Visual Notes – 6 Apps to Organize Thoughts on iPad

The iPad is a visual tool. And with its retina display, it’s meant to be seen with great visuals. Apple didn’t add this spectacular display so that we could read; they added it so we could view it. So why type your notes in plain text?

That’s all you will get with the built-in Notes app provided with iOS, just plain text. While that does serve the purpose, the iPad can do so much more than just allow you to view plain text, so why not use it that way? The following is a list of six apps that will help you organize your thoughts with visual notes on an iPad.

1. Curator – Visual Notes


Curator lays out your thoughts in blocks. It is narrow to a certain extent, as it only allows for a five-by-five grid and only works in portrait mode. It is so visual that the best way to utilize the features of the app is to organize something such as a Christmas wish list or an article with lots of research. It’s best with websites and photos and limited text. Simple to use, working with drag and drop in your visual notes allows you to manipulate your ideas and thoughts into place.

Curator – Visual Notes

2. Penultimate


The best part about Penultimate is that it’s part of the Evernote app family, allowing it to sync with your Evernote account. This means you will have your notes on all your devices, as Evernote can be accessed from your computer or your iOS device. It will work in both portrait and landscape mode, yet the “notebook paper” background does not move to landscape, so notes need to be written on a blank page or graph paper if you’re looking for landscape. Additionally entire sections can be moved with copy and paste around the page or even between pages. Penultimate will also work with a search command on your handwriting, but will not work with mine, meaning my handwriting must be really bad. You can add photos along with handwriting and drawings as well.


3. Springpad


What makes Springpad unique is that it can save several different types of items, and not just notes, photos, and links, but also television shows, movies, books, music, recipes, checklists, and more. You can build different notebooks that hold different items. One of them could hold the movies and TVs that you want to remember to watch. Another can hold your recipes and shopping lists. Another can hold your notes for a meeting along with links to websites to look up when the meeting is complete. If you save a product, a movie, recipe, or similar, it will look it up for you and will give you reviews of the movie, as many recipes as it can find for a certain food item, or tell you where you can buy the product you are desiring. You can also make your “Springs” public or private and follow others’ Springs as well, much like Pinterest.



It’s sticky notes for the digital age. At first glance it might seem like the old Sticky Notes app on Mac, but it’s much more versatile for working with those visual notes. You can have different notebooks and can fill them with both notes and pictures. Instead of having a yellow post-it note that will stick to most surfaces, you can have notes on different colored “paper” and with different fonts and colored “inks.” It’s a simple app, but sometimes that’s all you need.

Sticky Notes for iPad and iPhone

5. Popplet Lite


Popplets are like square bubbles. You can build a whole thought process with popplets. New popplets can be added and connected in any direction to follow your thoughts. You can add text, images, or drawings and change colors of the Popplets, as well as change the size and orientation of the type. There are more options in the paid version, but at the very least this free version gives you the option of trying the app for awhile before having to purchase it.

Popplet Lite

6. SimpleMind+


SimpleMind+ is much like Popplet, but more involved. Unlike Popplet, though, it doesn’t have the control of font size and orientation. Drawing another comparison to Popplet, to get more features, you have to buy the full version. These features are as mundane as color choice and as necessary as the option to add photos. There is also a desktop version for both Mac and Windows that allows you to view and edit your visual notes on all platforms. The free version is still very usable, but if you want the better features, you can always try before you buy.



There are so many different note-taking apps for iOS. There’s not reason to narrow yourself own to just one app that you keep on your iPad. Keep as many as you need for taking notes, whether they are visual notes or more straight text. These six apps laid out above are great choices for your visual notes depending on your need.

Image credit: stack of sticky notes

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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