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Goodnotes for Mac Review: Is the Desktop version worth it? (The truth)

Goodnotes for Mac Review: Is the Desktop version worth it? (The truth)

GoodNotes for Mac has generated significant interest among Mac users as it offers a convenient and smooth note-taking experience.

This will help students, productivity seekers, and digital note enthusiasts who are keen to explore an the GoodNotes app for their note-taking needs on Mac. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of whether GoodNotes for Mac is worth using or not.

See the 28 Best Mac Note-Taking Apps for Advanced Workflows

This is important because drawing on the app is what makes GoodNotes unique compared to other note taking apps on Mac (though, not essential).

Also – You can actually use a Drawing Tablet For Mac when using GoodNotes on Mac.

We will review GoodNotes for Mac and provide an in-depth analysis of its features, benefits, drawbacks, and synchronization capabilities with iPad and iPhone.

Related: Tutorial: How To Use GoodNotes To Take Great Notes

Key Takeaways – Is GoodNotes for Mac Worth a Try?

Many users, including myself have had issues with the Mac OS version of Goodnotes…

GoodNotes on Mac simply doesn’t perform as well as the iOS app does for users; which has the main benefits of allowing the user to draw on an iPad using the Apple Pencil – this isn’t the case on GoodNotes for Mac.

Goodnotes on Mac looks similar to the iPad version…

It’s ideal if you have it on iOS already, because in this case it’s free for you test on Mac.

The reason why it doesn’t work as well is because the app is significantly more difficult to use. There are text based alternatives that perform better on Mac; like Apple Notes, OneNote, Google Keep, EverNote, or even Notion (see Notion templates).

Paul Michael, Founder of

Note: You can still use Top Goodnotes templates I’ve discussed)

Example of GoodNotes on Mac… As youd expect
Photo – Emmy Lou

Should you take the time to test GoodNotes on Mac?

After all, a note-taking app is going to be something you will use for years to come if you’re a student or someone seeking productivity improvement.

If you’re a fan of using it on Mac, you should pleased to note that more recent updates have improved the usability quite a bit…

So giving GoodNotes a test on Mac is really you’re only, true option here. (Don’t worry, I’ve done this for you, but I still advise trying it out yourself to see the limitations you have) – there are certainly some in this Desktop version.

Also see: Notability Vs GoodNotes: The Ultimate Note-Taking App

This is why I gave it a spin GoodNotes on Mac. Let’s dive into what I found during my comprehensive take on this.

GoodNotes for Mac – Review on the desktop version of GoodNotes

2 GoodNotes for Mac – Review on the desktop version of GoodNotes

Goodnotes for Mac presents a powerful, feature-rich note-taking application for users who prefer handwritten notes and document organization.

Customizable writing toolsCreate digital notebooks, type or draw
Document annotationAnnotate PDFs and images within the app
iCloud synchronizationSeamless syncing across iOS and Mac devices
Keyboard shortcutsSpeed up navigation and enhance user experience on Mac
Lack of native stylus supportUsers may need to rely on mouse or trackpad
Table showing features of GoodNotes for Mac

Its various tools make it a compelling choice for those who need an easy-to-use application that supports seamless integration with Apple devices.


3 Pros of GoodNotes for Mac

One advantage of using Goodnotes for Mac is the seamless iCloud synchronization that keeps your documents, notebooks, and notes updated across your Mac, iPad, and iPhone devices.

As with the iOS version, users can handwrite or type digital notes, annotate and edit PDFs, and sync across multiple devices.

As expected, it offers an intuitive organizational system with folders and notebooks, and supports search for easy retrieval. Its powerful features, such as various writing tools, make it an effective tool for productivity/note-taking.

This means no matter where you are, your work is just a few clicks away – Also, since the application runs on Mac OS – it’s aimed to give a hassle-free user experience when creating, editing, and managing documents… but that wasn’t the case for me when I tested it.

It did have some small issues you may want to be aware of if you expect similar functionality as the iPad. How To Use GoodNotes Handwriting To Text Feature


4 Cons of GoodNotes for Mac

Despite its many benefits, Goodnotes for Mac has its fair share of drawbacks. Primarily, the application’s user interface may not be intuitive for some users, leading to frustrations with navigation and functionality.

Another significant concern lies in the synchronization process; many users have experienced delays due to infrequent syncing, which can cause inefficiencies in accessing updated files.

These drawbacks, along with potential performance issues on the newer M1 & M2 laptops, may deter some users from adopting Goodnotes as their go-to note-taking application.

Also see: 5 Best Macbook For Kids

Features of Goodnotes for Mac

5 Features of Goodnotes for mac

Goodnotes for Mac is packed with numerous features aimed at enhancing user experience, productivity, and convenience. With an array of customizable writing and drawing tools, users can quickly create digital notebooks, type using the keyboard, or even draw with a mouse or trackpad.

The imported documents, such as PDFs and images, can be annotated effectively within the application, and users can also add documents from their Mac to existing GoodNotes notebooks with ease…

This solution to document creation and organization, alongside advanced note-taking capabilities make Goodnotes for Mac truly a powerful option for those seeking a well-rounded application for their desktop usage; but only if it doesn’t lag for you.

Related: How Long Does A MacBook Pro Last 

Making the transition from GoodNotes iOS version to the Mac version

6 Making the transition from GoodNotes iOS version to the Mac version

Switching from the iOS version of GoodNotes to the Mac version is a relatively seamless process, thanks to the iCloud synchronization capabilities.

This lets users to have their documents, notes, and files readily available across devices without having to manually transfer information.

Side note: It is important to have the same iCloud account associated with both your iOS and Mac devices for a fluid transition.

One advantage of using GoodNotes on Mac is the availability of keyboard shortcuts, which can significantly speed up navigation and enhance the overall user experience.

However, its crucial to keep in mind… that some features, such as the pen tool, might be less effective on Mac as there is no native stylus support. As a result, users may have to rely on a mouse or trackpad, which might take some getting used to for those familiar with the pen tool on iOS devices.

In general, users new to the Mac version should expect that the app interface might appear different from the one they are accustomed to on their iOS devices.

This could require some time investment in exploring the new interface and learning to navigate it effectively. Making the transition should be a relatively straightforward process once users familiarize themselves with the unique characteristics of the Mac app.

How to use GoodNotes for Mac

To begin using GoodNotes for Mac, users must first download the app from the Mac App Store. Once installed, GoodNotes will present users with an easy-to-navigate interface that displays notebooks, folders, and documents in a familiar layout. Users can create new notebooks, folders, and import documents using the ‘+’ icon. The navigation bar at the top of the screen provides access to the app settings, search functionalities, and document organization options.

When it comes to creating and editing notes within notebooks, GoodNotes for Mac offers multiple tools such as the pen, highlighter, eraser, shape tool, and text tool. Users can switch between these tools, change colors, and adjust the thickness using the toolbar located at the top of the document view.

If you want too add or delete pages within a notebook, click the page thumbnail view button in the toolbar and make the desired changes.

GoodNotes also allows users to annotate imported PDFs by opening the document, selecting a desired annotation tool, and making the necessary modifications directly onto the PDF – Note that all changes made within the app sync seamlessly to iOS devices, provided that iCloud synchronization is enabled on both devices.

Does Goodnotes on iOS transfer files and notes to the Mac version?

8 Does Goodnotes on iOS transfer files and notes to the Mac version

Yes, GoodNotes on iOS efficiently transfers files and notes to the Mac version through iCloud synchronization. Users must ensure that both their iOS and Mac devices are connected to the same iCloud account and have enabled “iCloud Sync” within the GoodNotes settings.

Once these conditions are met, users will observe that their files, folders, and notes appear on the Mac version effortlessly, with any changes made in one version automatically updated in the other as well.

This synchronization between iOS and Mac makes GoodNotes a highly convenient tool for those who want access to their notes and documents across multiple devices. It eliminates the need for manual transfers and ensures a seamless workflow, regardless of which device they are using.

Can you use a Drawing tablet on Goodnotes for mac?

Using a drawing tablet or a graphics tablet with GoodNotes for Mac is certainly possible, and it can provide a more natural input method for handwritten notes and drawings. By connecting a suitable tablet, such as a Wacom tablet, to your Mac, you can utilize the pressure-sensitive stylus offered by the tablet to create precise and smooth handwriting or drawings within the app.

Related: How to Add New & Custom Fonts to GoodNotes

However, users should keep in mind that not all drawing tablets and their corresponding stylus may be compatible with GoodNotes for Mac, and it is essential to research the compatibility issue before purchasing a specific tablet. Moreover, using a drawing tablet with the Mac version may not provide the exact same experience as using the Apple Pencil on an iPad, but it certainly offers more precision compared to using a mouse or trackpad.

My personal experience using GoodNotes for Mac -note that the zoom experience and convenience isn’t as good.

IS goodnotes on mac good or worth it

In my experience using GoodNotes for Mac, I found the app to be a powerful note-taking and document management tool, providing users with a familiar and intuitive interface. Creating and organizing notebooks, as well as managing PDFs and other documents, proved to be quite comfortable.

Nonetheless, a few drawbacks should be mentioned. The most significant downside I experienced was the difference in the zoom experience as compared to the iOS version. On the iOS version, zooming in and out of notes and documents felt fluid and natural. However, on the Mac version, the zoom experience was not as seamless and convenient, requiring more time and effort to navigate and manipulate documents.

Overall, GoodNotes for Mac is an effective and user-friendly tool for note-taking and document organization. As long as users are aware of its limitations and the necessary adjustments to their workflow, it can be an excellent addition to their productivity arsenal.

Alternatives to Goodnotes (Mac OS version)

NotabilityPopular iPad app with desktop version, offers iCloud sync
NotionSuitable for strictly Mac users, offers templates
OneNoteFree, offers organizational features and integration with Microsoft Office
BearMinimalist, text-centric, markdown support, subscription model, cross-device syncing
Table showing alternatives to GoodNotes for Mac

The Mac OS version of Goodnotes may not be the right fit for everyone, so it’s essential to evaluate other available options that cater to different user needs. Notability is one such alternative, a popular iPad app that also offers a desktop version that many users enjoy. It also comes with iCloud sync and provides a seamless note-taking experience across devices.

Notion is another alternative, see the Best Notion templates (It might be the best one if you’re strictly using Mac).

OneNote is another worthy contender to consider, especially for heavy Microsoft users or those on a budget, as the app is available for free. It boasts a host of organizational features and provides excellent integration with other Microsoft Office products. One advantage of OneNote is its rich collaborative feature set, enabling users to easily share and work together on notes and documents.

For those who prefer a minimalist, text-centric approach to note-taking, Bear offers an elegant solution. With its clean interface and focus on text, Bear users can enjoy markdown support, numerous exporting options, and a tagging system that helps keep notes organized.

Bear comes with a subscription model, but considering its cross-device syncing and the overall quality of the app, many users find it to be a worthwhile investment.

Bottom Line

GoodNotes for Mac intends to offer synchronization across iPad, iPhone, and Mac devices by utilizing iCloud. The app provides a wide variety of features for creating, importing, and editing documents on Mac.

However, some users have reported a nonintuitive interface, making it challenging to use the app effectively. Keep in mind, Syncing issues are also a drawback, as notes did not always update swiftly for me among all devices. GoodNotes for Mac may not provide the best experience for M1 laptops, as performance and optimization concerns have been reported by some users.

However, the app is improving with updates, and I do believe it will improve over time.

About the author:

Photo of Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut

Paul Michael

Paul Michael is a media and technology expert whose research reveals how technology and media are being used in the world today. He has expertise on computers, the internet, streaming, Roku, electronics, and education. He also enjoys graphic design & digital art. Paul has his Bachelors of Arts and Science(s) from Rutgers University-New Brunswick, NJ