My main reason for having an iPad is how nice it will be for medical school, where everyone says you're bombarded with material in the form of presentations, coursepacks, pdf articles and more. All of those can be stored, viewed, edited and annotated on the iPad. The newest version of Notes Plus is the best app I've used (and I've tried all the mainstream ones) for taking notes and annotating PDFs on the iPad. Before I review a few of my favorite features of the app, I'd like to note that I use a Jot Pro by the company called adonit, pictured below:
1. The layout.
Below, I took a screenshot of the portrait layout of Notes Plus, imported the screenshot, and annotated it in Notes Plus to show the features and tools available. The layout is simple and intuitive, easily customizable.
All of the tools and pen styles can be customized to be whatever the user wants, allowing each person to choose exactly what they want and where they want it. You simply press and hold on the tool or pen style, then slide to select the tool that you want to have in that space.
The Browser Panel is probably (for me) the most useful addition to the Notes Plus user interface. Accessed by sliding the center panel to the right, it allows the user to grab any image simply by pressing and holding on the image, then "tossing" the image over to the notebook they're currently working in. The image smoothly shoots over for placement on the page. Images can then be duplicated via copy & paste, rotated, and resized.
The close-up box is probably one of the very best features, separating Notes Plus from the rest in simple ease of functionality. Its lack was always the first thing that bothered me about other handwriting apps; it's the most natural way that I've found to clearly write whole paragraphs on the iPad. Obviously, the close-up box is much smaller than the whole line, since it's pretty much a zoomed-in view. As you write from right to left, you will approach the right side of the close-up box long before you reach the end of the line. When this happens (and when you actually reach the end of the line) a grey box appears in the left-hand area of the close-up box, as shown below.
I don't know why this isn't something that all handwriting apps can do, but so far Notes Plus is the only one where you can select and move groups of text after you've written them. After selecting a group of text, an arrow appears that you select to access options for what to do with the selected text.
b. You can also Group your selection to make it easier to move or keep track of. This option is handy for when you want to keep shapes, written text, and typed text together.
c. One of the most advanced options is the Convert to Text feature. Sadly, it's only available as an in-app purchase for $1.99, but apparently the developers are taking a hit even at that price, as the handwriting recognition engine license is leased on a per-user basis and actually costs more than that. Regardless, the feature is great. It recognizes handwritten text and converts it to typed text with incredible accuracy. The resulting text is then searchable, allowing you to search a notebook for a specific word or phrase without having to sort through the pages manually.
d. You can also Copy or Delete your selection. The Send to Back option is very useful when trying to arrange a figure or photo behind some written text. Selecting or editing an image will bring it to the foreground, so a handy option for sending something to the back layer is a good thing to have.
The tools and flexibility offered by Notes Plus are great. Not only can you directly import PDF files from your email or a web browser for annotation (done by selecting Notes Plus from the "Open In..." option), you can also save PDFs directly to Google Docs. While at the time of this writing Drop Box synchronization and exporting is not an option, it will soon be enabled in Notes Plus v3.0.1. See the below screenshot for the options available in the Tools menu.
I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to hear what the professor said when going back through a confusing part of my notes after a lecture. With Notes Plus, it's easy. You simply tap the microphone icon on the center bar. It will glow red when actively recording, as shown below.
The organization of notes in Notes Plus is simple. You have Folders, Notebooks, and Pages. Folders contain Notebooks, and Notebooks contain Pages, just like in real life. Unlike real life, Notes Plus allows users to move or copy whole pages or even entire notebooks from one place to another. Below is how I currently have my documents organized - one folder for this Spring semester, a template (read-only) notebook to be copied for future classes (all the pages are a custom size), and a scratch-pad notebook for miscellaneous doodlings.