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How to use Notability on iPad, Mac, and iPhone (Tutorial)

How to use Notability on iPad, Mac, and iPhone (Tutorial)

How to use Notability and all its features is undoubtedly a crucial skill for iPad users who wish to enhance their note-taking experience.

Advanced note-taking with Notability includes recording lectures, combining handwritten notes, text, and drawings for versatile sketch notes (like you see on Youtube)

You’ll learn how to annotate class handouts, meeting notes, and use digital planners or notebooks. Sync between iPhone, Mac, and iPad for seamless transfers. Also, since you can use it on your iPhone, mac and iPad, you can transfer your notes between devices.

Also see our Notability Review: Hands-on Test as well as the top Notability alternatives we tested (like Goodnotes, for example)

Users can also record lectures while taking notes and replay them in sync with your writing. Ideal for all types of students; ranging from medical to creative professionals.

Let’s dive deeper on the ins and outs of this fantastic app, from using Notability’s handwriting recognition to sketching and PDF annotations.

How to use Notability on iPad, Mac, and iPhone

You’ll learn the following about using Notability:

The survey by MediaPeanut also found that Notability is the preferred note-taking app for approximately 40% of iPad users, while Goodnotes and Apple Notes account for 35% and 15%, the remainder being other apps. However, this is a small survey and numbers were rounded.

Related: Review of Goodnotes: Pricing structure, features, and more information (A Notability competitor)

According to a recent survey by MediaPeanut, 65% of Notability users are students, while 25% are professionals, and 10% are hobbyists.

mediapeanut survey about the notability app and who uses it

Among the respondents, 75% cited handwriting recognition and smooth writing as the most attractive features of Notability.

Let’s dive in deeper on how to use Notability.

Setting up Notability on iPad, iPhone, and Mac

5 Setting up Notability on iPad iPhone and Mac

Setting up Notability on your iPad, iPhone, or Mac is a seamless and straightforward process. To begin, search for Notability in the App Store and try the free trial. We discuss the pricing structure in our review on Notability. Once installed, open the app, and you’ll be greeted with an intuitive interface.

  • For optimal use of the app across multiple devices, ensure that you are signed in with the same Apple ID on all devices.
  • Notability offers Cloud syncing capabilities using popular services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box.
  • To set up Cloud syncing, tap on the settings gear icon in the lower-left corner, select “Cloud Services,” and sign in to your preferred service.

Consider connecting an Apple Pencil or stylus to your iPad for a more precise and tactile input experience, enhancing the app’s handwritten note-taking capabilities; both the Apple Pencil 1 and 2 models work well with the app.

When setting up the app on your iPhone and Mac, follow similar instructions to those outlined for the iPad. Keep in mind that Notability must be purchased separately for macOS due to its exclusive compatibility with iOS. This investment is well worth it, as it enables multi-device access to your notes.

Organizing Notes: Notebooks, Dividers, and Subjects

Notability offers a comprehensive organizational system, aiding users in keeping track of notes and study materials. Proper organization is key to success, so taking advantage of Notability’s structure will maximize your efficiency.

example of Note organization Notability app

To create a new note, tap the “+” icon in the top-right corner of the screen. To further categorize these notes, Notability utilizes subjects and dividers. Subjects act as individual “folders” for specific topics, while dividers serve to group related subjects together.

How to add new notes pages and drawings on notability

The edit button lets you move notes, which is located at the top left part of the notability screen on iPad, it will turn blue menu when you tap edit, this is when you can change the order and move notes around, including audio notes

how to move notes in notability using Edit button change order of notes and audio notes

Creating a subject is effortless: tap the “Edit” button found on the app’s main screen, select the “+” button, and choose “Subject.” Give your subject a name, assign a color, and tap “Done.”

To create a divider, follow the same process, but select “Divider” instead of “Subject.” You can then drag and drop subjects into relevant dividers to establish a clear organizational hierarchy.

Change to dark theme on notability and how to access settings

Make use of Notability’s highly effective search function to quickly locate specific notes, text, or even handwriting.

This feature, found at the top of the main screen, allows you to search by keyword or phrase across all notes, regardless of the category they belong to.

Customizing Notability with Templates

7 Customizing Notability with Templates

Notability offers a variety of templates to personalize and enhance your note-taking experience. To access the templates, tap on the settings gear icon in the lower-left corner of the main screen, select “Paper,” and choose from the array of available template options. Options include lined, grid, and dotted paper styles, as well as various color choices for both paper and ink.

Also see: Notability alternatives: most comparable

You can even create custom templates by importing PDF files and making them background templates in the app. Simply import the preferred PDF, open a new note within a subject, tap on the settings gear icon, and select “Set Current Background as Template.” With custom templates, you can tailor your note-taking experience to fit your specific study or work needs.

By implementing customized templates, you can apply various layouts and designs to attractively showcase notes, calendar events, to-do lists, and more.

Side note: There’s also drawing options as you can see in the photo below.

Drawing options and how to use notability text

Handwriting Recognition and Conversion

8 Handwriting Recognition and Conversion

Notability’s handwriting recognition and conversion feature is truly transformative, especially for those who love the traditional flow of handwritten notes but need the convenience of searchable and editable digital text. Although this capability isn’t included in the base app, investing in the add-on feature for a small fee will revolutionize your note-taking experience.

To begin, simply write your notes with your preferred input method – Apple Pencil, stylus, or even your finger. Employing the app’s extensive customization options, choose the pen style, color, and thickness that best suits your personal style and aesthetic.

Related: Notability vs GoodNotes – See the differences

As you write, Notability’s advanced handwriting recognition system works behind the scenes to intelligently discern the strokes and curves of your script. This feature is built on an innovative machine learning model, allowing it to adapt to various writing styles and handwriting quirks, improving its accuracy over time.

Once you’ve completed your handwritten notes, you can easily convert them to text. Select the lasso tool and encircle the desired text to bring up the menu, then tap the “Convert” option.

Within seconds, your handwritten notes will be transformed into editable, searchable, and neatly formatted text, making it effortless to reorganize, edit, or share your content with others. Additionally, the conversion supports multiple languages, catering to a diverse array of users and their specific needs.

Media peanut survey showing a bar chart of the most frequently use notabilities features

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

How to Annotate PDFs

Annotating PDFs in Notability is a seamless process, making it perfect for reviewing class handouts, work documents, or even personal files.

10 How to annotate pdfs

To begin, import the desired PDF by tapping the import icon located on the top right corner of the screen. Access the file from your preferred cloud storage service, email, or other apps.

Once the PDF is imported, you can use various annotation tools to markup the document. To highlight text, select the highlighter tool, customize the color and thickness, and then swipe across the text.

Similarly, the pencil tool can be employed for underlining, circling, or adding handwritten notes directly onto the PDF. For typed annotations, tap the text tool to create a text box, adjusting the font, size, and color to suit your preference.

The app also offers shape drawing tools for creating clean, precise circles, rectangles, and straight lines. Additionally, the lasso tool enables you to move, resize, copy, or delete any element within your annotations, ensuring the perfect layout for your needs.

Also see: Procreate IPad: 7 Best IPads For Procreate

To share or export the annotated PDF, tap the share icon and choose the file format (PDF or Note) and the desired app, email, or cloud storage service. Notability ensures your annotated files remain compatible, organized, and easily accessible for future reference or collaboration.

Using Notability as a Digital Planner

11 Using Notability as a Digital Planner 1

When it comes to digital planning, Notability is an exceptional choice as its extensive features and customization options provide a truly personalized experience.

By creating and using custom digital templates, Notability offers an efficient and convenient way to organize your life via a single application.

Use notability as a digital planner example

For example, monthly, weekly, or daily planners can be designed for time management, goal setting, and task organization. With Notability’s built-in and customizable pen and highlighter tools, you can add color, doodles, and visual aid to your planners, making them more engaging and aesthetically pleasing.

Incorporating hyperlinks within Notability can significantly enhance your digital planning functionality. By creating clickable links, you can swiftly navigate between various pages, sections, or documents within your digital planner, optimizing your workflow.

Planner example worksheet on the app

Library organization is another notable feature of Notability, where you can seamlessly categorize and arrange planners, notes, and other documents using subjects, folders, and dividers for easy access.

Also – the search function enables you to find specific keywords, phrases, or content throughout your digital planner and notes.

Leveraging the flexibility of Digital planners, users can easily revise or modify schedules, tasks, and goals without the hassle of making messy corrections on paper. The undo and redo options, along with the erase and cut tools, ensure a clean and polished digital planner.

Use notability as a digital planner example 1

Also, consider incorporating digital stickers and other decorative elements to elevate the design and functionality of your planner. By combining a variety of digital planning approaches and creative elements, you can build a truly bespoke digital organizing system tailored to your preferences and needs.

Related: 11 Best Digital NotePads

Effective Note-taking without an Apple Pencil

13 Notability on Mac Unique Features and Differences

While the Apple Pencil undoubtedly enhances the iPad note-taking experience, not everyone may have access to this premium accessory. Fortunately, Notability offers multiple input options for users to create detailed, organized notes without an Apple Pencil. In fact, the app can be just as effective with a standard capacitive stylus or even the user’s fingertips.

Use a standard stylus or fingertips. Enable palm rejection and adjust settings. Type notes with on-screen keyboard or external keyboard. Use audio recording, web clipping, and import images for comprehensive notes without Apple Pencil.

Related: Is the Apple Pencil 2 Worth it? (The Truth)

Typing is another useful method for note-taking in the app since you can combine it with the drawing features, handwriting, and scribbling

Tap the text tool (icon with a capital “T”) to create a text box anywhere on your canvas. You can utilize the on-screen keyboard to type your notes, applying various font styles, sizes, and colors to make the content more visually engaging. For faster typing, you may opt for a compatible external keyboard or even employ voice dictation features provided by iOS.

Using Audio Recordings

15 Using audio recordings

Notability’s audio recording feature is an incredibly powerful tool that significantly enhances note-taking capabilities. With the simple tap of a microphone icon within the app, you can record lectures, meetings, or any other relevant audio content as you write or type. Multiple recordings can be added to a single note, allowing users to capture important information in a single location.

The app also boasts a unique “time sync” capability, which links the audio recordings to your annotations. This means you can play back a specific segment of your notes and listen to the corresponding audio.

By tapping on a particular handwritten or typed note, the audio is played back from the exact moment it was recorded. This feature is ideal for students revisiting lectures for studying, ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of the material discussed.

A prime example of this feature in action is during a business meeting, where a team member could record the audio while simultaneously taking notes. Later on, they could easily navigate back to specific moments in the recording to clarify points discussed or review action items assigned during the meeting

Advanced PDF Management in Notability

10 How to annotate pdfs 1

One of the standout features of Notability is its advanced PDF management capabilities. This advanced PDF management feature makes Notability an essential tool for students, professionals, and anyone who regularly works with PDF files. It enables users to import, edit, annotate, and export PDF documents effortlessly, setting it apart from other note-taking applications.

When importing a PDF, click the import icon and choose your preferred import source, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud, and select the desired file. This seamless integration with cloud storage services allows users to quickly access and view PDF documents from various sources.

Once the PDF is imported, users will find a comprehensive suite of annotation tools to enhance and improve the document, which includes adding handwritten notes, text boxes, highlights, and underlines. Apple Pencil support ensures smooth and precise annotations with a natural handwriting feel.

Also.. the lasso tool, eraser, and various stroke widths allow for detailed editing, catering to different user preferences.

Notability’s PDF management features also include advanced search functionalities. This functionality allows users to search for specific words, phrases, or annotations within the imported PDF, saving time and increasing productivity. Adjusting PDF page order is a breeze with intuitive drag-and-drop gestures, enabling easy reorganization according to user preferences.

Exporting: Finally, exporting PDFs from Notability is a simple and straightforward process. Various export formats are available, including PDF and image formats, ensuring compatibility with multiple devices and platforms. Sharing the annotated PDF is made simple by using options like email or connected cloud services.

Importing and Sharing Notes

14 Importing and sharing notes

Diving into the specifics of importing and sharing notes, understanding the various methods in Notability will enhance your workflow and enable you to collaborate more effectively. To import notes, you may use cloud storage services like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive; you simply connect your accounts in the app settings and start importing files seamlessly. Additionally, the Notability app enables file import from external sources by clicking the share icon from your email, browser, or another app, and selecting “Copy to Notability.”

Notability supports various file formats, such as PDF, RTF, and .note files. Once imported, they can be annotated, organized, and edited in the app. For example, if you’re importing a PDF, you can quickly highlight key points, add handwritten notes, insert images or shapes, and rearrange pages for optimal organization.

Sharing notes is equally essential and efficient in Notability. It offers multiple methods for sharing files, catering to different collaboration styles and preferences. Emailing notes is a popular choice, which can be accomplished by tapping the share icon, selecting the email option, and specifying the recipient(s) and file format (PDF, RTF, or images). Alternatively, export notes via messaging apps, such as WhatsApp or Slack, by using the same share icon and choosing the specific app you prefer.

Another powerful sharing method is working in real-time with colleagues or classmates within a shared note. To do this, ensure all participants have Notability installed and are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Use the collaboration icon within the app and add each participant. This feature allows everyone to edit and contribute to the note concurrently, fostering effective teamwork and productivity.

As an example, a group of students working on a project could import their research materials, such as PDFs and images, into a shared note, and simultaneously contribute their ideas and insights. Any changes made would be visible to all members, ensuring everyone stays informed and updated.

Notability on Mac vs iPad: Unique Features and Differences

While Notability shines primarily as an iPad app, it also offers remarkable features when used on a Mac. The Mac version significantly enhances your note-taking experience with constant syncing across all Apple devices, enabling the seamless transition between Notability on iPad and Mac. The iCloud syncing capability ensures that your notes are updated and accessible on any connected device.

The Notability interface on Mac differs slightly from its iPad counterpart. Although it doesn’t offer the same pen and stylus-based options, users can efficiently utilize the Mac’s keyboard for quick and precise typing.

In addition to Notability’s traditional tools such as drawing, highlighting, and erasing, the desktop version offers valuable features, including Quick Note creation, which eliminates the need to open the app for jotting down a note.

Related: How to use the Flashlight on iPad

Another advantage of using Notability on a Mac is the ability to import and export multiple file formats, including PDF, RTF, and .note, enabling compatibility with various devices and applications. Also, the ability to drag-and-drop files or images simplifies the process of incorporating external content into your notes. Notability for Mac also supports multiple windows and split view, allowing users to take notes and reference materials side by side.

The Mac version of Notability might lack the Apple Pencil integration, but it still exhibits a powerful set of tools for efficient note-taking, organization, and digital planning. With a well-thought-out interface and impeccable sync capabilities, Notability serves as a versatile solution for both iPad and Mac users.

Also see: 17 Ways To Stop An IPad Mini From Draining So Fast

Tips to Master Notability

To truly optimize your Notability experience, a few tips and tricks can be utilized to become a notetaking master. First, customize your toolbar to avoid unnecessary distractions. Use the settings menu and select the tools that suit your preferences and tasks, such as a favorite pen color or specific document layouts.

Secondly, learn to use the “zoom view” feature effectively. By toggling this feature, users can optimize handwriting precision by zooming in on a specific area of the note, making it ideal for detailed annotations on imported PDFs or images.

Another key tip is embracing the lasso tool. This feature allows users to select multiple elements, such as handwritten notes, images, or text blocks, and move, resize, or delete them easily. By mastering the lasso tool, you can create neat, organized, and aesthetically pleasing notes.

For example, a student could create lecture notes by importing a class syllabus PDF, annotating it with their handwriting, using a template to remain structured, and recording the lecture audio for revision. Implementing these tips will ultimately streamline navigation, organization, and comprehension.

Integrating Notability with other productivity tools

Users can Integrate Notability with productivity tools like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneNote, IFTTT, Trello, and Todoist for a customized, efficient workflow.

You can also sync notes to cloud storage, use IFTTT applets for automation, and connect with project management tools for seamless collaboration and organization.

This truly allows you to harness the combined features for an enhanced digital note-taking experience, amongst just taking great notes for class, lectures, or even work.

Mastering Handwriting with Notability

Mastering handwriting in Notability takes your note-taking skills to the next level. With a rich selection of tools, creation of fluid and aesthetically pleasing notes becomes effortless.

The first step is selecting the pencil icon and choosing a preferred color and width. A wide variety of colors and thicknesses are available, empowering users to fully personalize their writing style.

The zoom window is a game-changing feature that optimizes handwriting on an iPad. By activating the zoom mode, users can write continuously without constantly adjusting the size of their written text.

Customization does not end with color and thickness, as Notability supports extensive options for pen texture and style. Experimentation with these settings leads to discovering the ideal pen characteristics for a specific user.

Whether jotting down notes from a lecture, recording reminders, or composing elaborate sketchnotes, a mastery of handwriting tools within Notability enables a smooth and enriched note-taking experience.

Utilizing Multimedia in Notability Notes

Incorporating multimedia in Notability notes is essential to create engaging and immersive content throughout your note-taking experiences. With diverse formats at your fingertips, users can seamlessly mix and match various elements leading to a richer understanding and retention of material.

To add images, tap the media icon and import images from your photo library or take new photos directly with the iPad camera. Once inserted, images can be resized, rotated, and positioned throughout the note. Besides photographs, users can also insert web clips, which allows for the inclusion of relevant information from the web without creating clutter in their notes.

By integrating audio recordings into their notes, users can capture the essence of lectures and meetings with ease. Tapping the microphone icon starts recording, synchronizing it with handwritten or typed notes for better contextual understanding. Moreover, Notability offers the advantage of trimming or amplifying the recorded audio to fit users’ needs.

Adding interactive charts and diagrams aids in visualizing complex data and concepts. Users can incorporate these elements by tapping the plus button and choosing ‘media library’ or by using the integrated figure creator. Utilizing multimedia in Notability notes elevates the user’s learning and understanding experience.

Videos are a powerful medium to convey information more effectively, and Notability users can achieve this by embedding videos in their notes. Whether it is a lecture, informative video, or presentation, this inclusion boosts the effectiveness of note-taking.

Through the adept use of multimedia in Notability, individuals can enrich their note-taking experiences by merging visuals, audio, and interactive elements. This ultimately leads to a comprehensive understanding and retention of the material, setting users up for success in their academic, professional, and personal lives.

Efficient Collaboration with Notability

Notability enables seamless collaboration for team projects and group studies. Users can share notes and work together in real-time using a user-friendly interface. Ensure devices have the app installed and are on the same Wi-Fi network for access to sharing options, including email and cloud services. Real-time collaboration enhances communication, while revision history provides transparency.

Also see:  Best Apps to Convert Handwriting to Text on iPad and iPhone

Here’s a step by step guide to get the most out of collaboration/sharing with the app:

  1. Install the Notability app on all team members’ compatible devices.
  2. Connect all devices to the same Wi-Fi network.
  3. Share notes through email or cloud services like Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive.
  4. Engage in real-time collaboration and live note-taking for efficient idea exchange.
  5. Utilize revision history to track changes and maintain transparency.
  6. Enhance communication and productivity for team-based projects, group studies, and brainstorming sessions.

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