Taking notes on your device saves a lot. But it even gets better when you can directly put down notes in your handwriting. This comes with its advantages, including the fastness because you use a digital pen instead of the touch screen keyboard, and this also acts as a physical notebook replacement with back up of course. And just that you have your iPad, these apps will be beneficial for note-taking. Over the years, Goodnotes and Notability have two apps in the centre focus and most practical use when taking notes on the iPad. Goodnotes and Notability both let you achieve the pen and paper set up on the iPad but in a digital way.
See, and choosing which of the two is right for you can be a daunting task — especially keeping in mind that both apps have their strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly online critics using the two tools regularly jab at each other.
So, you may be wondering which is the better option between Goodnotes and Notability. That is what we are going to cover both intensively and extensively and help you decide which of the two is the best. In reality, you will have also have to decide which app has some slight drawbacks that you can or cannot tolerate in your note-taking.
Aside from other features that come handy inside the two note-taking apps, first impressions when you fire the two apps is also crucial and indicates the general arrangement of the previous documents and when they were last opened. Starting with Notability, it has a user interface that is almost similar to what you get on the standard notes’ app on the iPad.
You will see a two-column layout with the right side featuring the various categories of notes taken, including recent notes, writings, and archive. On the other hand, your notes are arranged in a column based on the date they were opened. Additionally, you can also sort the recent notes out by using the filters provided such as name, date of creation, or last modified date. Alongside the name and date of creation of the notes, you will also view the category in which they lie.
Turning over to Goodnotes, it has one system-wide layout with recent documents in the view. Before the list of recent documents, Goodnotes provides you with a button to create a new note. To search for your old documents, you have to switch to the central search feature. The other option available on the home screen is the “favorites” button at the bottom of the screen which will provide you with a list of your favorited documents in Goodnotes.
What is even better about Goodnotes version 5 is the ability to choose how you want to scroll through your notes. In previous versions, Goodnotes permitted navigating only in a horizontal manner. In Notability, you will have to live with vertical scrolling, and there is no way around that.
Besides, Goodnotes working space and notes look more old-age designed as the app tries to emulate real paper. Notability, on the other hand, offers a more digital look which turns as the most impressive one.
So aside with the user interface, let us dive into the comparison of features offered by the two separate apps.
The search comes as a handy feature in both Goodnotes and Notability. For Goodnotes, version 5 now offers ways to search globally. Which means you can now be able to explore throughout your notebooks. But there is a slight problem you should be aware of regarding this feature. For those of you who can take notes in multiple languages, you will have to choose a default language for the search feature to work effectively in one language. Goodnotes search feature is also more advanced and offers search results even in your handwritten notes. I know the same applies to Notability, but Goodnotes is way better when you put the two apps together head to head.
And what is even good about Goodnotes is that the search results will let you have a sneak peek of the location of the text in a note even when you search from the homepage. In Notability, when searching from the homepage, you will be provided with resultant notes that contain that keyword, but it will not highlight the exact location in a sneak peek view.
OCR also is known as Optical character recognition is a technique of recognizing text in either images or handwritten documents or even typed text.
OCR implementation is both on Goodnotes and Notability as I have previously highlighted above regarding the search feature. But remember you have to set your preferred language under general settings. Which means you will still have trouble using this feature typing in more than one language. OCR helps you convert your handwritten text to the standard typed version which you can then import in your preferred format.
Looking for more options for your note-taking needs? Be sure to also check out “Notes on the Go: A Comparison of Google Keep & Evernote“. Compare these two well-known note-taking apps and see which one is better for you.
Goodnotes 5 includes a useful auto-deselect feature which helps in cutting down the manual task when switching between the pen and the eraser for example. To put this into perspective, for example, you have written a wrong spelling and want to write better. You have to click on the eraser then rub the misspelt word.
Now, on switching back to the pen, the process is automatic with auto-deselect on, so you don’t have to click on the pen to continue writing. Oh, and if you have the iPad Pro 2018 Edition and you happen to hate Apple Pencil 2 double-tap feature for switching between the eraser and the pen (very tedious, indeed), Goodnotes got you covered with the auto-deselect feature.
On Notability, you will experience a manual life on selecting a deselecting a feature. With Notability, you will have to click on the rubber then again click on the pen to switch back to writing which is time-consuming.
Regarding the eraser, both apps offer an in-built eraser feature. Goodnotes makes work easier by letting you customize the eraser further. On Goodnotes, you can choose to erase an entire stroke or just part of it. How cool is that! On the other hand, it gets worse using Notability. Notability’s eraser lets you delete all the lines instead.
When taking notes, there are those moments you have to add some images to back up the writings. Both Goodnotes and Notability have this functionality, but there is a big difference. Goodnotes offers a better, more straightforward way to import your photos. Just tap on the image icon at the top bar then Goodnotes will open a scrollable filmstrip view of your photos starting with the most recent one. To import; tap on an image then it will overlay at the top of your note where you can manipulate the image in different ways like rotating, zoom, crop and even resize it to your liking.
Notability, on the other hand, will take you through some steps clicking buttons and opening new menus. For notability tap on the “+” sign, then photo then choose where you want to import your image from. One thing you will notice is white borders on imported images in Notability which is not the case for Goodnotes. And again, another plus for Goodnotes.
If you love highlighting written notes for further customizability, then Goodnotes is your best companion here. Goodnotes features a highlighting tool that automatically straightens out and adjusts to cover the whole borders of the text. For Notability, the highlights just follow what you do, and there is no straightening or adjustment of the highlights to cover the texts on the edges.
Because you may want to write on a different kind of paper for various purposes, an excellent note-taking app should be able to cater to your needs accordingly. Notability has different paper variants including square (in four variations), another four variations of ruled paper and also a blank paper. All of the mentioned variants are all in a standard portrait format. However, Notability offers variant color options that you can customize your papers to – you won’t lack your preferred color in these color collections.
Now turning over to Goodnotes; the app features several paper types grouped in categories which looks neat. There are categories like Essentials, writing papers, music, and planner. Essential provides most common paper standards like blanks, ruled narrow, squared, dotted among others. For orientation, most papers have an option for a landscape and portrait orientation. And for paper customization in terms of color, Goodnotes allows you to choose between a white background or a yellow one which is well, a bummer for those who love different colors aside from the two.
Back-Up of Data
Although both Goodnotes and Notability back up your data directly to iCloud why not have the flexibility to back up via third party cloud providers too? Notability has been the best in implementation of data back-up to third-party cloud services. For Notability, you will find an additional feature termed “auto-backup,” which offers other ways in which you can back up your notes aside from iCloud. With auto back-up on Notability, you can choose to back up your data to Dropbox, Onedrive, Google Drive.
Backing data on Goodnotes is quite a different manual process, unlike in Notability. With Goodnotes, you will have to first import your data in the form of a zip file by using the “back-up data” feature. After the exportation has been done, you can then move the files to your preferred iCloud alternative to keep a copy of the same.
This mode has been one of the touted features in Apple’s recent iOS 13/ iPadOS 13 previews. Dark mode not only looks impressive but also saves on power. For Android users, the latest Android 10 has also come with a system-wide dark mode. Notability has additional theme settings that let you choose what theme you prefer. There is a common white theme and a dark theme which looks dark gray. For Goodnotes, though, there is no dark theme yet. But the feature may be implemented in the future as well given that iOS 13 has an upcoming system-wide dark mode.
Syncing notes across your multiple devices is a much-needed functionality. So, having an app that supports other platforms as well comes is a bonus and adds more juice to the real-world usage case scenarios.
Notability offers MacOS compatible app while Goodnotes has only an iPad app. If you have to go with Goodnotes, all your activity will be limited to the iPad only. The case is different with Notability; you have a macOS app that lets you view your saved notes.
We have already touched on several features where Goodnotes proves to be the king. However, audio recording is one feature that is not available in Goodnotes yet. Notability’s audio recording feature comes handy when you want to record audio while taking some notes. Although Goodnotes has hinted that the feature is on its way, it has been years since the hint was dropped. So, don’t put too many hopes on that anytime soon.
In Notability, you can adjust your audio by speed and also back by 10 seconds. Plus, you can also animate your audio and your text at the same time.
Since note-taking is the primary use of these apps, let us see how they weigh against each other.
Goodnotes’ interface makes it much easier to switch the colors of your handwriting which has been achieved by docking your favorite colors at the top of the screen. You can customize your favourite colours for easy, one-tap access. On Notability, the process is a little complicated. You have to tap on the pen-like feature at the top then select a colour that you want to write in – as compared to how you quickly access this feature on Goodnotes; Notability is tiresome on this one.
Another thing to note about the two apps is the way you add a new page. Notability offers an infinite scroll which cuts down on the work needed when you want to move on to a new page. With Goodnotes, we go a little manual by adding a new page from the “+” button at the top bar.
Throughout all the features that we have highlighted above, all of them add to the general beauty of using the two note-taking apps.
On pricing, Goodnotes will set you back by $7.99 while Notability will cost you $2 USD more.
Between the two apps, Goodnotes offers more than what Notability has. Ranging from the paper settings, image importation, text highlighting, auto-deselect feature, search and has an impressive user interface also. But I will still say, depending on the features available some note-takers may prefer otherwise, which is impressive also depending on their needs.
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