Goodnotes or Notability? How to Decide What‘s Best for You

Note-taking is critical for students, professionals, creatives and anyone aiming to capture ideas and organize information. But with a dizzying array of apps on the market, it can be tough determining which solution best fits your needs.

As an interaction designer and avid digital note-taker for over a decade, I‘ve used countless offerings. But two consistently rise above the rest — Goodnotes and Notability. Both enable you to effortlessly type, hand draw, annotate docs, and sync notes across devices with ease. However, each contains standout features targeting different users.

This comprehensive guide will arm you with insider knowledge so you can confidently select the ideal note-taking app matched to your personal requirements and use cases.

A Quick Glance at Capability Overviews

Before we dive deeper, let‘s briefly introduce Goodnotes and Notability along with their signature features:


Originally launching on iPad in 2009, Goodnotes swiftly gained a loyal following thanks to its refined UX explicitly designed for notes. Key strengths include:

✅ Intuitive experience mirroring pen and paper
✅ Advanced organization with custom notebooks, dividers and pages
✅ Robust annotation and illustration capabilities
✅ Handwriting recognition for searchability
✅ Quick note sharing via export and iCloud sync


Debuting in 2011, Notability brings multimedia creation tools elevating traditional notes. Critical differentiators:

✅ Record audio sync with handwritten notes
✅ Annotate imported media like PDFs and presentations
✅ Powerful organization with searchable tags
✅ Hand draw perfectly with palm rejection
✅ Cloud backup across Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

Now let‘s examine how these functions translate regarding real-world usage and reveal key facts guiding your decision between the two.

User Interface and Organization

For a streamlined UX explicitly designed for note creators, Goodnotes leads the pack. Their angled writing surface mirrors notebook ergonomics while eliminating visual distractions. Every tool remains intuitively accessible through the uncluttered top toolbar.

Notability adopts a more traditional whiteboard style interface accommodating its richer toolkit. Icons and menus do populate the display more heavily. However, it provides strong search and tagging tools to organize notes created across its canvas and media imports.

When simplicity and a blank page for free-form note creation rules, Goodnotes delivers the superior experience. But those requiring structured templates or multimedia functionality will weather Notability’s steeper learning curve thanks to its expanded capabilities.

Cloud Services and Sync

Both apps provide seamless iCloud sync making notes accessible effortlessly across iPhones, iPads and Macs alike with no sweat. But Notability ups flexibility integrating directly with Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.

While Apple die-hards fair perfectly fine with Goodnotes, mixing business and personal devices makes Notability’s expanded ecosystem support invaluable. Savvy professionals often juggle work and personal cloud accounts already. They will appreciate Notability meeting them where they are at.

Annotation Features

Given notes originate digitally more often thanks to remote work and learning environments, effectively annotating PDFs, slide decks and the like becomes critical. Both Goodnotes and Notability enable illustrating directly on imported files using an array of highlighters, drawings and text comment tools familiar to anyone who has used markup software before.

However, Goodnotes wins regarding creative potential thanks to significantly more pen types, color options, thickness parameters and layered editing functionality. Notability makes up ground incorporating Apple Pencil‘s pressure sensitivity exceptionally while introducing convenient features like multiple simultaneous color selection.

But professionals especially will appreciate Notability‘s exceptionally robust PDF editor optimized for document analysis, review and collective feedback workflows. Factoring document source and intended annotation application tilts the scales slightly between the two. For personalizedEmbellishment, Goodnotes‘ customizability can‘t be beat. Notability facilites seamless collaborator workflows on otherwise static docs.

Media Capabilities

Goodnotes smartly positions itself as a next generation digital notebook through and through. You won‘t find audio, video or other multimedia capacity lacking. However Notability changes the game for oral communicators introducing recording/playback functionality synced with written notes.

This provides game changing value for students aiming to capture complete lectures with references. But it also suits professionals conducting interviews who require accurately quoting sources verbally or in writing.

If multimedia remains secondary to text and sketching based notes, Goodnotes sufficiently supports external media imports for annotation purposes. But multimedia creation demands Notability and its best-in-class features that erase boundaries between modalities.

Text Conversion

Both apps adopt advanced handwriting recognition to convert scrawl into legible, editable text. However, Goodnotes‘ interpretation algorithms match the brain’s own perceptive processes more closely. Notability occasionally struggles interpreting sloppier scribbling.

But conversion represents only half of handwriting handling prowess. Goodnotes also enables keyword search within cursive notes through its digital logic. Now that game changing assistant I mentioned having during university lectures really exists!

Notability may handle transcription adequately for careful writers. But Goodnotes‘ uncanny ability to parse context as fluently as a human gives it the outright edge regarding handwriting handling.


As its name suggests, Goodnotes indeed lives up to exceptional personalization potential. Beyond extensively adjustable pens and highlighters, its notebook metaphor proves apt. Choose from dozens of colorful page templates from college ruled or dotted grids to sheet music or graph paper. Scale, rotate, layer, group elements at will. Further tweak transparency settings and thickness controls individually.

For demanding design, engineering and creative professionals, Goodnotes unlock immense freedom. Notability instead smartly conservates interface real estate. It focuses customization primarily on writing implements rather than dramatic format flexibility.

However, Notability‘s greater constraints surprise with hidden advantage. Importing and annotating images as a background layer unleashes comparable creative freedom without interface clutter suffered by traditional "blank canvas" apps. If multimedia remains mandatory, some degree of sacrifice gets accepted.

Sharing and Exporting Notes

Getting notes out of either app proves breezy with just a few taps. You‘ll enjoy complete support for secured PDF exports, bulk sharing to collaborators via email and real-time co-editing in some cases.

Both Goodnotes and Notability adopt proprietary file formats retaining app-specific feature support after exporting. So don‘t hesitate transferring notes between desktop and mobile or across your devices.

Goodnotes touts an edge with exceptionally granular multi-page exporting capacity. Beyond that, seamless iCloud sync already eliminates device isolation concerns already anyway.

Fundamentally, core sharing and exporting functionality gets well covered in both apps alike. Focus remains rightly on input experience with remarkably solid output options as a bonus. You‘ll send notes easily regardless but likely continue editing within the app indefinitely since nothing gets lost in translation.

Backup and Restore

Losing years of notes instantly can devastate students weeks before final exams or professionals on deadline. Both apps provide complete iCloud based versioning for restore in worst case disasters. But Notability extends flexibility offering Google Drive and Dropbox backup too.

Frankly, I‘ve seen few apps exercise excessive caution ensuring your hard creative efforts remain perpetually safe. Between multi-platform sync, revision histories and mobile device backups, catastrophic data loss nearly gets eliminated.

Peace of mind gets established for both creative tools. But Notability‘s backup flexibility lends confidence for those leery counting on a single provider, however reliable Apple‘s cloud remains.

Pricing Models

The only divergence in otherwise feature-packed apps comes down to purchase models. Goodnotes unlocks full functionality for a mere one-time $7.99 payment. However Notability recurringly charges $14.99 annually following an initial trial period.

If you adamantly require exclusive features like Notability‘s audio sync, then recurring fees likely feel justifiable at roughly $1.25 monthly. Ad hoc professionals may prefer Goodnotes‘ perpetual license depending on use frequency.

Of course, both offer completely functional free versions with premium features accessible via single upfront purchase or subscription as needed.

Which App Should You Choose?

We‘ve covered a lot of ground examining the capabilities, strengths and differences between Goodnotes and Notability. But which one is the right fit for you?


For most students, portability and pencil support makes iPad an intuitive paper replacement already.

  • University lectures and rapid note taking? Notability‘s audio sync likely proves indispensable reviewing material.
  • Graph-heavy STEM coursework? Goodnotes‘ specialized math and engineering templates accelerate comprehension.
  • Summarizing dense research papers? Notability‘s PDF annotation cannot get topped.

Evaluate your learning methods, subjects and what limitations currently frustrate you. Let the app lift burdens so you can focus fully on academic material itself.


Modern professionals juggle more concurrent projects and collaborative opportunities than ever before. App selection depends on role and use case.

  • Client services and meetings? Notability‘s audio sync & organization keeps everyone on the same page.
  • Data analysis and reporting? Goodnotes‘ endless templates visualize insights effectively.
  • Document review and feedback? Notability‘s real-time coediting drives consensus.

Of course cross-functional roles defy narrow solutions. When dealing with clients and project teams alike, flexibility enables aligning features to shifting needs. Don‘t confine the scope prematurely when expanded functionality likely proves necessary eventually in dynamic business environments.


Designers, animators, engineers and other creatives pour professional passion into specialized apps already. They desire capable secondary tools supporting scattered sparks of inspiration striking while mobile.

  • Protocol sketching and diagramming? Goodnotes‘ infinite canvases and template variety assists tremendously. Custom page sizes, grids, prototyping kits, importable underlays…this feels like creativity heaven!
  • Concept illustration and elaboration? Notability‘s lag free vector inking better perpetuates concepts directly from mind to screen.

Both empower creators in complementary ways. Evaluate their specialties against attractions of companion ecosystems. Feature gaps get filled from every angle. Inspiration crosses seamlessly across platforms.

Final Recommendations

When utilized consciously, Goodnotes and Notability together constitute an endless canvas facilitating productivity and creativity for all kinds of professionals alike.

If advanced multimedia features become unnecessary: Goodnotes naturally guides focus towards high-quality writing and sketching habits. Its structured organization also suits systematic thinkers forced into creating linearly.

When recording audio or video commentary remains critical: Notability unlocks immense capabilities marrying analog and digital workflows. Its consolidated dashboard enables real-time transitions across tools tailored to multi-modal work or learning.

Neither choice stands "wrong" since overlapping features stabilize a reliable foundation. Reflect on ideal user experience and shake off assumptions of required limitations when empowering technologies stand ready to serve you.

Now Get Started and See the Magic Happen!

You‘re now equipped to select either Goodnotes or Notability confidently based on this comprehensive capability comparison. Avoid feature overload paralysis by remembering digital notes primarily facilitate:

  • Consolidating analog/digital workflows
  • Enabling quick organization and recall
  • Making ideas tangible through writing and sketching
  • Reviewing and annotating reference materials
  • Securing a searchable reference archive

The app merely fuels progression through these fundamental goals. So download both apps for a thorough test drive based on your typical needs.

Within an hour you‘ll discover personally which excels at driving how you create, absorb and share knowledge most naturally. Let me know how your experience goes! I may have a few advanced power user techniques to share once you settle into digital note mastery.

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