With the recent rise in the popularity of journaling Bibles, people are writing inside their Bibles more and more. Whether you’re an avid margin-notetaker, an underliner, a highlighter, or a doodler, you may be seeking to take your Bible journaling to the iPad and Apple Pencil.
While there is no iPad Bible app that natively supports Apple Pencil functionality, there is a workaround that will have you digitally writing in your Bible in no time using the app GoodNotes, with only a little bit of setup. Here’s my Bible note-taking with the Apple Pencil workflow.
The Apps You’ll Need
If you simply want to take notes, markings, and highlights on the text of your Bible, you’ll really only need one app. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the app I highly recommend for this is GoodNotes. This is a fantastic note-taking application that works flawlessly with the Apple Pencil. In fact, I guarantee you’ll find yourself using GoodNotes as more than just a Bible app for your Apple Pencil. I could write an entire review about GoodNotes, but that’s not what this post is about, so if you want to learn more about GoodNotes, click here to visit their website.
In a nutshell, GoodNotes takes the experience of writing in a physical notebook and brings that into the iPad. You can pick from a variety of notebook covers and page layouts to build the perfect notebook. But one of the most useful features of the app is its PDF import. You see where I’m going with this?
You can bring a PDF into GoodNotes and write on it just like it was any other notebook page. This is perfect for digital planners, coloring books, workbooks, and—yep, you guessed it—Bibles.
If you’re more artistic and want to spend more time making beautiful artwork with your Apple Pencil to add to your Bible, a second app you may want to look into is Procreate. But chances are, if you’re an artist with an iPad, you probably already have it.
If you don’t know what Procreate is, it’s essentially an app that lets you unleash your artistic creativity through a variety of brush types, colors, and unique tools. Sure, you can do your artwork inside of GoodNotes, but that app isn’t really optimized for anything more than handwriting notes. Procreate is by far the best drawing and painting app for the iPad, which makes it one of the best apps for artistic Bible journaling with your Apple Pencil.
If you already have a good notes application that supports PDF import, you can most likely use that app, too. But since GoodNotes is the app I’m familiar with, that’s the app I’ll be referring to throughout this blog post. I’m sure there are ways to accomplish similar tasks in whatever app you’re using.
Alright, now that you have your note-taking app, I’ll show you how to get your Bible directly to your iPad for journaling with the Apple Pencil.
(Full disclosure: I don’t actually use the Apple Pencil myself. I opted for the slightly cheaper, yet still highly functional, Logitech Crayon. I highly recommend it for simple note-taking and hand-writing. If you’re an artistic person, however, I recommend sticking with the Apple Pencil. The Crayon doesn’t have pressure sensitivity.)
GoodNotes as a Bible App for the Apple Pencil
I think I’ve made it clear already, but just in case there is any confusion, GoodNotes is not innately a Bible app. It is a very flexible note-taking app that we can leverage to use as a Bible app. Keep in mind, though, the main difference between this Bible and a physical Bible is that this Bible will live on your iPad. While you will be able to search throughout the document and set up links for each book, you won’t have the powerful search and share functions available to you in other Bible apps. With that said, let’s get into it.
First, you need to pick what structure you want for your Bible. GoodNotes gives you the ability to have a single notebook or a folder full of notebooks. So you could either have one notebook that contains the entire Bible, or you could create a folder called “Bible,” with two folders inside called “New Testament” and “Old Testament.” Inside those two folders, you could place each book of the Bible as an individual notebook.
It’s really up to you and how your brain works. Personally, I have different Bibles that I use to take different sets of notes. So I like to keep them all together in one big notebook. You may like to focus on each book of the Bible individually. It really doesn’t matter. This can be done both ways.
Next, you need to find a PDF version of your Bible or the individual book of the Bible. It can be difficult to find a free PDF of the Bible in most versions, due to copyright restrictions. You can easily find a KJV PDF, as this is public domain. But to find any other version, you may have to do a bit of digging. While these aren’t the prettiest documents, here’s a PDF of the NIV (1984), and here’s a PDF of the ESV.
If you’re willing to spend a little bit of money, you can also pick up a full PDF copy of the ESV Bible with wide margins, which is what I highly recommend. This digital copy was designed specifically for journaling. You can get this for only $15 if you become a member of Crossway’s free loyalty program, which is totally worth it.
Whatever version or PDF you decide to go with, download it and import it into GoodNotes.
And that’s basically it! You can now take notes on your Bible with the Apple Pencil. That’s pretty much everything you need to know. But keep reading for some valuable Bible note-taking tips.
Tips For Bible Note-Taking with the Apple Pencil
Set up a Table of Contents
When you first import your Bible into GoodNotes, you’ll essentially have one giant document. To get from book to book, you’ll need to scroll through hundreds of pages until you find whatever it is you’re looking for. You can save yourself a lot of time later down the road by taking a little bit of time upfront to create a table of contents. In GoodNotes, you can do this by creating an outline.
First, open up your Bible to the book of Genesis, click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner, and click “Add This Page to Outline.” Type “Genesis,” and click “Add.”
Do that again for every book of the Bible and now you have a table of contents that you can use to jump from book to book.
Note that if you purchased the ESV digital journaling Bible PDF, there is a functional hyperlink table of contents that you can access by clicking the menu in the top left-hand corner of each page. You do have to be in read-only mode for these links to work. But this saves you the time of having to add 66 items to your outline.
Add Additional Pages
One of the limitations about writing in your physical Bible is that it’s difficult to add extra pages for notetaking, although it is possible (check out this video for more info).
But when you’re writing in a Bible with the GoodNotes app, you can easily add more paper anytime by clicking the “Add Page” button in the top right-hand corner. Here you can choose any template, such as blank paper, lined paper, dotted paper, etc.
This feature is perfect for adding extra paper for taking extended notes, journaling, doodling, and more.
Set Up Note-Taking Templates
Building off of the previous tip, you can also add your own templates to GoodNotes. If you have a particular Bible study method that you like to follow, like S.O.A.P or R.A.N.S.O.M, you can create your own template pages which you can easily add to your GoodNotes Bible instead of a blank page.
To learn more about how to create your own page templates in GoodNotes, click here.
Bookmark and Tag Passages
If there is a particular passage of scripture that stands out to you, or something you’d like to return to at a later date, you can easily add a bookmark by clicking on the bookmark icon at the top of the note. This is great for saving scriptures that you’d like to return to often.
Another way to mark certain scriptures for later reference is to come up with a tagging system. While GoodNotes doesn’t officially support tags, the search function is powerful enough that you can simply handwrite your tag right onto the page.
For instance, let’s say you want to keep track of every time the Bible mentions salvation. You can simply write next to the scripture “#salvation.” Then when you want to find all your salvation tags, simply run a search for “#salvation.” As long as you make sure to write as clearly as possible, coming up with your own tagging system is a great way to group scriptures together.
Design Your Own Cover and Title Pages
With GoodNotes, you can design your own notebook covers and write on them just like you can write on any other page. Whatever is on the first page of your notebook will show up in your stack of notebooks. It’s a simple feature, but still one of my favorites.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to draw on your journaling Bible, this opens up all kinds of opportunities for you. Not only can you design your own cover for your Bible, but you can design your own title pages for sections, books, and passages.
When you move your Bible journaling environment from a physical Bible to your tablet, you open yourself up to a whole world of opportunities. You’ll get the flexibility and portability of a digital Bible mixed with the functionality and hands-on nature of a physical Bible.
What does your digital Bible workflow look like? Have you found a way to integrate your Apple Pencil into your Bible reading? What are some of your favorite digital journaling techniques? Leave a comment below and join in the discussion.
Tyler, thanks so much for doing this. I’ve been looking for this very information for a while now.
Can I use this app to edit words, I like my Bible to say King instead of Lord, could I tell the app everywhere it says Lord change to King?
I don’t think you could do that with this app since it’s just a PDF reader. You’d need something more like a text editor for that.
I purchased the ESV bible through Crossways, but the hyperlinks do not work in GoodNotes 5 (even in read only mode). The links do work through other .pdf readers. Do you have any suggestions?
Hi Pacman, thanks for reading! That’s strange. I just tested it out on my iPad with the same setup (Crossway’s pdf and Goodnotes 5) and the hyperlinks worked just fine. I would double check that it’s in read-only mode and that the latest version of Goodnotes is on your iPad. If it’s still not working, perhaps reach out to Goodnotes support about that issue.
Like!! Great article post.Really thank you! Really Cool.