Cross-Platform Notes Taking App

I am not an Apple fan, but I thought I'd give it a try. So, well, I bought an iPad mini 5.

Then I was struggling to get which notebook app to use.

Back in Android, when I was using Galaxy Note 10.1 (2013 version), I used Papyrus, which is now rebranded as Squid Notes. It was a great, great note taking app back then, but it didn't support PDF annotations (the new version, as of 2019, now supports it). It was great also because it has an easy-to-use, worry-free syncing support to any online storage/cloud drives. I could use both Google Drive and Dropbox to sync simultaneously, which is a great, great feature.

Now, I find there are many apps to use on iPad. Notability, PDF expert, GoodNotes 5, etc. Then I tried them all.

Long story short: they are not yet cross-platform.

You may now think, hmm, why don't you use Evernote. Sure thing, I am an Evernote user since day 1. It is improved a lot, and it has a great tagging feature that allows better organizations. However, it still lacks certain functions I needed.

To me, I want the following features to be a good note taking app:

  • Cross-platform
  • Supporting PDF annotations
  • Intuitive design (in terms of easy switching between typing, handwriting, drawing)
  • Powerful organization (in terms of multi-tagging)

I am a little bit disappointed that none of existing apps I have tried fit my need.

Notability is great that it syncs up Audio Recording and Handwriting. But its PDF annotation is hard to use, and you cannot really give your notes multiple tags for a quick search. Also, it does not support two-way syncing from any cloud drives.

PDF expert is great in PDF annotations, and it has great two-way syncing functions (partially cross-platform then). But yea, notes taking is painful.

Squid Notes (on Android) is great in notes taking and syncing, but (back then) it didn't support PDF annotation. It isn't two-way syncing and neither it is cross-platform.

Evernote is great in cross-platform and its easy-to-manage tagging, but its PDF annotation is painful on iPad and Android tablet.

Microsoft OneNote is a great cross-platform product, but it has a very messy design on notes taking.

And finally, none of above mentioned apps have intuitive design in mode switching. Why do you have to click certain buttons to switch between different modes. Why can't you treat each page (or the page, if in infinite scrolling mode) as a free-to-edit PDF page and smartly detect whether user wants to type with their keyboard or write with their pen.

Well, if you know anything better, please let me know..

My Current Temp Solution

I am still using Evernote as I have over 1000 papers managed in it..

But I'm now trying to get away from it, as it keeps increasing its subscription fee and yet still hasn't fixed many things that I need (frustrating annotation, bad formatting).

So my current solution is:

  • iPad: Use Notability only if I need audio recordings syncs with my notes
  • iPad: Use PDF expert to manage all notes (as in PDF format) and other papers and documents, which are synced with my Google Drive (yea, it does not support multi-syncing to two or more drives).
  • All: Use TagSpaces (cross-platform) to organize all PDFs in my Google Drive, which is synced to all computers I have
  • Android: Since I now only have DPT-RP1 as my Android tablet, and I only use it for reading, I just had Google Drive and TagSpaces installed.


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