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Tutorial: How to Use GoodNotes to Take Great Notes (Beginners & Pros)

Tutorial: How to Use GoodNotes to Take Great Notes (Beginners & Pros)

Learning how to use GoodNotes effectively can significantly improve workflow and note-taking for users of all skill levels. When it comes to note-taking, better organization has become essential for students, professionals, and individuals alike.

GoodNotes, is a powerful and versatile app that revolutionizes the way we create, store, and access our notes.

Learning how to use it’s beginner and advanced features (like audio recording, which is newly added) will allow you to enhance productivity across various tasks.

Related: How to Use GoodNotes Handwriting to Text Feature [Visual Guide]

Some features we will cover are planning, using elements, hyperlinks, stickers, scribble, flashcards and more.

In this comprehensive GoodNotes tutorial for beginners, pros, and students on iPad, Mac and Windows, we’ll dive deeper into different functions, features, and tips to help you unlock the full potential of the GoodNotes app.

Also see: The Best ways to take better notes on iPad (all methods, not just using goodnotes app)

At a Glance – What you can learn to do on GoodNotes (Table)

This table presents an overview of Goodnotes 5, including its capabilities, key uses, and limitations. We will show you how to use goodNotes for these purposes as well as how to use each individual feature.

Capabilities of Goodnotes 5Key usesLimitations
Handwriting to TextConversion of written content to digital text format – useful for students.
Digital PlannerWrite your plans inside your best digital plannerDoes NOT sync with Google Calendar or Outlook Appointments
Digital DiaryOrganize your thoughts inside a digital diary 
Meeting NotesWrite meeting notes using a simple meeting note template or a ready-to-use digital meeting planner 
To-do ListEnjoy quick access to your daily to-do listDoes NOT send reminders
Project Notes SharingScribble and share your project notes during ZOOM calls (share your iPad screen for everyone to see) 
Workout PlannerCreate a workout planner and track your fitness progress on all your devices 
Meal Planner/DiaryKeep track of your meals inside a meal planner or meal diary 
Audio RecordingMusic teachers can record and organize their student’s lesson notes. Students can use it to review their lessons.
  • According to a survey by MediaPeanut, 72% of GoodNotes users prefer digital note-taking to traditional pen-and-paper methods.
  • MediaPeanut’s survey also found that 85% of GoodNotes users have improved their organization and productivity since using the app.

Also see: How to Add New & Custom Fonts to GoodNotes

Different ways to use GoodNotes

1 Different ways to use GoodNotes 1

One advantage of GoodNotes is its versatility as it can be utilized in various effective ways. For instance, it can be used as a digital planner, allowing users to maintain schedules, to-do lists, and appointments with ease.

By setting up templates and custom pages, one can create a personalized planning system, making use of color coding and hyperlinks to navigate through the planner effortlessly.

Another way to use GoodNotes is as a virtual notebook for students and professionals alike. This enables users to take handwritten notes, sketch diagrams, and annotate lecture slides all within one notebook.

This method offers a clutter-free and eco-friendly approach to processing information, as users can create various tailor made notebooks for different subjects or projects, aiding in organization and ease of access.

Lastly, GoodNotes can also function as an interactive reading companion for eBooks and PDF documents.

Users can import their study materials into the app and enjoy a seamless reading experience, making annotations, highlighting, or underlining essential information directly on the page. This facilitates efficient learning and better retention of knowledge while preserving an authentic reading experience.

Basics of GoodNotes

2 Basics of GoodNotes 1

GoodNotes provides various handy features catering to the diverse needs of users, such as note-taking and organizing tools, importing documents, and sharing options. For note-taking, users can make use of writing and drawing tools that come with an array of customization options.

You can choose from different pen settings, colors, and sizes, as well as utilize shape recognition tools to draw perfect geometrical figures. Adding images and text boxes to the notes is also enhances the overall note-taking process.

Organizing notes within GoodNotes is straight forward in most cases; Users can create new pages, set up folders for different subjects or projects, bookmark important pages, and use the search function to find any handwritten or typed content quickly.

Importing documents is another essential feature of GoodNotes. Users can add PDF documents to the app and annotate them with various tools such as the highlighter, pen, or text box, enhancing the reading and annotation process.

GoodNotes also allows for sharing and exporting options. Users can share their documents via email or cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Exporting them in PDF or GoodNotes format is possible, ensuring the output is easily accessible across multiple devices and platforms.

Tutorial: How to use GoodNotes (Beginners and Pro tips)

3 Tutorial How to use GoodNotes 1

Below, we’ll dive deep into how you can optimize your GoodNotes experience with advanced techniques, organization tips, and creative features for note-taking, digital planning, and more.

Tips and tricks for GoodNotes

5 How to use GoodNotes as a planner 1

To make the most out of GoodNotes, users should utilize these advanced techniques in the app:

  • Firstly, use lasso tool to select, resize, and rearrange any handwritten notes… as well as images, or text boxes within your documents.
  • Secondly, make use of shortcuts to switch between tools or undo/redo actions.
  • Lastly, consider using the split view on your device to display two separate GoodNotes documents simultaneously or any other apps side by side, facilitating seamless multitasking.

How to use GoodNotes as a planner

Harness the organizational power of GoodNotes by utilizing it as a planner. Begin by setting up a custom layout or choosing an existing template that best suits your planning style.

This can include calendars, to-do lists, time trackers, and more. Customize the planner aesthetically with fonts, colors, and images to create a visually appealing layout that motivates you to stay organized and productive.

Related: See the top GoodNotes templates for note taking, digital planning, and more.

Add interactive elements such as hyperlinks to help navigate through the planner swiftly. For instance, you can link monthly and weekly overviews, ensuring an effective and user-friendly experience.

Lastly, utilize the app’s features like bookmarks, tabs, and color coding for effortless organization, and a cohesive planner structure. Keep in mind that GoodNotes also allows you to import pre-made planner templates, available online, that can be further customized to suit your preferences.

How to use the elements feature in GoodNotes?

6 How to use the elements feature in GoodNotes 1

The elements feature in GoodNotes plays a crucial role in enhancing productivity and organization within your digital notes. To begin with, the elements tool allows you to create templates, shapes, and images, which you can easily insert and rearrange within your documents.

One advantage of using the elements feature is the ability to save these custom elements to your library, allowing for easy and efficient access for future use, speeding up the note-taking process.

Using elements effectively involves understanding the basics of inserting, resizing, and customizing the content. To insert an element, simply tap the ‘+’ icon on the toolbar, and select ‘Elements.’ A menu will appear with various categories, allowing you to choose from a range of pre-designed shapes, lines, or images.

You can also access your saved custom elements here. Once inserted, you can resize, rotate or change color and style using the available editing options.

Side note: You can create your own elements to match your specific requirements. To do this, simply draw or insert any desired content, and select ‘Create New Element’ from the context menu. This will save the design to your elements library, making sure you can seamlessly incorporate it into your notes in the future.

How to use stickers in GoodNotes

7 How to use stickers in GoodNotes 1

Stickers are an engaging and visually appealing way to personalize and organize your notes in GoodNotes. The process of using stickers is simple: either import pre-existing sticker images or create your own custom designs. Start by tapping the image icon on the toolbar, and choose ‘Photos.’ Here, you can access your device’s image library or gallery and select the desired sticker image.

Once the sticker is imported, you can easily resize, rotate and move it to the appropriate location within your notes. Keep in mind that properly placing the sticker can greatly enhance readability and comprehension.

For a cohesive and organized appearance, consider assigning specific sticker types to their corresponding content, making sure your notes are visually categorized.

One advantage of using stickers in GoodNotes is the ability to create custom designs tailored to your specific needs. By using the elements feature, you can design your own stickers, save them to your library, and insert them into your notes with ease.

Using scribble in GoodNotes -keyword: how to use scribble in GoodNotes

8 Using scribble in GoodNotes

The scribble function within GoodNotes allows you to handwrite text with the Apple Pencil and have it automatically converted into typed text. To access this helpful feature, tap the ‘Scribble’ button on the toolbar and start writing within the designated scribble area.

As you write, GoodNotes will automatically translate your handwriting into typed text, placing it directly into your document, making sure your notes are cleaner and easier to read. This feature is especially beneficial for those who prefer the tactile feel of writing by hand but want the organization and clarity of typed text.

Another important aspect of using Scribble is the ability to edit and correct any recognition errors. If GoodNotes misinterprets a handwritten word, simply double-tap the word to bring up alternative suggestions and select the correct option.

How to Use Hyperlinks in GoodNotes

9 How to Use Hyperlinks in GoodNotes

Hyperlinks in GoodNotes offer a highly effective way to navigate within your notes or open external webpages and resources.

To add a hyperlink, start by selecting the text or object you want to link to and then tap ‘Link’ in the context menu, and input the URL or page number to link to.

One advantage of using hyperlinks is the ability to cross-reference information by linking different parts of your notes or various documents in your library. This functionality aids in organizing your notes and accessing related content more efficiently.

Side note: Hyperlinks can also be used to create interactive elements within your notes, such as interactive tables of contents and worksheets.

Using flashcards on GoodNotes

10 Using flashcards on GoodNotes

Flashcards provide an efficient and effective way to review, learn and share knowledge within the GoodNotes app and is usually an ideal tool for students or those in college.

Flashcards in GoodNotes provide an excellent way to study and review various topics effectively. To create flashcards, open a new notebook and organize the information as a question-answer pair.

Update -You can now study sets in GoodNotes, which is the newest version of Flashcard usage on the app, which as improvements and other features to aid studying.

Diving deeper into Study sets

If you want to get the most out of Goodnotes, then learning how to use the user-friendly Study Sets and Smart Learn is essential.

Users can create their own custom Study Sets in-app or import from various sources to start studying.

To create a Study Set in GoodNotes, tap “Add (+)” in the Documents Tab, choose “Study Set,” and input your questions and answers. Import options include external spreadsheets, other flashcard apps, and receiving. GoodNotes format files from friends (see more on this at Goodnotes)

Using the lasso tool

The lasso tool is a powerful feature available in GoodNotes that allows you to effortlessly manipulate and reposition content on your digital canvas.

To effectively use the lasso tool, first, tap on the lasso icon found in the toolbar at the top of the screen.

Next, draw a circle around the objects that you want to manipulate, making sure to encompass all desired content within the selection area. The circle will be made up of something that resembles dotted lines

Once selected, you can easily move, rotate, or resize your content with precision.

One advantage of using the lasso tool is that it can be utilized across various content types, such as handwritten notes, images, and text boxes.

This makes it incredibly useful for rearranging content and keeping your notes organized as you add new information. Side note: the lasso tool also enables you to copy contents or even change styles, such as altering colors and thickness of your strokes.

11 Using the lasso tool

In terms of effectiveness, the lasso tool provides unprecedented control when editing your digital notes, allowing for easy adjustments and seamless integration with the intuitive GoodNotes interface.

For example, resizing text while maintaining its aspect ratio or moving multiple items simultaneously can be accomplished with this handy tool.

How to utilize annotation and PDFs

12 How to utilize annotation and PDFs

Annotating PDFs in GoodNotes is a seamless experience that empowers users to leverage the full potential of digital note-taking. To commence annotating, simply import a PDF document into the application by tapping the “+” icon and selecting “Import.” Once your PDF is imported, you can use the wide array of annotation tools, such as the pen, highlighter, and text tools, to make your mark on the document.

Annotation in GoodNotes offers several advantages over traditional paper-based methods. For example, you can quickly switch between various colors, thicknesses, and annotation tools to add depth and clarity to your notes. Keep in mind that the application also recognizes your handwriting, allowing you to search for specific words or phrases within your annotations easily.

Another critical aspect of annotating in GoodNotes is the bookmark functionality. By bookmarking specific pages within a PDF, you can quickly reference important information and navigate your document with ease. Moreover, users can export annotated PDFs and share them with colleagues or fellow students, fostering collaboration and enabling efficient information exchange.

How to use Templates on GoodNotes

13 How to use Templates on GoodNotes

GoodNotes offers a diverse range of templates that cater to various note-taking scenarios and user preferences. These templates come in the form of pre-designed notebook pages or individual paper types. To select a template for your new notebook, tap the “+” icon, then choose “New Notebook.” Here, you can browse and select from a vast array of templates, including lined paper, graph paper, planners, and more.

Templates in GoodNotes also offer customization options, such as adjusting the cover design of your notebook, which lets you organize and categorize your notes visually with ease. One significant advantage of the template system is that it encourages consistency tailored to your workflow and preferences.

Side note: GoodNotes users can even import custom templates by simply importing a properly formatted PDF. This enables endless possibilities when it comes to personalization, allowing you to truly make your digital note-taking experience unique and suited to your needs.

Note: Using a E-ink tablet instead of an iPad, like the Supernote A5X or A6X or reMarkable 2, can also let you get the most of digital, templated note-taking.

Tips for using GoodNotes as a Student and for those in college

14 Tips for using GoodNotes as a Student and for those in college

GoodNotes, as a digital note-taking application, can be a game-changer for students and those in higher education. One invaluable feature for students is the ability to create separate notebooks for each subject or course. Tap the “+” icon and choose “New Notebook” to achieve a structured and organized note-taking environment.

Another tip that can improve the efficiency of note-taking in class is utilizing the zoom feature to write neatly and legibly. This feature lets you zoom in on a specific area of the note, providing better control when writing with a stylus.

Keep in mind that GoodNotes also has auto-advance functionality, allowing you to continue writing seamlessly as you approach the edge of the screen.

Related: 7 Best Digital Graph Pad Tablet

Use the Audio recording feature for better Notes

Finally, consider leveraging the ability to record audio alongside your notes. This can be an invaluable study aid when revisiting information presented during a lecture

By syncing audio cues with your notes, you’re essentially capturing the essence of the class, allowing for better retention of presented material.

GoodNotes just added this to their latest update, but keep in mind Notability has this feature as well.

Integrations with GoodNotes: How GoodNotes can integrate with other productivity tools.

15 Integrations with GoodNotes

GoodNotes boasts a wide variety of integration capabilities with popular productivity tools, streamlining your workflow and ensuring a cohesive digital environment. For instance, cloud-based storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive can be linked to GoodNotes, allowing for seamless document import/export and real-time synchronization.

One advantage of such integrations is that your notes can be made accessible across multiple devices for easy access and review. Furthermore, the sharing capabilities offered by GoodNotes open a world of collaboration, enabling users to share notes and annotated PDFs with fellow students, colleagues, or friends.

Integration with external keyboards can also significantly improve the overall GoodNotes experience. This enables users to switch between handwritten and typed notes effectively, offering the flexibility to choose the most suitable method in different scenarios.

Related: 7 Ways To Use Your Phone As A Drawing Tablet

Other things you can do in GoodNotes (more in depth info)

Aside from the fundamental tasks of writing and drawing, there are several additional features GoodNotes users can engage with to make the most of its capabilities.

PDF & Annotation

As mentioned earlier, the application supports PDF annotation, enabling you to comment, highlight, and edit documents seamlessly… this functionality extends to e-books, lecture slides, and ephemera, empowering versatile and dynamic collaboration.

In this regard, GoodNotes proves particularly advantageous in academic and professional environments – allowing deeper engagement with content and the exchange of ideas between team members (or students)

Also see: 10 Best Tablets for Reading PDF files

Shape Tool

One aspect of GoodNotes you should consider taking advantage of, is the shape tool, (or shape recognition feature). This tool can automatically adjusts hand drawn shapes and turn them into their geometrically perfect counterparts.

For example , if you have a poorly drawn square, it will make it a perfect square in the app. This capability makes drafting diagrams, flowcharts, and mind maps simpler and more efficient.


As previously mentioned, Integrations with popular cloud storage providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive are possible. These actually pave the way for seamless synchronization and sharing of notes, documents, and resources – keeping your work backed up and accessible from multiple devices.


Lastly, one of GoodNotes’ more innovative offerings is its built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.

This feature allows for handwriting-to-text conversion, as well as the ability to search for specific words or phrases within your handwritten notes.

See: How to Use GoodNotes Handwriting to Text Feature [Visual Guide]

Where is settings in GoodNotes?

You can access your notes settings by following a straightforward process. The settings icon, represented by a gear symbol, is located in the top right corner of the main GoodNotes screen.

By tapping on this icon, you will be presented with a menu containing options to customize various aspects of the application, such as document and handwriting settings, backup preferences, and iCloud synchronization options.

Navigating this menu allows you to fine-tune your GoodNotes experience, tailoring it to suit your individual requirements.

What are the paper options in GoodNotes?

GoodNotes offers a range of paper options for users to choose from, catering to different writing styles and preferences. Among the various templates available are lined, graph, and blank papers, as well as templates specifically designed for music notation, daily planners, and checklists.

This wide selection enables users to easily adapt their GoodNotes environment according to the specific task at hand. Additionally, its also possible to import custom templates, allowing for an even more personalized note-taking experience.

Does GoodNotes require Apple Pencil?

While GoodNotes is designed to work seamlessly with Apple Pencil, the application does not strictly require it to function. You can still utilize GoodNotes without Apple Pencil by using alternative styluses or even your finger.

However, it is certainly worth noting that Apple Pencil boasts precise pressure and tilt sensitivity (especially with the apple pencil 1 or 2).

Enhancing the overall note-taking experience and enabling users to make full use of GoodNotes features like palm rejection and the advanced writing tools available within the application. Think of it similar to a pen tablet and stylus pen in this regard.

Related: Apple Pencil vs Stylus: Worth Paying An Extra $70?

Is GoodNotes good for note-taking?

GoodNotes is widely regarded as an exceptional note-taking application, providing users with a comprehensive platform to create, edit, and share digital notes.

The app simulates the experience of analog note-taking while integrating the advantages of a digital platform, delivering a best-of-both-worlds solution. Its array of functionalities – such as extensive template options, handwriting recognition, and integration with popular cloud storage services – caters to diverse individual preferences and requirements.

You can also check out some GoodNotes Alternatives for note-taking, such as Notability: Notability vs GoodNotes: The Ultimate Note-Taking App Comparison.

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