Noteshelf: handwritten iPad notes that really work

Updated ·4 min read


(US$4.99) from is a fresh new iPad notebook app for handwritten notes that addresses most of the issues I've had with similar apps in the past. In fact, Noteshelf is so usable that I just deleted a couple of other apps that I was using to capture handwritten notes. Here's what is so great about this app:

  • A very responsive pen: With a Pogo Stylus and Noteshelf, I feel like I'm actually writing on paper. The pen "flows" more smoothly than in any other notebook app, and with the wide choice of tip widths and 17 different colors, it's like having a drawer full of pens and markers available.

  • Wrist protection: One of my biggest complaints with other notebook apps is that to write naturally, I put my wrist onto the paper. With most other apps, that results in wrist-writing -- creating marks on the paper from where my wrist is touching the screen. Not with Noteshelf. The app has a special wrist protection mode. Turn it on, and you see a small red arrow on the right side of the paper. You can place your wrist on the screen anywhere below that arrow, and the screen won't register it as another pen.

  • Useful paper types: With most of the other handwriting apps, there are a few types of ruled and non-ruled digital papers, and that's about it. Noteshelf has those, but it adds some very useful paper types to the mix. For business, there's a day planner paper on which you can scrawl out your appointments and tasks for the upcoming days, and since you can have multiple pages in each notebook, you can easily keep a history of what you've done and what's coming up. Now, if there was just a way to integrate this with the "real calendars" we use, I'd be in nerdvana. Other paper types include a task list, meeting notes, and shopping lists, in addition to personal journals, scrapbooks, and graph papers. If the developer can come up with a baseball scorebook paper type, he will have my undying gratitude forever (note: developer Rama Krishna of FluidTouch is actively seeking new notebook template requests).


  • A bookshelf for storing multiple notebooks: Yeah, they pulled out the old Delicious Library / iBooks meme again, but it really works here. I can have my notebooks nicely arranged and pull one up with a tap. Cool.

  • Icons: Sweet. Let's say I want to keep a personal journal and would like to quickly indicate at the top of each page how I felt or what the weather was like on that day. I can choose from hundreds of colorful icons to paste onto a page. I can see where this would work well on a business-related notebook, where I could paste in a phone icon to indicate that I need to call someone or use number icons to make a numbered list.

  • Photos: Any photo that is saved into my photo library can be pasted onto a page, moved, scaled, and rotated, and then annotated with a pen.

  • Multiple erasers: Many apps of this type give you one eraser and a slider to change the width of it. Noteshelf gives you a pencil eraser, a rubber eraser, and a large art eraser to select from, or just click a broom icon to clear the entire page.

  • Different ways to share files: For any page, you can include the page layout (the paper, for example), the title, and the page number, then email the current page as an image or PDF. You can also export pages to iTunes for use on your Mac or PC. Now here's the real kicker -- Noteshelf is expected to get Dropbox and Evernote support in the next version.

Although the app includes a small draggable control in the bottom right corner for moving between pages, I preferred to use the "binoculars" icon at top right, which displays thumbnails of all of the pages for quick navigation. To learn how to use all of the features of Noteshelf, there's a User Guide that's always on your bookshelf. Pretty cool.

Other than the previously mentioned cloud support, I would like to see keyboard and text box support for the app so that I could type some notes in a small box and then annotate them with a pen. The ability to share multiple pages at a time from a notebook is a glaring omission, as at the present time, you must share them one at a time.

For those situations where you just can't type fast enough to capture all of the notes that you need to, or if you like the feel and look of pen on paper, Noteshelf is a near-perfect digital notebook. I can't wait to see what else will be forthcoming for this well thought-out and beautifully executed app.