5 Best Index Card Apps for iPad

Index cards are great for organizing densely packed information into bite-sized chunks.

This method has long been used by everyone from college students studying for a test to screenwriters trying to outline a movie script.

And it can work for you, too.

But, thanks to modern technology, you don’t need to lug around a pack of index cards to get the job done. You can use an app on your iOS or Android device.

Here’s a closer look at the 5 best index card apps for iPad.


    A woman takes notes using an iPad and Apple Pencil.
    Need to change the way you study? Index card apps might be the answer you’re looking for.

    What is an index card app?

    Simply put, index card apps are designed to replace physical notecards as a way to keep your information organized.

    Index cards have been a go-to notetaking and study tool for exams because their small size forces users to change their way of interpreting information.

    For example, rather than studying a page of notes, a student might turn a stack of index cards into flashcards or write out main ideas and shuffle the stack to review information.

    These methods work. In one study, 70% of students using flashcards to review notes and concepts had higher exam scores than the ones who did not.

    Index card apps try to retain all of the flexibility of physical index cards in a digital environment so that you’ll always have a stack of cards with you (digitally) when you need them.

    An image of the Cardflow app interface.

    01. Cardflow: Index & Flash Cards

    Perfect for: Business professionals, daily notetakers, students.

    Top features: Flexibility, shape recognizer, color palette, full-text search, cloud sync, export.

    Cost: Free; $14.99 for Cardflow Plus.

    Platforms: iPad.

    Taking notes and jotting down ideas is easier with Cardflow. This app makes writing silky smooth when using an Apple Pencil, which makes it a great option for writers and sketchers.

    For organizations, Cardflow’s “Magic Arrange” feature keeps your cards neat. You can select multiple cards at once and quickly group them into stacks, rows, or grids. While these tools might sound simple, they’ll help you save a ton of time in the long run because finding the card you need is always easy.

    An image of the text and font stylings available in Cardflow.
    Write with vector-based script or type using basic text formatting.

    Cardflow also allows you to share your cards with other Cardflow users, which is great for classmates and coworkers who want to compare notes and review information together.

    But Cardflow doesn’t stop there!

    This app offers a customizable, 32-swatch color palette to help you quickly flag notecards and stay organized for project management.

    The built-in shape recognition tool corrects any type of shape you draw so that your notes remain clean and precise. And you don’t have to stop with hand-drawn notes. You can also insert photos, screenshots, and web page links with ease.

    The Cardflow toolkit aims to help users organize information and keep goals in mind when tackling large projects.

    Equipped with a broad range of features to help you brainstorm, and plan projects, create storyboards, sketch diagrams, and more, Cardflow is one of the best apps on the market when it comes to organizing your work with index cards.

    Image of a list of flashcards in SmartCards+.

    02. SmartCards+

    Perfect for: Students.

    Top features: iCloud syncing and backup, Apple Watch support, import from Anki or Quizlet, sharing, progress tracker.

    Cost: Free; $9.99/year for Premium.

    Platforms: iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch.

    Need a simple and user-friendly flashcard app?

    Say hello to SmartCards+, a minimalist flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help you review and memorize concepts.

    Students can create custom flashcards, and these cards can hold images, audio, and text, making them much easier to find while further enhancing the information contained in every card.

    While the app doesn’t offer a lot of customization (you can pretty much only assign a deck color and image) or any premade decks, like some of the other apps, you can import cards from Anki and Quizlet or paste in formatted text from other apps.

    SmartCards+ uses a sophisticated algorithm to create suggested review sessions for your decks. Of course, you can also set up your own custom review sessions if you prefer.

    Side-by-side images of SmartCards+’s suggested review and custom review options.
    SmartCards+ offers suggested cards for review. You can also create custom reviews to better suit your needs.


    The beauty of this app is that it has all the strength and flexibility you’ll see in apps like Anki (featured below), but with a much more streamlined and user-friendly interface. If all you need to do is study flashcards, this app is more than worth the price.

    Plus, the app tracks your progress for each deck with beautiful charts & statistics, allowing you to view the total cards learned, your recall rate, review time, and your review schedule.

    And the fun doesn’t stop there. Dynamic App Design, the developer, also offers both an Apple Watch and iPhone app so you can sync your cards across multiple devices and take them with you anywhere.

    An image of the Anki app interface.

    03. Anki Flashcards Maker

    Perfect for: Students.

    Top features: Synchronization, media-rich, fully extensible, open source.

    Cost: Free.

    Platforms: Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Web.

    If you’re looking for a flashcard app, AnkiApp is a great option.

    The app offers a full-scope, media-rich experience that is difficult to ignore. The AnkiApp library offers a pre-made selection of 80+ million pre-made flashcards. You can use their handy templates to create your own or design a layout completely from scratch. (Note that some of these advanced features may be offered as paid add-ons or in-app purchases.)

    A collection of screenshots showing the different learning styles available in Anki.
    Anki is simple to get going with a 3 step process: Get material, Study, See progress.

    And when we say “media-rich experience” we mean it. Anki supports images, audio, and video no problems. It can even handle massive flashcard decks (100,000+ cards) with relative ease.

    Anki doesn’t just help you create flashcards, either. It also tracks your progress and shows you the results so that you see how you improve. The app even learns which cards you haven’t yet mastered and shows them to you with greater frequency until you get them right. This can be a huge time saver because the app helps you more easily focus on trouble spots while studying.

    To top it all off, AnkiApp is available almost everywhere. You can download it from the app store of your choice. Use the Windows app to add it to a Microsoft Surface and sync your account across to your iPad or your iPhone for a truly cross platform experience.

    An image of the Quizlet app interface.

    04. Quizlet

    Perfect for: Students, teachers.

    Top features: Various study modes, share with others, extensive text formatting options.

    Cost: Free (ads); $35.99/year for Quizlet Plus.

    Platforms: iOS, Android, Web.

    Quizlet describes itself as a flashcard-based learning tool designed to help improve memory, retention, and knowledge.

    Specifically designed for students and teachers, the app covers a wide variety of educational subjects.

    The app cycles learners between four key modes: Learn, Test, Write and Match:

    • Learn mode helps you learn the vocabulary and definitions by yourself using in-app tools.
    • Test mode involves a knowledge challenge in a classic true/false format to check for knowledge gaps.
    • Write mode encourages you to write out the answers or vocabulary in a long-form format.
    • Match mode is a game-based format where you are timed while matching the definitions with the answers.

    This collection of techniques train your brain to be better prepared when studying for tests and exams. Many subjects are also equipped with learning aids, like the integrated audio feature, which helps you learn and pronounce more difficult terms and words when studying languages.

    An app interface image showing the study modes available using Quizlet.
    Quizlet is divided into four key modes which trains your brain to be better prepared when studying for tests and exams.

    In addition to these study tools, Quizlet comes equipped with a sharing feature. While this is useful for students and classmates, the real power of this functionality materializes when a teacher gets involved. Using Quizlet, teachers can make one massive study guide for the whole class.

    Overall, Quizlet is one of the best options out there for students and teachers across the board. It’s a top-notch study app that takes the power of flashcards and digitizes them for maximum results in the classroom.

    An image of the Brainscape app interface.

    05. Brainscape

    Perfect for: Students, researchers.

    Top features: Custom flashcards, share with others, progress tracker.

    Cost: Free; $9.99/month for Pro; $129.99/lifetime purchase.

    Platforms: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Web.

    Brainscape is focused on engineering a scientific approach to digital learning. The company combines flashcards and digital learning tools to optimize your study time. Brainscape claims that their methods not only help you study smarter; they’ll also ensure that you retain the information you learn.

    And that’s not just marketing talk. They even created a white paper with research to back it up! Essentially, this app makes use of spaced training and repeated retrieval as it tries to best optimize the rest intervals between learning difficult concepts.

    A screenshot demonstrating Brainscape’s scoring and checkpoint system.
    Using Brainscape, you’ll be able to review progress and self-assess as you try to gain mastery in specific subjects.

    Much like the Anki app (featured above), Brainscape is designed to create a feature-rich environment for flashcard-based studying. You can create custom flashcards or browse their extensive database for cards made by other users.

    As you study, Brainscape’s software helps you tackle your weakest areas by asking you to answer concepts you're struggling with at more frequent intervals.

    The app doesn’t throw you into a new method of studying headfirst, though. When you start, Brainscape will ask you to rate how well you know each concept on a scale of one to five.

    After that, Brainscape determines when is the right time to re-quiz you, until you have mastered all the terms without wasting time. Eventually, it will award you the “Mastery” level once you consistently get all answers correct.

    Similar to other apps on our list, you can also organize your flashcards into decks, add images, sounds, and collaborate.

    A woman sits cross-legged on a bench while interacting with her digital tablet.
    Take your index cards with you so that you can study and take notes anywhere, anytime!

    Our recommendations

    So which app is the best?

    That’s a hard question for a few reasons. Some of the best apps we found aren’t available on all platforms. Plus, depending on how you want to use the app, your mileage may vary.

    Here’s what we think, based on the strengths and weaknesses that we saw with each app.

    Best index card app (overall)

    SmartCard+. If you’re looking for an affordable and minimalist flashcard app, SmartCard+ is the one for you.

    The simple, user-friendly interface makes it quick and easy to get down to business, whether you’re creating new flashcards or studying your current decks.

    SmartCard+ allows you to add text, images, and audio to your cards, and scheduled suggested reviews will have you retaining difficult concepts in no time. The ability to import decks from more expensive apps makes it easy for students who need to tighten up their budget to make the switch.

    Best flashcard app

    Brainscape. If you desire an intense and effective learning experience, Brainscape is the best option for you.

    Features like spaced repetition and timers ensure you are quizzed on terms you’ve yet to master, making the best use of your time.

    Unlike Quizlet and Anki, Brainscape caters to a broad audience by offering a much wider selection of topics. They also offer an online library with millions of flashcards created by community experts so that you can stop creating cards and start learning.

    Best index card app for notetakers

    Cardflow. Cardflow is especially great for notetakers because it is set up in a way that doesn’t cater solely to students who need to memorize study terms or creatives in need of a storyboarding, screenwriting, or wireframing tool.

    Instead, Cardflow aims to create a workflow for the everyday user and provides a battery of tools to help notetakers get their ideas down on paper.

    From powerful tools like Shape Recognition, Draw Behind, Color Select, Magic Arrange, this app gives you what you need to take notes your way and have a good time doing it.

    Best index card app for students

    Quizlet. If you're in college or high school, you might already know about Quizlet. Using this tool, teachers can create study guides to share with the class and students can collaborate with others to share their own flashcards.

    With various study modes which help you memorize every detail of information, Quizlet is by far the best when you want to study for an exam and retain the information afterward. The file sharing features also make it easy to share cards quickly and easily.

    Best index card app for desktop (Mac/Windows)

    Though a few of the apps on our list only work on mobile devices, Quizlet (along with Anki and Brainscape) are web-based applications that will work on desktop browsers.

    Of the available options, Quizlet resonated with our team the most when working on desktop platforms.

    The app interface feels more streamlined and crisp, and interacting with Quizlet’s tools felt more accessible and intuitive than those offered by Anki or Brainscape.

    While we have no doubt that Brainscape and Anki can get the job done when using desktop tools, between Quizlet’s various games and study tools, the app feels substantial and fun to use when clicking around with your mouse.

    Taking notes On your iPad? Tidy up your notecards With Paperlike!

    A good notecard helps you keep your information neat and organized, but it’s different in the digital world because the surface of your iPad is made of glass.

    It’s hard to write great notes in your favorite iPad app when your Apple Pencil is sliding all over the screen!

    That’s where Paperlike comes in.

    Designed to have the natural resistance of real paper, our screen protector offers extra friction so that you can make quick, precise strokes every time you need to jot something down.

    Plus, using your Apple Pencil like a stylus or a fingertip, you can still use it to keep everything organized when using your favorite index card app on your iPad.

    Pick up a Paperlike today and change the way you take notes.