The yellow legal pad? It’s history. Whether you are a criminal defense lawyer, a DUI lawyer, a non-compete lawyer, or handle any other type of legal work, there’s now an app to streamline your practice.

Note Taker HD ($4.99) lets you take handwritten notes on your iPad. With the latest version, you can type notes, too. Each document is saved as a .pdf file for Dropbox, GoodReader, or email.

First, you need a stylus to write on your iPad. Since the iPad’s screen is optimized for recognizing the touch of a finger, do not attempt to write on it with a regular ink pen. You will scratch the screen. I recommend the Griffin Stylus ($19.99), which has a rubber ball at the end that glides over the surface of the screen.

Writing with a stylus is as easy as carrying a pen, so be sure to purchase one.

Second, you need Note Taker HD. Download and install the app. When you open it, you will be prompted to create a new document by selecting the “+” sign in the upper-right-hand corner:

The new document opens on your iPad in that familiar yellow legal pad format, which you can customize in the settings. You can now write on the document with your stylus. To write legibly – and quickly- I always click “Edit2” to write in the zoom box at the bottom of the screen:

The zoom box allows you to write large text, which will appear wherever the blue dotted box is located on the page. This feature is what separates Note Taker HD from the other handwriting applications (UPad, Penultimate, etc.). Unless your penmanship is Escher-esque – and whose is? – the zoom box allows you to write quickly and easily while taking pages of notes. Write in the box, click advance or return, and keep writing:

It takes practice, but like riding a bicycle, writing with Note Taker HD is quickly second-nature. Once you are finished, select “Done” and click on Tools. You can save your notes as a .pdf file in GoodReader or email them to the office. To do so, select “Output Selected” and click on your notes. Select whether you want to email the document as a .pdf attachment or save it to GoodReader:

Rather than spend your day shuffling notes from client meetings and court appearances into desk drawers, Note Taker HD solves the problem of too much paper and lets you work in a true paperless environment.

For questions, comments, or help using the Apple iPad at work, please contact me at

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About The Author

Rob Dean

Rob Dean is an lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia, where he concentrates his practice on employment law and personal injury litigation. For help using the iPad at work, email him at

14 Responses to App Review: Take Notes with Note Taker HD

  1. John says:

    Nice review, but why should I pay for Note Taker when Penultimate is free? What features am I missing? Thanks!

  2. Rob Dean says:

    Hi John,

    Great to hear from you. When I first started with the iPad, I used Penultimate, but I found it difficult to replicate writing with a pen on paper when using a stylus – sort of like writing with a large crayon. Plus, my palm always got in the way when I rested it on the screen.

    Note Taker HD solves both problems with the “zoom box” feature. You can write at the bottom of the page in large letters that are shrunk to normal size on the actual document. I tested several other writing apps and found this to be the best.


  3. Jay says:

    What makes this app superior to the on-screen keyboard and a more basic note-taking app, especially for those who touch-type? I do not have an ipad yet and one of the major reasons I am interested in one is for note-taking in the courtroom (instead of those legal pads).

    Is it more an issue of preference for hand-written notes, or is there a practical reason for using this method instead of the keyboard?

  4. Rob Dean says:

    Hi Jay,

    Note Taker HD is the best app for taking handwritten notes. For attorneys who prefer to type, the iPad touch-keyboard is great in conjunction with PlainText, which syncs to Dropbox. I will be reviewing PlainText this week as the fourth installment of my “Getting Started” series.

    Plus, the newest version of Note Taker HD allows you to type notes into the document, so this may solve your problem.

    If you are going to type at counsel table, I suggest keeping the iPad locked in the horizontal orientation and propped up with a good case, e.g. Speck DustJacket, which is available at Target for $39.99.


  5. Rob,
    Have you updated Note Taker HD 5.0?

    Looking forward to your feedback.


  6. Rob Dean says:

    Hi Janet,

    Yes, I updated a few weeks ago. I am very pleased with the updates, especially the ability to move blocks of text. It remains my favorite app for taking notes during meetings.


  7. Jason says:


    I’m trying out UPad right now. It seems to have the same zoom box writing capability as Note Taker HD. What are the differences?


  8. […] Taker HD ($4.99) is my favorite note-taking application for the iPad.  See my earlier post on why the zoom box feature and ease of use separates Note Taker HD from the other handwriting […]

  9. […] mention Note Taker HD ($4.99). He seems excited by the “zoom box,” or as excited as one gets about those types of things. There about 15 iPads on the […]

  10. Pagelawfirm says:

    I’ve lost one stylus in less than 3 weeks…any suggestions on how to keep up with those things? :)

    • Rob Dean says:

      You need to think outside the box. Perhaps pin it to your jacket sleeve, sort of like mittens in Michigan winters? In all seriousness, I keep my pen with my briefcase next to my wallet and keys, so I never lose it. Some iPad cases include a pocket for your stylus pen, so that might be a good option.

  11. Rob Damiani says:

    NT HD is easy to write on, I must admit – BUT – no audio recording option is the killer for me. For now, I’m sticking with Notes Plus.

    • Rob Dean says:

      I completely agree. Audio recording is a must-have feature for depositions, court, and witness interviews. I have switched to an amazing new app called Notability, which has all the functionality of Note Taker HD, plus audio recording, better interface, and best of all – Dropbox sync.

      Be sure to check out Notability.

  12. Devon Sullera says:

    Nice review! I have to recommend also the Ghostwriter Notes app I personally use everyday. I bought this at and I must say that this app rocks! The UI is very responsive in every curve you make in the sheets.

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