Field Note Taking with the iPad


Field note taking can involve documenting observations or research with video, photographs, audio, and writing down observations on a type of device or on a good old pencil and paper. The iPad has all these features built into it and there are apps out there that can access these features and keep all your notes in one place. The advantage of the iPad is that it’s portable and fairly easy to use. We decided to take a look at apps that will help with field note taking.

Two things we were looking for in the apps were that the app will attach a geolocation to our notes and that the app easily adds images, audio, and video (media) into out notes without having to leave that app. We found that not all note taking apps attached a geolocation to our notes, and some did not give us all the note taking features we wanted, but these apps address most of the concerns of field note taking and have been used in academic circles for this specific purpose. One more thing you need to consider when using your iPad for taking field notes, you may want to invest in a cellular plan if you can not connect to wi-fi while doing your field research. It’s always best to shop around first and see what kind of deals you can get for a cellular data plan for your iPad.

notabilityNotability (no Geolocation for notes) $1.99: iTunes Link:

  • Can type, hand write, erase, and highlight notes. Record audio and take photos inside the app and insert them right inside your notes.
  • Can draw figures inside the app and insert them directly into your notes.
  • Can take a clip from a website and directly insert it into your notes
  • Can bookmark pages of notes
  • Can send your notes to many different services like WebDav, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Email (and attach the audio files too). You can send the notes as a PDF file.
  • Can create stickies inside the app to place inside your notes.
  • Adds date of the time and day it was created but can modify the due date if you edit it after the date it was created.

penultimatePenultimate (No Geolocation for Notes but Evernote does)Free : iTunes Link:

  • Auto Syncs with Evernote
  • Simple interface to insert photos, either from your Camera Roll or take a picture right inside the app using the iPad camera.
  • Can write notes with your finger or stylus. Erase handwriting easily with swiping a finger or stylus.
  • Cutting and pasting sections of handwritten notes is easy
  • Can search your handwritten notes inside Penultimate. (because just like Evernote, it recognizes your handwriting).
  • Latest date on the notebook is the date of the last edit to notebook.
  • Notebooks are locked when viewing inside Evernote, can’t edit the note info (like adding tags, location, etc.). Need to email from Penultimate to Evernote and can then add location and tags.

evernoteEvernote (Geolocation) Free: iTunes link:

  • Can access from web or iPad app (and other devices through the mobile Evernote app)
  • Adds geolocation to notes
  • Can add tags to notes for a way of labeling your notes
  • Can add audio to notes
  • Can take picture with camera or add image from camera roll in iPad
  • Free but limits you how much content uploading and syncing you can do in a month, can pay for more uploading quota
  • Can add video to note (size limit for that). Can’t shoot video and add it to note right inside the app. (can drag and drop video in computer to the note).
  • Can email the notes with images and audio.
  • Can search notes (it will even recognize text in pictures and handwriting)
  • No tool inside iPad app to write with styles or finger

geonotoGeoNoto (Geolocation for Notes) Free: iTunes Link:

  • Add points on a map by dragging
  • Finds your current location using GPS
  • Add text notes
  • Add image using camera (only one image per point)
  • Dates the notes but under the built in app event calendar
  • Can’t add audio
  • Only adds notes to where you’re currently located.
  • No feature where you can export your notes out of the app

fieldnotesltFieldNotes LT (Geolocation for Notes) Free (Paid Version $8.99): iTunes Link:

  • Add images based off of your location using GPS
  • Can add audio and video but need to purchase the Pro app ($8.99)
  • Dates the notes
  • Can send the file as a FieldNote native file (which the recipients will have to purchase the import functionality to open the doc), Google Earth KMZ, Text and Zip File and Email.
  • To save files as a PDF, out output to iTunes or Dropbox, you need the pro version to do that.
  • No handwriting (with finger or stylus) feature

As will all apps, you should always try them out to see if they work into your workflow, address your needs, and check the reviews to see what other users’ experiences have been with the apps. Happy field note taking!