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Goodnotes vs. Notability: What’s the Difference?

Hey there! If you‘re someone who takes a ton of handwritten notes like me, you‘ve probably debated between GoodNotes and Notability as your go-to iOS note-taking app. Both have awesome features, but there are some key differences to understand before you dive in. Let me walk you through a detailed comparison, so you can decide which one best matches your style and needs.

First, what do these apps actually do? They transform your iPad or iPhone into digital paper, letting you write, draw, highlight, insert images and record audio all in one place. It‘s like getting the simplicity of pen and paper combined with the organization of a computer. No more losing notes or having a million separate notebooks for each class or meeting. Huge time saver!

GoodNotes first launched back in 2010, while Notability joined the scene in 2011. They‘ve steadily improved and added features over the years. GoodNotes reports over 25 million users now, while Notability boasts over 20 million. Their growth shows just how popular digital note-taking has become compared to traditional paper methods.

I‘ve used both apps extensively over the past 3 years for taking notes in college lectures and at my internships. Here‘s my side-by-side breakdown:

Ease of Use

GoodNotes wins for having the most intuitive, user-friendly interface in my experience. Everything is nicely laid out and easy to find. Starting a new note or notebook takes seconds. It was immediately obvious how to use all the tools.

Notability has some minor interface quirks that can slow you down initially. There are more advanced features crammed in, so the toolbar can feel a bit cluttered. The learning curve is slightly steeper. But after some practice, you get used to Notability‘s workflows.


I give the edge to GoodNotes for note organization too. You can create unlimited notebooks, then organize pages into sections/dividers. I love this for keeping course notes separate by week or topic. Notability uses a simpler folder structure. Both support tagging notes with keywords, so you can search by content.

Writing Experience

This one is close – both apps provide a satisfying pen and paper feel. Notability offers more customization like adjusting how pressure sensitive the pen is when you write. GoodNotes has the best handwriting recognition I‘ve seen. It does an amazing job converting my messy writing into text accurately. Huge time saver!

Annotation Tools

GoodNotes has more options here like rulers, shape recognition, graphic erasers. Makes it easy to draw nice diagrams, floor plans, designs quickly. Notability is better for multimedia – it‘s simple to import web clips, photos, PDFs and annotate over them.

Audio Recording

Notability‘s recording features blow GoodNotes out of the water. Being able to record a lecture or meeting while taking notes, then having the audio sync up is invaluable. I just tap a word in my notes and it plays the audio from that exact moment. Killer feature if you ever have to review meetings.


GoodNotes wins on customization and templates. Tons of paper styles like dot grid, music sheet, storyboard templates. Notability just has basic ruled/grid paper. Both let you create covers and dividers for a personalized look.


GoodNotes has a one-time $7.99 purchase price for iOS. Notability charges a $9.99 one-time iOS purchase, but also offers $14.99 yearly subscription plans which unlock more features like cloud backups. Good value either way.

Final Verdict

For most college students who need to ace lecture notes, I recommend Notability. Being able to record and sync audio with your notes is a game changer. Professionals who attend lots of meetings would also find this ability invaluable.

If you just need a simple but robust note taking app with great organization, customization and handwriting capabilities, GoodNotes is tough to beat. It offers the most intuitive experience.

Hope this detailed comparison helps explain the key differences between these awesome apps! Let me know if you have any other questions.