GoodNotes vs Notability: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

GoodNotes vs Notability: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

So you have decided to start leaving real paper behind. Perhaps you want to save some trees; perhaps you want your notes better organized; perhaps you kept losing your notes, but not your iPad. Maybe it is a combination of all of these things. Now you're faced with a tough question. Which popular app do I use, GoodNotes vs Notability?


Two of the best apps when it comes to taking notes are GoodNotes and Notability. In this blog we will go over these two apps in detail to give you an overview of the pros and cons of both, and to help you in deciding what app works best for you. 


Without further ado, let’s get into the comparison!


How much do GoodNotes and Notability cost?




Notability recently started to offer a free version. This gives you access to a limited version of the complete app. You can get access to the entire app by starting a subscription. For this, you have to pay fifteen dollars per year. 



The GoodNotes app offers a free trial-version. After the trial is over, you can pay eight dollars once and get access to the full application. GoodNotes does not offer a subscription. It is a one-time fee. 



In terms of pricing, we have to give first place to GoodNotes. Not only does it cost less, it also only costs you once. However, it must be said that fifteen dollars per year will not break the bank, so pricing does not disqualify Notability. But, if you want cheap, GoodNotes is the best fit for you.


Organizing Notes in GoodNotes and Notability

In terms of organizing notes, GoodNotes and Notability have wildly different philosophies. Both are good for navigating through the apps, but you will have to decide which one you prefer most. 



GoodNotes offers you a list or a grid lay-out. You can make that choice for yourself. It is very similar to the way documents are structured on a laptop or in Google Drive. GoodNotes seems to have taken a way to structure things in a digital space that already works, and has implemented it in their app. 




Notability took a different approach. They seem to have created an organizing system with “real” notes - the ones on real paper - in the back of their minds. They offer folders within which you can create dividers. It’s like the real dividers people used to carry around to organize documents. It allows you to create subcompartments in overarching “big” folders. The style is more minimal then the one used in GoodNotes.




This is simply a matter of taste. Both systems get the job done, and it is up to you which one you find more pleasing to the eye, and to the organizing parts of your brain. 


Taking Notes in GoodNotes and Notability

Both apps are very capable at taking notes. There are a lot of similarities between the two apps simply because taking notes has one possible overarching approach. It usually involves pens, erasers, and paper - be it real or digital. There are some differences between the two apps that we will highlight below. 


Audio-Recording: only Notability offers this!

With Notability you can record audio while taking notes. Moreover, Notability tracks what notes you took during which part of the recording. This means that you can record the audio of a lecture or a meeting, and quickly see what you wrote down at a particular point. Moreover, having recorded the lecture or meeting allows you to go back through what has been said multiple times in case you missed something, or want to clarify what was said. 


GoodNotes does not offer the option to record, so if recording is something that is very important to you, Notability is the best fit for you.


Flashcard Maker: only GoodNotes offers this!

The GoodNotes app offers the ability to create flashcards. This is great for students who are trying to pound knowledge into their noggins. Whether you are learning Spanish, difficult formulas or want to carry a pub quiz with you, this feature can come in handy for a lot of people. 


Notability does not offer this feature, so if it is important to you, GoodNotes will be the best for you.



Templates: GoodNotes vs Notability

Both apps offer a great variety of templates. There is paper with squares, lines and dots. You can get music paper. You can get all sorts of planners. Notability allows you to get community-made templates and stickers right from the app. To acces Notability's own content, you must have Notability-pro and pay 15 dollars per year.


Lasso Tool: GoodNotes vs Notability

Both Notability and GoodNotes have something called the “lasso tool.” This means you can select any part of a note and drag, drop, copy, paste, delete or do whatever you want with it. 


It is a very useful tool in organizing your notes. It allows you to do things that are impossible on real paper. 


Handwriting To Text: GoodNotes vs Notability

Both Notability and GoodNotes offer the possibility of converting handwriting to text. In Notability, this feature works slightly better than in GoodNotes, and Notability also includes math equations, Greek symbols and chemical elements whereas GoodNotes does not. 

Dop you have messy handwriting no matter what app you use? iPad accessories can help you out as well. If you want to take clean notes, for example, an Apple Pencil is a must. If you want clear handwriting, our products. Does your hand ache quickly while writing? Then look into ergonomic accessories for your Apple Pencil or hand, such as the Grip or the Glove.


Importing Documents: GoodNotes vs Notability

Both apps allow you to import documents to which you can then add notes. For example, if you are proofreading an essay, you can take notes with your Apple Pencil directly in the PDF. You can underline words, cross some of them out etc. 


GoodNotes Community

For students, this is an important thing to emphasize. GoodNotes community is a place where students and teachers can share notes. Right now, signing up will put you on a waiting list, so you cannot get in immediately. However, such a community has great potential for students, and is something that Notability does not offer. 



Both apps offer a great experience in taking notes. They have a lot of similar features, and also some features that set them apart from each other. It is up to you to decide what features are important to you when you make your choice between the two. 


What should be noted is that a lot of features of Notability only work if you have a subscription. If that is something you do not want, GoodNotes is a far better fit. It outperforms the free version of Notability - which is fairly logical of course. 



When it comes to Notability vs Goodnotes, both are very capable note-taking apps for the iPad. One of the big differences is pricing. If you dislike subscriptions, or only have eight dollars left, GoodNotes is your only option.


Broadly speaking, Notability and GoodNotes are quite similar. Yes, there are differences between the apps, but they are not fundamentally different. 


This is logical too. Note-taking has been around in this form for as long as we can think. Pen, paper, a listening ear and a working mind. That’s all there is. Whether the paper is digital or real , or whether the pen has real ink or not doesn’t really matter. 


Both apps have taken the overarching logic of note-taking, and added some of their own features in it. If you like to record audio, go for Notability. If you want flashcards, go for GoodNotes. 


However, the fact that they are rather similar apps means you can’t really go wrong with either of them. You’re not choosing between good and bad. You are choosing between good fit and less good fit. 


Since we obviously cannot guess exactly what you need, we have highlighted the differences and the similarities in this blog. We hope you can make a good choice based on that. Please let us know which app you chose, and why. 


Have fun taking notes! 


P.s. Read about Nebo vs. Notability here!


  • Marco Rocha

    I just don’t understand why the article doesn’t mention both Goodnote and Notability tools for Android, is it that only Ipad users use a digital planner?

  • Gary Slocum

    I have Notability grandfathered because I bought the original app BUT there is some type of restriction which irritates me. So no subscriptions here. Hope Goodnotes 5 doesn’t go down that path or I’ll just use Apple’s. (Free)

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