Best iPad Pro and Apple Pencil note-taking apps for 2018

If you’re planning on doing some PDF annotation and form-filling on your iPad Pro, you can do one or two with Apple’s built-in Markup extension in iOS 11 — but for more comprehensive annotation tools, you’re going to want a dedicated app to help you out. There are lots of great ones, but PDF Expert’s iCloud syncing and advanced markup features make it fly to the top of my list.

Best PDF markup and annotation apps for iPad Pro

You can open up PDFs from iCloud or pretty much any other online service with the $9.99 PDF Expert app, fill out forms, and sign documents; you can also work with items with a digital pen, shape tool, underline, strike-thru, or highlighter option, as well as create “stamps” for often-used wording. All of these changes, after saved, are not only fully editable in PDF Expert, but in apps like Adobe Acrobat and Preview — so you can move from Mac to PC and back again with your iPad.

PDF Expert also lets you edit the structure of PDFs themselves: You can rearrange pages, delete sections, extract parts of the PDF, and even add new blank pages to your documents. Once you’re finished with a PDF document, you can even zip it (or multiple documents) with PDF Expert’s built-in compressor, and password-protect crucial documents.

Should you want to further tinker with your PDFs, Expert offers a $6.99 Pro upgrade in-app that allows you to physically edit the text, images, and links inside a PDF, as well as redacting information.

If you need handwriting recognition, get MyScript Nebo

If you need on-the-fly handwriting conversion, Nebo is the best app out there.

Forget mere note-taking: If you want your scribbles converted to text, you’re going to need an app that supports handwriting conversion. We’ve come a long way from the Newton and egg freckles, but the apps available for such things are still few and far between. Apps like Notes and GoodNotes scan your text for search purposes, but don’t offer outright handwriting recognition. In contrast, there are apps like MyScript Nebo, which offers full handwriting-to-text conversion.

MyScript has been a big name in handwriting recognition for years (including a handwriting recognition keyboard), but the $2.99 Nebo app is the company’s first attempt at an app designed for Apple Pencil and iPad Pro, and it’s excellent. It’s simple enough to use and offers a silky-smooth digital pen tool in multiple colors. In addition, users can add photographic and video content, diagrams, and equations alongside handwriting or digital text.

Nebo’s notebooks can be converted a paragraph at a time or as a full notebook; those conversions are entirely non-destructive, too, so you can preserve the handwriting if the type conversion isn’t perfect. You can also export notebooks as text, HTML, PDF, or Word documents. Sync is available through MyScript’s proprietary service, but unfortunately not iCloud.

Even without iCloud support, however, Nebo is still the best app on the store for handwriting recognition.

iFontMaker lets you make your own handwriting

iFontMaker is great, even if you’ve never built a font before.

Okay, so this isn’t technically handwriting, but it’s not quite drawing either — it’s somewhere in the middle. If you’ve ever looked at your handwriting (or someone else’s) and thought “That would make an awesome computer font,” you’re in luck. The $7.99 iFontMaker app lets you create gorgeous hand-built fonts and install them on either your iPad or on a Mac or Windows PC of your choice.

All the tools you might be used to in a desktop typography program are there, including free-hand drawing, vector curves, and support for pretty much every character available to type online — including glyphs for several Asian languages.

iFontMaker doesn’t officially support the Apple Pencil, but I found no hindrance toward using it with the accessory; on the contrary, even without pressure sensitivity, it’s an incredible tool.

If you’ve ever dreamed of creating your own font, give iFontMaker a go: I built my own font in a few hours. I bet you can, too.

Other apps we tested

Leave a Reply