GoodNotes on the iPad (2022 review)

PROS

  • Real-time collaboration
  • Comment on documents
  • Move pages between notebooks

CONS

  • Creates big documents/files that take up too much storage space

Rating: 9/10

Pricing & supported OS

GoodNotes is a handwriting note-taking app by Time Base Technology Limited. It is available on the iPad, iPhone and Mac for an in-app, one-time purchase of $7.99, for all your devices (universal purchase). That is, GoodNotes on Mac is free, once you’ve bought it on the iPad. The app, however, is not available on Android, Windows or ChromeOS.

To date, we have only paid for one massive update, but they later made it free (after some users had already bought though). The app is free to try. You get three free notebooks after which you must pay for the app to continue creating more notebooks. That should be enough to decide if the app is right for you, right? Finally, developers are seeing the importance for users to try their apps first.

Getting started: creating notes

When creating a new notebook in GoodNotes you can customise it. The app supports many different paper sizes, which can either be portrait or landscape. Each template can be one of three colours: white, yellow or dark. If you’re unhappy with the app’s templates, you can import and save your own to the application’s template library. Learn more about other ways to get started in GoodNotes. The app also has notebook covers as well as an option to not use any. You can also import documents from Files, and take photos or scans to get started in GoodNotes.

Pen tool

GoodNotes has three types of pens: fountain, ball & brush. You can customise each to change its colour, thickness and sometimes, pressure sensitivity and tip sharpness. The toolbar can only house three pen colours & thicknesses, at a time. It might not be enough if you like using a lot of pens, you’ll find yourself trying to replace some from time to time.

GoodNotes’ handwriting experience is good. There is no lag and palm rejection is perfect. You won’t be drawing any unwanted strokes when you rest your palm on the screen.

Zoom tool

The zoom tool zooms sections of your page. You can set it to auto-advance, so it moves automatically as you take your notes. You can also add a margin, a point (on the page) where the tool will start from as it auto advances.

Highlighter

The highlighter goes behind your ink, which makes your notes pop out. If you layer it, it won’t dim your notes. You can straighten it out for neater highlights if you prefer that. 

Eraser

GoodNotes has three types of erasers: precision, standard and stroke. Each has a different level of accuracy when erasing items on your page. The eraser has three fixed-size options (which you can’t change). 

You can clear all the annotations on a page to erase everything you have added to it. Your eraser in GoodNotes can also erase just the highlighter only. Auto-deselect automatically switches back to the tool you were using before the eraser.

Lasso tool

The lasso tool can selectively pick up different items or a combination of items in your notes. For example, you can choose to pick up your handwriting only, ignoring the images, text boxes and comments on the page. You then get options to:

  • Take a screenshot for exporting out of the app
  • Resize and rotate. GoodNotes does this simultaneously. You can’t do one at a time.
  • Change the colour of your notes or shapes. 
  • Cut, copy or delete the selection.

Unfortunately, the lasso tool does not move your selection across pages. You have to rely on cutting and pasting to do that.

Items you can add to your notes

Shapes

You can draw irregular & regular shapes, as well as curves & arrows in GoodNotes, using either the pen or highlighter tool. The app can automatically transform your shapes and snap edges together, which makes drawing shapes a piece of cake. Reshaping irregular shapes you’ve already drawn is also simple.

You can also draw auto-filled shapes in GoodNotes, but you can adjust the opacity of the fill. The shape border and fill can be different colours (but not for circular shapes).

Text

A text box appears around your text when typing, and it disappears when you stop. You can strikeout your text; make it bold, italic or underline. You can also change the following aspects of your text:

Text box style

GoodNotes has some preset text box styles. But you can customise your own by changing the background & border colours, round corners, border thickness and padding. You can also add a shadow to your text box and save one favourite text style box as a default style.

You can add web links to your text in GoodNotes. Links have a dashed underline and a slightly dimmer colour shade than the rest of your text, that’s how you can tell them apart. They open in your default web browser and you can also easily copy or edit them.

The fun with digital notes comes from all the items you can add to them.

Photos

You can insert a photo from Photos or take one with your iPad camera. GoodNotes supports PNG images. Once added, you can resize, rotate, stretch or shrink your image. You can crop it, even with freehand. In GoodNotes you can share the image, just the image, out of the app.

Scans

GoodNotes uses the iPadOS native scanning technology to add scans to your notes. Since GoodNotes generally creates massive documents, it’s better to scan documents elsewhere. You can then optimise your scan before importing it into the app. The OCR technology in GoodNotes lets you search your scans. You can also highlight the text in your scans.

Stickers

You can add stickers to your notes. The app has 5 free collections. You can also create your stickers to build custom collections or edit existing ones. Your stickers can be from anything the lasso tool can pick up. You can also import photos into different collections.

You can share sticker collections as zipped files. You can also import them into the app as zipped files from the Files app. You can, therefore, now use stickers you bought from third parties.

Handwriting recognition

GoodNotes can convert your handwriting to text. It supports 17 languages. The setup in GoodNotes allows you to keep both your handwriting and converted text. This works when you have to convert small sections. To convert complete documents, Nebo is a better app for that.

iPadOS support

  • GoodNotes supports multiple instances, which lets you open the same document twice. There are several ways you can open documents in multiple instances. It also supports tabs and you can also open more windows in slide over.
  • GoodNotes does not support true dark mode. Dark paper templates get you close to that until you switch 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.
  • You can use Scribble to handwrite your text. It’s quite straightforward, which is great.

GoodNotes had a second toolbar that goes above your tabs. You can view all the pages in your document. You can work on one page to:

  • Add a page before/after it
  • Duplicate
  • Move the page to other folders or notebooks in the app
  • Add the page to the outline
  • Export
  • Open the page in a new window
  • Delete the page

You can also select multiple pages copy, rotate, export, move or delete them. In this window, you can also see your bookmarked pages, under Favourites. You can also bookmark pages here or from within your workspace.

You can also add pages to your notebook. GoodNotes can support different page templates in one notebook. Your new page can also be a photo or scan.

When your PDF has a table of contents, you can see it under Outlines. You can choose to see the outline that came with your document or the one you created yourself. Find out how you can create an outline in GoodNotes. 

Three-dots icon

The three-dots icon has more options for things you can do in the app:

  • Copy the page
  • Rotate it
  • Add it to the outline of the notebook for creating a custom table of contents (we mentioned earlier).
  • Change the page template
  • Skip to a specific page
  • Clear page
  • Move page to the recycle bin
  • Change the scrolling direction; GoodNotes supports both vertical and horizontal scrolling
  • Customise the settings for your stylus & palm rejection, as well as document editing
  • Document editing

GoodNotes has been running this Study Flash Cards experiment since October 2020. When are they going to make it a permanent feature? Whatever the case, it’s better to use a dedicated flashcards app. For that, we recommend Kyoku Flashcards.

Searching

GoodNotes searches through your handwritten notes, PDF text and scans. It organises your search results into terms found in your notes and those found in your outlines.

Collaboration

You can collaborate on your notes using links. Anyone with your link can access the document in their GoodNotes app. The app is still testing out a web view for those who don’t have GoodNotes. There is still little control over permissions and how much people can do with your document. But, at least you can collaborate in real-time. Now, with the ability to comment on documents, collaboration in GoodNotes continues to improve.

When someone makes changes or comments on a shared note, you get a notification. You can then mark the changes you’ve seen to stay organised. For a handwriting note-taking app, GoodNotes has an impressive collaboration feature.

Presentation mode

You can present your notes from GoodNotes in three different modes, you can either display your:

  • Entire screen so your audience sees everything you are seeing.
  • Presenter page to hide your user interface.
  • Full pages which don’t show your audience zoomed in your pages are.

The laser pointer can either be a dot or a trail. Whatever you write with it disappears a few seconds after you lift off your Apple Pencil from your screen.

Exporting options

In GoodNotes, you can share single pages, selected pages or entire documents out of the app. They can either be PDFs, images or GoodNotes (native format). Each format has different export options that you can learn more about here. It’s important to have the ability to share your notes out of your note-taking app.

Homepage

On the homepage, you can view all your documents, shared and favourite ones. They can display as either thumbnails or lists and you can arrange them according to name, name and type. You can select multiple documents that you can export, duplicate, move or delete.  

GoodNotes supports infinite hierarchy levels of folders within folders. Your Favourites displays both documents and pages for easier access.

You can search all the documents in your app, with universal search. GoodNotes organises your search results into: 

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

To understand the app settings and what they each mean, check out our comprehensive user guide for GoodNotes here. In 2022, GoodNotes remains one of the best note-taking apps you can buy. It gives you value for your money, especially if you like collaborating on your documents. However, it still creates massive files, which makes it work better on devices with bigger storage. We’re still waiting for the GoodNotes community that was supposed to be released with their version 5.8. Not sure what’s happening with our developers.

We always turn down sponsorships from developers who try to compromise our unbiased evaluations. Above all else, we treasure objective and honest reviews to help you pick the right tools for your digital transformation. Support Paperless X, from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.

Learn more about GoodNotes

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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:)

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