App of the Week: Noteshelf Handwriting App for iPad

App of the Week: Noteshelf Handwriting App for iPad | 40Tech

When I got my iPad back in December, I mostly used it as a means to surf the web, watch Netflix, read, and play the occasional game. Oh, I blogged on it a bit, too, and I figured it would be great for taking notes and the like, but I quickly found that extended typing on the glass surface led to aching fingertips. Besides, when trying to work things out and get creative, there is something very powerful about the old fashioned pen and paper approach. Determined to see if I could get the same power out of my iPad, I started researching handwriting apps.

After going through several, I was largely disappointed by what was out there — until I discovered Noteshelf.

Now, to be fair, I originally went with Penultimate, which has an excellent natural feel when you write — and gets extra awesome points for it’s freeness. However, I still felt like I was missing something. So, when my friend and colleague Daniel Gold recommended Noteshelf to me, I grudgingly gave it a shot, despite it’s $4.99 price tag. I’m cheap when it comes to app purchases, but I figured I could hold him responsible if it sucked.

It didn’t.

In fact, it rocked so much that I use it all the time, even though my handwriting is absolutely atrocious. Noteshelf has all of the features I could want or need:

  • Excellent natural feel when writing
  • Different pen sizes and colours
  • Wrist protection that works
  • Zoom writing
  • Just as functional in landscape mode as portrait mode
  • Unlimited undo and redo (until you leave the page, anyway)
  • Notebook templates for writing, drawing, task and day planning, meeting notes, shopping lists, journal writing, graphing, and music
  • A bookshelf view to easily organize notebooks
  • Dynamic line-sizing for easy and clean jumps to the next line on a page
  • Photo embedding and annotation
  • Backup and restore functionality

The kicker, though, is Noteshelf’s sharing capabilities. You can print and export notes as .jpegs and .pdfs, configuring by page or as an entire notebook — by email, iTunes, your iPad photo album, and (Yay!!) Dropbox and Evernote! That’s all kinds of awesome, right there! Nothing quite like being able to quickly scrawl down several pages worth of ideas, and then send them to your out-of-brain-brain for easy searching with Evernote’s OCR. Even writing as bad as mine gets picked up. Mostly…

Noteshelf Natural Handwriting App for iPadNoteshelf Notebook Templates Noteshelf Export to Dropbox, Evernote

I can’t say enough that’s good about Noteshelf. If you have an iPad, and have a want or need to use it as a notebook that will get you on the path to being well and truly paperless, you need to go and get it. Right now.

What’s your favourite handwriting app for tablets?

Bobby Travis

Bobby isn't 40-something, but is a strong supporter of the Grown-up Geek kind. He's a loving husband and father first, but is also a freelance writer, productivity nut, operatically trained singer, and (not-so) closet geek. Check out his random thoughts, wackiness, and Instagram pics on Tumblr, Twitter, or Google+-- or just head over to


  1. I love that I’m the first one to comment! :)

    Bobby – I’m so glad you brought light to this really awesome app! I use it in all my cient meetings and it’s so much fun to use!

    I’ll add one more recommendation for your readers – the alupen! Seriously, it changes everything! It is a stylus for the iPad like none other – and I’ve tested many! It’s thick, fits well, balanced nicely – and has a bit of a price tag on it as well, but totally worth it!


    • Heh — that suits, I think. :) And I’ve looked at that pen… dunno if I could stomach that much of a chunk for a pen when my $17 one works just spiffily. I already spent $5 based on your word man! What are you trying to do to me?? :P

      • Bobby – thanks for the review, just what I’ve been looking for! I don’t have an ipad, but thinking about getting one just for note-taking (and just realised I’ll probably want a stylus)… Which stylus do you use? Any recommendations? (the alu-pen looks pricey and chunky)


      • Glad to help out, Mike! As for stylus, I use the basic one you can get at Best Buy for about $16. It’s the one with a soft, rounded rubber tip, and has a bit of drag if you forget to keep the pressure light, but does the job. Ive never used the Alu pen, but Daniel loves it. I’m guessing the design is to reduce drag and improve performance/flow.

        Hope that helps!

  2. Man, I can’t wait until I can afford an iPad! You’re such a good resource for figuring out all this stuff for me before-hand Bobby … thanks for being such a great tech guinea pig.

  3. I’m planning to buy the latest version of iPad. I hope to have it as my birthday gift to myself. I wonder if you have tried other handwriting app for iPad. I just read from other blogs about Note taker HD and Adobe ideas. Were you able to try any of these two?

    • Adobe ideas could be used for notes, but it is a drawing app, and not ideal. Never tried the other you mentioned, but I did try several others. As I mentioned in the article, if you want free and straightforward notebook simulation, Penultimate is fantastic. If you want more, like the ability to add and annotate images, and connection with Dropbox and Evernote, then Noteshelf is awesome.

  4. I already tried Evernote and I must say that it helped me to my activities. Anyway, I will try your recommendation and see if it will suit my needs. Thanks!

  5. Bobby – thanks for the blog. I use Noteshelf now too. Great app – and ive used them all!
    Question for you though: Do you prefer Dropbox or Evernote to store your docs from Noteshelf.

    Also – how do you import docs FROM Evernote or Dropbox into Noteshelf?

    Any ideas?

    • Hi Mike! Glad you liked the post. Noteshelf (and it’s free counterpart) have had some fantastic updates, recently. I’ll be posting about them soon.

      As for your question, I think the only way to do that would be to take a screenshot and import the photo.

  6. I am turning into an iPad nerd, and I really like reading about Noteshelf. I am wondering how it is different from Penultimate, which I like …

    • Penultimate was always free, and until recent, Noteshelf wasn’t. The features are similar, but there are different templates, etc, and Noteshelf is more flexible with exporting.

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