Why do you use GoodNotes, Notability or other instead of Apple Notes?

There a many threads on note taking apps. This is NOT intended to duplicate those. This is a different question, I think.

Regardless of your 3rd party note taking app of choice, IF you use a 3rd party app, why do you use it instead of Apple Notes? I’ve gone back and forth between Apple Notes, Notability and GoodNotes. I have these use cases for a notes app.:

  • Handwritten notes, e.g., for personnel interviews and meetings
  • Type written notes for some meetings
  • Brainstorming when I’m not using MindNode–when I want the “feel” of paper and pen rather than a keyboard
  • Some storage, though I store most things in iCloud outside a proprietary app
  • Adding a URL from an email or other document to a note for reference back to an email or document

I’ve watched a lot of reviews and How To’s on notes apps so I understand the relative strengths and weakness of each. My problem is that none of them are “just right” taking into consideration GUI, features, cross-platform syncing, flexibility, etc.

So, if you are using a 3rd party app instead of Apple Notes, why; what is the compelling feature(s) that cause you to make this decision?


1 Like

I can’t stand the look and feel of Apple Notes. That’s a big part of it. Notability can record audio in time with the written notes, which is great for presentations. I prefer the organization of Bear notes vs the folder system.


Notability allows me to zoom in to write finer detail.

Text based notes I do in markdown, but may switch to be able to embed images.


The ability to mix handwriting and text together in a note is a shortcoming of Apple Notes for me. Yes, you can mix them but not really. Annoying works better in many of the other apps

Handwriting recognition.
Search results include handwritten notes.
Highlighted search results.

GoodNotes and Notability (and, I’ll add, several other iOS apps) excel at these, in my opinion.

FYI GoodNotes just updated to a new version that’s now a Universal iOS/Mac Catalyst app in the App Store(s). A one-time $7.99 purchase for all platforms.

I have a long history of synchronization problems with Apple Notes. This is over years. It’s not usually as bad as it was late last year, when Notes would often just stop synching completely to a device, but that aside I got very tired of seeing changes to a note not being completely propagated. It would typically only be small blocks (parts of a line) that were wrong and usually only a few times a month but it was enough that I just didn’t trust it anymore.

I was also not a fan of the look, the lack of markdown support, the intrusive special features (no - that wasn’t supposed to be a list or an appointment), and the weird cross-platform font scaling (although that last seems to have been improving).

1 Like

I do use notes for some stuff, but I use Agenda at work because I want to link every note to a calendar event and a relevant tag/project/client and Agenda is the system that is designed to do that. It saves me time over Notes, where I could struggle to hack that system together and still miss the UI that makes retrieval and review quick.

1 Like

I’m a huge Notabilty user for (I don’t know how many) years. I use it mostly on an iPad, though I have the Mac version as well. I’ve tried others, like Liquid, but found them gimmicky. Just started a new job not too long ago and still use Notability predominantly, but for security reasons, I can’t cut & paste between it and email, so I might have to rethink & try Microsoft OneNote (I used OneNote for quite a while until I found Notability, and I promptly chucked OneNote…). Time will tell.

1 Like

I find GoodNotes has a better ink system and the resulting documents look much better. I have got used to the interface and have all my notes well organized and easily accessible (compared to Notes where I had to search every time for hand-written notes and had trouble finding some).

I also exported my Apple Notes to Drafts because I prefer to use Markdown and I am trying to use less apps to contain all my notes so I don’t have to search in multiple places. I find my use of Notes and Drafts too similar to justify using both, and love the simplicity and quick capture of Drafts. I exported any images from Apple Notes and just keep them in a Dropbox folder so I can easily search them if necessary (I find search on iOS with iCloud unreliable), and imported all my old handwritten notes in GoodNotes.

Experimenting with Goodnotes now. Mostly for the abillity to mix handwriting and text. I also like adding a pdf as a template. On the other hand writing regular text seems pretty bad. Will try Notabillity as well.

The handwriting experience is miles better, and if you think a lot by jotting down notes (which is my case), then these apps are must-haves.

I use goodnotes because it has the template capability, and that suits my workflow for work better. All of my other notes are in Apple notes, which would be my default app of choice for everything if it had template support.

1 Like

Rob, did you import the handwritten noted into GNs as PDFs or images?

I imported them as images, which were automatically created with the Exporter app, which also exported the text as markdown. Then, I just dragges the images into Good Notes. Using Exporter is much easier than manualy saving as PDF.


Thanks, I’l check that out!

I agree, templates in Goodnotes is what I use it for. I have several from the Sweet Setup that I’ve been using. Since I’ve been working from home lately, I haven’t been as good at taking notes, no real good reason, just haven’t.

It is very easy to create templates for GoodNotes – I create custom templates as PDFs, usually using Keynote which is very adept at setting up graphical pages, and save them to an iCloud directory, then grab them into GoodNotes as needed.


I use Goodnotes, Bear, and occasionally Apple Notes.
I work as a teacher and researcher at the university. As a teacher Goodnotes is brilliant for marking students work. I can write, make handwritten comments and highlight which is exactly what I need. I wish, however, that more colours were available. As a researcher I use Bear because of the cross-platform facility (Mac and iPad) and the possibility for making labels - things never stay long In Bear: they are moved to DevonThink and Liquid Text, but these are not note taking apps.
Apple Notes I only use for grocery shop lists :slight_smile:

1 Like

Pens and Highlighters in GoodNotes support custom colors.