GoodNotes vs. Notability which do you use and why?

I was a Notability user but having to add the .png files (stickers,clip art) to my photo library before I could access them in Notability was a big pain. With GoodNotes I organize all of my stickers in directories and just use the elements tool to pull them. So much cleaner. Notability locks down their “Stickers” menu to just the in-app purchases.

That said, if Notability added this capability, I would probably return because the Notability with its organization, is a the superior app overall.

Notability because of the infinite, frictionless page scroll. (You don’t have to pull specifically to create a new page, it’s always there)
However I’m getting increasingly annoyed by the limitations of organization, and I find GN’s pencil engine much more pleasant, so I’ll probably be switching once my current project is done.

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So you prefer the GoodNotes method of organization? I find that left column with nothing but Documents, Shared, and Favorites, a trememdous waste of space. The folders should be there… not in the Documents listing imo

I think Notability wins the prettiness prize, but GoodNotes wins the functional prize. I use GoodNotes because of the organizer.

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Yes, I prefer the classical nested folders. Nota only has two levels and I find their browser terribly clunky.

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GoodNotes. Notability doesn’t have enough nesting levels.

Notability also isn’t as good for projecting (kind of important when I was teaching remotely this past semester).

I switched to Goodnotes several years ago, but I don’t have a reason why, that I remember at least. Years ago I switched and never went back. I do like the way it imitates paper notebooks with the covers and such. I still have Notability installed, and I will open it occasionally, it seems equally as good though.

Side note, I wish Apple would allow me to chose what app it opened when I wake up the iPad with the Pencil.


I used to switch back and forth, but when my wife got an iPad years ago she would only touch GoodNotes because writing with the pencil is a joy.
Now I’m GN only for consistency reasons.

I’ve been a happy GN user for many years. At that time I found GN inking to be much more natural/fluid as compared to Notability. Haven’t gone back to Notability in some time, so things may have improved on that end of things.

I also find it very easy to create templates in Pages or Keynote, export as PDFs, then put them into GoodNotes. I don’t recall if Notability has that capability - make our own templates - but it would be demerits if it didn’t.

You can create an Automation in the Shortcuts app so that whenever Notes is launched, it launches your favourite app! Of course, you can’t still use it on the Lock Screen, but it’s a step closer!


Pros for Notability:

  • Infinite scrolling
  • Superior shape recognition
  • On the Mac, better lasso tool for selecting text
  • On the Mac, better app performance (with the new Catalyst version only)
  • Notes automatically resize to fit the width of the screen you’re on
    • Notes in GoodNotes, when opened in landscape mode, are always zoomed to fit the height, not the width

Pros for GoodNotes:

  • Better inking (but not that much better, shouldn’t be the deal breaker)
  • Better UX for converting handwritten text
    • Faster
    • Drag and drop support
  • Better file organization
  • Proper template support

Overall, I went with GoodNotes because of the handwritten text features. Nebo is even better in that regard, but comes at the expense of a more restrictive workflow which defeats the purpose of writing by hand.

I used to try to keep everything organized in this app but ultimately, it was more useful for me to convert to typed text and store elsewhere. GoodNotes is better than Notability in this regard, but there are still a lot of flaws.


Not writing a lot with pencil nowadays, but I remember a couple years ago I went with Notability because it had this great feature to record voice to your handwritten notes which was pretty handy as you could jump from section to section and Notability showed you what notes you took at that time … does Goodnotes provide a similar (or same) functionality?)
At the same time I always preferred the ink and the templates of Goodnotes …

I use GN in landscape most of the time.
I have a nice, simple Cornell Notes template in landscape that I use for online teaching.

It’s possibly the longest, most requested feature, but audio recording is still not there.
Personally, I agree with others that if they implemented this, Notability would really struggle.

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Goodnotes for best pencil support with much more accurate handwriting recognition and an easy way to add my own templates. I also like the notebook with covers approach as organization.

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Discovering the .goodnotes Digital Stickers sellers on Etsy was like finding buried treasure in my front yard. I was stupidly using Goodnotes with individual pngs instead of using the .goodnotes sticker sheets. When I bought the sticker packs last year, I was using Notability, so I totally forgot there were Goodnotes specific ways to use the stickers. I dug out the zip I downloaded and looked and there they were. It has reinforced my use of Goodnotes that I have finally deleted Notability from all of my devices.


I have learned something new today.

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Whilst I cannot put my finger on it, GoodNotes just never clicked with me. I think it partially has to do with the UI of the sidebar, and manner of arranging one’s notes/folders, which I always found more visually appealing in Notability.

That said, over the past two years, the bulk of my meetings have been in MS Teams — which has seen me use less of Notability than in the past. This has possibly allowed me to overlook the single biggest complaint I have regarding Notability: its sync functionality.

Over the years, I have had repeated issues with multiple versions of files having to be downloaded again from iCloud… Some of my files are now named “conflict 3” or some such — and I have possibly lost some over the years. Despite this being a significant issue, it’s clearly not significant enough to push me towards GoodNotes… Which says something in and of itself…

Finally, as good as the hand writing recognition of GoodNotes apparently is, it’s (last I checked) unaccommodating of my style of handwriting — which sees All Caps, albeit with the first letter being “bigger” than the rest. In short, I don’t write the way GoodNotes wants me to, which detracts somewhat from one of its core features… Of course, YMMV

There’s one missing feature in GoodNotes that prevents me from using it it: The scrollbar in vertical mode cannot be grabbed for fast navigation. The developer said it’s a custom scrollbar instead of the system native solution. This makes navigating long notes very difficult.

I’ve been generally happy with Notability. The continuous vertical scroll is very natural for me. But I’m not a fan of their own sharing function instead of an iCloud solution.

I’m actually trying to convert to Apple Notes at the moment due to the attraction of Quick Notes in iPadOS 15. So far I haven’t found major hurdles that can’t be worked around.