GoodNotes App Ultimate Guide – Take good notes on iPad (FREE Goodnotes templates)

Attention paperless professionals: You CAN take searchable handwritten notes on your iPad and waste ZERO paper! Use a digital planner and write daily notes on the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

But since you’re here chances are that you already know it. So I wrote this easy guide to help you get familiar with the Goodnotes app and take searchable notes on iPad (it’s updated 2022).

Many people are enthusiastic about using their iPad Pro with Apple Pencil to write digital notes by hand. You may now jot down your ideas and remember them without wasting paper. All you need is an iPad, the Apple Pencil, and the Goodnotes 5 app, one of the best note-taking apps on the market.

With handwriting recognition, a powerful search feature that integrates with Dropbox or Google Drive, Goodnotes app will make your iPad the best productivity tool ever and your loyal accountability partner for your daily planning. And with the best free goodnotes templates, sky is the limit.

FYI… Here’s how I transformed my iPad into my best 2022 digital planner.

What is the Goodnotes 5

You may be familiar with the bulky paper notebooks, the never-ending phone to-do lists, and the fancy reMarkable tablet. But did you know you can take beautiful, searchable handwritten notes directly on your iPad Pro?

It’s time to meet Goodnotes 5 app–the great tool for note-taking that everyone is talking about.

The Goodnotes app is a smartphone and tablet note-taking application that allows users to create, edit, organize and share notes and annotations.

It’s simple, with an intuitive interface and powerful collaboration features that allow professionals to easily share notes with colleagues and partners. There are also a number of integrations for third party services such as Evernote, Dropbox and Google Drive to make file sharing and file backup simple.

How to use it

There are so many ways to use goodnotes from taking handwritten digital notes in endless digital notebooks and to annotating on imported PDF, images, and Powerpoint documents directly on your iPad. You may access your .goodnotes file with notes on any Apple device, but the iPad offers you with the most effective digital planning features.

download free 2022 digital planner goodnote

Why use a note-taking app on your apple devices?

I used to carry around a physical notebook and a stack of papers wherever I went. It was really troublesome and inefficient. Then I found out about the Good notes, which lets you write notes on your iPad using the Apple Pencil as if you’re writing on real paper.

The app has made my life so much easier and more organized. I no longer have to carry around a physical notebook and a stack of papers. I can just take my iPad and the Apple Pencil with me and I’m good to go.

It is user-friendly, easy to navigate and has a lot of helpful features like the handwriting recognition and the integration with Dropbox or Google Drive. The handwriting recognition is really accurate and it makes searching for my digital notes so much easier.

I no longer have to go through a stack of papers to find the one I’m looking for.

And I can access goodnotes online anytime, anywhere: using the integration with Dropbox or Google Drive I have full access to my digital planner from anywhere and on any apple devices. I can just pull up my notes on my laptop or my phone and I’m good to go.

My good note review–Overall, the goodnote for iPad is an amazing productivity tool for note taking and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a digital notebook solution. It has made my life so much easier and more organized. Look over all my specs below and give it a try (or, check my goodnotes tutorials on the youtube).

Starting April 2022, Goodnotes 5 is free to download and try it from the Appstore. And you’ll be able to create 3 digital notebooks to use. You can also import any of my FREE goodnotes planner templates (free account needed before downloading.)

Note-taking is for you if…

Note-taking is not for everyone. But it’s an excellent option if you’re often taking personal notes, family notes, work notes or, lecture notes … and you want to:

  1. stop carrying around so many heavy paper notebooks
  2. have all your notes and documents neatly organized and always with you
  3. take notes by hand (so you can remember them better), yet easily erase mistakes without leaving marks
  4. search and find what you wrote
  5. share your notes with family and colleagues

What CAN you do with Goodnotes 5

Whether you’re creating default digital notebooks or annotating imported PDF documents, you can use this note-taking app to:

  • write your plans inside your best digital planner
  • organize your thoughts inside a digital diary
  • write meeting notes using a simple meeting note template or a ready-to-use digital meeting planner
  • enjoy a quick access to your daily to-do list
  • scribble and share your project notes during ZOOM calls (share your iPad screen for everyone to see)
  • create a workout planner and track your fitness progress on all your devices
  • keep track of your meals inside a meal planner or meal diary

What you CAN’T do with Goodnotes 5

Using the Good notes5 app for digital note-taking is like writing on a paper notebook inside your tablet. So there are some limitations like:

✘ it does NOT sync with Google Calendar
✘ it does NOT sync with Outlook Appointments
✘ it does NOT send reminders
✘ it does NOT create links between notebook’s pages. (I know! A lot of us asked goodnotes the “link to another page” feature, but it’s just not there yet)

Digital Planner for iPad: Tools & Steps to Take Notes on iPad in 2023

10 Best practices

#1. Organize your notes in folders

Now it’s easy to organize your notes. Just create as many folders and subfolders as you need, then move digital notebooks between them. 

And you can choose to display all folders and digital planners as lists or as a grid for a comfortable experience.

To create a folder tap the + New > Folder Name the Folder > DONE

To move a folder tap the Arrow (next to the folder’s name) > Move Select a Location > Move

best goodnotes planner template

#2. Open digital planners in tabs or side by side

By far, this is one of the favorite features to have when working with the same digital planner every day. You’ll found it extremely helpful to have all these digital notebooks open in tabs and ready to use while taking notes on multiple documents at a time.

goodnotes template free digital planner

Plus, Goodnotes app has made multi-tasking easy: you can read an article on one side, and write digital notes on the other. Or easily drag and drop information from one note to another.

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Drag and drop in Goodnotes 5 app using Multi-tasking for iOS - digital planners

#3. Get organized inside a Notebook (using the Outlines)

Want a better structure for your digital planner? Then look it’s time to use the Outlines section to create chapters and easily navigate your notes. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go to the page you want to mark as the chapter’s first page
  2. Then tap the 4 rectangle icon in the top toolbar > the Thumbnails window will open
  3. Locate the chapter’s first page and click the small arrow beneath its thumbnail
  4. Tap Add Page to Outline
  5. Enter the title for this page, exactly as you want it to appear in the Outlines tab
  6. Go to Outlines and see all the defined chapters
free digital planner for goodnotes

#4. Search your handwriting effortlessly

Using the fantastic Search function, no matter how many digital notes and PDF files you have stored inside your library, you can quickly find the note you’re looking for, by searching a relevant keyword – whether handwritten or typed. If you’re in love with fancy fonts, learn how to install custom fonts on the iPad before using them Goodnotes.

OPTION 1: Search the Entire Library of Notebooks

For every Library Search, you’ll get organized results based on “Titles,” “PDFs,” “Document Outlines,” “Typed Notes,” and “Written Notes.” Plus, searching on Goodnotes only takes a few seconds (not minutes, like in other note-taking apps).

To search in your entire Library go to the main Dashboard and in the bottom bar tap the Search > type the Term > hit Search (in the keyboard)

OPTION 2: Search inside a Digital Notebook

To search inside a digital notebook only, open the notebook and on the top navigation tap the Search icon > type the Term > tap the page where the term was found.

#5. Annotate PDFs with ease

You can easily import a PDF document and start taking notes in seconds (assuming you have a good WiFi connection). To import a PDF file, go to Goodnotes 5 Dashboard, and tap +New > Import locate the PDF file > hit Select

import digital planner goodnotes

If you don’t have a PDF planner to try, download my goodnotes planner templates FREE to try today.

Once you’ve imported the PDF file in Goodnotes 5 app it will open in the Editing mode, which means that you can start adding notes straight away. Tap the Pen icon in the toolbar twice and select your Pen Style (I love the Ball Pen). If you want to type your notes, tap on the Text icon and tap anywhere on the screen to start typing your notes.

While you’re in the Editing Mode you can also:

  • Erase your handwritten text
  • Highlight any text on the page
  • Move images, or text around (using the lasso tool)
  • Add digital stickers or photos

HOWEVER, you can’t use the hyperlinks while you are in the Editing Mode.

To use the hyperlinks you must switch to the Viewing Mode by tapping the small icon with a Crossed Pen from the top right side of the toolbar.

This picture below shows you how the Toolbar looks in the VIEWING MODE (when you can click on the hyperlinks):

best free digital planner for goodnotes

#6. Navigate digital planners using the hyperlinks

I’ll say this again, if your digital notebook has hyperlinks, you’ll need to switch to the Viewing mode to use them. To do so, just tap once the Crossed Pen icon in the top right side of the Toolbar. While this requires some extra tapping and may disrupt the note-taking process, it can be useful in some cases to prevent clicking on hyperlinks while writing. I know it may feel frustrating, but that’s how the Goodnotes 5 work. This is one of the main reasons why I use the Noteshelf app for my daily digital notes.

This picture below shows you how the Toolbar looks in the EDITING MODE (when you can’t click on the hyperlinks) when I am using my Life-Work Outline Planner.

And while I show you more about Goodnotes, make sure you also check these 10 best goodnotes templates to take better notes at work.

goodnotes 5 digital planner template

#7. Use templates to organize daily, good notes

Goodnotes 5 comes with a set of basic templates for portrait and landscape notebooks. Just go to Template Library and choose from various covers and paper templates, from the graph, dotted, and lined paper, to weekly planners. Plus, you can easily add your custom templates to create the notebook you want.

To access the Template Library go to the main Goodnotes 5 Dashboard and hit the Gear icon > Notebook Templates.

goodnotes 5 default digital templates
goodnotes 5 default digital templates

In my BESTSELLER Digital Planners, I have also included a fantastic collection of digital templates to enhance the planning experience. The advantages of using these built-in template pages (instead of the basic Goodnotes templates) is that:

  1. you’ll still see the right side navigation on the template page too (just like in your entire digital planner)
  2. you won’t mess up the monthly tabs hyperlinks when copy-pasting a built-in template to a new location.

Here’s just an image of my Planning Templates included in the Life-Work Outline Planner, however there are so many more page templates available inside. So if you want to try them, download my FREE Digital Planners for Goodnotes (digital notebooks samples) and get started today.

goodnotes template free digital planner

BTW, if you scroll to point #9 you’ll see the steps to copy and paste a built-in template from the EXTRA section to your preferred location.

#8. Add, move or delete pages easily

Goodnotes 5 is a great app when it comes to managing digital notebook pages without losing your mind and your work! 

You can easily add pages, move or delete one or multiple pages at once, duplicate pages, change a page template or rotate a page without changing the whole document. 

To edit pages, go to the 4 rectangle icon > Thumbnails and start playing around.

goodnotes template free digital planner

#9. Copy-paste pages without messing up the hyperlinks

You can also copy-paste one or multiple pages in a new location. It is handy when you’re using built-in templates inside a digital planner.

With the Copy-Paste function, you can copy a template page and paste it ANYWERE inside the planner, without messing up the right-side monthly tabs’ hyperlinks.

To quickly copy a page go to that page and select the 3 Dots icon > Copy page.

To paste that page go to the new location and tap the + icon > Paste Page.

copy page goodnotes-5
paste page goodnotes 5

#10. Easily share your notes

You’ll love to hear that, you can export editable or flattened PDF files, images or .goodnotes formats. This comes in very handy when you’ll need to share your good notes. You’ll be able to export one page, multiple pages or the entire document and share it with your clients, colleagues, friends or family members.

What’s also amazing about Goodnotes is that you can share a link to your notebook, so you and your colleagues can collaborate in real time.

BTW, if you’re looking for a top-quality digital planner to help you lead your team to results, you’ll love my WORK Digital Planner Goodnotes Templates. The planner comes with a wealth of features to help you get the most out of your planning, including:

-Task Management

-Set and track goals

-Undated pages for easy re-use

-Notes section for projects or meetings

-Add images, PDFs, and more

Moreover, the Outline Planner Digital Planners are perfect for anyone who wants to get the most out of their planning. You will LOVE them!

goodnotes template free digital planners

7 Best Goodnotes features to love

  • Settings flexibility – in Goodnotes 5 I can opt for top/bottom toolbar that can improve my digital handwriting experience. I do however like the default option with the top editing toolbar.
  • Easy to work with images/stickers once you add them to the Elements tool (a much loved goodnotes widget). This way you can create your own elements and use them with ease.
  • Easy drag & drop text, photos from other apps into Goodnotes 5 with Multitasking
  • Great handwriting experience – great sizes and color choices for the ink, and highlighter. Also, I can easily customize them with my own colors and stroke thickness.
  • Advanced lasso tool – This works very well! I can move the selection around the page, copy it, delete it, resize it or rotate it! For the handwritten content I can also change the pen color or convert it to text.
  • The eraser tool works super smooth – it can delete parts of the stroke, the entire stroke or the highlighter only, giving me so much more flexibility when taking notes
  • Presentation Mode available – this is a killer feature when you need to present in front of an audience. Just mirror your screen and you’re good to go. I did not use this feature yet, but I hope I’ll have the chance to use it soon. To use this feature just tap the Share icon and choose to Collaborate, Export your pages or, enter a Presentation Mode.
download free 2022 digital planner goodnotes

7 Reasons NOT to LIKE Goodnotes 5 (and why I’ve chosen Noteshelf)

  • You can’t add links to pages – Being able to add a link from one particular note (like the client’s name) to another page inside your notebook (like the client’s profile page or project’s page) may be excellent. Still, Goodnotes has not yet implemented this feature.
  • POOR Performance and speed – This is the main reason I do not use Goodnotes 5 as my main note-taking app. You may experience Goodnotes 5 as being laggy or slow; files do not import correctly, and the app crashed on files bigger than 7-10MB (so pay attention if you’re using a lot of images or stickers).
  • Requires a considerable storage space on my iPad – Definitely, Goodnotes 5 app has a lot to improve in this chapter. It easily exceeds 1 GB of storage. Since I like to keep my digital planners and notebooks inside the app for 1-2 years, keeping the storage size as decent as possible is necessary.
  • Unproductive and less intuitive toolbar layout – If you wish for a simpler and more organized toolbar, Goodnotes 5 may not be for you. I suggest to try Noteshelf app instead.
  • Not so easy to bookmark and label a page – This is a very useful feature whenever I need to bookmark a client profile page, or a particular meeting. However, in Goodnotes 5 app there is no straight forward and efficient way to do this. You can bookmark a page (add to Favorites), but you can’t label that bookmark. A workaround would be to go to Thumbnails or Favorites tab, click on the small arrow on the bottom left of a page thumbnail, and tap Add Page to Outline. You will be prompted to add a page title and you’ll find this new labeled page inside the Outlines tab.
  • DOES NOT HAVE the Record and playback audio – This is a killer feature that GoodNotes 5 does NOT have. Would have been so useful to audio record my meetings or skype discussion while talking notes on my dedicated Digital Clients Book. Hopefully the team will include this into a feature app update. If this feature is essential for you, try Notability app instead.
  • DOES NOT recognize dates links, emails and phone numbers so I CAN’T add events to the calendar, call a phone number or write an email.
  • Goodnotes insert table – wouldn’t it be easier to have a way to create tables vs using the shape draw too? For now, you can create a table in a Microsoft app for example, and then just copy / paste to goodnotes from there
  • Goodnotes hyperlink to another page – this is a much desired feature that is not yet (or ever) implemented. If you want to add a hyperlink to another page inside your notebook, try and use Zoomnotes instead
  • How to create an index in goodnotes – since you can’t add links, you can’t create index pages either. What you can do it use the Outline Feature to put your chapter titles for a bit more quicker access.
  • goodnotes 5-2 page view – at the moment you can only see one page at a time, however, would be very helpful to be able to see 2 pages at a time. For now you can use the split screen feature, although my idea is to see 2 consecutive pages from the same notebook, and not pages from different notebooks
  • Go Back / Go to Page buttons – I got used to these 2 buttons when working in Goodnotes 4 (“Go Back” no longer exist in Goodnotes 5 app – such a pity!) so I could see how massively useful they are! If there is one NEW feature that I would like to see implemented in Goodnotes 5 that would be the “Go Back” Button
  • At the moment Goodnotes 5 is for iOS only; A good notes 5 windows or android friendly app is NOT available

If I convinced you try one of the best note-taking apps for iPad, then go and download it from the App Store (you can also find it by searching for “good notes 5 windows” in a Safari window).

GoodNotes Pricing: FREE to try

Recently Goodnotes have switched to a FREE trial model.

So you can get started with 3 free notebooks, then go limitless and unlock the full GoodNotes experience whenever you want.

EXTRA goodies…

Once you decide on using Goodnotes 5, you can go even farther. Because, handwriting is a lovely experience with the right tools! And writing with the Apple Pencil or Stylus (check my article on Apple Pencil vs Stylus + 3 Best iPad Stylus options) is as close as it gets to writing on paper. Yet, there’re extra things you can do to make your experience even better:


UNLOCK the Freebies Vault

Once you get familiar with Goodnotes app, go ahead and claim a free account in my FREEBIES Vault. You’ll get to download 17+ FREE goodnotes planner templates to play with. Bonus: you’ll also be able to try my bestsellers.

Lastly, make sure you’re using lag-free digital planners (optimized PDF planners) to avoid the lag when writing or scrolling the pages.

If you want to dive in straight away, check my premium digital planners in the shop:

More on digital planners

(and some info about the Outline Planners Best Templates)

2 responses to “GoodNotes App Ultimate Guide – Take good notes on iPad (FREE Goodnotes templates)”

  1. Karen Avatar

    I use Goodnotes 5 and I have multiple notebooks. In one of the notebooks, The pages icon (4 rectangle) has a number next to it (like a notification) but when I click on it I can’t figure out what it corresponds to.
    Any ideas?

    1. Ralu Petrea Avatar

      Hi, Goodnotes 5 is having a lot of glitches ever since the Goodnotes 6 was released. So I assume that is one of them. Best option would be to upgrade both the Goodnotes app and the iOS.

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