Writing with iPad Pro + Pencil. Is it viable?

I enjoy writing on paper. However, I always end up with arrows and edits all over the place. The thought of scrawling all over a large iPad page by page really appeals to me, yet I can’t find any apps that seem to support this. There are a gazillion note-take apps, but nothing that seems to support writing unless I’ve missed it.

I think I’m looking for a text equivalent of Dragon (or whatever the voice to text app was/is called). i.e. Something that converts scribblings to text based on some event (e.g. click, press, touch, etc.) and allows a bunch of text hacking – and undoing – in place.

Is there anything remotely close to this out there, does anyone know?

I think you’ll find MyScript Nebo, MyScript Stylus and one or two other apps, such as Goodnotes and Notes Plus, will do what you require. A Google search for iOS handwriting-to-text will find them. See also this recent thread and this one.

In my experience, handwriting recognition is extremely variable depending on the legibility of your script. There are a few tools that are okay for short notes, but I haven’t found anything that would be up to the task of a full manuscript. Your best bet may be to use something like Dragon to dictate your handwritten drafts.

If you’re considering buying an iPad Pro for this purpose, I would strongly recommend testing whatever tools you’re hoping to use first.


Notes Plus is actually quite good at converting hand writing to typed text.
You can convert a whole notebook with a few taps and then get the option to copy the transcription, but the handwritten original remains untouched. In the Tips notebook that is included they write:

    It is frustrating when a tool doesn’t work the way you
    expect it. In those cases, I usually step back and ask
    if I am using the right tool. Is what I want to do
    with it what it was designed to do?
    -Notes plus was designed to quickly capture information,
    not so much for drafting beautiful presentations.
    The Quick start Guide by Laure Ho was a stretch
    and if you are trying to make something like that,
    it could be very stressful.
    -Notes plus was designed to focus on handwriting
    and drawing for visual notes. Tf you only type to
    take notes, there is no point in using Notes plus.
    -Notes plus was designed for heavy note takers,
    people who take several pages of notes every day.
    If you only jot down something once in a while,
    there are much simpler apps out there.

(this was converted from the hand written text in the app)

I’ve been tracking developments in hand-writing-to-text technology for years (because I was trained to hand-write long-form documents, and because I’ve taken seriously recent MRI-derived discoveries in brain science concerning hand-writing versus typing), and I think that you may be being a tad more pessimistic than the technology deserves.

As Katherine implies above, there’s no doubt that voice-to-text is more advanced than handwriting-to-text. But both are as yet imperfect technologies. A quick glance at any voice-to-text users’ forum will show that it too has its problems and hidden traps, especially for those not ready to prepare very carefully before they use it. Dictation style is a key.

As I explain in one of those L&L threads I referred you to, in my opinion the best of hand-writing-to-text technology is undoubtedly from MyScript. They’ve been going a relatively long while (I think I first used one of their products 17 or 18 years ago), and their technology is licensed to numerous other application developers on Windows and the Mac. They may have serious competitors, but apart from Apple and Microsoft, I don’t know of any. MyScript’s own applications still appear to be better for handwriting recognition than anything anybody else has so far succeeded in coming up with.

As a matter of fact, I don’t think MyScript Nebo is quite as closed as you suggest: you can at least get printed copy out of it by copy and paste. MyScript Stylus is a full keyboard replacement that - as far as I’ve been told, because I’ve not used it - can input directly into iOS Scrivener. I’ve been told of remarkably error-minimal results with both Nebo and Stylus.

Of course, just as a crucial issue in voice-to-text is the style of dictation, so, as Katherine writes, a crucial issue for handwriting-to-text is and is always likely to be the consistency and conformity of the user’s hand-writing.

My (typed) 2p.

I have never searched explicetly
for apps using handwritten-to-typed
transcription. I came across
Notes plus by chance and it works
very well.
About consistency, I wouldn’t know. I’ve only
kept on writing.:slight_smile:
(this was written by hand, right now)

I’ve been using Stylus (which is a MyScript “keyboard”) on my ipad mini. I love it. I’ve “invested” in a finer point active stylus and it works quite well (I did try the Adonit Jot stylus but I found that little plastic foot difficult to use, let alone write with).

I’m really surprised at how much better MyScript is at text recognition than my Livescribe pen/paper/MyScript combo ever was (and much less palaver). Using Livescribe, I had to print everything in books and then import and convert, but with the MyScript keyboard, it will recognise cursive straight into whatever app you’re using (because it’s the “keyboard”).

Having said all that, I’ve only used it for a paragraph here and there. Edits and that sort of thing. I’m not sure I’d be able (or want) to write pages & pages in a sitting with it.


I use GoodNotes and OneNote to take notes in class. They’re both very good apps.

The first one is a paid app, the second one is free.