September 7th, 2012

App of the Week: Noteshelf



Noteshelf (Ramki)




An excellent app for iPad fence-sitters contemplating a move to digital note taking.

Learning Curve

Intuitive and very easy to use

Rating (5 star scale)

5 stars



I have a lot of apps. That is not surprising because as anyone knows, few apps are capable of doing everything they promise much less doing everything well. So, given the number of note-taking apps I already own, why am I still looking for that perfect note-taking app? Well, I have a confession to make: my penmanship is not the best but, at least, I can read it and what I am really after is an app that makes my handwriting on the iPad look and feel like what I write using pen/pencil and paper. That, more than anything else, has been the biggest impediment to me making the switch to total electronic note-taking.

Oh, a few of the apps I already use do a great job of note-taking and some even have a conversion tool; however, Noteshelf’s intuitive feel, the natural free flowing ink, and the very normal feel to writing is truly remarkable! What can you do with Noteshelf? Frankly, just about anything you can do with traditional pen and note pad. But best of all, writing in Noteshelf feels very much like writing on paper. My electronic notes look like my usual scribble or chicken scratches on paper and that is really important to me. The “no difference” feel and look is what sets Noteshelf apart from other note-taking apps. Other notable features include: the bookshelf look for all my many note pads; the self-adjusting wrist protection for my palm (a feature that automatically adjusts as you write), and a simple but functional toolbar that provides access to all of the app’s features.

Noteshelf, like other similar apps, has a close-up writing mode that allows you to write in a larger format on the bottom half of the screen but have your notes appear in a normal size. There is also a guide that tracks your writing from left to right and down the page as well. Noteshelf allows you to adjust the thickness of the line or text and moving from page to page is a cinch. You can use a keyboard to enter text into Noteshelf, but I really prefer to use the app more for note taking and creating the occasional drawing, because what I am after is an app that simply allows me to make notes anytime, anyplace, and provide a look and feel of the pen and paper that I have been using for so many years!

Noteshelf does not claim to be all things, but it is a functional replacement for traditional note taking. It’s an electronic substitute that saves you the trouble of having to look for pen and paper whether you need to take a lot of notes, jot down a to-do list, draw and label a diagram, or simply make entries into a diary. Up until Noteshelf I was uncertain that I could ever ditch my attachment to pen and paper. Now I know I really can and I will be able to do it without feeling like I am missing anything.

Some of Noteshelf competition include: Penultimate ($0.99); Notes Plus ($4.99 a more comprehensive package that I use alongside Noteshelf); and Notebook for iPad ($8.99). I really do not have anything to complain regarding Noteshelf’s ability to do what I expect of it because it gives me the feel of writing on paper and providing a look to my scribbles similar to what would normally be created using a traditional pen and paper.

Dave Yearwood is an associate professor and chair of the technology department at the University of North Dakota.

Noteshelf notetaking app

  • Linda Wells

    I'm looking for something that will turn my handwriting to text. Is there anything out there?

    • Dave Yearwood

      Linda, "WritePad" works rather well. I have used it with some success due in part to my poor handwriting. This app works well if you have better penmanship than I do. I can usually get it to work but have to really take my time if I want good text conversion. There is one other app that I have been pleased with and that is NotePlus (see an earlier app review on this). You will need, however, to purchase the plug in to go with the app.

  • Art North

    Noteshelf has just added calligraphic nibs – allowing for beautiful thick and thin strokes essential for italic and other styles of calligraphy. This sets it apart from all other note apps right now.

    They also provide support for some brand new pressure sensitive styluses, but I have yet to try these.

  • Todd Finley

    It's fun to use. I wish there was something easy to use to read students papers, respond, and send back to them quickly.

    • Dave

      Todd, not sure of a one step procedure to accomplish what you desire, especially in an app. There is a possible way out if you use your computer to read students' papers to you (for Windows platform, use ReadPlease; I think MS Word has a feature to allow this as well. For Macs, there is a built in feature to read texts). Then, you could turn around and use the QuickVoice Pro or QuickVoice app to email your voice feedback to students. Be sure to tell students to use the Quicktime player to play back the e-mail voice recording. Hope this helps.

  • Shemon

    Great review!
    Thank you very much.
    I just have one important question, does the zoom writing function supports right to left languages (like Hebrew)?

    Thanks again

  • dee

    I have used noteshelf for over a year or so and its been great especially after the retina update. The ink engine is fast and smooth. The organisation of notebooks with customization covers is nice.

    However I recently went back to explore other notepad apps to see what had changed since I reviewed them from way back.

    I can now say that Goodnotes has improved a lot. It used to feel very laggy but they have improved things there and now the engine is very similar to noteshelf.

    One thing that has now swayed me to Goodnotes is the 'page'. Noteshelf feels to me now to be a small sized notebook in that I have only 24 lines to write on. Goodnotes has way more lines and looks like an A4 page. I have always written physical notes on A4 size pages so Goodnotes offers an exact replica of this. With Noteshelf it always felt like I had limited space to write notes and made it feel like an A5 paper in terms of a physical counterpart.

    I like the pages overview in Goodnotes, the one in Noteshelf just doesn't feel right with my brain- and I feel some lag in my brain as it tries to get a quick overview. I think this maybe because Noteshelf displays it all in one column, from top to bottom which requires scrolling down. Goodnotes does it over three columns, left to right, very much like laying out a book. My brain gets this straightaway.

    The other thing I like about Goodnotes is the pdf backup sync. I know I can now access pdf replica's of my notes on any computer. With Noteshelf I had to sync/send one page at a time. Its such a boring task I haven't bothered to do any synching/backup.

    So I am now in the process in rewriting my notes from Noteshelf and I will be removing it once I am done.

    Hope this helps people. At the end of the day you need to try them out if you have the funds and see what suits you and what functions you will need. I think the inking engines have come a long way since a year ago. I'm excited to see what the future will bring -especially as new ipads come out!