diagrams and export notes as PDF, HTML or Word files.
You can sync your notes to iCloud, Google Drive, or Drop Box, so long as you sign up for a free MyScript account.
The app costs £7.99/$7.99 and is well worth exploring if you want to mix handwriting and text recognition with your iPad.