Notable Mentions:

Whilst the apps that are shown below do not meet the specific criteria of using a stylus and ‘zoom’ function, they are remarkably good at being used to make notes and annotate lectures. Some of these apps are particularly useful because they include a highly effective PDF manager which allows you to keep track of all your notes.

iAnnotate PDF:

iAnnotate PDF was one of the original successful note-taking apps for the iPad which we were very impressed with when we reviewed it in May 2010. It offered an impressive range of annotation options including highlighting, underlining, crossing out, comments, and more. There is a useful tab feature which allows the user to have multiple documents open at one time. iAnnotate can only handle PDF files and there are question marks over its ability to import/export files however many users continue to convert lectures into PDF and use iAnnotate PDF as their app of choice. If this is the case then you may want to check out GoodReader or PDF Expert (shown below) as these apps offer significantly enhanced functionality over iAnnotate.




Keynote is Apple’s presentation editor which has been adapted from the popular Mac version for the iPad. Whilst it does not appear to fulfil many of the criteria specified for a note-taking app, it does have a remarkable number of strengths which mean it should be considered. Its main strength in terms of note-taking is its ability to handle PowerPoint files. It can import and open these from a number of sources including mail attachments, Dropbox and Safari. Once a file has been opened there are a vast number of options available to annotate slides. Text boxes can be added or removed and images can be manipulated in size and location. It is possible to delete slides completely or change the order of the presentation. There are also options to add media such as photos, charts and tables. With the advent of iCloud, there are significantly more options available in order to export presentations rather than the standard email, iTunes sharing, WebDAV or iDisk.

There are a number of shortcomings with Keynote such as its inability to handle complex themes, occasional file corruption issues, no presenter notes and no Master Slide/Templates. Despite these, it is the best app in the App Store to handle and manipulate raw PowerPoint files and as a result it has been included due to its ability to annotate lectures.



GoodReader and PDF Expert are primarily PDF Management apps as discussed in detail in our recent article on [The Best PDF Management App for Healthcare Professionals]. GoodReader can read a number of common file formats and has extensive connectivity with access to a number of cloud storage services including Dropbox. GoodReaders real strength when it comes to note-taking is annotating PDFs. Unfortunately GoodReader can only annotate PDFs however it is good at this task. There are a range of options available that include highlighting, underlining, strikethrough, comments, text boxes, a range of shapes and freehand drawing. The freehand drawing can be used effectively with a stylus to quickly add handwritten notes to PDFs. GoodReader can also duplicate PDFs so could be used as basic templates. [UPDATE: There is now support added for the zoom hadnwriting mode as seen in the other apps which makes this an impressive tool]


PDF Expert



PDF Expert was deemed to be the best PDF management app for healthcare professionals due to its extensive feature set. This included excellent connectivity to a range of online cloud storage services as well as a number of additional options to import/export PDFs. Annotating PDFs was exceptionally advanced and straightforward due to the impressive user interface. PDF Expert can be used by healthcare professionals to manage their PDF library whilst retaining the ability to annotate these documents. In terms of functionality, PDF Expert allows the user to annotate using the same tools available in GoodReader however the improved UI means that this task can be carried out easier and quicker. PDF Expert also offers the ability to manipulate PDF pages such as deleting/rearranging which ensures almost total control over a PDF.