Quick Look: ‘Note Taker HD’ is a Full-Featured Note-taking App for iPad

If you’re looking to go completely digital and do away with paper and ink pens to take notes and you have an iPad, the App Store has you covered when it comes to note-taking apps. One that’s always stood out in the pack to me has been Note Taker HD by Software Garden, which just received a significant upgrade this week to version 6.0 that includes a completely overhauled interface, better document management and more.

Note Taker HD first hit the App Store in May 2010 and it has earned an impressive 4-star average overall at the time of this post. It was created by Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of the VisiCalc spreadsheet program in the late 70’s. Yes, you have him and Bob Frankston to thank for laying the groundwork for Excel and other programs to make your number-crunching a little easier. Or, if spreadsheets are the bane of your existence, at least now where you know to place the blame.

Note Taker HD caught my eye because it was one of the first iPad apps that offered a zoomed handwriting feature as well as an auto-advance feature to allow you to write more quickly overall. The zoomed handwriting feature provides a small window at the bottom of the screen where you write and the text appears on the page above in a smaller size so you can fit more text on a page. The auto-advance feature mean that you can keep writing in a continuous line without constantly moving the text box that controls where what you write is shown on the page.

I realize that this is probably hard to visualize. Thankfully, Dan Bricklin realized this too and created a demo video to show how the app works, which is below. Note that this video is pretty long and if you want to skip to the section that showcases the zoomed writing and auto-advance features, skip to around 1:22.

I’ve found Note Taker HD to work very well. I try not to use paper notebooks anymore when I attend meetings or conferences and instead use my iPad and a capacitive stylus to take hand-written notes. The interface changes in the most recent update do give it a more polished look and the new document management features are very welcome.

There are several competing apps available in the App Store. I’ve tried Noteshelf by Ramki, which also has a zoomed writing feature though no auto-advance, as well as Cocoa Box Design’sĀ Penultimate, which has no zoomed writing or auto-advance features at all. Another app that nearly matches Note Taker HD‘s feature set is Viet Tran’s Notes Plus, which actually improves on the auto-advance feature a bit with an additional feature that automatically moves the text entry box to the next line once you’ve reached the end of the current line.

If you’re a full-time student or a professional who attends a lot of meetings and you prefer to take handwritten notes digitally, Note Taker HD is an excellent, full-featured app you’ll want to get. If you’re not sure that Note Taker HD is the write note-taking app for you, Software Garden also offers a Note Taker Lite app (for the iPhone but it will install on an iPad) which will at least give you a general feel for how Note Taker HD works though it has significantly fewer features.


Note Taker HD

Last Changed: 17 weeks ago
Rating: 3.50 (15)
Version: 6.11.3
iOS iPad

One of the first note taking apps designed specifically for the Apple iPad, Note Taker HD has long been known as a powerful and stable application for writing and organizing handwritten notes and...



I agree, Note Taker HD is the one to beat. It is comprehensive, most stable, supports easy and customizable PDF export and import, and also ‘Open in’. Still, its auto-advance should be as good as Notes Plus’. šŸ˜€

However, the app with the most features is Underscore Notify but it has long stayed idle with no updates.


Yes, I have both this one and Note Plus, and Note Plus beats Note Taker HD. I can not only write down the notes at the meeting, but I can also record the meeting and that recording is attached to my note. Now who is daddy?


I have both Note Taker HD and Notes Plus, as well. Each is a very powerful app and each is well designed, imo. By the same token, however, I’ve found that each requires a significant learning commitment to compete with another note taking system I’ve used for many years. It involves a pen and a legal pad.

That’s not a criticism of either app. The act of handwriting on the iPad is at best awkward and I suspect I’m not alone in trying to make my handwriting look better (and be more readable) than that of a seven year old. But just as learning to write as a child involved major, long-term skill development. So does the use of the apps.

In terms of a learning curve, I have to say that, at least for me, Note Taker HD presents a less daunting challenge. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found learning to use the app (and to use it quickly and without “thinking” about what to do next)to be much easier than was the case with Notes Plus.

Others may not agree, of course. And though it’s not a critical issue for me, the audio recording feature of Notes Plus could be a major plus for some. For me, though, a note taking app has to be as simple and efficient as a writing instrument and a piece of paper. And while I haven’t yet achieved that objective with either of the apps in question, I’m closer and have made progress more quickly with Note Taker HD.

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