CollaNote 2.0: what you need to know 

CollaNote captured the hearts of many note-takers because it was a free app with a lot of features. However, since its latest update, CollaNote 2.0 is now the second most expensive note-taking app on the market. Second only to Notability, which is a subscription.


We’ve always believed that CollaNote gathered so much momentum and popularity because it was a free app. You can’t expect much from a free app. So, even its look didn’t bother us much because of that. However, coming in at $5.95 for old users, $8.29 for its launch price and $11.90 for its normal price; will we still love it? I mean, looking at its user interface alone, would you really spend that much money on the app? Instead of getting: 

What are you paying for?

Some features we already had in the app are now under the premium package: audio recording, ASMR sounds, wallpapers, etc. This basically means that if you are an old user, you’ll probably need to pay the $5.95 to keep using the app. An old user means you actually have the app downloaded on your device before this update. The happy days of using CollaNote for free, are over.

Twenty-five pen tools?

We love that the app has dropped the Apple PencilKit for some vector ink pens. According to the developers, we now have twenty-five pens in the app. Do we now? We were curious to try all these twenty-five pens and we had the patience for it. 

The ballpoint looks and feels like a ballpoint pen you’d expect to find in a note-taking app. The fountain pen is slightly different from the ballpoint. It’s definitely not a ballpoint, but we are not sure what it is. The calligraphy pen, on the other hand, felt like a fountain pen. It even looks like it with the tapered ends and it’s very pleasant to use. The pencil tool felt and looked a bit funny. So I had to check it with the one in Apple Notes to confirm that it was indeed an odd pencil. It is still not vector ink, and certainly the worst pencil tool we’ve ever seen in a note-taking app. But, I still love it because it’s a pencil tool. 

Decorative pens

Winter lace is easier to appreciate when it’s thicker. It’s like a designed pencil tool. It has the same feeling when you’re writing, and it’s also in raster ink. It’s a decorative pen, like the dashed and dotted pens. You won’t use them for taking notes, but just decorating them. Or drawing shapes. At least your dashed and dotted pens use vector ink. 

Every note-taking app that has a felt pen seems to have its own definition of what the pen’s properties are. In CollaNote 2.0, it uses raster ink. At this point, we started wondering just how many raster ink writing tools the app has now.

The sketch pencil felt like a pencil tool, which made us curious to know how they differ. After looking at their strokes, the pencil tool looks more concentrated. But does that make it a completely different tool? Let us know what you think.

The water brush looks legit, but it’s another pixelating writing tool, and so is the Chinese calligraphy pen. Its smallest size is kind of big, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. I can’t write any Chinese languages so I wouldn’t know. 

3D pens

Now, all these 3D pens look the same, just with different colours and designs. The moment you select it, all the colours in the colour palette are no longer available for customising your pen colour. The 3D pens are fun and will make fun titles but different colours and styles do not make them different pen types. We were also disappointed that they also pixelate.

Star pen

The star pen makes sense more as stickers, considering that we can’t change its colour. As a decoration, it can work as well. After trying all these writing tools, CollaNote has twelve pen tools, not twenty-five. Maybe thirteen, if you want to acknowledge the sketch pencil as a different tool. Eight of the pens use raster ink, so they pixelate when you zoom in on your notes.

I would probably consider only the first three pens for serious note-taking. The rest are just fun tools with little to no practical use. That’s probably because I am a boring human being. Most of these new pens are premium features. So, you’ll need the paid version of the app to use them. 

New handwriting engine

The new writing engine has slightly improved the handwriting experience in the app. We can’t, however, say it’s the best handwriting on the iPad. It’s definitely not. If I were to rank different apps according to how good their handwriting experience is, CollaNote will always come out last on that list (at least for now).

Search tool

The new search tool still needs a lot of work. It takes too long to respond, does not highlight the results on your PDF and its display of your search results is not very useful. Results are supposed to give a glimpse of what surrounds your search term so you know if you’ve found what you’re looking for. CollaNote’s search results are not doing that. At the moment, it’s probably best to pretend the app still doesn’t have a search tool. That’s how bad it is. It really won’t help you find anything. 

We were happy to see handwriting search in the app; a handwriting note-taking app must have one. At least the app seems to work better for handwriting search. The results displayed are a bit more informative, which helps. The app actually helps you to find where the searched term is on your pages. However, the whole experience is glitchy and needs some work to improve the user experience. The search tool is the worst feature released in CollaNote 2.0.

Page covers

Personally, I dislike covers because I prefer seeing what’s in my notebooks from the homepage. It helps me find what I’m looking for faster. But, covers make cute notebooks and many of us love them. You get a number of covers to choose from, mostly just colourful covers with little designs. And for some weird reason, the developers thought to let us draw on them. On this small section? Shouldn’t it get bigger maybe? No? 

The bugs

Our team has a saying about CollaNote: another update, another bug. The developers have released two bug fixes since this update (in two consecutive days). Maybe we are just one of the few unlucky ones. But, CollaNote has always been buggy, making it the most unreliable note-taking app on the market. For this review alone; the app keyboard froze, we failed to search several times and the app crashed!


CollaNote is an interesting app and it packs some unique features you won’t find in other note-taking apps. However, we’ve never considered it for serious note-taking. We didn’t recommend it when it was free, we are now even more hesitant to do that if it costs more than GoodNotes.

Best alternative

If you just want a note-taking app once and for all, any other note-taking app is probably better than CollaNote 2.0. Though CollaNote has some potential, it still needs some polishing before we can trust it with our digital notes. 

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