I have officially made the transition away from paper note-taking and I love it! I never thought I would actually do it, but you really can type so much faster than you can write!  So, I started exploring using my ipad as my primary resource for school! And, it has worked out phenomenally well!  

If you have the means to buy a tablet, I highly suggest it if you’re a student, especially a science student.  This has streamlined my note-taking so much, so many resources are compiled onto one slim piece of equipment, my backpack is lighter….really the list just goes on.  

Here is a quick list of the apps that I use on my ipad!  Like I said, I’ve tried a lot of apps, and these are the ones I like and use the most!


I have tried SO MANY note-taking apps.  I can’t tell you how much money I’ve spent on them.  I really like the layout of OneNote and Outline+ (the fantastic streamlined app that OneNote should have been), but I ended up disliking them because syncing was such a pain.  I tried Evernote, but didn’t like the interface.  It is a great app, but I didn’t prefer it.  My friend told me about Notability after school started this fall.  I had tried the app before and it hadn’t won me over, but now I realize that it was simply because I didn’t know how to use it!  Notability issuch a fantastic note-taking app.  You have the ability to type, write with a stylus (or your finger, but please get a stylus…its easier), zoom in on your writing so that it is neater and you can write smaller, add a wrist guard to prevent unwanted marks, and BONUS, record your lecture as you’re taking notes.  When you play back the lecture, it jumps to the part of your notes that you took corresponding to that part of the lecture (note that I think this only applies to typing, not written notes)! It’s so seamless!  And finally, you can save your notes to various different cloud services. I use dropbox.  I can upload my notes as a pdf, as well as upload the recording of the lecture, and access it on my PC when I get home.  I love this app!  So fantastic and so worth it!

Okay so if you’re new to the iPad/Apple world, then you’ll be bombarded my all these things that tell you you just have to buy Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Now, I’ll get to keynote and tell you why I think that one might be worth the price tage, but Pages and Numbers, I would personally pass on.  Especially for scientists.  Why, do you ask? Well, because science writing does need all the frill and fancy that Pages advertises. It’s just not necesssary because it will frankly never be used. Science writing doesn’t require, and frankly should not contain those kind of fancy features.  That is why I just went with the QuickOffice App.  Overall it is cheaper than getting the Keynote, Numbers, Pages bundle. They have however recently changed it so that it is no longer sync-able automatically with Dropbox. While I don’t like that, it is easy for you to, from the Dropbox app, import files into QuickOffice. 


iAnnotate – Great for annotating and highlighting pdfs! I really like it, but you can just as easily do this within Notability. So this might be an extravagance.  

PubMed on Tap – I love this because it puts PubMed right at my fingertips. I do occasionally have some issues with the interface though, and sometimes I find it’s just easier to go on Safari or Google chrome and look up an article.  Especially for those articles that have limited access. Sometimes I have to just look those up through the University library. Plus, mobile pubmed has a pretty good interface on a tablet. This app might also be an extravagance if you’re short on space.


I’ve switched to an electronic notebook and I LOVE it!  At first I wasn’t comfortable with this sort of idea. I like hard copy. It’s portable, and it’s what I’m used to. But, having an electronic notebook is SO nice! Why? Well for one it’s searchable, which is such a bonus if you’re looking for a protocol or certain day or a certain experiment.  Secondly, you can copy and paste something from one section of your notebook to another.  Thirdly, it syncs between your devices, which is an example of why I really like Evernote. I don’t consistently bring my laptop to work with me. It depends on how much I’ll actually be in lab that day. So, Evernote is great because it syncs between my laptop and my iPad, which is what I bring along on the days when I’m in lab less and don’t want to hall my laptop around to class.  I’ve heard of other services. LabGuru is one I’ve heard of. I’ve never used it, but it does cost money. Evernote is free.  My lab mate also using this Journal software on her Mac which I believe is sync-able (don’t quote me on that though).  I don’t have a Mac so that software was out of the question for me!  But, ya so far I really love evernote for that. And – BONUS! In evernote, you can have a “notebook” dedicated to your lab, and decide that notebook into sub-“notes” which can represent different projects if you’re working on multiple projects.  

Mendeley (or Papers)

I’ll tell you right now that I haven’t used Papers (I don’t have a Mac!) but I will stress to you that it is really important to have an organization systems for all of the papers you’re going to read. One of these applications will save you SO much time!  I’ve used it this year to organize my papers into their respective papers. Sometimes I just save papers into an “interests” section for topics that I found interesting or techniques that could be useful.  I don’t love Mendeley, but it serves its purpose well.  I’ve heard GREAT things about Papers, but again, I don’t have a Mac so I unfortunately miss out on what sounds like a great app. Also, Mendeley is free and Papers costs money. Something else to consider.


I hope that’s helpful! Comment below if you have any other questions about types of applications you utilize!



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