Complete: Noteful Beginner’s User Guide (iPad)

Noteful is the app that replaced Notability in our workflow. This Noteful user guide will help you get the most out of the app on your iPad, but if you prefer watching videos, you can find the Noteful video course here. More free courses for different productivity apps are available on our YouTube channel: Paperless Humans.

FAQs

Is the Noteful app free?

Noteful is free to try before buying. To remove the limitations of the trial version, you need to pay $4.99 once (it is not a subscription). You can get the app here.

Can you type in Noteful?

Yes, you can add text inside text boxes.

Does it have handwriting recognition?

No, Noteful does not convert your handwriting to text. It also can’t search through your handwritten notes.

Does Noteful create smaller files than GoodNotes?

Yes, Noteful creates files that are smaller than what GoodNotes creates. However, they are not as small as the ones in Notability.

Does it have a macOS app?

No, but M-series MacBooks can use the iPad version.

Is Noteful on Android?

No, it does not have an Android app.

Does Noteful support stickers?

Yes, it does. You can even create custom ones from your images and handwritten items on the page.

Getting started (beginner)

Supported OS

Noteful requires iOS/iPadOS 14.3 or later and/or macOS 11.0 or later on a Mac with an Apple M1 chip or later. It is not available for MacBooks with Intel chips or any other operating system. You, therefore, can’t use it on Android, Chrome, or Windows.

Orientation

The left sidebar contains your folders (top) and tags (below). The right column displays the notebooks in the selected folder or tag. Both folders and tags support an infinite number of organisation levels (folders within folders or tags within tags). You can use just folders, tags, or both to organise your notes.

New folders

Select any folder from the top part of the left sidebar. The option won’t show if you select a tag > go to the plus icon (bottom right corner) > New Folder and name it. Tap Create to save your folder.

New notebooks

Once your folders are ready, you can create a new notebook to start taking notes. Go to the plus icon (bottom right corner) > Notebook and name it. Under Tags, the app lists all the tags that you have used before. If you don’t have any tags or just want to create one, start typing > +New Tag. Think of these as folders, and they become easier to appreciate. You don’t have to add a tag if you don’t want to.

When picking a Paper Template, Noteful displays templates you’ve recently used. To access all the templates in the app, go to the three-dot icon to choose the orientation of your notebook (very top of the window), Background Color from three options, page size, and page template you want. Tap Done when you’re happy with those settings. You can still choose the Background Color, orientation, and page size without going to the three-dots icon. To start taking notes, tap Create, and Noteful adds the notebook to the folder you have selected and opens it for you.

User interface

Now that you’ve created a notebook, there is just one more step we recommend doing before you start taking notes in Noteful. That is, customise the user interface to give it a personal touch. By default, you have your tabs at the top of the app and your toolbar on the left side. But you can move these around. To move your toolbar, simply go to the three-dots icon (right corner) > View tab > choose the position of the screen you want it on under Toolbar Position. It can be at the top, on the right, or at the bottom of your screen. Personally, I like it on the left side, so I will move it back there.

Next, you can choose where your tabs go under the Tab Bar Position. Usually, right-handed people prefer it on the right, while left-handed ones love it at the bottom. If you want the app to look more minimalist, you can turn off the Status Bar to remove your iPad’s status bar. This displays the time, date, and battery level of your device. When using your iPad, it’s important to always have that information readily available at the top. So I tend to keep it turned on. You only need to do this once. That is why we thought to get it out of the way, so you can use the app in a way that’s most comfortable for you.

Writing tools

Noteful has three important tools that you can use when handwriting notes in the app: a pen, a highlighter, and an eraser.

Pen tool

The pen tool has three types: ballpoint, fountain, and brush pen. The best way to know which one works for you is to simply try them all. For example, I prefer the brush pen because it makes my handwriting look pretty. The next thing to do is customise your pen sizes. I follow simple logic for this. The first pen size is the thinnest, and the second is the one I use daily. It is neither too thick nor too thin. Again, this is a trial-and-error thing, where you have to try a few sizes before you find what works for you. For me, that sweet spot is 0.35mm. You can also use another thicker pen for headings to give them the “bold” effect and make your headings and topics stand out a bit. In Noteful, you can save up to five thicknesses on your toolbar, and adjusting them is fairly simple.

At the bottom of the toolbar, you have a colour palette that you can adjust according to your preferences. This is where you put your favourite colours (the ones you prefer using for your notes). To adjust your colour, tap it twice (if it’s not already selected). If it is already selected, simply tap on it once. Noteful has several options for picking colours. The first one uses the Grid, which has a lot of colours. It is the least accurate way of choosing the colours, though. The Wheel lets you adjust the colours a little, but it’s still difficult to choose precise colours.

For accurate colours, we prefer using the Hex code. If you know a colour’s hex code, you can simply enter it > and tap OK. This can be too technical for some, though. That is why we love the Colour picker. Simply tap on it to pick a colour you want from your page. This is our favourite option! You don’t have to find or learn hex codes; you simply pick from what you see. While you’re still on this pop-up, you might not want to change your colour but add a new one. To do that, simply tap the plus icon on your colour palette and then adjust the new colour using the Grid, Wheel, Hex code, or Colour picker. To delete a colour from your colour palette, long-press it > Delete. Note that thickness and colour options work the same for pens and highlighters in the app.

Highlighter

The highlighter tool is slightly different from the pen tool because you only get one type of it. Like your pen tool, though, you can save up to five thicknesses. Your highlighter has two modes: a freehand one (how you highlight is how it appears). It tends to look untidy, but if that’s the look you prefer, then you’ll love it. For neater highlights, turn on Draw Straight Lines on your highlighter tool. This straightens out the highlights and makes them look neater, no matter how you draw them. Information is easier to digest when you can highlight the important parts.

Eraser

The eraser tool has five fixed sizes that you can’t adjust. You can choose what your eraser deletes by switching on or off the options below your eraser size options. Turning on Erase Whole Line lets you erase entire strokes. A stroke is all the inking drawn or written in a single stroke, without lifting your Apple Pencil. Strokes vary in size; some are small, and others are much bigger. This option, when turned on, will let you erase a stroke at a time, regardless of how big it is. To erase smaller parts of drawings (pixels at a time), simply turn off the option: Erase Whole Line.

Noteful can erase your highlighter only when you turn on the option to Erase Highlight Only. It doesn’t need work on straight highlights. You can also choose whether or not to erase shapes (turn on Erase Shapes), which lets you erase the shapes and handwriting on your page. To erase straight highlights, turn on Erase Highlight Only and Erase Shapes. Lastly, you can choose to erase the tape in your notes by turning on Erase Tapes.

Add items (intermediate level)

Under the plus icon, you can add shapes, audio recordings, tags, images, tape, and text boxes to your notes.

Text

The old way of adding text to your notes in Noteful is by using the plus icon > Textbox. Now you can also add the text box to your toolbar to make it more accessible if you use the feature often. All the text in your app goes inside text boxes, which is perfect for a handwriting note-taking app. It makes it easy to mix your handwriting with text.

To start typing, simply tap inside the text box if it’s already selected (or double-tap when it’s not selected). In Noteful, you can type your text with the keyboard, or use Scribble to handwrite your ideas for instant handwriting conversion. Scribble is an iPadOS feature that you can turn on or off in your iPad settings > Apple Pencil > turn on/off Scribble.

Once you have typed or handwritten your text, you can resize the text box to fit it on the section of the page you want it on. The top of the keyboard has several features to make your text boxes more fun. To make any changes to your text, you have to select it first. You can choose to select everything in the text box, or just a few words, to format your text to make it bold, italic, underlined, or strikeout. You can also change your font size, type (Noteful supports custom fonts), and colour of your text (round icon next to Aa icon). Lastly, you can change your text alignment.

The square icon on the keyboard toolbar lets you customise your text box. You can also access similar options by simply tapping the text box > Style. For your text boxes, you can choose the Text Color, Background Color, Style, Border Size, and Opacity. To see the background colour of your text box, you must first choose a text box Style otherwise you won’t be able to see the changes you’re making. Noteful has five styles:

  1. solid border, with opaque fill
  2. solid border with a transparent fill
  3. solid border, with no fill
  4. dashed border, with no fill
  5. dotted border, with no fill.

Once you have chosen your style you can now choose the Background Color for your text box. In Noteful, your text box’s border and fill colour are the same, they can’t be different. You can remove the border of your shape, or make it one of three sizes. Your text box Opacity can range from zero (invisible) to 100%. Tapping the text box brings up a pop-up menu with options to Cut or Copy for pasting the text box somewhere else. You can Resize your text box and its text (using the dots on the four corners). You can also rotate the text box. Delete removes the text box from your page.

Selecting words in your text also brings up a pop-up menu. For a single word, you can Cut or Copy for pasting anywhere you want. You can also Replace the word with one of the suggested ones. LookUp searches for the meaning of the word from the system dictionary and you can even Translate to other languages. You can Search Web in your default browser. Speak lets the iPad read out the word. It can even Spell it out for you. Lastly, you can Share to export the text out of the app. Selecting multiple words has similar options (with just two missing: Replace and Spell).

Shapes

You can add some simple, fixed shapes. Go to the plus icon > Shape > choose a shape you like from the available options. This method has a limited number of shapes that you can add. That is why it is better to use the second method, which lets you draw the shape freehand. To activate freehand drawing for your shapes, in Noteful, go to the pen tool > three-bar icon (bottom of popup window) > turn on Draw and hold, then set the time for the Delay. We recommend setting it between 0.7 – 1.0 seconds. This determines how long you have to long-press to transform your shapes when you draw them.

For your freehand drawings, you can use either the pen or highlighter tool. Draw the shape and keep your Apple Pencil pressed against the screen (long-press) until the shape transforms. With this method, you can draw any shape you like (regular or irregular shapes, and even curves). Unlike the first type of shape, you can still modify this one after you’ve drawn it. Simply move the marked points on the shape, until you have your desired shape.

Both shape types have similar styling options. To style a shape, tap on it > Style > modify it. Like your text boxes, your shapes have five styles:

  1. solid border, with opaque fill
  2. solid border, with a transparent fill
  3. solid border, with no fill
  4. dashed border, with no fill
  5. dotted border, with no fill.

You can determine your shape’s colour. Shapes in Noteful have one colour for the border and fill. You can also adjust the border thickness, but the options are limited. When you need thicker borders for your shapes, it’s better to use a thicker pen tool. You can choose to remove the shape border altogether.

Noteful also lets you adjust your shape’s opacity. To resize your shapes, tap on the shape to bring up the popup menu > Resize. The corner points on the shape let you resize your shape, while the whisker (line with a dot on it) lets you rotate the shape. There are several ways to move your shapes on the page. You can use the lasso tool, which is the easiest. Just select the shape and move it. Or tap the shape and touch its border to move it. For filled shapes, you can also touch the fill to move it. And lastly, you can tap the shape, go to Resize and touch anywhere in the resize box to move the shape

Images

Notes look great with images. In Noteful, you can add them from your Photos library or iPad camera. Go to the plus icon, go to Image and choose a picture you want, then tap Add (top right corner). You can add many images at once; that way, you can save time. These get stacked on top of each other, so you must move them around once in the app.

Another way to add photos to Noteful is to split view your screen with Photos (or any other app where your images are stored), then drag and drop the image into the app. You can also take a picture with your iPad camera by going to the plus icon and then Take Photo. If you don’t like the picture, you can Retake it. Use Photo to add it to your notes.

When you use photos a lot, you can save these features on your toolbar, which will allow you to add photos in fewer steps. We will cover the details of customising your toolbar later. Noteful supports PNG images. Those are images without a background. They look better in the app because they give the impression that you drew them in the app. Once added, you can resize your photos, using the corner points on them. Tapping an image brings up a popup menu with options to Resize, Style and Crop your images.

Resize not only resizes your image but also lets you rotate it using the whisker. But now, you no longer need to go to Resize to get resizing and rotation options for your images. Crop removes sections of your image that you don’t want. You can crop the image as a Rectangle if you prefer regular crops. Freehand allows for irregular crops that you hand-draw yourself. When you make a mistake and want to select a different section for your crop, you can reset the crop using the icon on the bottom left corner of the screen. Once you’re happy with your cropped section, tap Done to save the changes.

Style adds frames to your images by taking the shape of your crop. To make it more visible, start by choosing a Color for it. You can choose any colour you like, for your frame. The app has two colour options in this popup window. Tap on the colour palette icon to choose more colours. Your frame can be one of three thicknesses, and you can choose to remove it altogether. Lastly, you can adjust the opacity of your image.

Tape

The highlighter tool now houses the Tape, which has three types: straight, rectangular, and freehand. The straight and freehand ones both have five fixed sizes, but you determine the thickness of the rectangular one. All tapes have many colour options (under Pattern). 

Tape helps with active recall, where you use it to cover parts of your notes for revision. As you attempt to learn the taped information, you can tap the tape to reveal the answer. Tap it again to cover it. To remove the tape from your notes, configure the eraser to erase the tape (eraser icon > turn on Erase Tapes). Care not to erase your notes.

Audio recording

Noteful can sync your audio to handwritten notes only, it does not sync to typed notes. To start recording, tap the microphone icon on the toolbar > tap Record. A small red dot appears (to replace the microphone icon) that starts counting the recorded seconds, minutes, etc. Tap it to stop your recording when you’re done. 

The microphone icon shows the number of recordings in your notebook. Tap on it to see all your recordings. To play one, simply tap on it. The synced parts of your notes become dim when you start playing the audio. You might need to scroll a bit to find the sections you want, or simply tap your notes to skip to the audio you need. A playback timeline appears at the top of your screen. It has options that let you rewind or fast forward 10s. You can change playback speed under the three-dots icon (far right corner of the timeline) to 0.75x if you want it to slow down, 1x for a normal speed, and 1.25x, 1.5x, 1.75x or 2.0x to speed up.

Tapping the three-dots icon on a recording (under the microphone icon) gives you options to Rename your recording, Delete it or Export that one recording as an audio file . You can also Export All the audio recordings as individual files. The app tells you the number of files you are exporting. 

Note: audio recording stops if you join voice/video calls, or when you close the app. But, it continues (undisrupted) when you switch to other apps without closing Noteful.

Tags

In Noteful, tags can organise your pages in the workspace of the app, and notebooks on the homepage. To add a tag to your page, go to the plus icon > Tags and select the tag(s) > tap Done. You can then move the tag to where you want it on your page. Tapping on the tag brings up a popup menu with options to Cut, Copy and Delete the tag. Edit Tags brings up the tags if you want to change them, or organise the tags in the app. To organise them, go to Manage Tags to delete the tags from the app (minus-red icon) or rename them (circled-pen icon on the right side of the tag). Tap Done to save the changes.

To create a new tag (in the popup window, tap plus icon > Tag) start typing it in the search bar > tap + New tag to create your new tag > Done to add it to your page. Tagged pages appear on the homepage, under the appropriate tags. Noteful tells you the page your tag is on, and you can go straight to it from the homepage. Tags are the best way to bookmark pages you want to access faster.

For your notebooks, tags can act like folders. To add them to your notebook, go to the three-dots icon on a notebook > Edit Tags > select the tags you want. To add levels to a tag, simply use the forward slash (/). Tags like this: Medicine/1st year/Anatomy/Lectures will have a hierarchy like this:

  • Medicine
    • 1st year
      • Anatomy
        • Lectures

Another advantage of tags is that one notebook or page can belong to many tags, making your organisation a lot more flexible than what you get with folders.

Zoom tool

The zoom tool lets you add tiny handwriting to your pages. Tap the zoom icon (bottom left corner) to bring up the zoom window. You can then adjust the zoom level by grabbing the blue triangle (bottom right corner of the zoomed section). Grabbing the grey toolbar will let you create a bit of room below the window for your palm to rest. When you’re happy with the zoom level, you can start writing your notes. 

By default, the zoom tool has a toolbar with some writing tools on the left: a pen, highlighter, eraser, and lasso. You also get the undo icon and navigation arrows on the right for moving the zoom window. But auto-advance works better. Simply by writing over the blue section (which you can adjust), you automatically move the zoom window to the next section on the page. That way, you can avoid moving it yourself by using the arrows. You can also just grab the window and place it where you want it on the page.

Under the settings icons (on the zoom window toolbar), you can customise a few features for your zoom window. Margin determines where your auto-advance window starts on a new line. When using auto-advance, the tool will only start from your margin (independent of the margin on your page template). You can remove your writing tools by turning off Show Writing Tools or moving the navigation arrows on the toolbar to the left. The Button Position determines which side they’re on.

It’s possible to remove the zoom icon from the app, go to the three-dots icon on the tab bar > Options tab (right one) > turn off Zoom Window. The zoom tool itself might not even be that necessary, because you can simply zoom in and out of your pages in Noteful.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool can help you pick up items on your page to rearrange them. Noteful has freeform and rectangular lasso tools that both work the same. Which one you use comes down to your personal preference. Tapping the lasso tool once selects it for use in the app. Double-tapping it will bring it up a popup menu. If the icon is already selected, you only have to tap it once. By turning off everything else, the lasso tool (in Noteful) can pick up only the Handwriting, Highlighters, Text boxes, Images & Shapes, any combination you like, or everything.

Once you select a section of your notes, a popup menu appears that lets you Resize using the corner dots or rotate using the whisker. You can Take Screenshot and determine its size by tapping the settings icon next to Cancel. You can share it out of the app (tap the export icon) > choose where to save it. You can also drag and drop it out of the app by long-pressing the screenshot and dragging it to other apps (in split view). Cut or Copy to paste anywhere, and you can even Delete the selection.

Style changes some properties depending on your selection. We have already covered Style options for text boxes, shapes and images. For your handwriting, you can Style to change the colour, pen stroke and thickness. It is better to adjust the thickness when you go to the three-dots icon. The lasso tool in Noteful can move your selection across pages.

Quick start

Customising the page templates of every notebook you create can be exhausting. That is why it is better to create new notebooks in fewer steps. On the homepage, go to the plus icon (bottom right corner of the screen) > tap Quick Create to start taking notes. You can set the page template for your quick notebooks by going to the settings icon (next to Quick Create) > when you are done creating your customisation > tap Done.

Custom paper templates 

Sometimes, none of the available page options work for you, so you prefer using custom templates that you’ve bought on Etsy, made on Papersnake or elsewhere. You can add those to Noteful by going to the app icon (top left corner) > Notebook Templates on the popup window > go to Saved (top middle of the screen). This is where you can save all custom templates in the app. You can save single pages (images or PDFs) or larger PDF documents like our digital notebooks and planners.

To add a new template go to the plus icon (bottom right corner) > Import File from Apple Files. Select the templates you want > Open. Choose the category you want to save your new template if you already have categories in the app > Save. Noteful automatically adds it to your template library, then Done. This window is accessible from all the page customisation routes in the app. You can access it while creating a new notebook or a quick note. So, your quick notes can also be a custom template.

Long-pressing a custom template gives you options to Rename or Delete it. Categories let you organise your templates into categories. You can start by renaming the default category by going to the three-dots icon > Rename > tap Done to save. Add (top left corner of popup) to create a new category > name it and Create to save it > Done. You can then drag the templates into the new category. The three-dots icon (under Categories) on each category lets you Rename or Delete it. The three-bar icon rearranges them. 

Pen tool: advanced

Fountain and brush pens have more customisation, under the settings icon (right side of pen tools) that lets you customise Writing Pressure on a scale of 1 – 10. One makes the pen tool less sensitive to pressure changes, so your pen thickness remains the same no matter how hard your press. Ten is the most sensitive. The app will pick up any pressure variations in your writing. Min Width ranges from 10 -100%. At 10%, the minimum width of your pen stroke is 10% of the rest of the width. This gives your pen thin tails at the edges of your letters. Width Smoothing ranges from 0 – 100%. Its effect is most visible on the brush pen where 0 % increases the resistance in the tool (requiring more effort to write) and 100% makes it easier to use.

Favourites toolbar

You can save your favourite pens on the colour palette in Noteful. A favourite pen has the pen thickness written on it. That’s how to tell it apart from normal colours on your colour palette. Saving the pens you frequently use can save you time.

To save a favourite pen, tap or double-tap on the colour > go to Style (bottom, far right) and turn on Custom Style. You can then determine the pen thickness, its type and stroke. The three-bar icon (top left of popup window) lists all the colours and favourite pen tools on your toolbar. You can:

  • add new colours and pens by tapping the plus icon  (top right corner)
  • hide a pen or colour, without deleting it, by tapping the eye icon on each tool or colour
  • edit a pen/colour by going to the three-dots icon > Edit to change the colour and even style of the selected tool/colour
  • duplicate them (three-dots icon > Duplicate)
  • delete them (three-dots icon > Delete)
  • In Noteful, you can add as many colours as you like to your toolbar. You can also choose which ones you show.
  • On the Grid or Wheel colour picker, long-press a colour you want to delete.

Toolbar customisation

Though Noteful has a lot of features to offer, you might not need all of them for your notes. The app lets you customise your toolbar to remove features you don’t use. To get started, tap the plus icon on the toolbar > tap the spanner icon (top left corner). Simply turn off the tools you don’t need. At its most minimal, Noteful’s toolbar has one icon and one colour option. 

The customisation options are also accessible from the three-dots icon on the tab bar (top right corner of the screen) > Options tabs > Customize Toolbar. Noteful has some useful Shortcuts for adding images, text boxes and photos that you can add to your toolbar. When turned on, you don’t have to rely on the plus icon to add those items to your notes. You can add them with a single taps by tapping the shortcuts right from the toolbar. 

Multitasking

  • Multiple instances can open the same notebook twice, split view with other apps and also open the app in slide over. Noteful also supports tabs, so each notebook you open in the app opens in a new tab. Even in multiple instances, you can still open many tabs. Tapping the down-facing arrow on a notebook tab gives you options to:
  • Pin the notebook (top right corner).
  • Rename it (simply tap the name to start).
  • Change the tags > tap Done to save.
  • Change the folder for the notebook > Save
  • Open in New Window to open a new instance
  • Close the notebook.
  • Delete from the app.
  • Under the down-facing arrow, you also get details about when the notebook was:
    • Created 
    • Last Updated 
    • Size of the notebook

Search tool

To use the search tool in Noteful, go to the three-dots icon on the tab bar > under the Options tab, and go to Find. The app highlights your searched terms on your PDF and lists your search results on a small sidebar to your right. As you navigate through your search results, a blue box appears on the result you’re currently on. Cancel to stop searching.

The search tool in Noteful does not search through your handwriting, though. On the homepage, you can search through the titles, tags, and folders of your notebooks (tap the search icon on the top toolbar). Noteful can’t search through the contents of your notebook from the homepage. It doesn’t support universal search. The results are very simple.

Outlines

An outline is a table of contents that organises the pages in your notebook to make them easier to navigate. They also help you get a quick overview of your notes. To add a page to your outline, go to the list icon > Outlines tab > tap Add (top right corner) > name > tap OK to save. Noteful can nest your outlines to create levels by simply dragging items into parent levels. You can create an infinite number of levels this way. You can Edit your outline to do the following:

  • rearrange the contents by dragging them where you want. You can also just drag and drop items without needing to Edit first.
  • delete items (red-minus arrow).
  • Rename or Delete under the three-dots icon > tap Done to save the changes. You can also access that outside of the Edit options.

Page editing

To change your page template for your notebook, go to the three-dots icon, and under the Options tab, go to Paper, then pick a page template. This only changes the page you’re on. But if you wanted to change the template for all the pages in your notebook, tap Apply to all Pages.

To edit the pages in your notebooks, go to the four-square icon (above or before the pen tool icon), to see all the pages in your notebook. Using the pinching gesture, you can resize the page thumbnails to make them smaller if you want to fit more pages on the screen. Or make them bigger with the zoom-in gesture to see more details on each page. You can Insert a new page after the selected one:

  • with a similar page template (labelled Current)
  • with any other page template
  • Import File from the Files app
  • Merge Notebook to copy all the pages from another notebook in the app. Noteful then adds all the pages from that notebook, but it doesn’t delete the other notebook.
  • Scan Documents using the iPadOS scanning engine.
  • Choose Photo to add an image as a page template.

Copy copies the page for pasting wherever you like. You can also Rotate, Tag, or Delete the page. Select (top right corner) lets you select multiple pages so you can Copy, Rotate, Tag, or Delete them. You can easily undo or redo the changes you’ve made (top left corner). Extract creates new notebooks from your selected pages. You can name the notebook, add tags, and choose a folder > Save. Hopefully, you’ll remember the new notebook you just created because the app doesn’t automatically open it for you.

Share lets you export your selected pages out of the app. We’ll cover the details of exporting in a different section. Close (the x-icon in the far left corner) when you are done editing your pages. From the workspace, you can still insert pages into your notebook by going to the plus icon > Page, and you’ll get all the options you get from the page editing window.

Organisation in Noteful

Within the workspace

Noteful organises your notes in several ways using tags, pins, and bookmarks. We’ve already covered tags. Pins work in a similar way to tags. To pin a page, go to the three-dots icon > Options tab > Pin Page. This pins the page to the homepage for easier access under the Pinned smart folder.

Under the list icon, you can see all your Bookmarks. To bookmark a page, tap on Add to add the current page to your bookmarks. The three-dots icon on the bookmark lets you Rename or Delete it. To rearrange the bookmarks, go to Edit and grab the three-bar icon to move the bookmark where you want it. The red minus icon > red bin icon can also delete the bookmark. Tap Done to save the changes.

On the homepage

On the homepage, you can display your notebooks as thumbnails or lists (tap list icon after the search tool, top right corner of the screen). You can resize the thumbnails using the pinching and zoom-in gestures, but your lists have a fixed size.

To pin a notebook, go to the three-dots icon (if you’re displaying lists) or long-press it (if you’re displaying thumbnails). Tap Pin and your notebook gets added to the Pinned smart folder. A pin icon shows that your notebook is pinned. The Pinned smart folder contains your pinned pages and notebooks.

Folders

On the homepage, in Noteful, you can organise your notes with tags, pins, and folders. Folders are the most popular way to organise notebooks in most note-taking apps. Noteful supports an infinite number of folders within folders. To add a notebook to a folder, bring up its menu options (long-press or tap the three-dots icon). Go to Move > choose a folder for it > Save. You can also drag and drop the notebook to the folder you want it in.

If you need to create a new folder, tap the new folder icon > name your new folder > Create > Save. If you don’t Save, the app will just create a new folder but won’t add your notebook to it. To add a subfolder to an existing folder, open the parent folder > go to the plus icon (bottom right corner) > New folder > name your folder > Create. You can also long-press the parent folder > New Folder > name > Create. Long-pressing also lets you Rename, Move, and Delete. Deleting folders does not delete your notebooks in the folder, it only deletes the folder and moves your notebooks to the Unfiled folder. To reorganise folders, you can drag and drop them into and out of parent folders.

In the app’s workspace, you can also move a notebook to a different folder. Tap the downfacing arrow on the notebook’s tab > go to the folder under Location > pick the new folder you want, and Save.

Long-pressing or tapping the three-dots icon on a notebook gives you options to Pin or Unpin, Rename, Edit tags, Duplicate Notebook, Move, Delete Notebook, Share or Open in New Window.

Recycle bin

Noteful’s recycle bin keeps all the notebooks you delete. This iPad has notebooks in the recycle bin that were deleted more than a year ago. You have to go and permanently delete notebooks from your recycle bin if you really want them gone. To do that, go to the app’s icon on the homepage (top left corner) > Recently Deleted (scroll to the bottom). You can delete all the notebooks at once by tapping Delete All (top right corner), or delete a single notebook (three-dots icon > Recover or Delete Now). The app will ask you if you want to delete the items. Tap Delete All or Delete to confirm.

PDF reading

PDF annotation is a popular way of taking digital notes, where you simply highlight your PDF or add notes to it. Noteful can import PDFs into the app, so you can annotate on them. On the home page, go to the plus icon > Import File. You can import a native PDF or scan. Noteful also lets you add Word and PowerPoint documents, but it converts them to PDF first.

When reading your PDF, you can long-press the text to Highlight, and the app will highlight it with a yellow highlighter. The long-pressing gesture doesn’t work if the eraser tool is selected. To change the highlighter colour, select it using the lasso tool, go to Style, and pick the colour you want. By far the easiest way to annotate a PDF is by using the handwriting tools in the app. You can use the highlighter tool and the pen tool to handwrite notes around your PDF.

Should you need more space to take notes, you can add empty pages between the pages of your PDF (plus icon > Page > pick template). To navigate a PDF faster, Noteful recognises outlines in your documents. Not every PDF has an outline, though. You can edit this outline to Add, Rename, or Delete items on it. Another way to quickly navigate a document is through hyperlinks, and Noteful recognises those. To go to the hyperlinked page, simply long-press it with a gentle touch.

Using digital notebooks

Digital notebooks are a special kind of PDF. At first glance, they are simple notebooks with empty pages where you can write notes. But they also have hyperlinks to help you scroll through them faster than the notebooks you’d create in a note-taking app. Noteful does not create hyperlinks, so the best workaround is to get a digital notebook, like our minimalist digital notebooks, that already has hyperlinks.

Every digital notebook in our online shop comes with a contents page that links to all the topics you will add to your notebook. For example, I have a notebook where I take notes on the different apps that we review and make courses for. On the contents page of my digital notebook, I have all the different apps and ideas that I am working on. This helps me keep all my notes on different apps in one notebook. So, I can quickly skip to my notes on Noteful. My notes for apps are just rough notes, so they are a bit messy. But they help me stay organised.

The good thing about these digital notebooks is that no matter what page I am on, I can quickly go back to the contents page by gently long-pressing Contents (top left corner). Then I can look through my notes on LiquidText, for example. You can use digital notebooks for pretty much any subject. For example, you can have all your biology notes in one notebook instead of creating different notebooks for each biology topic. It makes your notes easier to find (using the contents page) and also faster to navigate with hyperlinks.

Each topic in the margin links to a topic page. All the hyperlinks are in the margin, so you can write your topics freely without accidentally activating the hyperlinks. Once you write in your topic, you then navigate to the topic page for that topic. All the topic pages have a beige top margin. That’s where you’ll typically handwrite or type your topic on the page. Each topic on the contents page links to a topic page in the digital notebook. Then, you can start writing your notes.

Our digital notebooks have two pages for each topic. Once you’ve filled up your topic page with notes, you can move on to the next non-topic page. This one does not have a beige margin, and you can continue writing the notes for your same topic. Now, if your notes extend to more than two pages, which most notes do, you can duplicate the non-topic page several times (as many pages as you need). That is very easy to do in Noteful. By going to the plus icon, you can add a Page that looks exactly like the page you’re currently on. Noteful adds a blank page, and if you need two more pages, you can quickly add those. All the new pages you add in Noteful also link back to the contents page.

Our digital notebooks are easy to use because we designed them with the user (you) in mind. The best part about using digital notebooks in Noteful is that you can add them to your templates library. That way, you don’t have to keep importing them into the app whenever you need one. Once added to your app’s library, they are just like any other page template. You can quickly create new notebooks and start taking notes without hassle. Our digital notes are available for purchase from our Patreon and online shop, for just $4.99. They are all ruled with narrow, college, and wide line-spacing options. We also have a narrow-ruled Cornell notebook, and we’ll be adding more types of notebooks over the coming months.

Presentation mode

Presentation mode in Noteful begins with the page size you choose for a notebook, depending on the screen you’ll be presenting on. It can either be 16:9 or 4:3. These perfect sizes ensure that all your notes will be visible during your presentation without needing to move your pages around. Of course, you can use other page sizes if you like. You can then choose to either hide (go to the presentation icon, under Display Options, choose Hide Toolbar UI) or show your user interface (go to the presentation icon, under Display Options, choose Screen Mirroring).

During the presentation, you can use the laser pointer (presentation icon > pick Pointer Style). to draw attention to different items. This can either be a dot or a trail for writing information that disappears when you lift off your Apple Pencil from the iPad screen. You can switch to using the trailer by going to the presentation icon and turning on Draw Lines. The laser pointer can either be red, blue, or green.

Layers

Layers organise the information on your page. You can use them to trace diagrams, create notes for active recall, or compartmentalise the information you show on the page during your presentations. To see the layers in your notebook, go to the list icon > Layers tab. Go to Add (top right corner) to create a new layer. Make sure the new layer is selected before writing notes on it. You can name the layer by going to the three-dots icon > Rename. To show the notes on a layer, tap the eye icon. Toggling this icon will show or hide the notes on that layer.

Now, let’s go through a practical example to create some notes for active recall. This page already has some notes on it, so I’ll add another layer for revision questions (lists icon > Layers > Add). I’ll then name this new layer so I know what it’s for (three-dots icon > Rename > OK). After making sure that my new layer is selected, I then write my questions on the margins of this page. Where there’s some space for it. For a revision session, I can hide the notes on the page (list icon > eye icon), then I can attempt to answer the questions. When I am done, I can simply show the notes to mark my answers. Another example would be tracing a diagram:

After adding a diagram you want to trace, add a new layer for it and name it. Lock the layer with your diagram so that you can’t interact with it in any way, but keep it visible so you can see the diagram you’re tracing.

Move the tracing layer above the diagram so your new drawing is visible. Remember to select the new layer before you start drawing your diagram. I prefer tracing with different colours that are easier to see. Once you have finished tracing your diagram, you can delete the original image.

Once your new diagram is ready, you can delete the diagram you were tracing from. To do that, go to the list icon > unlock and select the diagram layer so you can delete the image. You can also choose to delete the whole layer instead if you know you’ll never use it again (list icon > three-dots icon > Delete).

The third and final example of using layers in Noteful is for presentations. So, during a presentation, I want to present this diagram in parts. Four parts, to be exact. I’ll create 4 layers and name them 1to 4. It’s important to note that Noteful lets you create a lot of layers for your notebooks; we haven’t been able to reach its limit.

To make any changes to a layer, you must make sure it is unlocked; otherwise, you can’t interact with it in any way. To quickly demonstrate that, I will lock this diagram layer and then try to move it. The app can’t select it because it is locked. When I unlock it, it’s very easy to select and move around.

Sometimes, you don’t create your notes on the right layer, like is the case with my diagram. To do that, after selecting a part of my diagram > Move to Layer > and pick the layer I want to move that part to. I’ll do this for all the different parts. Noteful can help you compartmentalise the different parts on your diagrams.

The hide and show feature becomes important during my presentation, where I will start off by hiding all the layers of my diagrams. Then, as I talk about the different sections of the diagram, I can present them one by one to slowly build the full picture. You can apply this to any kind of presentation.

Here is a summary of all you can do with layers in Noteful. You can name, lock to prevent any editing, move notes between them, Merge Down to combine the selected layer with the one below it, and Delete them

Sharing notes 

As a general rule, it’s best not to export your notes out of a note-taking app because you lose some of the interactions that are unique to that note-taking app. However, you might need to share your notes with others from time to time. To get started, go to the three-dots icon under the Options tab > Share. Noteful can export your notes as PDF, Native Noteful, or Image

You can choose to Include Background to export the page template of your notebook. Turn on Include Annotation to share your handwritten notes. This option helps when you want to share a PDF without your annotations. You can simply turn them off to share the original PDF without your notes. You also get the option to Create Zip Archive and choose the quality of your document under Graphics Quality. The quality can be High, Very High or Best. Tap Share to export your notes. You can also export your notes from the homepage by going to the three-dots icon > Share and all the options will be similar.

App settings 

Noteful does not have a lot of settings. On the homepage, go to the app icon (top left corner) > to customise your app settings for Themes, Cloud Sync, Document Editing, Gestures, Export Data and Auto-Backup.

Themes

Themes determine how the app looks. You can set it to System so that the app uses your iPad’s settings when you switch between light and dark mode. Noteful does not support true dark mode. It only switches the user interface, but your notebooks don’t change. When you choose Light, it means your app permanently remains in light mode, even if the iPad is in dark mode. Dark is the opposite of Light; your app remains in dark mode; permanently. Your toolbar’s appearance can also match the theme of your iPad if you choose Match appearance, or it can be permanently Dark. The app’s default setting is the dark toolbar.

Cloud sync

Cloud Sync lets you turn on Use iCloud to sync your notes across your Apple devices. Noteful is also available on the iPhone and M-series MacBooks. So when you turn this on, you can see your notes on different devices. Status gives you updates on what’s syncing.

Document Editing

Document Editing lets you turn on the Pull-to-add Page gesture. This allows you to add pages by pulling up the last page of your document. When turned off, adding pages to your notebooks is tedious because you have to rely on the page editing feature. For an improved handwriting experience and palm rejection, we recommend turning on Palm Rejection. You can also choose where the page numbers in your notebooks display: Show on left, Show on right or Never show.

Gestures

You can turn on Gestures for several actions in Noteful. The Two-finger Tap is for undoing actions in the app, while the Three-finger Tap to redos. Finger Double Tap zooms your page to fit the width of the app’s workspace.

Export Data

Export Data lets you Export All your data as a .zip file out of Noteful. This is a manual backup that you can save anywhere you like—locally on your iPad or on any cloud service of your choice. All your notebooks are saved in the Noteful format, and you can retrieve them whenever you like. If you don’t want to save the backup in Google Drive, this can be a workaround for that in Noteful. However, you have to remember to backup your notes regularly, and we have found that to not be very practical for a digital workflow.

It is much better to Auto-Backup digital notes because you won’t have to worry about consistently backing them up. You then have to connect to Google Drive, pick the Destination Folder where you want to save your backup. You can choose the tags you want to backup (Only selected tags > choose the tags) or those you want to exclude (All but exclude selected tags > choose the tags you want to exclude). Noteful can backup your notes in two formats (tap Format): Noteful and PDF. The .noteful format only opens in Noteful and remains editable, while .pdf opens in any app. The notes become uneditable, so you can only annotate them. For backup, we recommend saving them in the .noteful format. For any productivity app, backup is as important as syncing.

Miscellaneous features

  • Noteful supports links in your text boxes. To navigate them, long-press like you do your hyperlinks and Open
  • The zoom tool helps with palm rejection.
  • Noteful has a rule tool (bottom right corner) for helping you measure items on the page. To turn it on or off, go to the three-dots icon and go to Ruler under the Options tab.When you zoom in or out of your pages, the ruler tool adjusts to scale accordingly.
  • The lasso tool can duplicate your selections.

Updates

Updates for the pen tool 

Noteful version 1.2.31 added Motion Smoothing for the fountain and brush pens. To access it, go to the pen tool > settings icon > Motion Smoothing. It ranges from zero if you already liked the writing experience in the app. The maximum level for the feature is 6, but I found that 2 works best for me.

Version 1.2.34 brought Enhanced Sensitivity (pen tool > tab 2) to solve a Bluetooth latency issue that caused some users to notice a change in the pen stroke when they lifted the Apple Pencil. The developers recommend keeping this option turned on. If you see broken lines, you either have a faulty Apple Pencil or you’re probably using the M2 iPad. To solve that, the developers have added the Draw on Hover option in version 1.2.37.

Updates for the tape

After we did the tape feature, the developers updated the app to add more customisation options for it. Now, the tape has more colour options. You can also select the tape with the lasso tool > go to Style, and you’ll be able to choose a custom colour for the tool. Version 1.2.36 now lets you cover or reveal all tapes. Simply go to the tape tool and tape Cover All or Reveal All.

Noteful 1.2.36

Taking screenshots is now easier. Simply select everything on the page (using the lasso tool) > Take Screenshot. You still have the option to choose the size of the image or share it (export icon). Or you can Add to Canvas to add the screenshot to your page. The text box now supports stickers. You can access your iPadOS 17 stickers from your keyboard in Noteful, and tapping on one adds it to the page.

Noteful 1.2.39

Noteful can now arrange items on your page. Bring up the popup menu of some selected items, then go to Arrange. You can then choose to Bring to Front or Send to Back. You can also Group (popup menu > forward arrow > Group) multiple items you select. When you select items that were grouped together, you can Ungroup them (popup menu > Ungroup). The last updates let us rotate images directly without using the Style option.

Noteful 1.3

New stickers

We’ve covered stickers in iPadOS 17 for Noteful that use the text box. But stickers in Noteful 1.3 are different. The app has added a new icon for stickers on the toolbar. So, when you tap the new sticker icon, you can create a new sticker collection in the app. Go to the plus icon (bottom right corner) and then New Collection. You can then name your new collection. The app creates an empty sticker collection that you need to Edit (top left corner) to start adding stickers. Tap the plus icon (bottom right corner) and choose to add an image from photos (Choose Photo). Once you’ve picked all the photos you want, Add them to your collection.

You can also add them from the Files app (Import File) by going to the plus icon (bottom right corner). Once you’ve selected all the images you want, tap Open (top right corner). The app might prompt you to choose a collection you want the new sticker in, then Save. The different sticker collections in your app collect at the bottom of the popup window, where you can switch between them. You can Edit sticker collections to change their names and delete the stickers you don’t want in them. It is also easy to access your recently used stickers (clock icon).

To add a sticker to your notes, simply tap on it. Stickers are like images, so you can resize and rotate them. Tapping on them brings up all the menu options your typically get for your images in Noteful. You can also create custom stickers from images and handwritten items in your notes. Select the items you want for your sticker using the lasso tool. Make sure it is set to pick up images and handwriting. On the popup menu, go to Save, choose a collection for your sticker, and Save (top right corner). Tap Done to save the changes. Your stickers remain editable. When you bring up the popup menu, you can Ungroup, then separate parts of your sticker, and even edit an image, for example. You can also Style to change the colour of your ink.

Changes to the toolbar

The tape tool is now readily available on the toolbar as a separate tool. Before, it was under the highlighter tool. Another change to the toolbar is that we can rearrange the tools on it. We also have a faster way to bring up the customisation menu for the toolbar by simply long-pressing any tool on it.

Versions 1.3.1 to 1.3.6

  • Version 1.3.1 gave us the option to remove annotations and page backgrounds from screenshots. To get started, take a screenshot, using the lasso tool. At the bottom of the popup window, untick Background and All Annotations to remove them from your screenshot. For All Annotations, you have several options: Selection Only removes the annotations that you have deselected for the lasso tool. All Annotations overrides the limitations of the items you’re selecting with your lasso tool. No Annotations removes all the annotations from your screenshot. You can Add the screenshot to your notes or share (export icon) it out of the app, if you want to.
  • Version 1.3.2 supports non-proportional scaling, which allows you to stretch and shrink your images. When importing documents from other apps, you can Add to Current Notebook to add the pages to the notebook you currently have opened. Noteful adds the pages after the page you’re currently on. So, it’s important to find exactly where you want the pages to go before importing them. You can also choose to Create New Notebook to import the document as an independent notebook. You can name it, add tags, and choose a location for it, then Save to add the new document to your notes. If you import a document, while you’re on the homepage in Noteful, you don’t get the option to add it to another notebook; you can only add it as a new notebook (Create New Notebook).
  • Version 1.3.3 now let’s you rearrange your favourite pens on the toolbar. Simply long-press a pen to pick it up, and drag it where you want it. An icon also now appears on the notebook you’re doing an audio recording in.
  • Version 1.3.4 has a new setting for us to turn on or off under Document Editing. You can Automatically Open Imported Document when this option is turned on. We recommend turning it on to save time you’d waste looking for a document you just imported into the app. We can now close multiple tabs at once, under the down-facing arrow on the tabs in the workspace. Go to Close Other Tabs to close all the other tabs except the one you’re on.
  • Version 1.3.6 can crop and resize pages to add margins. To get started, go to the three-dots icon, and under the Options tab, go to Crop & Resize Page. You can then enlarge the page to add the space you need. The app gives you measurements for the margin size under the settings icon. This adds a room around your page, which is perfect for adding more annotations. This works on both native pages and PDFs. The same way you add space, you can crop the pages. You can choose to apply the crop to the Current Page, All Pages in your notebook, or a range of pages. Under the settings icon, go to Custom to resize your page or change its orientation. Resizing effectively gives you presets for cropping your images. Scaling just enlarges this window; it probably just helps see the page contents better. You can also use your fingers to quickly scale the window. The Go to Page icon, under the three-dots icon on the Options tab, is now in a different location for easier access.

What’s still missing?

These are some of the critical features still missing in Noteful:

  1. Handwriting recognition: you can’t convert your handwriting to text or search through your handwritten notes.
  2. macOS version: you can only access the app on the M1 series MacBooks.
  3. Collaboration: you can’t collaborate on your documents with others.
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