Alternatives, iPad Apps

Goodnotes vs. Notability

In the world of digital notetaking apps, two names reign supreme. Goodnotes vs. Notability has been a long-standing debate, and we want to get to the bottom of it. 

Goodnotes vs. Notability: The Basics

Goodnotes is a self-proclaimed AI notetaking app that is “loved by millions around the world.” Time Base Technology launched this app in 2011 to give notetakers an alternative to traditional pen and paper. Now, it’s known for using a pioneering generative AI to improve digital notetaking.

Like its competitor, Notability is not shy about its success. It claims to be the “best-selling paid notetaking app on the App Store.” Ginger Labs launched one year before Goodnotes and marketed itself mainly to students. 

Let’s take a look at a few more specific comparisons of Notability vs. Goodnotes. 

Notability vs. Goodnotes: Features at a Glance 

Goodnotes – Features

  • AI writing support – AI automatically checks spelling and gives word prompts. 
  • AI-guided study sessions – AI Math Assistant guides interactive SAT exam-prep materials.
  • Handwriting-to-text conversions – Handwritten text is automatically converted into typed notes. 
  • Flashcards – Transforms notes into flashcard-based study sets that are powered by a spaced repetition algorithm. 
  • Edit and annotate PDFs – Allows you to sign, highlight, and annotate PDFs with ease. 
  • Audio record – Records audio clips that are synced with either typed or handwritten notes. 
Screenshot of Goodnotes audio transcription feature
Image from Goodnotes

Notability – Features

  • Audio transcription – Time-stamped transcripts of your audio recordings that can be synced with handwritten or typed notes.  
  • Handwriting-to-text conversions – The “Scribble” feature allows you to transform handwritten notes to text, with a few extra steps. 
  • Math conversion – Handwritten mathematical expressions are transformed into text formulas or typed notes.
  • Multi-note – Work on two notes at the same time with either a horizontal or vertical view.  
  • Reminders with Siri – Set up reminders for notes with Siri. 
screenshot of notability handwriting to text conversion with math equation
Image from Notability

Handwriting Conversion 

Modern notetakers expect apps to have built-in handwriting conversion abilities, so it is no surprise that Goodnotes and Notability are so popular. 

Goodnotes – Handwriting

Converting your handwriting to text in Goodnotes is simple and can be completed quickly using their lasso tool. Goodnotes also has a pretty impressive generative AI tool that acts as a writing aid. It generates text, spell checks, and corrects errors in your own handwriting style! The newest update (Goodnotes 6) can even suggest words. If you don’t want spellcheck or suggestions, you can press the pen icon and turn them off. 

Pros

  • Handwritten note to typed text conversion comes as standard in the free version of the app.
  • To convert handwritten text to typed text, just preview the conversion and tap the “Convert” button. 

Cons 

  • AI system does not notice spelling errors as quickly as we would like.
  • AI writing aid is only available on iOS. 
  • Handwriting-to-text conversion is only available in 13 languages. 

Notability – Handwriting

Notability also has an impressive handwriting-to-text feature. Just turn “Scribble” on and enjoy automatic transformations. This feature is available in 23 languages, which makes the app more accessible than Goodnotes.

Pros

  • Notability can change handwritten math equations into typed text.
  • This app supports handwriting-to-text conversion in 23 languages. 

Cons 

  • Handwriting-to-text conversions are only available on the Plus package.

Handwriting Winner: Goodnotes 

Both apps offer handwriting-to-text conversions, but Notability supports many more languages. On the flip side, Goodnotes supports fewer languages, but the introduction of a super-advanced generative AI writing aid makes it stand out from the crowd. 

Goodnotes could definitely improve its offering by supporting more languages and broadening its compatibility, but the AI writing aid is impressive enough to win this round. 

screenshot of goodnotes generative AI word complete feature
Image from Goodnotes

User Interface – Layout

Both Goodnotes and Notability are known for having intuitive, user-friendly interfaces. There are a lot of similarities between the home pages, so the small differences are glaringly obvious.

Goodnotes – Layout

When you open Goodnotes, you will see a clean, minimalist screen that prioritizes organization. You can choose to display your documents in either a list or grid format, and you can open the sidebar by pressing the Goodnotes icon on the uppermost left side of the screen. 

Pros

  • Users can tap on the name of any document to browse through more menu options.  
  • The sidebar gives you quick access to bookmarked note pages.  

Cons 

  • Documents are arranged in alphabetical and numerical order, and can’t be manually rearranged. 
screenshot of goodnotes home screen with folders and navigation
Image from Goodnotes

Notability – Layout

When you open Notability, you will see a list of folders on the left-hand side. Click on a folder, and the notes inside the folder will appear on the right. You can choose to view the notes in a grid or list format. On top of that, you can use collapsible toggles to divide your folders into sections. 

Pros 

  • Grid view gives you a preview of each note, which is ideal for people who want to quickly scan their documents. 

Cons

  • The folder/notes/toggle system can feel confusing at first. 
screenshot of notability home screen with note previews and navigation
Image from Notability

Layout Winner: Notability 

In keeping with the minimalistic style of notetaking apps, both Goodnotes and Notability have relatively clean user interfaces. Choosing a winner in the battle of Notability vs. Goodnotes was difficult, but Notability is our winner. 

The fact that Notability allows users to see inside their notes from the home screen is a huge bonus, especially for people who need visual cues. Goodnotes might have cinched the win if it didn’t have the frustrating alphabetical order system.

User Interface – Navigation

Navigation tells us how easy it is to move around an app and, most importantly, how easy it is to find what you are looking for. 

Goodnotes – Navigation

True to the overall feel of the app, Goodnotes has super simple navigation. You can sort notes by “Name”, “Date”, “Type”, “All notes”, “Recents”, “Favorites”, “Unified”, and “Shared”. Even better, you can use the search bar to find a specific note within a matter of seconds, even if it’s handwritten! 

Pros

  • When you search for a word or phrase, Goodnotes will spot it in handwritten and typed notes. 
  • There are lots of sorting options, making navigation straightforward.

Cons 

  • Goodnotes’ search tool is pretty good, but not perfect. 

Notability – Navigation

Like Goodnotes, Notability has a sleek navigation system. When you open the app, the subjects inside each folder are automatically visible. You can click on whichever subject you want or collapse the folder to focus on something else. Users can also sort by “Name”, “Modified date”, or “Created date” to easily find notes. 

Pros

  • The search bar can identify words and phrases in handwritten notes. 

Cons 

  • Does not have as many filter options as Goodnotes. 
  • Users can press the “Notes” section of the sidebar to access “Recents”, “Shared”, “Favorites”, and “Unfiled Notes”, but this feature is only available on Notability Plus. 
  • Users can search for handwritten notes via the search bar, but this is only available on Notability Plus. 

Navigation Winner: Goodnotes 

Notability was a strong contender for the navigation section, but the paywall is an unnecessary barrier to essential tools. 

As soon as users open Notability, they can navigate through each folder, subject, and note. But, if they don’t have Notability Plus, they can’t see shared notes or bookmarked note pages. Of course, they can still access bookmarked notes, but they have to manually access the note first.  

Goodnotes offers slightly less impressive navigation tools but, considering they are all included in the free version, we have decided to make Goodnotes our preferred option for navigation. 

screenshot of goodnotes search feature
Image from Goodnotes

Tools 

Both Goodnotes and Notability allow users to change the layout, color, and design of their notes. These apps also share the following tools: pen, highlighter, eraser, lasso, and text box. 

Neither of these notetaking apps has reinvented the wheel in terms of tools, but there are a few noticeable differences. 

Goodnotes – Tools

The most noteworthy tool in Goodnotes is the Elements tool. Anything that you draw or write in your notes can be saved as an element. Once you have added the element to a collection in the Elements tool, you can reuse it across different notes. 

Pros

  • Has three brushes, including a ballpoint pen, fountain pen, and a brush pen.
  • Elements tool integrates stickers and other media and allows them to be used across different notes.  

Cons 

  • Has no pencil tool and the brush pen is not comparable. 
  • Highlighter tool is only available in three sizes. 

Notability – Tools

Notability has a new Pencil tool that is brilliant for people who want to sketch visual elements. It uses vector-based ink, meaning you can scale up or scale down your creation without ever compromising on quality. It is also pressure-sensitive and supports shading, which is activated by tilting your stylus. 

Pros

  • New Pencil tool operates on vector-based ink. 
  • Users can create dashed and dotted lines with the Pen tool, and can also adjust the width of the stroke via a slider bar. 
  • Use the slider bar to select the right size for the Eraser and Highlighter tools. 
  • Tape tool allows you to temporarily cover (and then reveal) a section of your notes. 

Cons 

  • Only has two brushes, including a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen.
  • Stickers are only available in the Notability Plus subscription. 

Tools Winner: Goodnotes 

Again, Goodnotes wins. Both Goodnotes and Notability have a pretty standard selection of tools, but the Element and Pen tools stand out. The Pen tool might tip the scales in favor of Notability for some, but for us, Goodnotes’ Element tool has massively streamlined our notetaking experience.  

screenshot of goodnotes element stickers feature
Image from Goodnotes

Reviews 

Goodnotes has 4.8/5 stars on the Apple App Store, which is impressive considering the app has over 89,000 reviews. Goodnotes also won the Apple iPad App of the Year Award in 2022, proving it is worthy of industry accolades.

Notability has a slightly lower (but still impressive) overall score. It has 4.7/5 stars on the Apple App Store, and 39,000 reviews. 

Winner: Goodnotes

We can see a trend emerging. In the battle of Goodnotes vs. Notability, Goodnotes is the favorite. 

The reviews don’t lie, but it is worth mentioning that Notability has less than half the reviews that Goodnotes does and only a slightly lower overall score. Notetakers all over the globe love using Notability, so it’s not out of the running just yet! 

Price 

Goodnotes 

  • Limited plan: Free
  • Full version for iOS: $9.99 annually, or a one-time purchase of $29.99
  • Full version on Windows/Android: $6.99 

Notability 

  • Limited plan: Free
  • Plus plan: $2.99 monthly, or $14.99 annually 

Winner: Goodnotes 

Unfortunately for Notability fans, a significant portion of the most impressive features are only available on the Plus package. This setback wouldn’t be too serious if the Plus subscription wasn’t more expensive than Goodnotes. 

Goodnotes offers an annual price plan that is only $9.99. In comparison, Notability Plus costs $2.99 per month or $14.99 a year.

Final Thoughts 

Notability vs. Goodnotes is a popular debate, but we think we might have gotten to the bottom of it.

Ultimately, it all depends on personal preferences. If you want to streamline your notetaking sessions with the latest AI innovations, Goodnotes is the app for you. But if you want to use a more streamlined user interface, Notability will soon be your favorite notetaking app. 

For us, Goodnotes is just too good to ignore. The AI writing aid is a big plus point, but we also love their other innovative features such as interactive SAT prep and the timed flashcards. It has earned its reputation as the best notetaking app, and, in keeping with the company’s bold claims, has proven itself to be “loved by millions around the world.”

Just to be clear, Notability is also a great choice and full of unique, effective features such as its math conversion functionality. Overall, Notability is a solid (albeit slightly too expensive) notetaking app. But, when compared to Goodnotes, it is our second-best option. 

Rock Paper Pencil: A Pen-On-Paper Experience for iPad 

If you’re using Goodnotes or Notability to take notes on your iPad, you might be interested in Rock Paper Pencil

Taking notes on an iPad can feel strange, especially if you’re accustomed to using paper. On its own, the iPad’s glass screen is a slippery surface that can cause messy handwriting. Luckily, Rock Paper pencil creates a realistic pen-on-paper feel for iPad. 

Rock Paper Pencil packaging, magnetic screen protector, and ballpoint pencil tips
Rock Paper Pencil – Draw and write on iPad like ballpoint pen on paper

Rock Paper Pencil includes a reusable, paper-feel iPad screen protector and two ballpoint Apple Pencil tips. Built with nano-texture technology, Rock Paper Pencil adds subtle friction between your screen and Pencil, giving you more control while drawing or writing.

  • NanoCling Screen Protector: Securely bond your screen protector to your iPad using static cling. Easy application, non-adhesive, removable and reusable.
  • Matte Texture: Subtle friction mimics the feel of paper (no more slippery glass!)
  • Precision Apple Pencil Tips: Smoother, more controlled strokes


Looking for an iPad stand to make notetaking more comfortable? Check out the 8 Best iPad Stands for Notetakers.