Ever since I got my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil 2, I’ve been using it exclusively to take my work, school, and personal notes.
In the past, I would carry around 7 different notebooks. One for math, science, language arts, Spanish, History, and so forth.
Looking back, I used a lot of paper, lugged around a lot of extra weight, and had to deal with losing notes and fixing my damaged notebooks.
With digital note-taking, you don’t have to deal with any of those aspects.
My backpack is light as all my notebooks are stored on my iPad.
I also easily backed up all my notebooks, so I don’t have to worry about losing them.
Digital note-taking has been a serious game-changer in my life. Along the way, I learned the ins-and-outs of digital planning, along with some useful hacks.
If you are new to digital note-taking or just want to know some useful tips, I will be sharing 9 functional and practical tricks to elevate your iPad note-taking in this blog post.
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Supplies and Applications for iPad Note-taking
To take my notes, I use an iPad Pro 12.9 and an Apple Pencil 2. I prefer to write my notes, but if you prefer to type, I suggest getting your hands on the Apple Keyboard.
If you’re on a budget, the latest iPad 7th Generation is a great option for students and is compatible with the Apple Pencil 1.
If you want a detailed analysis of which iPad you should get for studying and planning, I wrote a blog post on the Best iPad to get for Note-taking and Digital Planning 2020 (and which ones to avoid).
There are several apps you can use to take notes, but below are the most used and praised note-taking applications:
GoodNotes is my favorite iPad note-taking app. It’s used by many for planning, note-taking, and annotating. In my experience, you can do pretty much everything in this app.
- Paper template choices
- Folder organization system
- Modern and intuitive user interface
- No voice recording
- GoodNotes file sizes are slightly larger
Notability is another popular note-taking app. Many students use this for taking notes.
- Voice Recording
- Continuous Scrolling
- Can use Hyperlinks in App
- Limited Paper choice
- Less pen width variety
Apple notes is a free application that comes with your iPad. This is the perfect app if you want to test digital note-taking and see if it’s for you.
- Easy and familiar interface
- Can draw
- Limited functionality
- Limited writing options
- Rigid Note-taking Structure
Obviously, go for the app that best suits your needs, but I find GoodNotes works the best for me. I use it to plan, study, and journal. I can confidently say that it covers all my bases.
If you want to read a more comprehensive take on digital note-taking apps, read my blog post, The Best Digital Note-taking and Planning Apps for Beginners.
Another key item for organized iPad notes is having a multi-tabbed digital notebook.
My multi-tabbed notebook allows me to store all my class notes in one place rather than having to create multiple, scattered notebooks.
That way, if I need to find any of my notes, I know it’ll be in this one, organized notebook.
If you want to take your note-taking to the next level, I have 12-tabbed hyperlinked notebooks in our shop.
There are 36 different note-taking page templates to cover all your bases. The notebook even has hexagon and isometric grids for all you STEM students!
It is available in Grey, Pink, and Green!
Now, let’s get into the top 9 iPad Note-taking tips!
Top 9 iPad Note-taking Tips
1. Use Grid or Lined Paper
Whether you have good or sloppy handwriting, I recommend you use grid or lined paper!
Without grid paper, my writing becomes super sloppy and I somehow can’t write in a straight line.
In my 7 Key Ways to Improve your Handwriting on the iPad blog post, I go more in-depth on how grid paper can help improve your digital handwriting.
2. Utilize Dual Screens
This is one of my favorite iPad functions. Rather than switching back and forth between my computer screen and my iPad, I can solely focus on one device.
Using the dual screens function is simple:
- Open the App you plan on using
- Put it in your dock if it isn’t already there
- Hold and drag next to the screen you’re using
- Adjust the window sizes by dragging the middle divider to the left or right
3. Put your iPad Note-taking Application in your Dock
The three most commonly used apps on my iPad are GoodNotes, Procreate, and Keynotes.
Finding these apps every single time I want to use them within my iPad can be a major pain. I would have to go back to the home page and scroll around until I find it.
However, an easier way around this is putting your most-used apps in your dock. That way, if you need to use one of those apps, you know where it is right away and you can access it anytime.
Definitely put your iPad note-taking app in your dock because you’ll be using it a lot.
4. Organize your iPad
They say a messy environment affects your ability to get things done. The same holds true in your digital space.
A cleaner digital environment will allow you to better focus on your tasks.
Not only that, but it will also save you the time and hassle of looking for specific apps.
I organize my iPad by creating folders for my apps to live in. I have different folders for my study apps, art apps, and more.
That way, rather than scrolling to different pages to find one app, I can look in a specific folder and find the app in a matter of seconds.
5. Utilize your Apple Pencil to its fullest potential
If you use an Apple pencil, you should utilize it in every way possible. Here are some tips that might help you take your note-taking to the next level.
Replace your tips when it shows signs of wear
Not a lot of people know this, but with the new Apple Pencil 2, you can replace your tips.
Naturally, with time and use, things start to wear down. You can easily replace your apple pencil tips with new ones.
Here is the Apple pencil tips replacement that I use.
With the Apple Pencil 2, Double-tap to switch from an eraser to a pencil.
This is a trick I didn’t know about until recently. It’s a quick and useful trick that will save you some time.
Did you know that you can trace things on your iPad? This is useful if you need to draw a diagram or a complex chart/model.
6. Use Digital Sticky Notes and Stickers
When you reread and study your notes, it’s hard to read from start to finish when all you see is an endless wall of mundane text.
The key to legible and comprehensive iPad notes is visual hierarchy.
Visual hierarchy leads your eyes from one section to the next, allowing you to follow a cohesive train of thought. Without it, everything just looks the same.
Having headers and sectioning out your note texts will make it a lot easier to grasp the key points.
One way I like to do this is by using digital sticky notes. Not only do they call your attention to important details, but they also make your notes look more professional and sophisticated.
If you’re looking for digital sticky notes for your school notes, I designed cute and minimalist Pastel digital sticky notes perfect for your iPad Notes!
The sticker book comes with 5 sticker colors and 6 unique sticky note styles! They’re honestly perfect for your notes, journal entries, planners, and more. I use them on a daily basis 🙂
You can find the stickers in my shop!
7. Turn on Do Not Disturb Mode on your iPad
What is a better way to ruin your focus than to be interrupted by notification after notification?
After being distracted, it takes on average 25 minutes for us to get back our focus. While you work, you want to be in a state of deep focus and concentration. Imagine how much time you’d lose if you were constantly distracted.
To prevent this, put your iPad into “Do not Disturb mode.” This will turn off all notifications when activated.
To activate do not disturb mode:
Ask Siri to set your device on do not disturb mode.
OR to manually turn it on:
- Open your control center (swipe down at the top corner)
- Tap on the crescent moon icon
**Note — unless you activated it in your settings, the default ‘Do not disturb’ mode only blocks notifications when your iPad is locked. To change this, go into settings, silence, and check off Always.
8. Use Night Shift when studying at night
Late-night study sessions are common. Almost everyone does it.
However, using blue light before you sleep keeps is proven to decrease your quality of sleep. It is one of the main reasons why many people lose sleep.
Unfortunately, a lack of sleep means a decrease in your focus and concentration.
It is impractical to tell you to not use your electronic devices at night as you need the internet for almost all your assignments these days. Furthermore, everyone has different schedules, and sometimes, the only time you have to study might be at night.
To help counteract this, turn on night shift. Night shift will decrease the blue light and cause less digital strain on our eyes.
How to turn on night shift:
- Go to the control center
- Hold down on the screen brightness
- From there, you should see three buttons as shown below.
- Turn night shift (middle button) on.
However, be sure to decrease your brightness as well. The screen brightness also has a big effect on your quality of sleep.
9. Scan Documents with your iPad
To annotate documents, you had to have or get access to a paper scanner, scan your notes, import them on a PDF editing software, and own a tablet (if you wanted to write on it).
With the iPad, scanning and annotating documents has never been easier.
Rather than scanning in a document, saving it to your computer, and then transferring it to your iPad, you can just use your iPad Camera.
Not only will it capture your documents, but it can also extract text, making it easier to scan through your readings.
To do this for free:
- Go to Notes
- Create a new note
- When the keyboard appears, click on the camera icon
- Take a photo of your document. A box should appear around it for you to crop.
- Save and export to an App of your choice.
Study with Me
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you want to observe how I study and see me apply some of the tips above, give my study video watch. It’ll be especially helpful if you’re more of a visual learner.
“Learning is not a spectator sport.” —D. Blocher
The iPad is truly a great studying tool. However, using it alone won’t improve your grades and academic performance.
It has the tools that can help you succeed, but it’s ultimately up to the work you put in.
What I can say is that the iPad has made many tasks a lot easier for me. I don’t have to carry around 20 notebooks and pens, and I feel secure knowing all my notes and apps are backed up.
It saves me a lot of time and hassle and my studying experience has definitely improved.
Try out these study tips and let me know in the comments if you have any other iPad note-taking tips you swear by!
Here are other relevant blog posts on your digital planning, iPad note-taking, and studying journey:
- The Ultimate Guide to Being a Paperless Student
- Key Tips to Improve your Handwriting on the iPad
- 12 Ways to Use your iPad for School and Studying (Study Apps/Resources Included)