Nebo App Review

If you love the nice, neat look of typed text but prefer taking your notes by hand, you’ll love the Nebo app.

While plenty of notetaking apps can convert handwriting to text, MyScript’s Nebo is a cut above the rest when it comes to handwriting recognition.

But a great app needs more than one great feature to be successful, so how does Nebo measure up against other notetaking apps on the market today?

Let’s find out!

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What Sets Nebo Apart

Nebo is an incredibly versatile notetaking app if you prefer jotting down handwritten notes.

MyScript’s Interactive Ink technology really elevates Nebo’s handwriting abilities. Here are a few things that Nebo does really well thanks to this tech:

  • Superior handwriting to text conversion.
  • Parses handwritten notes into text in real time.
  • Allows you to easily format handwritten text for conversion.
  • Uses gestures to help you edit your text.
  • Allows you to edit both handwritten notes and text with your stylus/Apple Pencil.

We’ll get into a little more detail about these functions below, but that’s not all that Nebo can do. This app is armed with most of the tools you’ll find in other popular notetaking apps, and it has a few special features of its own. 

Plus, most of the app is completely free and is cross-platform compatible, which makes it easy to test out and use on any of your devices.

Note Creation

Nebo’s page setup is a little different than what you’ll find in other notetaking apps. While it doesn’t have any templates available, there are two different types of pages: regular and freeform. 

A screenshot of a lined page in Nebo with the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” with the words quick and lazy in text and the rest handwritten.

#caption#Nebo’s regular pages are lined and allow you to mix handwriting and text seamlessly.

 

Regular Pages

Regular pages look like a lined sheet of paper and function as your main notetaking space. You can select either wide or college-ruled line spacing and change the font size for text conversion in your Text Display menu to customize your experience.

When you’re using a regular page, handwriting recognition is active for text conversion, and Nebo allows you to mix handwriting and text, even in the same sentence if you want! These pages also allow you to add in different types of sections, like freeform areas, sketch areas, images, and more.

A screenshot of a freeform page in Nebo detailing all the different things you can do in these sections.

#caption#Nebo’s freeform pages offer the space and flexibility for brainstorming.

 

Freeform Pages

Freeform pages allow you to draw, write, doodle, and explore ideas freely, making it great for brainstorming sessions. There are no constraints on placement or positioning, and the page resizes to fit your content.

Nebo doesn’t convert anything you put into this area, giving you greater freedom in what you’re able to do. Plus, if you decide you want to convert your freeform content at a later time, the lasso tool will allow you to copy and paste to a regular page, where this function is enabled.

Tools

Nebo’s toolkit is full of all the usual suspects, plus a few extras. These tools may seem pretty basic compared to other apps, but they’re more than adequate to take down your notes.

Here’s a quick look at each of these tools and how you can use them to take great notes.

A screenshot showing the three different ways you can access the keyboard in Nebo.

#caption#Nebo offers multiple options to access the keyboard when you need to start typing. 

Text

Typing in Nebo is a simple and intuitive process when using either a virtual or physical keyboard.

Nebo’s text mode should feel pretty familiar to you. It uses the same text creation and manipulation tools you’ll find anywhere else on your iPad or mobile device, so you don’t have to learn anything new.

It’s also easy to seamlessly switch between the pen tool and the keyboard.  To start typing, select the keyboard icon in the menu bar and tap the screen at your preferred starting point.  If you want to handwrite your notes, grab your pen, pick a spot on the screen, and start writing!

When you’re in text mode, you can add and edit existing text, including handwritten notes!  Just press and hold to select the text and make your modifications.  Nebo uses Apple’s text ribbon for this.  The pop-up menu will give options to cut, copy, and paste your text.  Bold, highlight, and indent are also options.

Need to reformat the text? Double-tap words or sentences to convert them to a title, subtitle, or put them into list form. 

Unfortunately, while this method wins points for familiarity, it can be a little frustrating when you’re trying to modify your text because you have to type everything out first. 

Although, since Nebo allows you to mix the keyboard and pen tools, you can always pick up your Apple Pencil or preferred stylus to quickly and easily reformat or add emphasis to any part of your notes (text or handwritten) using specific interactions and gestures.

Nebo also allows you to click on any text to move or resize the content, which comes in handy if you need to add images, or if you want to fit more on the page.

A screenshot showing Nebo’s pen tool customization window filled with lines of varying thicknesses.

#caption#Nebo’s customization window lets you test out the pen size before you make your choice.

Pen

Nebo’s pen tool is more than adequate to get your thoughts down on the page. 

Writing with the pen feels smooth and there’s no lag when using an active stylus like the Apple Pencil, so you can always enjoy a pleasant and comfortable handwriting experience. As a bonus, if your preferred stylus happens to run out of batteries, Nebo supports a passive pen — your finger — if you need to keep writing.

The pen tool offers six different line thicknesses, but keep in mind that if you’re using the convert-to-text feature, the thickness of your handwritten notes won’t affect the size of your text.

One of the cool things about this app is that it lets you test out your choice in a customization window before using it in your notes, so you’ll know exactly what to expect when you start writing. While not necessary, this is a nice feature and it’s unique to Nebo.

In addition to the eight preset color options for the pen, you can use the color wheel to create your own colors and it will automatically be added to the menu for future use.

If you feel like the color options are getting too cluttered, double-tap on any of the colors, including the preset options, and delete them one by one. To go back to a clean slate with only your presets on the bar, you can find the Restore colors option in your Writing settings.

Getting an exact color is a little more difficult because hex code inputs aren’t available, but you should be able to get close enough to what you want.

A screenshot of the highlighter customization window with six lines of varying thicknesses.

#caption#Just like with the pen tool, you can test out the highlighter’s thickness in the customization window.

Highlighter

If you need to emphasize specific words or sections of your text, you’ll use the highlighter tool.

Just like the pen tool, the highlighter comes in six line thicknesses and has the same preset colors and test window.

On a regular page, the Nebo’s highlighter only functions to highlight, but one of the neat things about this tool is that it automatically snaps to a straight line behind the text, similar to how shape tools work in other apps like Noteshelf. So far, Nebo is the first and only app to implement something like this.

It’s also very easy to erase any highlights, without erasing the text, by going over the same text with the tool a second time. While this means that you can’t layer the highlighter to make it any darker, using a darker color for the highlighter will help you achieve better contrast or visibility.

When you’re in a freeform page or a designated sketch or freeform section on your regular page, the highlighter tool converts to a marker, allowing you to write, draw, or color as needed. 

A screenshot showing the “Stroke” and “Precise” eraser options and six dots of varying sizes.

#caption#Nebo offers two types of erasers, making it easy to clear any mistakes in your notes.  

Eraser

You’ll need Nebo’s eraser to correct any mistakes you make while taking your notes.

Just as with the previous tools, you’ll have six size options for your eraser. You also get two different eraser options.

The stroke eraser allows you to erase on a per-letter basis. This is where Nebo’s eraser really excels. Unlike most other notetaking apps, it can easily pick up individual letters, even if they’re written in cursive or in a single stroke. 

If you’d rather erase by pixel, the precise eraser functions like a normal eraser, allowing you to pick and choose what and where to erase. If you’re sketching or doodling, this eraser will make the most sense to you.

In some cases, you may not even need to use an eraser at all to correct your mistakes. Nebo has an Erase gesture (more on this below) that’s faster to use than switching between tools.

A screenshot that has the words, “Once upon a time” handwritten and highlighted in blue, with a menu of available actions above it.

#caption#Nebo’s lasso tool selects the text and opens a menu with available options.

Lasso Tool

Nebo’s lasso tool comes in handy while you’re working in freeform pages, but has limited functions when you’re on a regular page.

When you’re in a freeform or sketch section (more on this one below), the lasso tool allows you to move your drawings or text anywhere on the page. You can also resize your selection.

On a regular page, the lasso can select your text.  Doing so will bring up Apple’s text ribbon, which offers the same options that you’d see if you were to press and hold the text.  The redundancy makes this tool somewhat obsolete here. It doesn’t allow you to move or resize anything on a regular page.

If you really need to move your text in a regular page, it can be done, but not with the lasso tool. Instead, you’ll tap once on your content and it will put a text box around both text and handwritten notes. You may then drag and drop the text anywhere on the page.  

Extras

Nebo offers a few extra tools and unique features that really make the app stand out, like math equations, diagrams, freeform sections, and more.

 

A screenshot of Nebo’s tutorial on math conversions.

#caption#Nebo allows you to handwrite math conversions and it will convert them to text and calculate them for you.

Math Equations. Nebo lets you write and edit math and chemical equations in your notes. It will easily convert these to text and calculate the results for you. When you’re done, it’s possible to export your equations as LaTeX or an image.

Dictionary. Nebo has an onboard dictionary that allows you to add custom words or technical terms for better handwriting recognition. Unfortunately, this is a time consuming process, since it must be done one word at a time.

Multi-Level Lists Like other notetaking apps, Nebo supports bullets or numbering options for lists. Its multi-level lists allow you to add up to four levels, and it even supports checklists. 

A screenshot of a diagram explaining how the diagram process works in Nebo.

#caption#Nebo allows you to draw your own diagrams and easily convert them to text when you’re done.

Diagrams. You can easily draw diagrams by hand and edit or reposition elements as you go. Once you’re done, you have the option to convert them to text and perfect shapes. Nebo supports basic shapes and arrows, and the diagrams will remain interactive and editable even when pasted into PowerPoint or Keynote. 

Sketches. In regular pages, any stroke you make that Nebo doesn’t recognize will automatically disappear when you lift your pen. If you’d like to doodle or draw in your notes, you’ll need to add a sketch section that’s designed specifically for drawings.

Document Management

When you’re looking for the perfect notetaking app, you need to consider how you’ll manage your documents.

Let’s take a look at how Nebo stacks up in this area.

Structure

Nebo’s three-level hierarchy may not provide enough nesting capability for serious notetakers, and the setup is a little different from the other apps on the market. Instead of folders to keep notes divided, you’ll find collections, notebooks, and pages.

When you open Nebo, you’ll have a sidebar that lists your collections with a drop-down menu where all your notebooks are visible. On the main screen, you’ll see all the pages within the selected notebook.

A screenshot of a “Math” notebook with “Calc 1” and “Calc 2” pages, and a sidebar showing the collections and notebooks within.

#caption#Nebo’s organizational structure consists of collections, notebooks, and pages. 

Collections function similarly to folder and group features that you might find in other notetaking apps.  These allow you to collect all your notebooks into one category. From there, you’ll create specific notebooks with pages inside. The pages are similar to the notes you’d find in Apple Notes, with unlimited vertical scrolling.

The difficulty comes when your collection label is too broad.

For example, you may have a School collection, which includes notebooks for different subjects, like math and literature. Inside each notebook, you’re able to create as many pages as you need, such as Calc 1, Calc 2, etc. But that’s about the best you can do.

In this scenario, you’d have to have all your lessons in one page, and with unlimited scrolling, it would be difficult to go over and look at previous lessons. Alternatively, you could create a Math collection, Calc 1 as a notebook, and each lesson as a separate page. 

Searching & Rearranging

Nebo makes it easy to search your entire library quickly and reorganize your notes in a way that makes sense for you.

The app’s search function can scan handwritten content, PDF annotations, and the text in your diagrams to help you quickly find what you need. It does require an upgrade to the Essentials Pack, but it’s only $1.99 and comes with a few other perks as well. 

As for moving around your pages and notebooks, Nebo makes it simple and easy to get one page or notebook in the right place. The drag-and-drop function allows you to move pages into notebooks and notebooks into collections until you have everything the way you want it.

Importing/Annotating

When it comes to importing and annotating, Nebo’s basic functions are more than enough for most cases. 

You can import PDF files, but Nebo also lets you import PowerPoint or Word documents as a PDF.

Use the pen or highlighter tool to mark up the document, and the lasso tool to move, resize, copy, delete, or change the color of your annotations, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to make changes to the original content of the document. 

Since Nebo converts your document to a PDF during the importing process, you won’t be able to edit your Word files as if you were still using a word processor.  You can write, draw, and mark-up your document, but you’ll need to return to the original file in order to make subsequent changes.

Once you’re finished, Nebo allows you to export it to PDF with all your annotations locked in place.

If you need to add to your notes after importing, it’s possible to move or resize them as needed. Nebo also allows you to markup your photos using the same tools.

Exporting/Sharing

When it comes to exporting or sharing your notes, Nebo gives you a few options.

You can export your notebook as a Word document, as a PDF file, or in Nebo format, which will allow you to share it with other Nebo users. This is a great choice for backing up your work.

Math equations can be exported as an image or LaTex, and your diagrams will stay editable when moved to PowerPoint or Keynote.

If the document is short or you only need to export bits and pieces, it’s easy to copy content and paste it into other apps. 

Your last option is to publish your notes on the web. You have the option to limit access to a specific list of contacts or allow anyone with the unique link to view your notes. While this option does require a MyScript account, it’s completely free to create and use.

Syncing/Backup

Nebo is cross-platform compatible, which makes it even more important to be able to sync your notes. 

Fortunately, you can easily sync all your notebooks to iCloud, Google Drive, or Dropbox. You’ll need a free MyScript account to use this ability, but then you’ll easily be able to access your notes from any device.

It’s always a good idea to back up your notes, just in case something happens. Nebo allows you to back up your entire library of notebooks and notes all at once. Backups will be in a .nebobackup file, which you’ll be able to open with your Nebo app.   

As an added bonus, you can now download the Nebo Viewer for your iPhone. This is a companion app that lets you access your notes in a read-only format from your phone to read, search, and share your content on the go.

Customization

Even though Nebo doesn’t have any of the templates or layouts that allow you to fully customize your notes, it does have some pretty cool abilities to enable a seamless notetaking experience. 

A screenshot of a handwritten note with the same words in light gray in the upper left corner of the page.

#caption#Nebo has a conversion preview in the upper left corner that shows its interpretation of your handwriting in real time.

Handwriting

Nebo’s handwriting recognition accuracy is insanely good. It perfectly picks up cursive and — to my surprise — even my super-sloppy handwriting.

One of the coolest features of this app is that, while you’re handwriting your notes, Nebo has a conversion preview in the upper left corner showing how it’s interpreting your text as you write. If, for some reason, it doesn’t pick up the correct markings, you can fix these errors right away, before converting to text.

To get the best results, you’ll need to make sure you’re not writing outside the lines of your pages. Handwriting that’s too big is harder for Nebo to recognize and will automatically disappear once you pick up your pen. If you have large handwriting, you have the option to change the line size in your settings under Text Display.

Nebo also allows you to mix and match text and handwriting, giving you more flexibility in your notes.

A screenshot showing the different ways you can format your text on a regular page in Nebo.

#caption#Nebo employs several tricks to format your text while you’re writing it.  

Formatting & Gestures

It’s quick and easy to format and edit your notes before you convert them to text, whether you’re typing or handwriting your notes.  

Nebo uses simple interactions and gestures to make your text look the way you want it.

Interactions include:

  • Create a title by underlining a sentence or paragraph twice.
  • Create a subtitle by underlining a sentence or paragraph once.
  • Emphasize a word and convert it to bold by underlining it once.
  • Highlight a word or sentence by drawing a box around it.
  • Create a list by drawing bullet points, numbers, or other supported list types.

Gestures allow you to fix mistakes and edit on the fly. Here’s a quick rundown of each:

  • Erase - scratch out any unwanted text to erase it.
  • Break - separate letters by drawing a line straight down between them.
  • Join - join letters by drawing a straight line upwards between them.
  • Double tap - double tap handwriting to convert to text. Double tap again to edit the text.

These gestures even work on typed text, making it even more convenient to correct mistakes with your Apple Pencil or stylus.

An iPad floats above a pedestal.  A pair of thumbs up and thumbs down buttons float in the air beside it.  

How Does Nebo Measure Up?

You’ve got your choice when it comes to notetaking apps. Your choice will depend on the features and tools that you need to jot down your notes.

So does Nebo have what it takes to beat out the competition?

Advantages of Nebo

Nebo does a lot of things well, and having the choice of what features you need makes a lot of sense. Let’s take a quick look at the main advantages of the app. 

  • Nebo is cross-platform compatible, allowing you to easily sync across all your devices. Not many notetaking apps work on iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac M1 devices, making this app pretty unique.
  • Nebo’s handwriting recognition and conversion are superior to other competitors. With MyScript’s Interactive Ink, you’ll get the most advanced handwriting capabilities available.
  • The ability to use gestures to format and edit your notes, whether handwritten or text, gives you more flexibility and offers a seamless notetaking experience.
  • A free version with in-app purchases allows you to pick and choose the features you need at an affordable price.
  • Extra features like freeform, sketch, math conversion, and other tools give your notes a customized feel and enable better workflow.

Nebo’s blog is a great resource to read and learn about all the latest features and upgrades, so you’re always in the know.

Drawbacks of Nebo

While you can definitely do a lot with Nebo, it isn’t as feature-rich as some of the more popular apps. Let’s take a look at what’s missing with Nebo. 

  • Limited organizational tools can limit the ability to keep your notes in order.
  • Lack of customization options, like the templates, layouts, and more that you’ll find in GoodNotes, Notability, or Noteshelf.
  • Typing text isn’t a smooth process, since Nebo is focused more on handwriting your notes and converting them to text. Using the keyboard to type text or formatting with the keyboard is more difficult than with other apps.
  • Basic tools only offer so much. You only get one type of pen, and the lasso tool doesn’t allow you to move or resize text on regular pages. The highlighter can only highlight the text on regular pages and can’t be layered.

The advanced handwriting capabilities might be enough to overlook some of this, but you’ll need to determine your notetaking style and whether you can live without these features.

An image of an iPad showing a mind map.  Various Apple accessories are positioned nearby.

 

Our Recommendation

Nebo offers a great compromise between something like Apple Notes and GoodNotes/Notability, so it’s definitely worth a try. 

The ability to try out the free version before you purchase anything is great, and the cost of the full pack add-on is very affordable if you decide you love it.

Nebo’s handwriting recognition and text conversion are the best you’ll find, and it integrates handwriting and text effortlessly. 

Plus, with the recent support of Apple silicon devices, it offers better cross-compatibility than the bigger notetaking apps like Notability and GoodNotes. 

You can get it from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or the Microsoft Store to try it for free.

An image of an iPad showing well-crafted, handwritten notes.  The packaging for Paperlike Screen Protector sits beside the iPad.

 

Enhance Your Notetaking Experience with Paperlike!

When you’re taking notes on your iPad, it’s not enough to find the best notetaking app. You can significantly boost your notetaking experience by using a screen protector by Paperlike.

With Paperlike, it’ll feel like you’re writing on real paper rather than a slick, glass surface.

By adding more resistance to your screen, you’ll be able to use your iPad more effectively to take notes in class or on the job.

Try a Paperlike today!