Why I permanently left Notability for Noteful

I had been trying to replace Notability for years. There was a time I moved to ZoomNotes, but that was a short-lived transition. Mostly because ZoomNotes is very complicated and required time to learn, which I simply didn’t have at the time. Let’s go through the reasons Noteful was able to completely replace Notability in my workflow.

My top reasons

Noteful is as stable as Notability

There are two main reasons Noteful stole my heart in an instant. First of all, the app is as stable as Notability, even GoodNotes is not that stable. As a general rule, we don’t focus on bugs when reviewing apps in the hope that developers will fix them (which they do). However, because we try apps so much we constantly deal with a lot of bugs. An unstable app is, therefore, not hard to spot.

Noteful is very stable, so much so that we are yet to see a bug. That is not to say the app is perfect, it just means that everything (good and bad) you experience in the app is predictable. Predictable apps have no surprises, which translates to fewer distractions in a workflow.

Audio recording syncs to notes

The second reason Noteful was a perfect replacement for Notability was its audio recording feature. It syncs to notes; the best kind of audio recording in a note-taking app. I do miss the feature in Notability though, the animations and especially the ability to skip through the audio from your notes. However, I don’t record much audio these days anyway. So, I don’t really need that feature as often. Hopefully, our developer can add it to the app.

Great writing tool

A third, but minor decision, for my switch was the handwriting feel in Noteful. I never understood why I couldn’t write in GoodNotes for a long time. Each time I tried switching to GoodNotes, I couldn’t finish writing a page of notes, without my hand hurting. In Noteful, I did not experience that. Its fountain pen feels like the brush pen (my favourite) in GoodNotes. So, that made it easy to switch.

There are several reasons Noteful outshines Notability and those were just the perks I got for switching. They could be good reasons to choose the app over Notability if you haven’t bought a note-taking app yet.

Cheaper

For new users, those of you looking to buy a note-taking app to start your digital transformation journey, Noteful is only $4.99. You pay for it once and it’s yours for life. Notability on the other hand costs $14.99/year if you’re a new user. The awesome thing is, that you can try both apps to see which one is better for you. That way, you can decide if Notability is worth paying a subscription for.

Superb organisation

Notability improved its organisation to allow up to 5 levels of folders-within-folders. Noteful’s organisation is much cooler, especially for 2022. You can create universal tags to use as your folders. Creating subfolders is very easy, simply add a forward slash to create hierarchies. It has never been this easy! Another cool thing about tags is that a notebook can belong to multiple folders. That’s just awesome!

You can also pin your notebooks in Noteful, a feature you don’t have in Notability. It helps when you can pin documents you’re currently working on. It makes them easier to access.

User interface

The user interface in the app is minimalist, particularly if you put your toolbar to the sides. You can have it on any side of your screen: left, right, bottom or top. You can also remove your Status Bar for an even more minimalist look. Most features are easier to access in Noteful as well, where you’d require two or three steps in Notability.

Noteful supports tabs, if that is something you like, then you’ll love the app. The tab bar can either be at the top or bottom of your screen. The app tends to look cluttered when you put the tool and tab bars on the same side, it’s a good thing we can avoid it.

Shape and picture transparency

You can adjust the opacity of your shapes in Noteful. Finally, an app with that feature! You can have a translucent shade for your autofill and your borders can be different styles.

You can also adjust the opacity of your images, in Noteful, add a frame with different colours and thicknesses. The app also has a better lasso tool, which is selective. You can decide to pick up just the handwriting, highlights, text boxes, images & shapes only or any combination you like. Notability’s nonselective lasso tool is tiring.

Page editing

Noteful has a very cool feature that copies page templates in your notebook. You can add the current page to your notebook. For our minimalist digital notebooks, it copies them exactly as they are, with hyperlinks. You can’t tell apart pages that you added while in the app from those already in the notebook when you imported it. That’s the easiest way to duplicate pages in a note-taking app.

You can also add different page templates to one notebook and you’re not limited to your app’s templates. You can import page templates and even documents. That way, your new document goes exactly where you want it. In Notability, all your imported documents go to the bottom of the opened document. Then you have to move them. With multiple page selection, it’s no longer that terrible, but still, Noteful does it in fewer steps.

After what felt like a millennium, Notability finally brought page rotation to the app. But alas, it did not rotate your ink! With digital note-taking, page rotation is an absolutely necessary feature. Notability, a subscription app, still doesn’t have it in 2022! That, ladies and gentlemen, is unacceptable.

In Noteful, you can zoom in and out of your page thumbnails. It’s a cool feature, just thought to mention it!

Remember the cool tags we mentioned earlier? Well, they don’t just work on documents, they also work on pages. You can tag pages for easier access on the homepage. How impressive is that!? Universal tags are certainly the best way to organise your digital notes.

Page layers

In Noteful, you can add page layers. For each page, you can see what a layer contains. Layers are a smart way to annotate documents without permanently saving your annotations to them. You can then still share original documents without your annotations, a feature that Notability does not have.

Outline

Noteful can recognise outlines in your PDFs. The fun part is that you can add to your outline as well. Another cool feature, which most people have been requesting from GoodNotes; nested outlines! You can nest your outlines (as much as you want) in Noteful, which is super impressive.

Missing features from Noteful

Of course, Notability does a few things better. Noteful does not do the following:

  • Convert your handwriting to text: I don’t convert sections of handwriting to text, I tend to convert complete documents. That is why for my handwriting conversion needs, I always use Nebo instead.
  • Pick accurate colours for your writing tools. Let’s hope we get a Hex code or colour picker option in the app soon.
  • Backup to many cloud services, it only backs up to Google Drive at the moment.
  • Scan document: again, this is something we recommend doing outside of the app to keep your notebooks small.
  • Create small files, as Notability does. GoodNotes seems worse though, but not by much. We’ll do more experiments to test that. Noteful’s ability to export the best Graphics Quality seems to create smaller PDFs for exporting than what you get in Notability, though. Again, it requires further testing.

Which of these features did you like the most? Noteful has been my go-to app since November 2021. We’ll be working on a full review of Noteful soon, to help you fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of the app.

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