GoodNotes vs Notability vs Noteshelf

Is Noteshelf underrated? There is a lot of buzz around GoodNotes and Notability but Noteshelf also packs plenty of options. GoodNotes doubles as a great handwriting note-taking app and PDF-reader. Notability is an awesome note-taking app. Noteshelf will improve bad handwriting and has a massive collection of free planner templates for finance, parenting, event planners, health & fitness, etc.

Is Noteshelf underrated? There is a lot of buzz around GoodNotes and Notability but Noteshelf also packs plenty of options. GoodNotes doubles as a great handwriting note-taking app and PDF-reader. Notability is an awesome note-taking app. Noteshelf will improve bad handwriting and has a massive collection of free planner templates for finance, parenting, event planners, health & fitness, etc. Paperless XNotability by GingerlabsLogo of a note-taking app called Noteshelf
Price$7.99 for iPadOS, iOS
and macOS
$8.99 for the iPadOS & iOS
$4.99 for macOS
In-app purchases in their
Notability shop (optional)
$9.99 for iPadOS/iOS
$7.99 for macOS
$4.92 for Android
Size299MB272.5 MB242.1 MB
No. of notebooks2238825
Documents & data
(Excluding app size)
540 MB228.9 MB380 MB
DeveloperTime Base Technology LimitedGinger LabsFluid Touch Pte. Ltd.
Type of app Handwriting note-taking
PDF reader
Handwriting note-takingHandwriting note-taking, planning
Supported OSiPadOS, iOS, macOSiPadOS, iOS, macOSiPadOS, iOS, macOS,
Page sizes supportedA7-A3, GoodNotes Standard,
Letter and Tabloid
A4 onlyA4, Standard letter,
Different page

Number of page
Number of page
Add custom paper
to app's library
Multiple page
Different page
templates in one
Page rotation
Automatic creation
of notebook titles
Pen toolsBallpoint, fountain,
Ballpoint, fountain,
dashed & dotted
2 ballpoints, calligraphy
Pencil tool
Pen tool sizesVariable
12 fixed8 fixed
Ink typeVectorVectorVector
Adjust pen tool
Zoom window
has pen tools
on its toolbar
Zoom tool

Zoom window
has margin tool
Zoom window
line spacing
Zoom window has
navigation tools
Zoom in & out of
Text inputKeyboard, ScribbleKeyboard, Scribble
just got added
Keyboard, Scribble
Text formatResize, recolour,
bold, italic, underline,
Resize, recolour, bold,
italic, underline
Resize, recolour,
bold, italic, underline
Text box
Text box rotation
Support for custom
Favourite text formatsYou can save three
Interactive checklists
Numbered lists
Unnumbered lists
Indentation tool
Text alignment
Adjust line spacing for
your text
Highlighter goes behind
Highlighter goes in
front of ink
Highlighter visibly
Erase per pixel
Erase per stroke
Eraser sizes3 fixed12 fixed3 fixed & variable
Erase highlighter only
Auto deselect eraser
Resize, cut, copy,
delete, change colour, rotate
selected handwriting
Change thickness
Selectively pick
handwriting only
Selectively pick text
Tap on text
Selectively pick image
Tap on image
Selectively pick
everything with lasso tool
Insert space between
Drag & dropInto the app, not out of
the app
Move selection between pages of the same
Duplicate selection
Smart Selection in
iPadOS 14
Add photos
Add web links
Audio recording
synced to notes

not synced to notes
Add GIFs
Add sticky notes
Add stickers
Add web clips
Import documents
Add videos
Add tables
Attach PDFs
Add scans
Save scans as
Save scans as
Rotate scan
Crop scanBefore adding to notesBefore adding to notesBefore adding to notes
Export scan only★★★★★★★★★
Draw regular shapes
Draw irregular shapes
Draw arrows
Draw curved lines
Autofill has same colour
as shapes border
Autofill has different colour as shapes
Adjust autofill opacity
Adjust shape after
Now you can
Duplicate shapes
Snap to other strokes
Snap to page lines &
Adjust border thickness
Horizontal scrolling
Vertical scrolling
Seamless vertical
Handwriting overlaps
across pages
Automatically add new
MultitaskingMultiple instances,
Slide over,
Multiple tabs
Note SwitcherMultiple instances,
Slide over
Max. number of notes
open at a time
More than 22More than 2
No. of active windows
per session
Both instances1Both instances
Access to other notebooksAll notebooks in the
app from either
10 most recently
All notebooks in the
app from either
Recognise hyperlinks
Deactivate hyperlinks
when using the Apple Pencil
Create hyperlinks
Export hyperlinks
Recognise outlines
Export outlines
Bookmark pages
Tag pages
View annotated pages
only in your PDFs
PDFs when exporting
Convert handwriting
to text
Supported languages172365
Data detection
Search through
Search through scans
Search through
imported scans
Search text on images
Organise search resultsNotes, outlineBookmarked, tagged,
PDF table of contents
Change user interface
in dark mode
Automatically switch
switch paper & ink
Presentation mode
Create FlashcardsExperimental
Add tables
Folder widgets
Create new notebooks
from locked iPad
Lock folders
In-app store
Exporting formatsPDF, Image, GoodNotesPDF, Image (Jpeg/PNG)
Note, RTF
PDF, PNG, Noteshelf
Export specific pages
Attach audio recordings
Add margin around PDF
when exporting
Exclude annotations
when exporting
Export zipped images
Export single images
Collaborate on notes
Collaborate by sending
email invitation
Collaborate by sharing
link to notebook
Highlight changes
made to document
Receive notifications
when someone
changes document
Collaborate on folders
Auto backup to
Auto backup to
Google Drive
Auto backup to
Auto backup to
Auto backup to
Auto backup to
Auto backup in Native format
Auto backup in PDF

Auto backup in RTF

Auto backup in PDF
& Native format

Auto backup specific

Auto backup specific

View backup queue/line
Pause/cancel backup
Settings for user

Why Noteshelf?

Are you big on paper templates or do you want an app with fully functional planner templates? Noteshelf’s got you covered. They have plenty of paper templates to choose from for all aspects of your life: 

  • Event planners
  • Finance
  • Health & Fitness
  • Household
  • Music
  • Parents
  • Productivity
  • Student
  • Therapists
  • Travel
  • UX designers
  • Holidays

Noteshelf is also the only app of the three that allows you to publish your notes to Evernote. If you use Evernote already, then you might benefit more from using Noteshelf. 

The handwriting experience in Noteshelf can easily compete with that in Notability if it’s not better. However, since the first version of the app Noteshelf suffers from a bug that causes the app’s handwriting to lag. Should this bug plague your app, the user experience in Noteshelf will quickly turn sour. That is why we are sceptical to acknowledge their handwriting experience as the best. That, and also the fact that the app tends to alter your handwriting. It’s a good option if you dislike your handwriting, not so much if you don’t. 

If handwriting conversion is a big part of your work, Noteshelf is the app you want. It supports 65 languages for OCR! That is the most languages in any one apps, out of the three. Noteshelf keeps the colour of your ink when you convert your handwriting to text. The app also has the ability to keep your handwriting’s size with its Fit to Selection option. These tiny perks add a little special something to your OCR experience in the app and we love it. It is just like their emoji feature, you can’t help but just love it. 

Of the three apps, Noteshelf is the most unstable though. It is sad because it is a very good app. We keep hoping Noteshelf’s developers figure out how to make the app more stable.

Why Notability?

Notability takes up the least space on your iPad and this makes it perfect for those on small budgets that can’t afford iPads with bigger storage. Notability is also the most stable app of the three. It has fewer bugs and handles big notebooks and many documents very well.

Notability also has the best handwriting feel you will get on the iPad. This is debatable since we all have different preferences when it comes to this sort of thing. What works for me might not work for you and that’s perfectly fine. Most people, however, do prefer the handwriting experience in Notability (even avid GoodNotes users), to that in the other two apps. 

Notability also has the audio recording feature, which you either find extremely useful or extremely useless depending on your workflow. Students might find it very useful during classes and lectures to help you refer to it a bit later. Though with COVID-19 and online lectures, this feature has proved to not be as useful as before. Notability’s recording feature doesn’t work when you’re in a Zoom meeting on your iPad. Most lectures are recorded anyway, so if you want to listen to them again, you can. 

The last reason you might want to buy Notability is that you can add so much more in Notability’s notes than you can in GoodNotes and Noteshelf. You can add stickers, GIFs, web clips and sticky notes, in Notability. 

Why GoodNotes?

Of the three apps, GoodNotes is the cheapest at $7.99 for all the three versions of the app, a one-time purchase. But is it really the cheapest? GoodNotes creates the biggest files of these three apps. If you intend to use it as your main note-taking app, you will be needing an iPad with much bigger storage. iCloud backup helps, but it doesn’t completely replace a big memory on your iPad.

GoodNotes is also the best app for multi-tasking. This is very important if you also want a PDF reader because GoodNotes is also the best PDF reading app of the three. Of course, it’s a basic PDF reader, but that is probably all you need to read and highlight a few things. GoodNotes supports multiple instances and multiple tabs, meaning at you can open a lot more documents in the app than you can in the other two apps. Another useful feature for PDF reading, especially for studying.

Generally, GoodNotes is known for its feature-rich user interface. You can do so much more and work with much ease in GoodNotes than in Notability and Noteshelf. Though, we must warn you, the text tool in GoodNotes is the worst of the three apps. If you work with a lot of text, you will need to look for a different app. 


Comments · 4

  1. I’ve used Noteshelf for 2 years now, choosing it because of it’s rich set of paper templates, support for custom templates, and at the time, it’s Evernote syncing. Now I don’t use Evernote anymore so that’s not much of a selling point. I still like it, but their pace of adding big new features has gotten very slow particularly since COVID started, but had slowed in 2019 as well. I also find it’s stability hasn’t been great lately on my OG iPad Pro. It’s handwriting support is excellent, it’s searching and organizing have improved, it’s number of papers is unmatched. It’s shape handling and text support are the two weakest areas.

  2. La mejor es NOTESHELF sin duda alguna. Desventajas de Goodnotes: archivos más pesados, los archivos exportados en pdf y modo editable pierden la opción de búsqueda de texto escrito y exportados en modo plano se puede buscar texto escrito pero se pierde el uso de vínculos entre paginas creados con plantillas. El backup automático de pdf pierde también los vínculos entre paginas. La conversión a texto no es directo requiere varios pasos eso es lo peor, Grabación de audio no existe. Ventajas frente a Noteshelf no tiene ninguna.
    Desventajas de Noteshelf: el backup automático no tiene la opción de utilizar pdf pero funciona bien en formato noteshelf. Lo demás funciona perfecto:Conversion de texto directo, archivos no pesan, en el pdf exportado funciona perfecto la busqueda texto escrito y los vínculos funcionan bien, tiene backup automático en varios formatos, incluye grabacion de audio, permite importar fotos de otras ubicaciones incluyendo la nube contrario a lo que dicen en varias paginas esto se hace con la opción “Insertar desde”, puede crear automáticamente Diarios digitales o Planeadores con plantilla seleccionando fecha inicio y final.
    Notability: es bueno, comparable con Goodnotes es estable.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I’m looking into doing a digital planner and I found one that said used any of the 3 apps listed here. I found this review very helpful and the two previous comments were also helpful. I lose paper all the time. And I need digital reminders. I use the calendar on my phone and in my work email for everything. So I’m diving into the digital world a little bit more.

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