PaperPort Notes Review: A Versatile iPad Note-Taking App

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If you would like to use your iPad for note-taking in your law practice, then PaperPort Notes, a free iPad app, may be the perfect tool for you. This is one of my favorite iPad apps, in large part because it is so versatile and offers so many options for taking notes, no matter what your needs.

Using PaperPort Notes

To begin using this app, you create a Note Set, which is essentially a file for a given set of notes. Once you’ve named you Note Set, you are ready to take notes. You can choose to start from scratch using a blank page from the app–a plain white page, a yellow lined page, a white lined page or a graphing page–or you can import a document or image into the Note Set. Keep in mind that you are not limited to one or the other, however, and can have blank pages (which you can then annotate) and imported documents and images in the same Note Set.

You can import documents from a number of cloud storage services, including Box.net and Dropbox. You can also import the following into your Note Set, which appear as a separate page of notes: 1) images from your iPad’s camera, 2) files from the Web, 3) screenshots from the Web, or 4) files from your iPad’s Docs folder.

Once you’ve imported documents and/or images into your Note Set, you can then take notes or annotate the pages in any number of ways.

First, you can highlight portions of the page using 1 of 6 colors. You can also write on the page using your finger or a stylus. This is probably my least favorite feature of this app, since it doesn’t work as well as other apps of this type. I found it to be very difficult to write on the page legibly without leaving marks behind as a result of my hand resting on the iPad’s screen when using a stylus. But even so, it’s the other features that make this app so useful, so read on!

Another option is to insert text using the iPad’s built-in keyboard or a bluetooth keyboard. When entering text via a keyboard, if the document is a blank page, as opposed to, for example, a PDF file that you imported, you can either enter text line by line or insert a text box. If you are annotating an imported PDF or other file, you can only enter text via a text box. One nice feature when entering text inside of a text box is that, in addition to entering text, you can also insert an image or a stickie note into the document, both of which appear on top of and cover up the text appearing in the imported file, as shown below.

One thing to keep in mind is that although PaperPort Notes allows PDF annotation, it’s not necessarily the best-suited app for that purpose. So, for large legal research projects, I prefer iAnnotate PDF ($9.99), since it is a more robust annotation app and allows you to create folders for different projects. The ability to create folders and manipulate and store individual files makes it much easier to organize and keep track of your research.

Voice dictation

Another great feature is that you can insert text into your document via the app’s speech-to-text dictation feature, so even if you haven’t yet invested in the newest iPad, you can still make use of this time-saving feature, which is based on Dragon technology.

You simply press “tap & speak” and then dictate your note, just as you would if dictating to a secretary. It’s a simple process and the results are typically quite accurate. One downfall is that you can only dictate for approximately 40 seconds before it cuts off and then analyzes the input. And, there are privacy and confidentiality issues to consider, as discussed in my prior post regarding using your iPhone and Siri for speech-to-text dictation.

Another really handy feature is the ability to dictate and insert audio notes right onto a page. This feature could be useful in any number of situations. For example, you could review and annotate a pleading on your commute, then dictate a voice memo which might include notes to yourself regarding additional follow up. You could also take notes during a meeting or deposition, while simultaneously recording audio of the meeting. However, be aware that the recording will cease if you leave the PaperPort app and you will then need to re-start the recording once you return to the app.

Summary

All in all, I really like this versatile app and use it often. The best part is that it’s free. You can download it at the iTunes store here.

PaperPort Notes

Reviewed by Nicole Black on .

Summary: PaperPort Notes is one of my favorite iPad apps, because it is so versatile and offers so many options for taking notes, no matter what your needs.

Score: 4 (out of 5)

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  • Michael

    Infrequently do I comment on any articles; however, because this application is unusable, I must. After downloading it and experimenting for less than 3 minutes, I don’t understand your assessment unless you’re being paid to promote the application. In the short time I used it, three crashes occurred, and worst of all, the handwriting is atrocious. Maybe the problem is my iPad (3 gen), but the review – which I rarely acknowledge – are accurate.

  • Nicole, thanks for this insightful article. I had already downloaded PaperPort Notes onto my iPad (have always been a great fan of Paperport and it is one of the reasons I also run Windows on my Mac). While, I’ve tinkered with Notes, I must admit that I had never realized its full capability, particularly with an external keyboard. It was an absolute delight reading and editing a CLE paper, particularly using the voice transcription software as part of that review.

  • Nicole Black

    Michael–Thanks for your comment. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never had this program crash while using it. And, I assure you, I’ve received no compensation whatsoever for my review, nor do I ever receive compensation for any reviews I write (or have written in the past). On occasion, app developers or product manufacturers have provided me with complimentary access to their app or product, in which case I always reveal that. In this case, since Paperport notes is a free app, complimentary access wasn’t even an issue. The only reason I wrote about this app is because I find it to be useful, enjoy using it, and do so often.

    Lou–glad you found my post to be helpful. That’s always nice to hear!