GoodNotes

Complete review of GoodNotes

PROS

CONS

  • Unstable, can have a lot of bugs
  • Creates big files, takes up too much space.
  • Two-step handwriting-to-text conversion.
  • Slow syncing between devices

9/10

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Pricing & Supported OS

GoodNotes is a note-taking app for your iPad, iPhone and Mac. It costs  $7.99, one-time purchase for all the apps. Time Base Technology Limited made GoodNotes a universal purchase, so for $7.99 you get the app on all your three devices. Just when some developers are going for subscriptions, others are trying to find ways for us to pay less.

Creating Digital Notes In GoodNotes

On the homepage, you can create a new Notebook or a QuickNote to start taking notes in the app. Creating a QuickNote is the fastest way to get started in the app as it gets you started in just one tap. The app creates a notebook using the default template you’ve set in your settings.

A new Notebook takes a bit more time to create. You can choose a notebook cover for the notebook to have a beautiful thumbnail on the homepage. GoodNotes supports many paper sizes (A3-A4, Letter, Tabloid and GoodNotes Standard). It has three paper colours (white, yellow and dark). These templates come in portrait and landscape modes. GoodNotes has a lot of paper templates for different purposes and the developers understand that these templates might not work for everyone. So they allow you to import and save custom paper templates to the app’s template library. You can name your new Notebook and tap Create when you’re done.

Paper Templates In GoodNotes

EssentialWriting PapersPlannerMusic
Blank
Dotted
Squared
Ruled Narrow
Ruled Wide
Cornell
Single Column Mix
Single Column
Three column
Two Column left
Two Column Right
Two Column
Accounting
Montly Planner B
Monthly Planner C
Todos
Weekly Planner A
Weekly Planner B
Guitar Score
Guitar Tablature
Music Paper
Paper templates in GoodNotes.

Pen Tool

GoodNotes has three different pen types (fountain, ball and brush). You can customise your pens at the far right end of the toolbar to change their colour and thickness. You can Edit your Pen Colour to add more colours to the palette or remove colours you don’t want. You can add colours using a Hex code, colour wheel or just pick one from the palette above the Hex code. In GoodNotes, you can move around your colours on the palette. Your pen sizes are in millimetres (from 0.1mm to 2.0mm). You can adjust them to the exact thickness you need.

For your Brush and Fountain pens, you can set Pressure Sensitivity. It has five levels (Min – Max) and these are measured in percentages. Pressure sensitivity makes your handwriting experience more realistic. The more pressure sensitivity you allow, the more realistic your pen strokes become. At maximum pressure sensitivity, the more pressure you put when writing with your Apple Pencil, the thicker your strokes become. If that is your preferred inking experience, you will enjoy the new update. 

For the Fountain pen, you can calibrate the tip sharpness. You can make it Round or Sharp. Again, this depends on the look you’re going for but GoodNotes has made the pen tool look as natural as possible. They have also added options to cater for different users.

GoodNotes saves three colours and three sizes at a time. Let’s hope we can save more in the future. The handwriting experience in GoodNotes has improved dramatically since iPadOS 13. Writing in the app feels great. There is no lag and palm rejection is excellent.

Zoom Tool

The first tool on the lower toolbar in GoodNotes is the zoom icon for adding tiny handwritten notes to fit more information on your page. The zoom window has navigating tools (arrows) on the right side for moving the tool while writing your notes and icons on the left for creating a margin for your page. When set to auto-advance in the app’s settings, the zoom window automatically moves as you take your notes. 

Highlighter

The highlighter goes behind your ink making your notes pop out. You can straighten your highlights by turning on the Draw in a Straight Line option to make them look neater. 

Eraser

One tap on the eraser selects it for use in the app. Another tap on it again (when it’s already selected) selects it for customisation. You can Clear Page to erase everything you have added to your page (annotations, text boxes). You can customise the eraser in GoodNotes to: 

  • Erase Entire Stroke
  • Erase Highlighter Only
  • Auto-Deselect 

When you turned on Auto-Deselect, GoodNotes automatically switches back to the tool you were using before the eraser. At the far right side of the toolbar, you can select the size of your eraser from the three available options. These are fixed and can’t be changed.

Shapes Tool

The shapes tool in GoodNotes supports regular, irregular shapes and arrows. It can fill colour your shapes with the same colour as the shape. The shapes tool has options you can turn on:

  • Require Hold to Snap
  • Snap to Other Shapes should more accurately be Snap to Other Strokes.
  • Fill Colour

You no longer need to tap the shapes tool to draw shapes in GoodNotes! Just draw and hold, exactly the way you do it in Notability. You can even draw shapes with your highlighter tool now. You can do the following with your shapes in GoodNotes:

  • Tap on it to select
  • Adjust points in your shape to adjust it. With your pen tool selected, touch your shape to start adjusting its corners.
  • Resize and rotate your shape using the lasso tool.
  • Draw perfect shapes with multiple strokes
  • Change auto-fill colour only for all the shapes that are not circular.
  • Move shapes around without the lasso tool, just tap on them while using the pen tool.

When you draw arrowheads on your curved lines they snap to the lines. Curved lines and arrowheads go well together. You can now draw perfect shapes with multiple strokes in GoodNotes thanks to the Snap to Other Shapes feature. You can then select and edit your shapes as a whole instead and not the single lines. GoodNotes can also auto-fill a shape that you draw with multiple strokes.

Text Tool

A text box appears around your text when typing and it disappears when you stop. You can select your text to make it strikeout, bold, italic or underline. The styling options are accessible on the far right end of the toolbar. You can choose your:

Double-tap on an empty space to start typing. To edit any text, tap on it and the app will give you options to Copy, Delete or Edit. This will let you edit the text box without bringing up the keyboard. You can change the colour of your text, for example. It is very thoughtful of our developers. The keyboard can be a bit annoying, especially when you just want to change something about your text without typing anything. 

You can now use some preset text boxes or use the advanced tools to tune up your text boxes to the way you like. You can choose the following:

  • Background Colour
  • Border Colour
  • Round Corner
  • Shadow
  • Border (thickness)
  • Padding

The last icon lets you Save as Default the customisation you’ve just made. Let’s hope they can let us add multiple favourite text styles in the future.

Lasso Tool

The lasso tool can selectively pick up only your: 

  • Handwriting
  • Images
  • Text boxes
  • All three at once

You have this much control over your lasso tool, which is great! Once you have selected a section, you can:

  • Take Screenshot to share with other apps.
  • Resize the section.
  • Convert handwriting to text.
  • Change the Color of your notes. 
  • Cut, Copy or Delete the section.

While resizing your section, you can also rotate it. GoodNotes has some preset colours to choose from when changing the colour of your notes and you can also select custom colours

Items You Can Add To Your Notes

You can add a few things to your notes when you tap the page with a plus icon on the top right corner of the top toolbar. You can

  • Add Page to the following locations, relative to your current notebook.
    • Before
    • After
    • Last page 
  • Add Image from Photos.
  • Scan Documents
  • Take Photo using the iPad camera.
  • Import documents from Files.

Photos

You can insert a photo from Photos. Once added, you can resize, rotate, stretch or shrink it.  You can crop your image (as a rectangle or freehand). You can share the image; just the image.

Scans

Scanning in the app is very easy. The ability to scan documents into documents you’re working on makes the iPad an awesome productivity tool! The best part about this scanning feature is you get to search the text in your scan! When scanning, make sure you scan your paper upright (depending on what mode your iPad is in). OCR in GoodNotes is not working on rotated pages. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

Handwriting Recognition

Handwriting recognition for converting your handwriting to text in GoodNotes is good. You can select your language from the lower right corner of the popup window. GoodNotes supports seventeen languages. Once your section has been converted, you can export it to other apps or copy & paste it into your notes. GoodNotes doesn’t automatically replace your handwritten section with the converted text. You even have to manually delete the handwritten section after pasting your conversion. They need to make this a one-step process.

iPadOS Support

Multitasking

GoodNotes supports multiple instances, which lets you open the same document twice. There are several ways you can open documents in multiple instances and the app still supports tabs in both instances. Split view still works with 25%, 50% and 75% ratios and you can also open more windows in slide over. Multiple instances and tabs make GoodNotes the best note-taking app for multitasking.

Dark Mode

GoodNotes does not support true dark mode. It only switches colours of your user interface. For a true dark mode experience, you have to use dark paper templates and white ink that don’t switch when you go back to light mode.

Gestures

  • 3-finger swipe to the left to undo. To redo, swipe to the right.
  • 2-finger swipe to select multiple items on the homepage.

Scribble

You can use Scribble in your text boxes. Once activated, you can write anywhere on the page and your writing will be converted to text and added to the text box.

Navigation & Document Editing

We will go through all the navigation icons on the toolbar from left to right, starting with the top toolbar followed by the lower one. The arrow on the far left corner takes you back to the homepage to exit the workspace.

Thumbnails & Favourites

The document thumbnail icon gives you a glance at your document. You can see your:

  • Thumbnails
  • Favourites
  • Outlines 

In this window, you can Select multiple pages or Select All to:

  • Copy
  • Rotate
  • Exporting
  • Mark as Seen
  • Trash for deleting.

The ability to select multiple pages makes GoodNotes a great app for document editing. The Mark as Seen option is for documents you’re collaborating with others. When someone makes some changes, you can Mark the pages as seen once you’ve gone through their changes. It will help you keep track of what you still need to look at.

Favourite your bookmarked pages. You can bookmark a page in Thumbnails view by taping the ribbon icon on the top right corner of each page thumbnail or from within the workspace with the bookmark icon. Each page thumbnail (under Thumbnails and Favourites) has a down-facing arrow with editing options for individual pages. You can:

Outlines

Outlines display the table of contents in your document; particularly useful for PDF reading. This section will, of course, be empty if your document doesn’t have an outline. You can filter the outline show PDF outlines (which come with your documents) or Custom Outlines you have created yourself. Find out how you can create an outline in GoodNotes. 

Notebook Title

The title for your notebook is in the middle of your top toolbar. Tapping on it (the title) lets you edit the name. This section also contains document info (location, last edit and number of pages). You can Move to a Different Folder. Next, on the left corner are undo and redo icons.

The Apple Pencil icon activates and deactivates your Apple Pencil. When the icon is crossed, the Apple Pencil is activated. You can handwrite your notes in the app.  When encircled it is deactivated and you can tap hyperlinks in your document. Hyperlinks don’t respond to your fingers’ touch when your Apple Pencil is activated. The last icon on the top toolbar is the three dots icon with options to:

  • Copy Page 
  • Rotate This Page
  • Add This Page to Outline
  • Change Template
  • Go to Page (skip pages in your document)
  • Clear Page
  • Some Settings on (as those found on the Homepage): 
    • Scrolling Direction
    • Stylus & Palm Rejection
    • Document Editing
  • Experimental Features:

Three-dots Icon

The three-dots icon at the far right corner of your screen has more options:

  • Copy Page
  • Rotate This Page
    • Clockwise 90o
    • Counter Clockwise 90o
    • 180o
  • Add This Page to Outline
  • Change Template
  • Go to Page for skipping to the exact page you want.
  • Clear Page

Settings

  • Scrolling Direction: Horizontal or Vertical
  • Stylus & Palm Rejection
  • Document Editing

Experimental Features

Searching

You can search your notes in the workspace. GoodNotes searches through your handwritten notes, PDF, text and scans. Your search results are organised into Notes and Outlines.

Exporting Options

The export icon lets you:

  • Export This Page to export your currently opened page only.
  • Export All to export all the pages in the document.
  • Export, which we do not recommend.

GoodNotes exports notes in four formats: PDF (flattened/editable), images and GoodNotes. PDFs and images can be exported to other apps and non-GoodNotes users. The GoodNotes format only opens in the GoodNotes app and it is for sharing with GoodNotes users only. 

Learn how to create hyperlinks in GoodNotes

FeaturePDFImageGoodNotes
Include Page BackgroundOptionalOptionalForced
Include AnnotationOptionalOptionalForced
PDF Data FormatEditable/Flattened
Export Image as Zip FileOptional
Exporting options in GoodNotes

Presentation Mode

On the export icon, you can activate Presentation mode. You have three presentation options in GoodNotes:

  • Mirror Entire Screen for your audience to see what you are seeing.
  • Mirror Presenter Page doesn’t show the user interface, but shows your pages the same way you see them
  • Mirror Full Page if you don’t want your audience to see your user interface and how zoomed in your pages are.

You get a laser pointer for pointing at items you’re discussing during your presentation. Your pointer can either be a dot or a trail (for writing). Whatever you write using the laser pointer disappears a few seconds after you lift off your Apple Pencil from your screen.

Collaboration

You can collaborate on your notes in GoodNotes. Go to the export icon and tap Collaborate. Turning on the Link Sharing generates a link you can share with other GoodNotes users. Syncing is now in real-time for some users. They are slowly rolling out so some users that might still be having the 15-30s delay when they make changes to documents. Shared Documents removes the pains of sending and receiving back multiple copies of your notes. It also makes it easier for many people to work together on the same document.

You can see all the people collaborating on your notes. However, at this point, you can’t remove individuals once they have joined your collaboration space. GoodNotes doesn’t have the collaboration option to add people by email yet. 

Potential Uses For Students:

  • Easily share and update lecture notes.
  • Brainstorm and work together on research projects.
  • Get your assignments marked and graded.
  • Share annotated readings.

Potential Uses For Professionals:

  • Brainstorm ideas with coworkers on one digital document
  • Getting signatures from multiple people. We don’t advise signing on collaboration documents. It’s better to sign flattened PDF documents.
  • Easily share meeting minutes.
  • Share files with coworkers on the same project.
  • Share calendars, grocery shopping lists, meal plans or travel journals with your loved ones.
  • Play Tic Tac Toe or Battleships.

Shared Documents still has a few limitations, which hopefully, our developers can work on. 

  1. No control over the permissions we give the people with whom we share our notes.
  2. We can only collaborate on individual documents. It would be great to collaborate on folders too. That is something that can be useful for teams especially.
  3. When you want to remove someone from collaborating with your group, you have to generate a new link and make sure the person you’re trying to get rid of doesn’t get it. In the future hopefully, we can remove people just as easily as we add them. 

The Homepage

On the homepage, you can arrange your documents according to Date, Name or Type. Your documents can display as thumbnails or lists. The selection icon (top left corner) selects multiple documents that you can Export, Duplicate, Move or Trash

Organisation

GoodNotes supports folders within folders. You can have an infinite number of folders in GoodNotes, which is the best organisation option for a note-taking app. At the bottom of the homepage, you can view your Documents, Shared or Favourites. The Documents section shows all the documents in your app. Each document has a down-facing arrow that you can tap for some actions to:

  • Duplicate
  • Move
  • Open in New Window
  • Export All
  • Collaborate
  • Move to Trash

The Favourites section is for your favourite documents. You can filter them to see your favourite:

  • Any (all your favourite documents)
  • Documents Only
  • Pages Only
  • Folders Only

Your shared documents are those you’re collaborating on. You can filter them to see:

  • Owned by Anyone
  • Owned by Me
  • Owned by Others
  • Unseen Changes

You can also arrange your documents according to:

  • Share Date
  • Owner
  • Name
  • Modified

Universal Search

Universal search lets you search all the documents in your app; both handwritten and text. Searching through the app organises your search results, saving you a lot of time. Your search results are organised into: 

  • Written notes 
  • Titles 
  • PDFs
  • Document outlines 
  • Typed notes

App Settings

On the Settings icon, under Settings, you can customise the following: 

  • Handwriting Recognition
  • Document Editing
  • Stylus & Palm Rejection
  • iCloud Settings
  • Email to GoodNotes
  • Backup Data
  • Automatic Backup
  • Searching Index
  • Troubleshooting

Handwriting Recognition

You can set the default language for handwriting recognition in your app under Handwriting Recognition. GoodNotes supports 17 languages (English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Traditional Chinese and Turkish).

Document Editing

Under Document Editing, you can prevent your iPad from locking the screen automatically. When you turn this off, your iPad does not sleep when GoodNotes is open. It drains your battery life.

Turning off Status Bar hides the time and battery level on your iPad, giving the app a minimalist look. Pull to add page is a shortcut for adding new pages (with the previous page template) to your notes. When turned off, you have to add new pages using the plus icon. The gesture is faster. You can choose the position for your toolbar: top/bottom.

For the zoom window, you can turn on auto-advance. The app automatically moves your zoom tool as you write and you don’t have to do it yourself. I always struggle with the tool when trying to move onto the next line. The app doesn’t show your previous line in the zoom window, which is why I don’t use this feature. 

Automatically open new imported documents does exactly what it says when turned on. Open Documents as New Tabs lets you open your documents in new tabs. If you turn it off, the app replaces your opened notes with the new note you open from the homepage. 

Stylus & Palm Rejection

Styluses & Palm rejection gives you options to choose a smart stylus and customise your Apple Pencil (Single Finger Panning, sensitivity and writing posture). Under smart stylus, GoodNotes only supports the  following styluses: 

  • Apple Pencil 1st generation
  • Apple Pencil 2nd generation
  • Logitech Crayon
  • All non-Bluetooth capacitive styluses

 Single finger panning allows you to scroll through your pages with one finger (when your Apple Pencil is connected and active). When you turn it off, you can only scroll with two fingers. You can set the sensitivity of palm rejection in the app. There are three levels: high, medium and low. For the best handwriting experience, high sensitivity is best. You can also choose your writing posture. The app has eight possible positions.

iCloud Settings

You can enable iCloud to sync across your devices. GoodNotes syncs all your documents without a problem. Sometimes you have to wait a few seconds when you open the app if any documents need syncing.

Backup 

You can manually back up your notes under Backup Data or auto backup under Automatic Backup. You can auto backup to Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive. When you turn on auto backup, you are asked to sign in to a Cloud service of your choice. You can:

  • name your Destination Folder
  • choose to backup as PDFs, GoodNotes file or both
  • exclude some folders or files containing certain words
  • view folders that are queueing (waiting in-line) for backup
  • empty the queue to stop backing up your notes
  • pause the backup

On the homepage, at the top left corner is a backup progress icon. You can tap it to get Progress Details for ongoing syncing or you can pause syncing if you like.

Search Index

Search Indexing lets you allow GoodNotes to index your PDFs and handwritten notes. GoodNotes gives you the option to turn this off when really it is not up to you. When disabled, you can’t search through your documents (they will not be searchable). Troubleshooting lets you restore default templates and regenerate missing thumbnails.

Trash Bin

Most apps just call it one or the other, but GoodNotes calls it both! The Trash Bin lets you restore your documents you’ve accidentally deleted. You can import data from GoodNotes 4. Moving from GoodNotes 4 to GoodNotes 5 is a walk through the park. That was very thoughtful. You can rate the app and read about it

The homepage now has a new shortcut icon for auto backup. It gives you details on your last backup (date and time) and lets you pause or see progress details of ongoing backups.

Experimental Features

GoodNotes timeline updates

Comments · 2

  1. Hi there I love you videos and keep up the good work. I have a question that maybe you could help me with.

    Microsoft documents such as word and PowerPoint aren’t imported to scale making it hard to read and edit. Sometimes it’s so off that the document page gets cut off or the full paragraphs won’t be on the same page. Even the font size changes significantly where in the word document it was just changed from 11-12. Notability however doesn’t have this issue. The documents are all to scale and the font size doesn’t get altered.

    Is there a way to go about this issue?

    Thank you so much:)

Any thoughts? Do tell, do tell!