Which Apple App Is Best For Note-Taking?

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Apple‘s Freeform app has all the familiarity of Notes without some of its limitations, but is that enough to make it the default note-taking app on Apple devices? The Notes app has come a long way since it first debuted, and it’s finally rivaling third-party offerings like GoodNotes 5 and Notability. Freeform is a whiteboard-style workspace that can be shared with up to 99 other people, with iMessage and FaceTime integration fostering collaboration. Still, it faces an uphill battle to win over long-time Apple Notes users.


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Freeform and Apple Notes are more similar than they are different, but it’s clear they are positioned for different types of work. With that being said, the user-interface for both applications is fundamentally the same. Both use a toolbar with the available tools and input methods at the top of the screen, and offer sharing functionality with the ‘More’ button. Apple Notes is a structured like a typical text document with drawing functionality added by way of the ‘Markup‘ tool. However, Freeform quite literally starts as a blank canvas, and users can get started by adding text, drawing, or inserting media.

Related: How To Create & Collaborate With Freeform On iPhone, iPad, & Mac


Freeform Has The Edge In Sharing & Fluidity

The all-new Freeform app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Freeform is best used for quick-thinking bursts of creativity, or project planning that would usually take place on a whiteboard. It’s especially useful for remote work, as 100 people can contribute to a single board at the same time while chatting, voice calling, or video calling. Users can add everything from sticky notes, to shapes, to drawings, to images and videos.

While there isn’t unlimited space on a Freeform Board, there’s a lot more room for content and flexibility when compared to an Apple Notes document. By default, a Board is zoomed out to 100 percent, but users can zoom in all the way up to 400 percent to enter the finer details. Then, they can zoom out to 10 percent to view the whole project plan or mind map. As such, moving around in just about any direction is likely to open up more room for creativity and collaboration.

Freeform Has Some Limitations

Notes Vs Freeform on iPhone

While Freeform will appeal to creatives or anyone who prefers a more visual interface, it does come with some limitations. Notably, unlike Notes, Freeform doesn’t offer full functionality on Mac. The app’s selection of drawing tools aren’t available on Mac, which doesn’t come as a surprise, given that the Apple Pencil doesn’t work on Mac. Speaking of Apple Pencil, users looking to make the most out of Freeform will need Apple’s stylus for drawing or note-taking. While it is possible to use a finger to draw and trace, it’s nowhere near as precise as Apple Pencil.

This means that Freeform really works best on iPads, given that Apple Pencil isn’t compatible with the iPhone either. While users can enable iCloud syncing to access their Freeform notes across devices, any drawing or sketching will ideally need to be done on the iPad. Additionally, Freeform (like most Apple apps) is restricted to the Apple ecosystem, which means its extensive collaboration potential doesn’t extend to platforms like Android and Windows.

Though there’s certainly a subset of creatives and professionals that will use Freeform to its full potential, that’s not going to be the average user who is just trying to jot down a quick note. In those moments, when users need to take down an email address or phone number in a pinch, Apple Notes’ structure and reliability will be appreciated. Regardless of whether it is their favorite note-taking app available, Notes is an app every Apple user knows how to navigate. That isn’t going to change anytime soon, no matter how great Apple‘s Freeform app is for creativity and collaboration.

Source: Apple