An Update on Notetaking with iOS and MacOS

Image Courtesy of  Dose Media

Now that classes are back in session, I’ve had a few weeks to fully test out my notetaking set up. While a number of things worked well, others needed definitely needed work. I realized quite quickly that the multi-app notetaking lifestyle did not work for me.


2048x2048bbEvernote has become the backbone of my personal knowledge management system.

I’m really not a fan of Evernote device limits, so I’ve tried incredibly hard to avoid using it over the years, but I recently caved and bought a premium subscription (thanks to an educational discount). The ability to easily add and tag any type of information is something other apps, like DevonThink or Bear, haven’t been able to match.

Anything I think I might need to recall later like important emails, meeting notes, interesting articles, screenshots of error messages, and common troubleshooting steps all end up in Evernote. I also keep any annotated PDFs and notes from classes or quotes from books I’ve read here.


2048x2048bbEvernote falls incredibly short when it comes to taking notes with the Apple Pencil. Writing or annotating within the app is laggy and requires more mode switching than I’m willing to put up with.

I’ve ditched GoodNotes, Notability, and MyScript Nebo all in favor of Noteshelf due to its ability to sync directly with Evernote. Its organizational structure is very similar to GoodNotes and offers a writing experience similar to what I enjoyed in Notability. It also offers the ability to draw perfectly geometrical shapes which was one of my main reasons for using Nebo. I found Nebo’s handwriting to text conversion more of a really cool gimmick than actually useful in practice.

My one gripe with Noteshelf is its lack of support for iCloud Drive, which is my primary cloud storage for any active projects. For now, this means an added step of needing to use the share sheet within the Files app to add any PDFs rather than using the built-in import feature. Hopefully, they’ll add it in the future.

Annotating PDFs and Taking Notes in Class

For class, I’m using Noteshelf in conjunction with Evernote.

Before class, I import the PDF copy of the assigned article and annotate as I read. During class, I use split screen to continue marking up the article we’re discussing on one side of the screen in Noteshelf while taking any text notes in Evernote. After class, I add the annotated article (synced to Evernote) to the text note created in Evernote so that everything’s stored in one place.

Interviewing Employees

I’m also using Noteshelf for employee interviews. Like GoodNotes, Noteshelf allows me to have a single notebook for a round of hiring. The system my university is using for on-campus jobs allows me to receive a single PDF booklet of resumes for every round of hiring. Prior to the interview, I insert a template page for taking notes behind the resume. Once the round of hiring has finished, I export the entire notebook containing resumes and interview notes to Box for archival purposes.

Apple Notes

2048x2048bbWhile Evernote is my primary location for storing any sort of reference material, I’m still using Apple Notes for things I need to quickly access such as carryout menus, wishlists, and other lists I’ve shared with friends and family.

In all honesty, if Apple adds tagging and a more robust organizational system, I’ll have a hard time sticking with Evernote, but for now, this is the combination that seems to work best for all my needs.




6 thoughts on “An Update on Notetaking with iOS and MacOS

  1. Lisa Young says:

    How have you found the Apple Pencil note taking experience? Does it compare to taking notes on paper? I have a regular iPad and bought one of the 53 digital styluses but am not excited about it. Usually what I end up doing is taking notes on paper, then scanning it using the Evernote app.

    • Andrea says:

      Hi Lisa!
      I absolutely love the Apple Pencil. As someone who went paperless years ago who also has a fear of ruining new notebooks by writing in them, having this years ago would have been a game changer. I find myself taking handwritten notes and annotating documents a lot more than I used to. That being said, if you’re looking for something that feels comparable to taking notes on paper, this probably isn’t going to be your solution. It’s miles better than the other styluses I’ve tried, but at the end of the day, you’re still writing on glass.

  2. lisayoung57 says:

    Thank you! I really like some of the information you have here! I think I got to your blog searching text expander templates or maybe dayOne but found a lot I wanted to read. 🙂

  3. Joao says:

    Hi Andrea! Thanks for your detailed review of notetaking. I am about to receive my iPad Pro (10.5″) with the apple pencil next days and I could not be more happy!
    Indeed, one of my resolutions for 2018 is go paperless – as you have gone several years ago. I believe that I will manage to do that easily with this brand new iPad Pro. Hope so!
    I have decided to use the Goodnotes instead of Notability as I will not use the audio option. besides, I prefer the organisation of the Goodnotes and overall features.
    One question: you have mentioned before the “split mode” view. From the almost thousand tutorials that I’ve seen till now, this is a feature that allows me have the pdf opened (e.g. left side) aside with the notetaking app (e.g. right side). Imagine that you make some highlights or annotations in the pdf document. Will these changes be available next time you open this pdf document? Will the changes be there forever? Appreciate your anwser.
    Be sure that I will follow this blog as I found it very useful. I hope also that I can learn a lot with you and your articles. Regards from Lisbon, Portugal! Joao

    • Andrea says:

      That would depend on what app you’re using to annotate but with most apps saving in the background these days I’d imagine so. I actually tend to use an app like Goodnotes to annotate and type in another app and with that set up yes changes are saved.

      Hope that helps and thanks for stopping by!

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