How I Have Gone Completely Paperless With Apple Pencil and iPad

Taking notes, signing and scanning documents on iPad means I rarely have to deal with paper anymore

Rugare Maruzani
Feb 17 · 4 min read
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The one thing tech was never been able to replace for me was the handwriting experience. I am one of those people that forget everything unless I write it down. And I’ve learnt handwritten notes will be remembered for longer. While some of my friends at university moved to typing up notes on laptops and tablets, that never really worked for me. At the time, stylus input was just not that good so I kept on using pen and paper for all kinds of notetaking. That was until I got the Apple Pencil to pair with my iPad. I have not used a single notebook since I purchased the Apple Pencil. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil have eliminated the need for paper in other areas of my life too. Here are the apps and hardware that have led me here.

By far my biggest consumption of paper was on notebooks, especially since I became a postgraduate researcher in September 2020. Pairing the Apple Pencil with Apple Notes has completely eliminated the need for notebooks. Handwriting on the iPad is objectively better, especially for those of us with poor handwriting. I can re-organise any piece of text on the page, change colour after the note is taken, and copy the notes as typed text to paste elsewhere. None of this is possible with pen and paper. The experience is pretty great most of the time. There are times when the palm rejection on iPad doesn’t quite work and the illusion that I’m not writing on glass and software is broken in a very annoying way. The slipperiness of writing on glass was initially a challenge but you quickly get used to it. Even so, I am now considering buying one of those screen protectors that give a more paper-like writing experience. I choose to write using Notes because I think most of the time, Apple make the best software for their devices. I admit I haven’t tried other third-party apps, but I haven’t had a reason to because Notes works so well. I also know that Notes won’t go anywhere like third-party apps that can be acquired or go out of business.

Screenshot by Author

The only paper that ends up in my flat nowadays is that other people have sent me. My natural instinct is to get rid of it as quickly as possible but sometimes I have to keep documents for future reference. So, I make a digital copy and recycle the physical paper. It’s been the sentiment for a long time now that you shouldn’t use the iPad camera for actual photography. I’ve never agreed with this. I say use the camera you have; use the camera you want — even if it’s attached to an iPad. That said, scanning documents is a more natural use of the cameras on iPad. You can just use the Camera app to take pictures of documents, but Notes has a good built-in scanner. The feature saves the document as a PDF making it easier to work with compared to a photograph. Any paperwork I can scan and get rid of goes through Apple Notes.

Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

The last source of random bits of paper in my life is documents that need signing and returning somewhere else. This admittedly doesn’t happen too often. It does all pile up when you start a new role, or project, or move to a new house — all of which I’ve done in the last few months. I’ve been able to use Apple Pencil to sign most pieces of paperwork electronically.

I have barely interacted with paper since I got the Apple Pencil for my iPad. My note taking habit is satisfied by using the Apple Pencil with the Notes app. The iPad’s high-quality cameras make for a good document scanner allowing me to quickly get rid of paper without losing information. Not only has the iPad and Apple Pencil taken over most of my paper needs, but the experience is much better than I had with physical paper. I don’t think an individual moving away from using paper makes a significant difference to the environment, but it does feel good to be generating less waste than I used to.

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