Both note-taking apps are really similar and you can read about GoodNotes and Notability separately. In this review, I will not go into as much detail about the functions that both apps share but rather the differences between the two apps.
If you don’t want to read an in-depth article you can use our online quiz that will tell you which app is better for you.
Which App is Better for You?
You can either read our in-depth comparison below or answer this short online quiz.
How are GoodNotes and Notability similar?
Both are great apps for those who want to use their iPad, iPhone or Mac to take notes or to add handwritten notes and drawings to PDF templates or notebooks. Both can be used for a digital planner. Both are limited to Apple devices and are not available for PC and Android. Both have search functions and support PDF hyperlinks (important when using the app for digital planners). Both use an Apple Pencil (for an iPad) or 3rd party stylus (for an iPad or iPhone).
Both offer handwriting recognition but Notability charges extra for this function whereas GoodNotes doesn’t. However, the function is slightly less time-consuming in Notability since you need only one tap to replace your handwriting with text. With Goodnotes, however, after you convert your handwriting to text you will need to copy it and paste it into your notes.
With both apps, you’ll get a variety of important tools, including a pen, a highlighter, and a lasso tool. Both apps draw lines, shapes, and arrows and both offer PDF annotation.
Both apps offer an eraser. Notablity has more fixed sizes for the eraser. On the other hand, when you have finished using the eraser, GoodNotes will automatically switch back to the tool you were using before the eraser, which isn’t a feature that Notability offers. Therefore, I am not sure who has the better eraser since it depends on whether you prefer more sizes or an auto-deselect function.
Both have excellent palm rejection and are both provide left-handed support.
What functions does GoodNotes have that Notability doesn’t have?
Interchangeable Paper Templates – Change the Theme and Color Per Page
GoodNotes has a vast selection of paper templates in many different page sizes. The paper templates are available in both portrait and landscape orientation. You can use different page templates in one notebook which is important if you want to sketch, keep notes, draw graphs, type, etc in one notebook. If there is a paper template that is not available and you want to use it often then you can add it to the template library. You can save any of the free planner printables from this site in the custom template library and use it whenever you want.
GoodNotes offers the option to add notebook covers and designs. You can add pages and change the color and theme of each page separately. One page can have dot grid paper and the next page can have lined paper. One page can be pink and the rest can be white. In Notability, any change you make to the page design changes all pages, and you have less flexibility.
Notability, on the other hand, has limited paper templates. You can choose between four options only (plain, square, lined and dot grid). Once you choose an option, your entire notebook will use this page template and you cannot choose a different option for each page. Each template has four different options for line spacing. There is also only one page size (A4). You can change the color of the pages but all pages will change to that color. You cannot use a different color for each page. The paper templates in Notability are only available in portrait orientation and there is no landscape option.
Convert Handwriting to Text – Free
Both apps have this function but you need to pay an additional charge to get it with Notability. You write with your Apple Pencil and the app will convert your writing to text. GoodNotes includes this function free of charge. It does a great job and nearly always successfully converts my handwriting to text.
Wide Range of Pens with Various Strokes
GoodNotes offers a wide range of colors for doodling, drawing and writing. There is a larger selection of pen types with more options to adjust the stroke with pressure sensitivity. For those who use a paper planner and enjoy using many brush pens and other planner pens you might prefer the options that GoodNotes provides.
When you buy GoodNotes, you can install it on your iPad, iPhone and Mac. This is really important if you have all devices as you will want to use the app on a bigger screen when you are at home and when you are at the supermarket and want to remember what is on your grocery list, then you will want access from your iPhone.
GoodNotes offers a free version which is limited to three notebooks. It is an excellent way to try the app without investing first. The free version doesn’t have handwriting recognition, prioritized email support, and the ability to import documents via email. If you reach your three notebook limit, you can upgrade to the pro version that gives you unlimited notebooks.
With Notability, you will need to purchase the app again for each device. Notability also charges extra for certain functions such as handwriting recognition and math conversions.
With GoodNotes you have more flexibility when it comes to organizing your files and folders. Notability enables you to create a subject or a divider. A divider contains multiple subject folders. Therefore, subjects are divided by dividers and your notes are organized into subjects. You can only use these three levels to organize your notes. GoodNotes, on the other hand, offers the option to use nested folders (i.e. subfolders inside the folders). You can add many levels for each sub-topic which is a great way to organize files and folders with sub-topics.
GoodNotes added a cool feature which enables you to write a question or prompt at the top of the flash card and then add your answer at the bottom. This is helpful when you want to test yourself. When you initiate the flash card review, you’ll see the question and when you tap the screen, you’ll see the answer.
GoodNotes allows multiple people to edit the same document if they all have GoodNotes installed.
Share your Planner Template Without Your Notes
With GoodNotes there is an option to exclude annotations when you share. Therefore, you can share your digital planner or your notebook without your notes on it.
What functions does Notability have that GoodNotes doesn’t have?
Notability uses less storage space than GoodNotes. The files that GoodNotes creates are about 360MB “heavier” than those in Notability and take up a lot more storage space.
Sync audio and handwriting together
Notability enables you to record audio and take notes together. When you playback the audio, you will see the notes during the section they were recording. This is a great feature for students who want to record lectures and take notes. When I studied law, I used to record lectures and take notes. However, I could never sync my notes with the audio and I had to look through pages of notes to find the relevant section. It never worked. For this function alone, I would recommend Notability to students over GoodNotes since it doesn’t have an audio recording feature. Many other people will also find this feature helpful such as those who take notes in business meetings.
Add audio recordings, sticky notes, videos and GIFs to your notes
In Notability, you can add audio recordings, sticky notes, videos and GIFs to your notes. You cannot do this with
Notability enables you to work on multiple notes side by side using the Note Switcher. This is a useful feature when you need to compare notes. There is a workaround to achieve this on GoodNotes if you open the app twice and use the Split View functionality that iPad offers. When you use this function you can actually open more documents at once on GoodNotes than on Notability.
Stickers – Additional Cost
With Notability you can add stickers for an additional cost. Whereas GoodNotes doesn’t offer this as a built-in function, you can do this easily on both apps for no additional cost since they both offer a lasso selection tool to select and move stickers anywhere.
Simply download our free planner stickers or stickers from any other website and then use the lasso tool to copy and paste the stickers onto your document or planner. Adding stickers to your documents and digital planners is great and an important function. However, since there are so many free planner stickers available today and it is so easy to add them with both apps, I don’t consider this to be a better feature.
Search Imported Scans and Text on Images
Both apps will search through documents including text that was handwritten. Notability will also search through imported scans and text on images. GoodNotes will not.
Math Conversion – Additional Cost
For an additional cost, Notability can recognize basic mathematical expressions, functions, symbols and rules.
With Notability, every note comes with endless vertical scrolling until you complete a note. Your handwriting can even overlap across pages. When you start a new note, it will be a separate file with a new title. This helps you find each topic since it is a separate note and you don’t have to look for topics within a notebook. With horizontal scrolling, you see only one page at a time with both apps.
Adding a New Page
When you start writing on the last page of your notebook, Notability will automatically add a new page. With GoodNotes, you have to manually add a new page (however it isn’t difficult to add so it isn’t really crucial).
Backup to Box and WebDAV
Both apps use Apple’s iCloud sync to auto-backup your notes. Since you can use both apps on your iPhone, iPad and Mac this function is pretty essential. However, what if you don’t have an iPhone and want to use an Android phone? Both apps also enable users to automatically backup their files to third-party storage systems such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. You cannot use either app on an Android phone but you can view the files you created and you can edit them with other apps that support Android. It should be noted that Notability also supports Box and WebDAV (unlike GoodNotes) so if these are systems that you use then this difference between the apps might be a deciding factor.
Notability offers the option to share a link with others who don’t have the app installed or to yourself if you also use a PC or Android device. However, although GoodNotes does not let you share if the other device does not have GoodNotes installed you can export the document and use it on any browser with any app.
If you need to access your notes on a PC or Android device or share with others, you could either email or export your notes as PDF files to one of the offered services and send them to yourself or to others. The exported PDF file can be viewed with any other app.
With Notability, you have an additional option to share a link that you can access from any device. This link can be shared with anyone in any browser and on any device. With GoodNotes, sharing can be done only if the other person also has GoodNotes. On the other hand, it allows multiple people to edit the same document if they all have GoodNotes installed.
Inserting Scanned Documents
You can scan documents with both apps. However, with Notability, you can scan a document as an image which will take up less space. With GoodNotes, you can only save in PDF format.