Skip to Content

Notability Review: Hands-on Test of a Top Note-Taking app

Notability Review: Hands-on Test of a Top Note-Taking app

In this review of the Notability app for iPad, we delve deep into its features, functionality, and limitations.

Additionally, we will explore Notability’s user interface, collaboration capabilities, compatibility with other platforms and devices, as well as its pricing and subscription options.

Simply put: If you’re on an apple device, notability really excels as it’s built to work with these devices.

Why Notability Is Better Than Other Note Taking Apps 2

By evaluating the app’s ease of use, effectiveness in organizing notes, and integration with cloud services, we aim to provide a well-rounded perspective on its overall merits and drawbacks. Our review of using Notability for note-taking will help you weigh the pros and cons, considering it does have a pricing structure.

Key Takeaways

How the user interface of notability looks vs other note taking apps
How the user interface of notability looks vs other note taking apps like goodnotes

Notability is often compared to GoodNotes – In my side-by-side comparison of Notability and GoodNotes, I discovered that Notability offers a more advanced set of features in terms of complexity, particularly on iOS.

Notability offers a user-friendly interface and a wide selection of tools for note-taking. For example, on the iPad, the audio recording feature works significantly better than other note-taking apps I’ve tested.

Paul Michael, Founder of MediaPeanut
  • Alternatives to Notability include Noteful, Nebo, GoodNotes, CollaNote, Noteshelf, ZoomNotes, and Apple Notes.
  • The app provides pen and highlighter customization, image support, audio recording, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
  • Notability supports iPadOS features like multiple instances, in-app split-view, and Scribble.
  • Limitations in text alignment, page templates, and organization/navigation options may be restrictive for some users.

Also see: How to use handwriting to text in Notability

Below is a chart of the most frequently used Notability features based on a survey of our audience, focusing on five features – Handwriting, Audio Recording, PDF Import & Export, Organization, and Real-time Collaboration.

Upon analyzing the chart, it is evident that Organization of note-taking documents holds the highest usage among users, followed by Handwriting capabilities.

Also see Notability alternatives (the most comparable options I’ve tested)

Example of Notability being used on iPad
Example of Notability being used on iPad

Audio Recording and Real-time Collaboration are used moderately, while PDF Import & Export has the least utilization. This indicates that the app is highly valued for its organizational functionality and handwriting experience, while other features also contribute to its popularity.

What is Notability and what is it used for?

1 What is Notability and what is it used for 1

Notability is a powerful and versatile digital note-taking application designed for use on iPad, iPhone, and Mac devices. With a user-friendly interface and remarkable interactivity, the app is designed to accommodate diverse users, including students, educators, professionals, and creative individuals.

Primarily, it’s used for tasks such as handwriting notes, sketching diagrams, annotating PDFs, and recording audio; all in one place.

In this photo, notability is used for recipe creation
In this photo, notability is used for recipe creation

Simply put, the aim of using the Notability app is to streamline work and academic processes.

See how Notability compares to GoodNotes

The application ensures users can capture and organize their ideas efficiently, store important information digitally, and enhance collaboration with peers or colleagues.

Notability is used for taking notes during lectures, conceptualizing ideas during brainstorming sessions, annotating crucial documents, or creating vivid sketches for artistic projects.

Notability stands out from other note-taking applications due to its robust capabilities paired with a seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem, as evidenced by its close compatibility with Apple Pencil.

It’s synchronization across multiple devices allows users to maintain productivity regardless of location or what Apple device they’re using.

Notability costs: pricing & subscriptions

notability pricing

While it’s free to try the app, there’s still in app purchases required after the free trial expires.

Notability’s price structure has transitioned from a one-time purchase to a subscription model. The app offers a subscription plan priced at $2.99/month or a discounted annual plan at $14.99.

CleanShot 2023 05 16 at 11.00.44@2x

A one-time purchase option doesn’t exist anymore, which may be a deterrent for some users.

Previously Notability was $8.99 and then $11.99 per year thereafter, but as the app advanced it looks like the pricing increased to $14.99/$15.99.

For those looking to test the waters before committing to a subscription, Notability offers a free trial option. However, to gain access to the full range of features, users eventually need to subscribe to one of the available plans.

Previous pricing for notability outdated costs price

Unfortunately, Notability doesn’t offer a student discount. Despite this, educational institutions can acquire the app for free through Apple School Manager. Given the features and benefits Notability provides, the subscription price can be seen as a justified investment for users seeking a comprehensive note-taking solution.

Exclusive Features of Notability (advantages and why it’s so good)

2 Exclusive Features of Notability advantages and why its so good

Notability sets itself apart from other note-taking apps by offering a range of exclusive features that enhance its effectiveness.

These features demonstrate the app’s versatility and adaptability, catering to numerous users’ needs and preferences across academic, personal, and professional spheres.

Handwriting ExperienceNotability offers a natural, paper-like writing experience with seamless integration of Apple Pencil features.
Audio Recording & SyncThe app allows users to record and sync audio with written notes, enhancing information retention.
PDF Import, Annotation, and ExportNotability enables easy PDF import, annotation, and export, streamlining document management.
Organization & CustomizationThe app boasts a user-friendly interface, intuitive folder system, and extensive customization options.
Real-Time CollaborationNotability supports real-time collaboration, allowing multiple users to work on the same document together.

Features explained in-depth

One outstanding advantage of Notability lies in its handwriting experience, offering a natural feel and response akin to writing on paper.

Its close integration with Apple Pencil provides pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, and high-precision writing that comes naturally to the user.

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

In addition to handwriting capabilities, audio recording is also a distinctive feature in Notability, enabling users to capture and sync lectures, meetings, and interviews alongside their notes.

This functionality assists users in revisiting important information or clarifying details without the need for extensive written records.

Importing, annotating, and exporting PDF docs

Notability gives users the ability to import, annotate, and export PDF documents seamlessly. This feature allows for easy reading, marking, and sharing of essential documents, making it an effective tool for various professional settings.

Another exceptional characteristic of Notability is its organizational prowess… with a user-friendly interface and straightforward folder system you can store, access, and manage notes far more efficiently compared to a standard, traditional, paper notebook.

It’s extensive range of customization options (colors, fonts, and templates) assures that notes are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

Lastly, Notability supports real-time collaboration, enabling multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously. This feature is particularly useful for team projects, brainstorming sessions, and collective document review.

Also see: 7 Best Stylus For IPad Air (Drawing, Writing, Notes)

A Brief glance at some downsides of Notability

A Brief glance at some downsides of Notability

Although Notability boasts a range of exclusive features, it is not without its shortcomings. A notable drawback of the app is its limited compatibility, as it primarily functions on Apple devices. This restriction may deter individuals who use other platforms, such as Android or Windows, from opting for Notability as their preferred note-taking app.

Another downside is the lack of an in-built OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature for converting handwriting to text. This limitation may hinder users looking to convert their handwritten notes into a more shareable or searchable text format.

Furthermore, the app’s organizational structure could benefit from improvements, specifically concerning its support for nested folders and tags and its search functionality. These enhancements would contribute to a more accessible and efficient organization of notes and related resources.

Notability vs other note-taking apps

Notability vs other note taking apps

When comparing Notability to other note-taking apps such as GoodNotes, OneNote, Apple Notes, and Evernote, it’s essential to consider the unique features and user experiences each app offers. All of these apps provide basic note-taking functionalities, but their individual strengths and weaknesses cater to different user requirements and preferences.

15 Best GoodNotes alternatives for Note-Taking (Free & Paid)

Notability’s standout feature is the ability to sync audio recordings with handwritten and typed notes, making it an exceptional choice for students and professionals that need to associate spoken information with their notes. Its extensive support for handwriting with stylus devices and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) also sets it apart from some competitors.

In a separate survey to our audience (mediapeanut), 62% of Notability users found the app’s user interface superior to other note-taking apps. Additionally, 38% of the surveyed users had chosen Notability as their primary note-taking app due to its organizational capabilities.

The users of notability that were students claimed they spend more than 30 minutes per day using the app… while this is an estimation on their end, it still shows it can be a daily workstation for those in college.

How does an iPad with Notability compare vs an e-ink tablet

An ipad vs a e ink or graphics tablet

Using Notability on an iPad offers a unique experience as compared to e-ink tablets such as reMarkable 2, Kindle Scribe, or SuperNote. The decision to use one or the other boils down to personal preferences and specific use cases.

E-ink tablets excel in their primary functions, including note-taking, sketching, and reading… but offer limited features compared to an iPad with Notability.

iPads, when combined with Notability, provide a vibrant, high-resolution display, allowing users to take advantage of the app’s rich colors and multimedia integration. iPad’s powerful hardware and software support enables a seamless and responsive note-taking experience, which is further enhanced by the Apple Pencil. Users can also benefit from the multitude of apps available on the iPad, turning it into a versatile, all-in-one device.

E-ink tablets, such as reMarkable 2, Kindle Scribe, and SuperNote, focus on providing a paper-like experience with minimal eye strain. The e-ink technology offers a more comfortable writing and reading experience, especially for extended periods, without the distractions associated with more advanced devices.

Also see: Is GoodNotes worth it?

In summary, users seeking a versatile device that supports multimedia and a wide range of applications should opt for an iPad with Notability. However, for those who prefer a simple, focused, and distraction-free writing experience that emulates the feel of paper, e-ink tablets are a better choice.

Notability Features Reviewed: Hands-on Test

7 Notability Features Reviewed Hands on test

In our hands-on test, we delved into the depth of Notability features to provide a comprehensive evaluation of its versatility and reliability. One standout feature of the app is its seamless integration with Apple Pencil, which offers a natural, fluid writing experience, accompanied by pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, and highly responsive ink. Users can create intricate and precise handwriting, sketches, or even diagrams thanks to this remarkable interface.

Another impressive aspect of Notability is its powerful organization capabilities. The app allows users to create an array of folders with multilevel hierarchy, which is essential for maintaining a clutter-free workspace. Categories, sub-categories, and tagging features make it even easier to group and locate relevant notes, elevating the user experience.

Related: Supernote A5X A6X Review: How good is it for Note-taking

The audio recording feature is a game-changer for many. With the capability to record lectures, meetings, or even your thoughts as you jot down your notes, Notability enables users to revisit crucial moments when necessary. This functionality, synced seamlessly with both typed and handwritten notes, can be invaluable when recalling important data.

One area where Notability outshines many of its competitors is its Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. The app can convert handwritten text into type, recognize text from images, and extract data from scanned documents. Its powerful OCR features support 22 languages for handwriting conversion, with minimal errors and consistent readability.

However, the app falls short in certain areas, such as limited text alignment options, restrictive page templates, and some organization features. Despite these shortcomings, Notability’s robust functionality, including its iPadOS support features like real-time Instant Character Recognition (ICR) through Scribble, makes it an effective note-taking solution for various users.

Notability for Students

8 Notability for Students

Notability is an exceptional resource for students in various educational settings, from K-12 to college and postgraduate studies. By offering organization features like folders, categorization, and custom tags, students can effectively compile their class notes, homework, and study materials – all in one space.

Related: Can An IPad Replace A Laptop For A College Student?

One of the most valuable aspects of Notability for students is the ability to capture audio recordings. With this feature, students can easily record lectures, annotating their notes in real-time, making it an indispensable study aid. This audio-visual link can significantly enhance their understanding of complex concepts and result in better academic performance.

Collaboration is a crucial component of a student’s academic journey, and Notability addresses this by offering shareable notes. With just a few taps, students can share their notes with classmates through a range of platforms, empowering collaborative learning and group project management.

Notability also excels in providing various input methods for note-taking. The app supports handwriting with Apple Pencil, as well as typing, allowing students to choose their preferred method of recording information. The seamless blend of these input modes offers a comprehensive note-taking experience tailored to individual learning styles.

Also see: IPad Vs Laptop Pros And Cons

However, the app’s limitations in text alignment options and organizational features may not sit well with some students. With just a few refinements, Notability has the potential to become an unmatched tool for academic success, empowering students with efficient and effective note-taking capabilities.

My Note-taking Experience with Notability

My experience with Notability has been nothing short of transformative, particularly when it comes to the seamless integration of handwriting-to-text conversion. This powerful feature, which uses advanced AI algorithms, allows for Digital inking and searchable handwritten notes that are easily converted into editable text documents. For individuals seeking the best apps to convert handwritten notes to text on iPad, Notability ought to be a top contender.

Additionally, the audio recording capability further enhances the note-taking experience through well-synchronized playback with your notes. This sync enables users to revisit their lectures, meetings, or brainstorming sessions and quickly recall critical points while reviewing their notes. The audio sync feature is especially useful for auditory learners and for those who require accommodations.

The Notability interface is highly intuitive, providing an enjoyable writing experience aided by palm rejection and a zoom tool featuring auto-advance functionality. The app also supports various pen tools, including ballpoint and fountain pens, with a range of color options, enabling users to personalize their note-taking experience further.

Despite the numerous positive aspects of Notability, one minor gripe would be the limited text alignment options. Regardless, the overall experience of using Notability for note-taking has been overwhelmingly positive, with its robust features such as handwriting-to-text conversion, Digital inking, searchable handwritten notes, and audio recording, positioning it as a leading application in the digital note-taking market.

Can You Use Notability Instead of Drawing Apps like Procreate, Krita, or Adobe Illustrator?

11 Can you use Notability instead of drawing apps like Procreate Krita. or adobe illustrator

While Notability is an exceptional note-taking platform and possesses versatile features, it may not completely replace professional drawing applications such as Procreate, Krita, and Adobe Illustrator. These dedicated drawing apps offer far more extensive creative tools and functionalities that cater to the needs of graphic designers, illustrators, and artists.

Notability does incorporate basic sketching and drawing capabilities, offering pen tools, a highlighter, and an eraser, with a variety of color options. It also supports the creation of regular and irregular shapes, arrows, and curved lines.

However, these features are primarily designed to enhance your note-taking experience rather than facilitate professional-quality artwork or design.

Also see: 10 Best Laptops For Sketchup

In comparison, drawing applications like Procreate and Adobe Illustrator provide more in-depth artistic opportunities by providing a plethora of brush options, layering features, advanced color palettes, and support for complex vector graphics. Krita also delivers exceptional capabilities tailored for digital artists, featuring a customizable brush engine and advanced layer management options.

Notability serves as an excellent tool for casual sketching or annotating within your notes, but its limited features in comparison to professional drawing apps render it unsuitable as a substitute for specialized art and design applications.

Related: Remarkable 2 Review

Unlocking the Power of Collaboration with Notability

12 Unlocking the Power of Collaboration with Notability

Notability excels in its collaborative capabilities, enabling users to collaborate on projects, brainstorm ideas, and further improve communication within a team, classroom, or professional setting. The app allows for effortless sharing, as users can export their notes either as PDFs or in Notability’s proprietary format, NB.

One of Notability’s best features is its real-time collaboration, whereby multiple individuals can work on the same document simultaneously and view changes as they occur. This feature is invaluable in fostering collaboration for group projects, ensuring everyone stays on the same page, and expediting the completion of tasks.

In addition to its real-time collaboration, Notability also enables users to import and annotate PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations, making it an all-in-one tool for reviewing and annotating shared documents within a group. While these documents are editable within Notability, they remain easily exportable in their original file format, allowing for seamless sharing with team members who may not use the platform themselves.

Notability’s robust collaborative features unlock the potential for a more holistic and inclusive approach to working on projects and sharing ideas within a team. As a result, the app enhances productivity and makes it easier for users to communicate on a myriad of levels, solidifying its status as a valuable digital tool for collaborative efforts.

Other Things Notability Can Do for Taking Your Notes to the Next Level

13 Other things Notability can do for taking your notes to the next level

Notability is renowned for its robust note-taking capabilities, but it offers several lesser-known features to enhance your note-taking experience further. The app’s audio recording functionality, for example, is a game-changer for users who need to record lectures or meetings while taking notes simultaneously. Recordings are timestamped, allowing for quick and easy referencing of specific points in the audio.

Another powerful yet underutilized feature is the document scanner, which can scan physical papers and import them as editable PDFs. This feature is ideal for digitizing handouts, reference materials, and even entire books. Once scanned, the app’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology extracts editable text from images, empowering users to highlight, copy, or add comments directly within the document.

Integration with popular cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive lets users sync their notes across devices and platforms seamlessly. This facilitates collaboration with peers, ensuring that everyone is up-to-date with shared materials without the hassle of manual file transfers.

The app supports a wide array of file formats (ppt, doc, xls, pdf, and more), broadening its utility as a comprehensive note-taking solution. Users can drag and drop files from other apps, such as spreadsheets, presentations, or images, to enrich their notes with multimedia resources that provide valuable context.

Notability goes beyond traditional note-taking with numerous advanced features aimed at optimizing user efficiency and productivity. Audio recording, document scanning, cloud integration, and support for various file formats are just a few of the distinct functionalities that set Notability apart from its competitors in the digital note-taking space.

Notability as a Digital Planner vs Leveraging Notability for Creative Brainstorming

14 Notability as a Digital Planner vs Leveraging Notability for Creative Brainstorming

Notability’s versatile design allows it to function well as both a digital planner and a creative brainstorming tool, but the app excels in different ways in each context.

As a digital planner, Notability provides users with customizable templates, including calendars, to-do lists, and daily planners. The app lets users import templates from external sources or create their own using the app’s robust design tools.

The lasso tool enables users to select and seamlessly relocate items within the planner, making it easy to adjust plans as needed. The app’s hyperlinks simplify navigation between sections of the planner, expediting the organization and retrieval of information.

On the other hand, Notability is equally effective for creative brainstorming sessions. Its vast array of pen, highlighter, and shape tools offers users the ability to sketch, diagram, and visualize their ideas with ease. The app’s infinite-scrolling canvas encourages free-flowing ideation without the constraints of fixed page sizes. Additionally, the voice recording feature allows users to capture spontaneous thoughts, which can later be transcribed into text for a more in-depth analysis.

In summary, Notability’s adaptable interface and extensive features enable the app to serve as both a digital planner and a creative brainstorming tool. Customizable templates, hyperlinking, and a flexible canvas are just some of the ways Notability assists users in organizing their lives and nurturing their creativity.

Does Notability Work with Apple Pencil?

15 Does Notability work with Apple Pencil

Yes, Notability is designed to work seamlessly with Apple Pencil, both first and second generation. The app utilizes the pencil’s pressure-sensitive and tilt features to offer users an authentic writing and drawing experience, closely mimicking the characteristics of traditional pen and paper.

Notability’s integration with Apple Pencil also includes palm rejection technology, ensuring that your hand does not interfere with your writing or drawing. This awareness of the Pencil’s presence prevents accidental inputs, maintaining a clean and precise working environment.

The app recognizes both single-finger scrolling and a quick double-tap on Apple Pencil’s second-generation model to switch between tools without interrupting the creative flow. This swift tool-switching capability supports users in maintaining a fast-paced brainstorming session, enhancing productivity and efficiency.

In conclusion, Notability offers excellent compatibility with Apple Pencil through pressure sensitivity, tilt support, palm rejection technology, and a quick tool-switching feature. This integration results in a natural and intuitive note-taking experience on Apple’s digital devices.

Advanced Audio Recording

Notability is much more than just a simple note-taking app. One of its distinguishing features is the advanced audio recording functionality it provides. This built-in ability to record audio directly within the app is particularly useful in academic settings, business meetings, and interviews.

Instead of relying on separate voice recording apps or devices, users can seamlessly record and integrate audio alongside their notes in a single file.

The advanced audio recording capabilities of Notability offer various features to benefit users. For instance, the audio recordings can be time-stamped in association with the notes taken during the recording.

Side Note: NoteShelf is a note-taking app that also has a audio recording feature, see our hands on test of the Noteshelf app and how it compares to other apps: NoteShelf vs GoodNotes comparison.

This synchronization allows users to tap on a specific segment of their notes to play back the corresponding audio, making it easier to review and understand the context surrounding the written information.

Users can adjust the playback speed of the audio, enabling them to listen more quickly or slowly, depending on their preferences. To further enhance its audio recording capabilities, Notability also offers noise reduction and audio enhancement features to improve the overall sound quality, thereby ensuring that users can listen to clearer and crisper audio recordings.

Customization and Collaboration

When it comes to tailored note-taking experiences, customization is a crucial aspect many users seek. Notability offers various customization options to create a user-specific and unique work environment.

Users can choose from different pen and highlighter styles, colors, and thicknesses, as well as access diverse page templates to suit their preferences. Notability also enables the importation of custom templates, allowing users to tailor their note-taking experience to meet their individual needs further.

In addition to customization, Notability is an excellent tool for enabling collaboration among users. The app offers the option to share notes through various methods, such as email, messaging apps, or uploading to cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

This sharing capability simplifies the process of working together on projects, assignments, or meetings.

Because Notability supports real-time collaboration, it allows multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously. This feature is interactive and minimizes the time spent on sharing and merging individual contributions and increases workflow efficiency.


Can you make templates using Notability?

Yes, Notability allows users to create custom templates to suit their individual needs and preferences under: topics > templates and has a “my templates” area for you to browse through.

You can design your template using any suitable software, export it as a PDF, import it into Notability, and start creating notes using your custom design. Custom templates can also be organized and saved in the app’s Template Library for easy access.

What devices does Notability work on?

Notability is designed for Apple devices such as iPads, iPhones, and Mac computers. The app works on most recent iPad models with Apple Pencil support, delivering an impressive handwriting and note-taking experience. On iPhones and Macs, the app allows users to access and edit their notes as well. However, Notability does not support Android devices or Windows-based computers.

Why would you want to use Notability over Apple Notes?

Notability is a popular alternative to Apple Notes for its advanced features and customization options. Compared to Apple Notes, Notability offers powerful handwriting recognition, a variety of customizable writing tools, impressive PDF import and annotation abilities, and a superior organizational structure using folders and notebooks. Although Apple Notes is suitable for basic note-taking, Notability provides a more comprehensive experience.

Also see: How to change handwriting to text in Goodnotes

What devices does Notability work on? (and which doesn’t it work on)

Notability is tailored specifically for iPad, iPhone, and Mac devices, offering compatibility and seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. The iPad delivers the best performance when used with an Apple Pencil, while the iPhone and Mac versions provide core functionality and note synchronization. Notability does not support Android devices or Windows computers, limiting users to alternative options like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote.

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