Noteshelf for iPad is a Must-Have App

| Quick Look Review

Noteshelf is an app designed to take written notes on an iPad, but it is so much more than that. It is so perfectly designed, so ingenious, so intuitive that it has to be considered one of the quintessential iPad apps. It’s a must-have tool and gets a 4.5/5 rating.

Noteshelf gets its name from the idea that you create notebooks, and they reside on a bookshelf in a style similar to iBooks.


A design similar to iBooks.

The creation of a notebook is via the New button the the Bookshelf/Noteshelf. Here is where you select the title of the notebook, the cover and and the design of the paper. For example, graph paper, legal paper, etc.


The text on the upper left is editable, the name of the new notebook.

From there you have a toolbar at the top with pens, erasers, a text tool, a camera and photo manager, and multiplelevels of undo. At this level, the app is a delight to use and would get a high rating. But there’s more, and the more part is ridiculously cool.

  • You can tag a page then search for pages that have that tag.
  • You can immediately send a page to email, Twitter or Facebook.
  • You can make the document read-only.
  • You can set a wrist protection area so you can rest your wrist on the display.
  • You can lock the orientation.
  • You can lock a document with a passcode.
  • There’s a zoom mode for fine detail.
  • You can export as PNG or PDF, selected pages, to email, iTunes, Dropbox, Evernote, iPad Album, or print. (Printing worked perfectly with Printopia from ecamm.)
  • Template pages can be added to the notebook, such as calendar pages, music scores, meeting notes, etc.
  • A store where you can buy custom papers, covers and shelf themes.

The are two kinds of pens: 1) a fine pen with a palette of colors and 2) a highlighter pen. The highlighter does just what you’d expect, and you have a rainbow of colors to chose from.


Pen selection (also shows tool bar at the top)

One feature I especially liked was camera integration. You can set up a photo, just like the camera app, then import the image immediately into the page. You can then draw directly on the photo with pen or highlighter.


Real time photo prep. Press the button to take a photo.

The screen shot below shows how I’ve inserted a snapshot of our cat, written some notes, added text, added a smiley, then highlighted the text with a green highlight pen. I could have drawn on the photo too. The photo is resizable.


My first page of legal pads notes, a photo, text, highlights, and a Smiley.

The design and execution of this app takes your breath away. There are no missing features, no half way measures. For example, you can swipe through page like a novel in iBooks, or you can touch the page number to bring up a Page View. Each page is numbered and dated.


Different pages can have different themes.


The first time you launch the app, a notebook opens that beautifully explains each function of the app. This document is a work of art and a labor of love in itself. I was very much impressed. After you close that notebook, it resides on the shelf, always available for reference.


The notebook as documentation is fabulous, has 17 pages.


When exporting a legal pad document to email, I noticed that upon email composition, the background yellow color had changed to white. This happend in both PNG and PDF mode, and it didn’t matter how I exported it. For example the background color was also lost when exporting to an iPad photo album.

System Requirements

Noteshelf requires an iPad and iOS 4.0 or later. Camera usage requires an iPad 2 or 3. No stylus is needed, but some may prefer one with this app.

A Final Note

This app is dizzyingly great and created great enthusiasm for me. It brilliantly exploits the iPad’s capabilities, and there’s nothing to make you think, “if only it had such and such feature.” The key to an app like this is transparency, flexibility, intuitiveness and the ability to export work in many ways and in different formats. It has it all.

I will be adding this app to the list of essential apps for the educator. There is nothing that I didn’t like, and the execution is almost flawless.

Product: Noteshelf v5.0


List Price: US$5.99



Excellent design. Intuitive. First-rate documentation. Lots of ways to export work. Tag and search function. Wrist protection. Zoom for detail.


None noted.

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Bob LeVitus

Nicely done, John. I just bought a copy for myself!

Lee Dronick

Hmmm. I have been using Pages for notes, but this app seems to have some nice features.


This is the one place where I thought Steve Jobs was wrong about the stylus.  He’s right for navigation and general use, of course.  But a device like the iPad is just begging to replace paper note taking, and it can only do that for me with a stylus.  And good software.

I’m almost certain to get this app, it looks awesome. 

(I will be purchasing my first iPad soon.  I finally have enough use cases and have convinced my wife too. Though she still doesn’t think it’ll be that useful, just that she’ll let me get one.  I personally think she’ll end up using it more than me.)


This versus Notes Plus?  I saw some good reviews for that one, and it has some nice interface features (like circling objects to select, shape recognition, in-app purchase for handwriting recognition).  Can anyone compare the two?  Thanks.


I have been using Noteshelf on the iPad for about a year now to do all my writing in class (I teach chemistry).  I have given up writing on the white/back board.  All my notes are done on Noteshelf (using a stylus) and is projected to the class.  At the end of class I send my notes to my students.  Noteshelf does a great job of providing a very nice zoom window that makes writing very easy.  The cut and paste feature is nice when I have to make the same diagram over and over.

nancy Ross

This looks fantastic.  There are pen selections but how do you write on screen without using keyboard?  Probably a dumb question but would like to know. Thanks.

John Martellaro

You can draw on the screen with your finger or a stylus.

The Text icon in the tool bar opens up a small window where you can enter text from the keyboard. There, you have control over the font and size. It can be moved around.

You can also zoom in to get finer control when you’re drawing with a finger or stylus.


It would be perfect, if it transcribed hand written text.
Once you shift from personal notes, the need for exported transcribed text becomes fundental.
Any alternatives that does this?


It would be perfect, if it transcribed hand written text.
Once you shift from personal notes, the need for exported transcribed text becomes fundental.
Any alternatives that does this?

Notes Plus has handwriting recognition to convert handwritten text to typed text.  It’s an in-app purchase ($1.99).

This is another good reason why I want to see Notes Plus and Noteshelf compared directly.  I can read the list of features and look at screenshots from both, but without comparing them directly to each other all I know is which features they chose to highlight and can say nothing about whether a feature not mentioned by one is in fact not included.  E.g. Noteshelf says it has a highlighter pen.  Notes Plus doesn’t say this, but it does say you can set size, color, and transparency of the pen, which would probably work as a highlighter.  But how easy is that to use?

Other comparisons based on what I’ve read or seen in screenshots:
- They have different interface styles, with Notes Plus depending more on gestures.
- Noteshelf has an eraser, it sounds like Notes Plus does not but rather depends on the scribble-out gesture and a select+delete option
- Notes Plus has an in-app purchase for handwriting recognition
- Notes Plus saves files as SVGs, which are a portable vector graphics format.  Noteshelf just says that it can export PNG and PDF, I don’t know about SVG.
- Both claim Dropbox support, but one says it saves note book files directly in Dropbox as you edit while the other makes it sound more like an export option.
- Both have some kind of palm / unwanted input protection.  I’m not sure how they compare
- Both have nice ink effects on writing, and a large selection of colors / sizes / etc. to draw with
- Notes Plus has shape detection, I don’t know about Noteshelf
- Noteshelf likes the skeumorphic shelf screen.  Notes Plus has a note by the author saying he thought it was too jarring to go back to a separate shelf screen so they have a side panel.
- Forum comments say Notes Plus has had stability issues, but notes on recent versions say they should be fixed at least to the point where you can’t lose your notes anymore.
- Notes Plus does not have retina graphics, but they are submitting the update to Apple this week to have those.
- It looks like both have some kind of page preview interface
- It looks like both can include pictures and perhaps other media (sound, etc.)
- Both have a zoom window for writing text more accurately
- Noteshelf has a selection of note pad background themes with in-app purchases to buy more.  Notes Plus has only one in-app purchase, the handwriting recognition.  I’m not sure how many background options it has.  Noteshelf is $5.99, Notes Plus is $7.99.  For my purposes, I don’t need to buy more notepad backgrounds, but I would like the handwriting recognition, so that means it’s essentially $6 vs. $10 for what I would buy.

I think I’m leaning towards Notes Plus at the moment (SVG, handwriting recognition).  In the end I might end up getting both just to try them out, but if the first one I buy is sufficiently pleasing I might never get around to buying the other.

Evans PM

@webjprgm - I have both Noteshelf and Notes Plus, and both are great.  The main feature Notes Plus has that Noteshelf does not is the ability to record audio while you are writing.  This is a KEY DIFFERENCE that if Noteshelf added, it would be the clear favorite, as I would say Noteshelf has a better and friendlier interface.  Notes Plus has all the other features of pasting in photos, writing, typing, zoomed writing, highlighting, different fonts/colors/sizes, password protect individual folders, palm/wrist protection, quickstart guide, exporting to email/itunes/dropbox/photo album/google docs in png, or pdf to pretty much any other app on your device.  Other differences: Noteshelf offers cute stamps to insert and ability to share via Facebook and twitter, which apparently Notes Plus does not.  However, Notes Plus has added features such as drawing precise geometric shapes and has an adjustable palm pad in addition to automatic wrist protection.

If you are taking math notes (and want to draw precise shapes with measurements) and like to have an audio recording, I would go with Notes Plus.  If you don’t need these features and want a more friendly interface that makes it easy to share via social networks, I’d go with Noteshelf.


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

Evans PM

Notes Plus has this ability but it doesn’t appear Noteshelf does.  To activate in Notes Plus, go to settings by “pulling out” the menu on the left-hand side (where the binder rings would be on an actual notebook) and click on the bottom button (looks like a gear).  Scroll down under App Settings until you see “Right-to-left Writing in Closeup Box.”  Turn this function on and you’re good to go!

One other thing I forgot to mention: Notes Plus allows for folders and sub-folders, something Noteshelf doesn’t appear to allow (tho again, it looks prettier).  Also, while Noteshelf has a few more lined/graph paper options as well as prettier covers than Notes Plus, Notes Plus offers blank music sheets to write on.

Jenny Rowlands

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!


Hey guys, we recently made some updates in the Noteshelf app.

We now have Evernote Auto-Publish which allows you to automatically publish selected notebooks to your Evernote account. You can now also import and annotate your Microsoft Office files on Noteshelf which will be converted to PDF. Just make sure you have a Google Drive account to import those Word, Powerpoint and Excel files.

On that note, we also support Google Drive and Pencil, this wicked writing stylus from FiftyThree that has an eraser tip.

Also we have a new feature called Air Transfer which saves you a lot of space as it allows you to backup and archive your notebooks. You can also share your files via your computer wirelessly by using Air Transfer.

Hope you’ll find this helpful in choosing a note taking app and in maximising the use of Noteshelf.

We’re also giving away promo codes to anyone who’d like to try out Noteshelf for a limited time only. Just visit our Facebook page for more info.

Have a great day guys! smile

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