App review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2020
Squid - Take Notes & Markup PDFs
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Squid - Take Notes & Markup PDFs

Flexible note-taking app lets users write, draw, or type on templates, but no search or sync

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English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: Flexible image capabilities let you resize, duplicate, and annotate images; multiple styles of background templates add versatility.

Cons: Missing some features that are standard in other digital notebooks, such as tags, folders, sync, and a search bar.

Bottom Line: Unique merge of low and high tech lets users take notes and mark up media, but it's missing a few features.

Teachers who want to reduce the amount of paper piling up on their desk or in students' folders will find Squid - Take Notes & Markup PDFs to be an attractive alternative to traditional notebooks. Import an image, diagram, or cloze notes to share with your students. Use the graph paper feature for practice with algebra or geometry problems. Or go paperless with PDF markup capabilities, if you're able to make an in-app purchase. Plus, students can easily switch between diagrams, drawings, and written text without leaving the note. Simply turn the page by tapping on the arrow and choosing your background. Use it for a quick formative assessment to check understanding. And since students can annotate images, diagrams, historical documents, or just about anything they can find online, you can have them use Squid for research projects and presentations. Just be sure to remind students about copyright laws and protecting their privacy if they plan on putting any of their content online.  

Giving notes detailed titles will help them find them later, so be sure to remind students to take care when creating their notes. Although importing PDFs and most of the built-in templates are paid features, teachers can use images as a workaround. Simply find a background you want to use, save it to your camera roll, and insert the image into a blank note. Students can then write on top of images.

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Squid - Take Notes & Markup PDFs is a digital notebook for Chromebooks and Android devices. Students choose a note background -- blank, lined, graph, or, if they're using the paid version, a more customized one. Then, they can write with their fingers, a stylus, or a device-compatible pencil. Some neat options include resizing images, annotating both documents and images, and exporting notes into different formats. Users can access their saved notes, which appear as thumbnails, from their dashboard, and they can use it in conjunction with Google Drive and Classroom. It's also possible to share with another display to use it for presentation or as an interactive whiteboard. Other useful features such as adding text, exporting to PDF, and most custom backgrounds are only available via in-app purchase.

For learners who struggle with organization and paper overload, Squid - Take Notes & Markup PDFs provides some help in that kids can still write notes by hand, but they don't have to keep track of where they put them. Plus, there's some research that suggests handwritten notes boost recall and may cement understanding better than typed notes. Of course, teachers will want to teach students note-taking methods such as outlining, mapping, and summarization in order to get the most out of the notebooks. Built-in templates, along with image and PDF importing capabilities, make it possible to keep notes of almost any kind, whether they're Cornell notes, graphic organizers, drawings, or diagrams, or even annotated images. 

Most students will likely prefer using Squid on a tablet or Chromebook rather than a phone. While it’s convenient to take notes on a phone, the small screen may feel limiting, especially if there's a lot to write or draw. Also, the app lacks some features that come standard on other similar tools. For instance, it doesn't support syncing, so it's probably best to pick one device where you're going to keep the bulk of your notes. There's also no search feature or tagging option, so students looking for their notes will just have to scroll through until they find them. While the absence of some features, such as searching and syncing, may frustrate some students, this is a solid tool for keeping track of important information. Despite its limitations, Squid is easy to learn and will save you some trips to the copier.


Overall Rating


Students will like the novelty of drawing or writing on their devices, the convenience of movable notes, and the ability to create customized pages.


What students get out of it depends on what they put into it, but there's tons of potential for a variety of uses, including creating an interactive notebook, completing homework, doing presentations, and more.


It's easy to use, but additional features such as speech-to-text and organization options would go a long way toward making it more accessible and productive. There's also a dedicated YouTube channel with how-to videos.

Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

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