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Between NoteShelf and GoodNotes: Which Excels for School & Digital Planning?

Between NoteShelf and GoodNotes: Which Excels for School & Digital Planning?

Are you struggling to decide between two popular note-taking apps? In this blog post, we will provide an in-depth Comparison of the two note-taking apps: NoteShelf and GoodNotes to help you make a well-informed decision.

We will discuss their features, user experience, and various pros and cons regarding note-taking, note organization, writing tools, and more. If you’re comparing these two apps, then you’re likely a student, professional, or anyone looking to improve your productivity and is interested in digital note-taking and planning.

The biggest battle is between using Noteshelf, Goodnotes, and Notability (which is another top tier note-taking app – see Notability vs GoodNotes)

These apps are ideal for taking notes during lectures, creating to-do lists, planning out their day or week, and keeping track of their personal and professional projects.

By the end of this post, you should have a better understanding of which app suits your needs, so you can efficiently take notes on your tablet. Let the battle between Goodnotes vs NoteShelf begin!

Side Note: Both Noteshelf & GoodNotes were ranked as two of the best Note Taking Apps for iPad

Key Takeaways

The biggest difference between NoteShelf and GoodNotes apps are their organizational systems. Remember, this is an app you might use for years to come (and daily) so testing each app is crucial. don’t skip this part

Planners have different Tabs goodnotes

However, NoteShelf has note customization that is really hard to compete with:

Customize your notes with noteshelf

Side Note: According to a survey by Mediapeanut, 47% of respondents in college used a digital note-taking app on their tablet for school purposes.

  • GoodNotes 5 works extremely well as an all-around, useful note taking app for students and it works extremely well for those who rely on folders and subfolders (organization).
  • Noteshelf stands out with its inking quality and even some security features… but may not be the best option for users who prefer a more intuitive organizational system.
  • The best way to make a decision is to try each app (as I did) for a trial period and decide which features and user experiences are ideal for you scenario (example: student, creative, etc).
  • It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of each app, consider your budget, as well as ongoing app support from developers.

Keep in mind, Goodnotes has some really powerful templates

Student planners work GREAT on GoodNotes

NoteShelf vs GoodNotes: Breakdown comparison

In recent years, note-taking apps have become essential for students, professionals, and everyday users seeking a convenient digital solution to organize their thoughts and ideas.

Among these apps, NoteShelf and GoodNotes have emerged as two popular choices, each with its own set of unique features and capabilities.

Cornell templates
Example of the Cornell template on GoodNotes for studying/note-taking

This comparison aims to provide an in-depth evaluation of the pros and cons of each app… diving into organizational practices, writing tools, digital planning functions, (and overall note organization effectiveness).

Organizing Notes: Noteshelf vs GoodNotes

When it comes to organizing notes, Noteshelf and GoodNotes adopt different approaches. Firstly, Noteshelf utilizes a notebook system, where users can create a distinct notebook for each subject or category, each with its respective customizable covers and paper templates.

However, some users may find it slightly cumbersome to navigate between notebooks quickly. On the other hand, GoodNotes offers a more intuitive organization system, relying on folders and subfolders, making it easier for users to sort their content and locate specific notes rapidly.

Users can create folders for all their subjects and assignments, which can contain multiple notebooks or individual pages within them.

Regarding importing and exporting notes, both apps offer PDF importation and a wide range of export formats. The similarities extend to cloud sync compatibility, with Noteshelf and GoodNotes supporting iCloud, Google Drive, and Dropbox.

It’s worth mentioning that both enable OCR (Optical Character Recognition) search functionality, allowing users to search for written text within their notes seamlessly.

Also see our comparison Between OneNote and GoodNotes for Note-taking as these are two note-taking apps that many ask about.

Comparison of Writing Tools in Noteshelf and GoodNotes

3 Comparison of Writing Tools in Noteshelf and GoodNotes

Writing tools are crucial for a smooth note-taking experience. In Noteshelf, users have access to various pen styles, including pencil, chisel, ballpoint, and brush pen.

One standout advantage of NoteShelf is its excellent inking quality, providing a clean and precise handwriting experience.

The two apps compete pretty closely, but you can really feel the difference when you use their writing tools and overall note taking experience:

  • A favorites toolbar allows quick access to the most-used tools –NoteShelf supports custom color schemes and various paper templates for a personalized and efficient workflow.
  • GoodNotes also offers a complete set of writing tools, including a pen, highlighter, eraser, and shapes tool.
  • The highlighter feature in GoodNotes applies the highlight behind the text, which preserves readability. The auto-deselect function in the eraser tool allows for a seamless transition between writing and erasing without constant tool-switching.

Compared to NoteShelf, GoodNotes has an improved folder and document organization, and offers the ability to open multiple tabs and planners side by side

Both NoteShelf and GoodNotes offer palm rejection technology and work well with the apple pencil… if you’re unfamiliar with this feature, it makes it so that resting your hand on the screen doesn’t disrupt the writing experience.

They also support the use of a wide range of stylus options, including the Apple Pencil.

Which app is better as a digital planner?

4 Which app is better as a digital planner

Digital planners are increasingly popular for streamlining tasks, appointments, and schedules. Noteshelf excels in this regard due to its extensive library of covers and paper packs, many of which are free through the app’s club.

I personally found NoteShelf as the better app if you’re strictly using it as a digital planner, but GoodNotes has a vast array of templates you can use and makes it best for those who need multiple uses.

Users can customize their planner layouts and add new templates as needed. Furthermore, Noteshelf supports audio recording, allowing users to capture lectures or meetings alongside their notes.

GoodNotes also provides digital planning features, including the ability to create interactive, hyperlinked planners. Users can easily add elements, clip art, or stickers to their planners, thanks to the Elements tool. However, GoodNotes currently lacks an audio recording function, which might impede a comprehensive note-taking experience for some users.

Deciding the better digital planner app depends on user priorities. While Noteshelf offers more customization and audio recording capabilities, GoodNotes provides more interactive elements and seamless organization.

Which App Has Overall Better Note Organization

5 Which App Has Overall Better Note Organization 1

In summary, both Noteshelf and GoodNotes offer robust note organization capabilities, each catering to different user preferences. Noteshelf focuses more on customizable notebooks and inking quality, providing a visually appealing and smooth writing experience. However, it falls short in terms of a more intuitive note organization system.

GoodNotes, on the other hand, prioritizes efficient folder-based organization and quick note access. It offers a more streamlined approach for users who value ease of navigation and rapid retrieval of their notes.

Also see: 15 Best e-ink Tablets for Reading, Note Taking, and Annotation

Ultimately, the choice between Noteshelf and GoodNotes boils down to individual priorities and how they align with each app’s strengths and weaknesses. Trying both apps to assess which one best fits personal workflow preferences might be the best route to find the most suitable note-taking companion.


When comparing Noteshelf and GoodNotes, pricing is a crucial consideration for users who are searching for an affordable yet feature-rich note-taking app. Noteshelf currently offers a one-time purchase option with a price of $9.99, certainly an attractive deal for those looking to avoid subscription-based pricing models.

On the other hand, GoodNotes 5 pricing structure is a bit more complex. There is a one-time payment of $7.99 for the app, but this fee doesn’t cover all features. For some advanced capabilities, like handwriting recognition in multiple languages, users might need to pay extra. This can be a sticking point for users who want access to advanced features without spending more money than the initial purchase price.

In light of these differences, the app that offers the best value will depend on the features you need and are willing to pay for. If you don’t require advanced functionality and prefer a one-time purchase, Noteshelf may be a better choice. However, if you’re willing to pay for extra features and require additional language support, GoodNotes might be a more suitable option.

User interface

7 User interface

A well-designed user interface (UI) enhances the overall experience and makes navigation smoother. Noteshelf has an appealing UI, which includes customizable color schemes, accessible toolbar options, and readily available pen choices. These aspects contribute to the app’s ease of use and visual appeal.

GoodNotes 5, however, boasts a more streamlined UI with improved file organization and a simplified approach to note-taking. Large folders, notebooks, and other organizational features make it more convenient to access and organize your notes. Side note: GoodNotes 5 also offers an extensive template library to cater to various note-taking styles.

Ultimately, the choice between Noteshelf and GoodNotes 5 will boil down to personal preference in terms of UI. Consider whether a customizable and visually attractive interface or a streamlined and intuitive user experience holds more significance for you.

Handwriting recognition

8 Handwriting recognition

Handwriting recognition is an essential feature for note-taking apps, as it allows for efficient searching and organizing. Noteshelf provides a satisfactory handwriting recognition experience, with support for multiple languages, though not as extensive as GoodNotes 5.

See: How to Use GoodNotes Handwriting to Text Feature

Between these two apps, GoodNotes 5 seems to have a slight edge when it comes to handwriting recognition. If handwriting support in multiple languages and accurate search features are a priority for you, GoodNotes 5 may offer a better experience.

One advantage GoodNotes 5 holds in this area is that it offered a more precise handwriting recognition system when I tested it… with support for several languages including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Chinese.

Note: Keep in mind that certain advanced language support may come with additional fees, but you’ll need to check the updated page on the respective app’s official sites to be sure of this.

Collaboration features: Integration with other apps and devices

9 Collaboration features Integration with other apps and devices

Integration with other apps and devices is crucial for users seeking seamless collaboration and synchronization across platforms. Noteshelf provides support for Android devices and integration with popular cloud storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. This enables sharing and collaboration for teams using diverse devices and platforms.

GoodNotes 5, in contrast, is an iOS-exclusive app and therefore won’t cater to Android users. However, it offers robust integration with cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Furthermore, the app allows seamless transition between iOS devices, such as iPads and iPhones, ensuring your notes are accessible when needed.

If cross-platform collaboration and accessibility are essential for your workflow, Noteshelf’s Android compatibility may be the better option. However, if you primarily use iOS devices, GoodNotes 5’s integration capabilities may be more attractive.

Cloud and backup options

10 Cloud and backup options

Consistent and reliable cloud storage and backup options are indispensable features for any note-taking app. Noteshelf integrates with multiple cloud services, such as Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive, ensuring your notes can be stored, retrieved, and shared effortlessly with colleagues and friends. Automatic backup options guarantee the lossless integrity of your notes.

Similarly, GoodNotes 5 allows users to sync and store their notes in iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. Built-in backup settings within the app make sure your data is safely archived and can be restored if needed. The seamless synchronization between devices ensures continuity and accessibility to your notes.

In terms of cloud and backup options, both Noteshelf and GoodNotes 5 come out on an even footing, making it a draw in this category. Your final decision should be based on your overall preferences, use-case requirements, and the importance you place on features like pricing, UI, and handwriting recognition.

User Testimonials and Case Studies

Sarah L, Graphic Designer “I’ve tried multiple note-taking apps, and when it comes to my design process, Noteshelf takes the lead. Its smooth writing experience and brilliant inking quality allow me to easily visualize my ideas and create stunning sketches.”

Michael S, PhD Student “As a research student, organization and structure are crucial to me. GoodNotes’ superior folder organization system makes it easy for me to access my research notes and reference materials. I also really liked the hyperlinking [ability to link note to note], as it speeds up my workflow significantly.”

Emma P, Journalist “[Audio recording] is an essential feature for me when interviewing subjects or attending press conferences. Noteshelf ticks this box, and the app’s more engaging color schemes made note-taking a more smooth experience.”

Liam J, Engineer “Precision matters in my line of work and GoodNotes’ precision eraser tool was great for my detailed note-taking…. I can easily edit my notes without having to switch tools constantly, saving time and increasing productivity.”

Rachel T, Language Teacher “Teaching multiple languages requires a note-taking app that can cater to a diverse range of needs. Noteshelf’s use of multiple pen styles and its ability to keep all my content secure with the passcode lock easily make it my go-to app.”

My Experience with Both Apps

As an avid writer and note-taker, I personally prefer GoodNotes due to its intuitive organization system and precision eraser tool. The organization provided by GoodNotes makes it easy for me to manage multiple projects simultaneously, while the precision eraser allows me to effortlessly make edits without disrupting the flow of my writing.

Though I can appreciate the inking quality and smooth writing experience offered by Noteshelf, the organization and editing features in GoodNotes align better with my workflow.

However, one aspect of Noteshelf that I find valuable is its audio recording feature which is exceptionally useful during interviews or meetings. This added dimension of multimedia integration makes it tempting to switch between the two apps depending on the circumstances.

For users who need audio recording functionality, Noteshelf or GoodNotes both work.

Ultimately, my experience with both apps shows that no single note-taking app will be perfect for everyone. It’s essential to identify your priorities and determine which features will be most valuable to your unique needs. Keep in mind that note-taking apps are meant to enhance and streamline your workflow, so be selective and find the app that best serves your particular situation.

Verdict on Which App Has Better Note-Taking Features

When evaluating NoteShelf and GoodNotes for their note-taking features, both apps possess strengths and weaknesses. NoteShelf stands out with its superior writing tools and experience, providing smoother handwriting and a variety of pen types for users to choose from. On the other hand, GoodNotes offers an efficient workflow with its precision eraser, auto-deselect feature, and customizable elements and it also has the better handwriting to text feature.

One advantage of GoodNotes is its straight highlighter, which allows users to highlight text that appears beneath the text instead of above it.

This results in notes being more legible and easier to review. However, NoteShelf compensates for this by offering a favorites bar for multiple pens, allowing quick switching between writing tools and improving efficiency.

There’s also NoteLedge which is a different app and competes with Goodnotes; however its more visual based.

In terms of features, it’s difficult to declare a clear winner, as the choice depends on individual needs and priorities.

As mentioned… NoteShelf may be more suitable for users who prioritize the handwriting experience and Android compatibility, while GoodNotes caters to those who value efficient workflows and unique functionality like the elements feature.

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