Paperless at Uni. What apps to write math notes.


New member
Feb 19, 2016
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Hey Everyone,

I'm a university student from Australia, studying physics and computer science. I've always been intrigued by working fully digitally. In the past few years of my education I've moved from textbooks and notebooks -> iPad and MacBook and notebooks -> iPad and Notebooks.

I currently have an iPad Air 2, and a MacBook Air Mid 2012.
The primary subjects I do now and will probably do for the remaining years I have at University are:

Some form of Maths:
- we have fill in Lecture notes, the notes are semi complete and finished in the lecture. I currently use PDF Expert with an Adonit Jot pro. It's okay. Perhaps I'd love it more with more real estate. This makes me want to buy an iPad Pro!
- we have tutorial questions to answer, I usually load the questions in PDF expert and just do them in a notebook, if I could digitise this, I would but I haven't found an app that I can do my maths work in comfortably. The palm rejection is always bad, and I feel like I need a ruler.

Some form of Physics:
- these lecture notes have to be constructed from either summarising the textbook or writing down key points in the lecture, it's a similar story for the tutorial. I currently just do both of these in a notebook. I need to draw diagrams a lot and write a lot same problem as I have with the maths tutorial

Some form of Computing:
- I'm currently just starting to learn c programming. For this semester I ditched my MacBook and currently use Coda on my iPad. It was around 20 dollars but worth it. I love it! I write my programs on the iPad. Copy the files to the Linux machine at uni using sftp. I then compile the program on the uni machine.

So that's basically where I'm at! I'm down to a notebook and iPad but looking to ditch the notebook and convincing myself to buy a 12.9 iPad Pro.

In summary, I need an app where I can write my maths and physics homework as well as draw diagrams easily. Like planes with an x, y and z axis. Or free body diagrams. This is easy to do on paper with a ruler. But I'm yet to find an app to replicate this easily.

I already own PDF expert, do you think the experience is much better on an iPad Pro? Does it support Apple Pencil and palm rejection.

I've also seen recommendations for, Paper, Notability, GoodNotes, and OneNote. Does anyone know if these might meet my needs or better own all of them and have a recommendation for the best! I wish there were free trials I'd just try them all.

This last request is unlikely but worth a shot.
I also need to write a lot of mathematical equations.
I use MS Word's equation editor on my Mac and have learnt all the keyboard shortcuts and can type equations very fast. Unfortunately MS Word on iOS as of yet does not have equation editing support. MyScript MathPad was so cool when it came out, I've paid for it and unlocked the export tool. But I can't find a way to export to a word document. The app also hasn't been updated in quite some time. Anyone who typesets a lot of math and has a good iOS workflow? If I learn to type in latex is there a good latex editor on iOS?


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Apr 24, 2016
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Hey there...check out our app, Nuten, on your iOS device. It is currently optimized for iPhones, but it allows you to create complex equations fairly easily. Version 2.0 which should be released shortly supports multiline input so you can create work such as this:


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Mar 4, 2014
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OneNote is free, and it does (I believe) have Equation editor. It's also a superb data storage tool. I use it to collect all kinds of information. However it's handwriting module is a bit basic compared to GoodNotes or Notability.

Personally, I believe unless you need to cut & paste well written formulas elsewhere, you're probably far better off just handwriting them as if you were writing in a paper notepad. Far less work than trying to pick the right symbol in a hurry.

So, this leaves either Goodnotes or Notability. I have and use both - purchased Goodnotes and then hit upon Notability when it was offered for free.

Either is good. But I think for a student, Notability will work out better. The biggest feature of Notability that Goodnotes is missing is the ability to record voice while writing notes, and when you tap on the part of your notes it automatically goes to play the correct part of the recording. This could be immensely helpful in lectures. OTOH Goodnotes has OCR, and is just a little faster to start (about 1 sec difference so not that important).

So in the end, it's OCR vs voice recording - pick one :) With my handwriting, OCR would probably be pretty useless anyway.

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