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Notability vs GoodNotes: The Ultimate Note-Taking App Comparison

Notability vs GoodNotes: The Ultimate Note-Taking App Comparison

The Notability vs GoodNotes debate is a hot topic, as users strive to find the perfect app for their needs.

With an ever-growing market for productivity tools, it’s important to have a full comparison of each note-taking software to determine which one offers the best features, cost, and overall user experience.

Note: I found Notability to be more advanced than GoodNotes regarding complexity of features when I tested the two softwares side by side.

Planners have different Tabs goodnotes
Example of a GoodNotes Planner template on iPad

In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll dive deep into the world of Notability and Goodnotes, comparing their unique features, similarities, and differences to help you make an informed decision

Side Note: Both Notability & GoodNotes were ranked as top Note Taking Apps for iPad

Key Takeaways

“…I split my iPad screen with GoodNotes on the right, and open up Notability [with my PDF and textbooks] on the left side for annotation….

Then I write down questions in the right panel (GoodNotes) and I leave the lecture with practical questions; focusing on what I don’t know so I have a guide on where to begin studying”

Michael S, PhD Student,
  • Notability is ideal for audio recording, a customizable favorites toolbar, and password-protected subjects.
    • Notability also has a vertical scrolling-only format which many users find to be more comfortable (traditional notepad-style navigation).
  • GoodNotes offers a wider selection of page templates, including custom templates, than Notability does (see notability templates)
  • There are several Notability alternatives as well as GoodNotes alternatives.
  • Notability’s audio recording feature is a standout, but GoodNotes may be a better option if flashcards and custom templates are essential for work or studies.
How to add new notes pages and drawings on notability
Example of Notability being used on iPad

Side note: Many users opt for an e-ink Tablet for Note Taking, and Annotation instead of a note-taking app, this is because the entire device is built for note-taking.

Both GoodNotes and Notability have robust note-taking features, however GoodNotes is best in regards to a minimalist UI, real-time collaboration, and unique features such as flashcards and tabular documents.

Its horizontal and vertical scrolling provides a different type of note navigation compared to Notability.

GoodNotes 5: Exclusive Features

GoodNotes 5 Exclusive Features 1

Goodnotes (official site) is good for more casual users compared to Notability.

Note: Alternative, dedicated devices like remarkable 2 and reMarkable 2 alternatives are worth looking at if you don’t have an iPad or you find the iPad distracting and need something with weeks of battery life instead of 12 hours (less than one day).

Related: reMarkable 2 Vs iPad Pro & Air – Which is better? (Key differences)

Collaborative Notes

Collaborative Notes

Real-time collaboration is an interesting, exclusive feature that enables users to work together on notes and documents. This feature can enhance productivity and facilitate collaboration, making it ideal for group projects or teamwork.

Related: Apple Pencil 2 vs Surface Pen: Which is Better for Drawing & Note Taking?

Flash Cards

Flash Cards

The built-in flashcard feature in GoodNotes is a useful study aid that allows users to create and review flashcards within the app. This feature can help users to retain information more effectively and improve their overall learning experience.

Related: Zagg Pro vs Apple Pencil vs Adonit Note+ vs Adonit Pixel | Comparison

Tabular Documents

Tabular Documents

GoodNotes’ support for tabular documents makes it a versatile tool for organizing structured data, such as spreadsheets and tables. With this feature, users can create professional-looking documents that are easy to read and navigate.

Related: Boox Note air 2 Plus vs ReMarkable 2 (Full Comparison)



GoodNotes’ element-saving feature is a convenient way for users to store frequently used images, shapes, or text for later use. This feature can save time and streamline the note-taking process, making it easier to create and customize notes.

Also see: 9 Best Stylus for Android Tablets & Phones

Notability: Exclusive Features

Notability Exclusive Features

If you want audio and recording features, notability has it. For example you can take notes with audio recordings and organize them in folder.

As mentioned in our Notability Review, the app is pricier, but has more advanced options where recording auditions, music notes, or anything where students and teachers are involved has better note organization and note sharing.

Related: Kindle Scribe Review: How does it measure up for Note taking & Sketching?

Favorites Toolbar

Favorites Toolbar

Notability’s customizable favorites toolbar is a convenient feature that allows users to personalize their note-taking experience. By adding frequently used tools and colors to the toolbar, users can save time and streamline their workflow.

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

Audio Recording Playback

Audio Recording Playback

Notability’s audio recording feature is a powerful tool for students and professionals alike. By syncing recorded audio with their notes, users can review lectures, meetings, or interviews while simultaneously reviewing their notes, helping to improve their retention of information.

For more on how to use this feature, as well as others such as moving notes, dividers, sketching and more in notability, see our post on the Notability app tutorial: instructions for note taking.

Password Protected Subjects

Password Protected Subjects

With Notability’s password-protected subjects feature, users can keep sensitive information secure and private. This feature is particularly useful for students, professionals, or anyone who wants to keep their notes and data protected from unauthorized access.

Organizing Notes in GoodNotes and Notability

Organizing Notes in GoodNotes and Notability

When it comes to taking notes digitally, two of the most popular apps are GoodNotes and Notability. Let’s dive into the comparison between Goodnotes and Notability

GoodNotes offers a hierarchical organization system for notes, using folders and subfolders to keep your digital notebooks tidy.

You can create custom notebook covers to quickly identify each notebook visually. Moreover, GoodNotes allows you to search for text within your handwritten notes, making it easy to find specific information within your notes.

See our post on How to use GoodNotes app for taking better notes.

Notability, on the other hand, uses a simple organization system based on dividers and subjects. Dividers work like overarching categories, while subjects are subcategories within them.

With color-coding and custom naming, you can quickly navigate through your notes. Notability also includes a search feature to find text within your notes, including handwritten content.

Related: 6 Best Apps to Convert Handwriting to Text on iPad and iPhone

Comparison of the Two Apps’ Organization Features

Comparison of the Two Apps Organization Features

While both GoodNotes and Notability offer intuitive organization systems, GoodNotes’ folder structure and custom covers may be more appealing for users who prefer a more traditional filing system. Notability’s divider and subject organization can be simpler for users who don’t require multiple levels of hierarchy.

Which App Has overall Better Note Organization

Which App Has overall Better Note Organization

Ultimately, the choice between GoodNotes and Notability for note organization will depend on individual preferences. If you value a more traditional and visually appealing system, GoodNotes is the better choice. If simplicity and efficiency are your main concerns, Notability may be the better fit.

Taking Notes in GoodNotes and Notability

Audio Recording

A significant difference between GoodNotes and Notability is the audio recording feature. Notability allows you to record audio while taking notes, and it syncs the audio with your handwriting. This feature is especially useful for students attending lectures or professionals in meetings. Unfortunately, GoodNotes does not offer an audio recording feature.

Flashcard Maker

GoodNotes has a unique flashcard maker feature that allows users to create study materials for more effective learning. This is a valuable tool for students who need to memorize information. Notability does not have a built-in flashcard maker.


Both GoodNotes and Notability offer a range of templates for note-taking (Example: Free GoodNotes planner templates). GoodNotes provides various paper templates, including lined, grid, and dotted, as well as custom templates. Notability also has basic templates, but the selection is more limited compared to GoodNotes.

Lasso Function

The lasso tool is available in both GoodNotes and Notability, allowing users to select, move, resize, and rotate objects on the page. This feature is essential for reorganizing or editing your notes effectively.

Handwriting to Text

When comparing the handwriting-to-text conversion in GoodNotes and Notability, Notability has a slight edge, as it supports math equations, Greek symbols, and chemical elements, whereas GoodNotes does not.

See our post on: How to change handwriting to text in Goodnotes

Both apps offer handwriting-to-text conversion, enabling users to search within their handwritten notes or convert them to typed text for easier editing and sharing.

Converting handwriting in both apps involves using the selection tool to highlight the desired text and then choosing the “Convert” option. However, in Notability, this feature requires a subscription or a separate purchase from the in-app marketplace for Classic Plan users who bought the app after January 1, 2020.

Additionally, Notability’s conversion workflow is more intuitive, as it allows users to directly add the converted text to the page in the form of a resizable textbox. In contrast, GoodNotes has a more cumbersome workflow where users have to copy the typed text from the conversion window and then manually paste it back onto the page.

Importing Documents

Both GoodNotes and Notability support importing various file formats, such as PDF, PowerPoint, and Word documents, for annotation. Additionally, they integrate with cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox for seamless file management.

Verdict on Which App Has Better Note-Taking Features

While both GoodNotes and Notability offer a wide range of note-taking features, Notability stands out with its audio recording feature. However, if flashcards and custom templates are essential for your work or studies, GoodNotes may be the better option.

Comparison of Page Templates in GoodNotes and Notability

GoodNotes offers a wide range of pre-built page templates, including various paper types (lined, grid, dotted), planners, and more. Additionally, you can create and import custom templates to suit your specific needs. Notability provides basic templates like lined and grid paper but lacks the extensive selection found in GoodNotes.

Verdict on Which App Has Better Page Templates

When it comes to page templates, GoodNotes offers a more comprehensive selection than Notability. With custom templates and a wide variety of pre-built options, GoodNotes caters to different user needs and preferences. If a diverse range of templates is essential for your note-taking experience, GoodNotes is the better choice.

Comparison of Writing Tools in GoodNotes and Notability

Below is a comparison of the two popular writing tools, Notability and GoodNotes. It covers key features, exclusive factors of each note taking app, and how each software compares to each other and their relative merits for creating digital notes.

GoodNotes Writing Tools

GoodNotes offers an impressive selection of writing tools that cater to various needs. Users have the option to choose between fountain and ballpoint pen styles, and each pen can be customized in terms of color, size, and opacity.

Also, the highlighter tool can be adjusted in the same manner, allowing users to easily emphasize important sections of their notes.

One of the standout features in GoodNotes is its shape recognition tool, which automatically converts rough drawings into precise shapes. This feature is particularly useful when creating diagrams, mind maps, or flowcharts. GoodNotes also supports the Apple Pencil, offering a smooth and responsive writing experience with the added benefit of palm rejection technology.

Notability Writing Tools

Notability also provides a range of writing tools that offer customization options such as color, size, and opacity. Similar to GoodNotes, users can choose between fountain and ballpoint pen styles and customize their highlighters.

Notability’s shape recognition tool is more versatile than GoodNotes, as it allows users to draw shapes directly onto the canvas without the need for any additional steps. Furthermore, Notability provides a unique feature that links audio recordings to handwritten notes, enabling users to listen to lectures while reviewing their notes simultaneously.

Verdict on Which App Has Better Writing Tools

Both GoodNotes and Notability offer an impressive selection of writing tools, with each app having its own unique features.

GoodNotes may be better suited for users who require a more polished and precise writing experience, while Notability’s versatility and audio linking feature make it an attractive option for those who need to review lectures or meetings.

Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on whether you need something more advanced (Notability) or something more casual (GoodNotes).

Other Features

Zoom Tool

GoodNotes and Notability both offer zoom tools that enable users to focus on specific areas of their notes for a more detailed view. In GoodNotes, the zoom tool is more advanced, offering a smoother experience and better integration with the Apple Pencil.


Both apps allow users to scan physical documents and import them as PDF files. However, GoodNotes provides a more seamless scanning experience with its dedicated scanning tool, while Notability relies on third-party apps or the built-in iOS scanner.


GoodNotes and Notability both offer shape tools for creating diagrams, charts, and other visual aids. As mentioned earlier, GoodNotes automatically recognizes and corrects shapes, while Notability allows users to draw shapes directly onto the canvas.


Both apps support the addition of photos to notes. In GoodNotes, users can add photos from their device’s gallery, while Notability allows users to take pictures directly within the app.

iPadOS Support

GoodNotes and Notability are both compatible with iPadOS, which means they can take advantage of features such as Split View and Slide Over for multitasking.

Presentation Mode

Both apps offer a presentation mode that allows users to project their notes onto a larger screen, making them suitable for use in classrooms or business meetings.

Notes-sharing Platform

GoodNotes and Notability both support sharing notes with others through various platforms, including email, messaging apps, and cloud storage services.


Users can export their notes in both apps as PDF, image, or text files. However, Notability offers additional export options, such as the ability to export notes as audio files.

Both apps feature a universal search function that allows users to search for specific terms or phrases across their entire library of notes.

Auto Backup

GoodNotes and Notability both offer automatic backup options,enabling users to save their notes to cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud. This ensures that users’ notes are safely stored and accessible from multiple devices.

Minor Similarities

Both apps offer features like dark mode, custom templates, and the ability to organize notes into folders or subjects. They also support importing and exporting documents in various formats such as PDF, image, or text files.


GoodNotes and Notability are both paid apps, with GoodNotes available for a one-time fee of $7.99, while Notability costs $8.99. There are no subscription fees or in-app purchases for either app.

Lasso Tool

The lasso tool is available in both GoodNotes and Notability, allowing users to select and manipulate specific elements within their notes. This is useful for repositioning text, images, or drawings.


GoodNotes offers a wide range of stickers that can be added to notes, while Notability does not have a built-in sticker library. However, users can import images and use them as stickers in both apps.

Both apps allow users to add hyperlinks to their notes, providing quick access to relevant web content.

Page Editing

GoodNotes and Notability both offer page editing options, including adding, duplicating, and deleting pages within a document.


Both apps support iPadOS multitasking features such as Split View and Slide Over, enabling users to work on multiple apps simultaneously.


GoodNotes offers real-time collaboration for users to work together on notes and documents, while Notability does not currently support real-time collaboration.

User Interface

The user interfaces of both apps are clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate. GoodNotes features a more minimalist design, while Notability has a slightly more traditional and colorful interface.

Favorites Toolbar

Both GoodNotes and Notability have a favorites toolbar that allows users to quickly access their most frequently used tools.

Text Tool

Both apps offer a text tool that allows users to type notes directly onto the canvas. Users can customize font, size, and color in both apps.


GoodNotes supports both horizontal and vertical scrolling, allowing users to navigate their notes seamlessly. Notability only supports vertical scrolling, which may be a limiting factor for some users.

Adding Items to Notes

Both apps allow users to add various elements to their notes, including text, images, shapes, and hyperlinks.

Audio Recording

Notability features a unique audio recording feature that allows users to record audio directly within the app and sync it to their notes. GoodNotes does not offer this feature.


Both GoodNotes and Notability support optical character recognition (OCR) for searching handwritten notes and converting them to text.

Don’t forget, Nebo and oneNote are also note taking apps with OCR and could also be considered.

Related: Comparing GoodNotes and OneNote: The Battle for School Note-Taking and Planning

File Size

In general, GoodNotes files tend to be smaller in size compared to Notability files, which may be a consideration for users with limited storage on their devices.

PDF Annotation

Both apps support PDF annotation, allowing users to import PDF files and annotate them with text, highlights, and drawings.

Which app is better for overall note-taking?

Both GoodNotes and Notability offer a robust set of features for note-taking, and the best app for you will ultimately depend on your specific needs and preferences.

GoodNotes may be the better choice for those who prioritize a minimalist user interface, real-time collaboration, and exclusive features such as flashcards and tabular documents. Its support for both horizontal and vertical scrolling also provides users with more flexibility in navigating their notes.

Notability, on the other hand, may be the preferred option for users who require audio recording capabilities, a customizable favorites toolbar, and password-protected subjects. Its vertical scrolling-only format may also be more comfortable for users who are accustomed to traditional notepad-style navigation.

Bottom Line

Both GoodNotes and Notability are powerful note-taking apps that offer a wide range of features to help users create and organize digital notes. Your choice between the two will depend on which you find more intuitive and what advanced features you need. If you’re a student or teacher; Notability may be for you.

If real-time collaboration, flashcards, and tabular documents are essential features for you – then GoodNotes may be the better option. However, if audio recording and playback, password protection, and a customizable favorites toolbar are more important, Notability might be the better choice.

Regardless of which app you choose, both GoodNotes and Notability are sure to enhance your digital note-taking experience and help you stay organized and productive.

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