Notability App for iPad – My Go-to Digital Note Taking App for Lectures, Webinars and Brainstorming

Take QUICK digital notes during lectures or meetings. Use the voice recording feature and never miss the essentials of any discussion. Get a better overview of your iPad notes with the split-view feature. And keep your digital notebooks safe with the auto-backup feature.

Taking notes in Notability app

What is Notability app

Notability is one of the top selling paid PDF annotations apps on iPad App Store, well known as a smooth digital note-taking & annotation app.

With a lovely writing experience, a nice user interface and a great performance, Notability is preferred by students, teachers, and business professionals to go paperless on a daily life. You can use it on your iPhone, iPad and Mac, however I only use it on my iPad to take quick notes and to brainstorm ideas that will get deleted at the end of the day.

If you’re new to digital note-taking read my article about 13 Ways To Improve Taking Notes on the Apple iPad Pro.

During 2019 I have used Notability side by side with Goodnotes 5 or Noteshelf. And now I am going to reveal why and how I love to use it.

Notability app is my go-to app to take uber-fast notes, add explanations on my client work mock-ups, brainstorm ideas, write quick lists, and record webinars that I can listen later.

Notability app for iPad does not require many steps to get started, or any prep time. Just create a note and start writing, keep it handy or share it with a team member. However, I only use Notability for temporary notes that will get deleted shortly after I capture the relevant information on my well-crafted digital notebooks inside the Noteshelf app (which is better to organize files in folders / subfolders).

13 Best Noteshelf features to love

I love these features, although I am not using all of them on a daily basis. While using the app, you may find other features that are useful to your daily school / work routine so feel free to share your findings in the comments below.

#1. Low storage needed for my notes and audio recordings

Compared with Goodnotes 5 or Noteshelf, Notability is very light in term of iPad space usage. And the recordings files sizes are really low. So, this is very useful to know when you’re planning to keep your files inside your iPad for years to come.

#2. Automatic backups and faster synchronization of my notes

With Notability you have plenty of automated backup options to choose from. Use iCloud to automatically sync your notes to Notability on iPad, iPhone, and Mac, or to retrieve previous versions of your notes. Use Auto-backup to send your notes to a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, WebDAV, and OneDrive for archiving or recovery. Since most of my notes are temporary notes that get deleted at the end of the day, I am not keen about this feature. However, if you use Notability for all your files, then you’d better stay safe and backed them up.

Auto-backup and iCloud syncing in Notability app

#3. Record and playback audio

Notability allows you to record audio while taking notes. This is a killer feature that you can use during lectures, important meetings, phone calls, skype calls and more. While you can find something similar in Noteshelf, Goodnotes 5 does not support this at the moment. I use the record and playback audio feature mostly to record webinars while taking notes with relevant information. I don’t always re-listen the audios, but if there’s something important that I can’t remember properly I go back to those videos!

This is super useful!

For client’s meetings however I use Noteshelf to audio record the discussions, because I like to take short notes directly on my Client’s Digital Notebook (which stays in my Noteshelf app).

Audio record and playback in Notability app

#4. Split-view notes

The Multi-Note feature lets me work with two notes side-by-side inside the Notability app. It saves me a lot of time skipping the extra work. This does not happen in Goodnotes 5 (where you must tap a tab to check another document) or Noteshelf 2 (where you need to exit the active document, go back to the documents list and open the new one – really a lot of extra work guys!).

split view notes in Notability app

And if you want to go wild, use the multi-note feature together with the multitasking feature from iOS to open two Notability notes and any other app in the same time. Check this image below where I have opened a client’s webpage, scribbled some changes and created my design changes To DO List.

split view notes and multitasking in Notability app

#5. Performance and speed

I honestly think that in our times we should expect this by default. However, due to Goodnotes 5’s poor performance and stability issues (this did not happen in Goodnotes 4!), I need to highlight that Notability is indeed faster and more stable when it comes to rendering my custom-designed planners as long as the file size is lower than 10MB. However, from my experience, only Noteshelf app can open and render properly 10+ MB files .

#6. Vertical scrolling with continuous paper (no gap between the pages)

I love to take rough notes and draw basic sketches on Notability, and the continuous pages comes in very handy. However, if you are planning to export your notes or drawings as a PDF file, the drawings that overlay on 2 pages will get split into 2 pages inside the PDF file. Keep this in mind, if it’s important for you.

Vertical scrolling and continuous paper in Notability app

#7. Smooth writing experience

Writing in Notability feels similar to my writing experience when using pen and paper. However, since this is a matter of preferences, there are lots of other users who are enjoying Goodnotes and Noteshelf inking experience very much.

Ink experience in Notability app

#8. Handwriting to text conversion

This is an awesome functionality if you have a readable handwriting. Not my case, because I have an awful handwriting and I also write my notes mixing English and Romanian. Here’s the proof 🙂 below:

Handwriting to text conversion in Notability app

#9. Easy drag & drop text, media or web pages

I totally love the easy drag & drop text, photos, GIFs, web pages from other apps into Notability with Multitasking. Plus, Notability can recognize dates, links, emails and phone numbers so you can use them directly from your notes. Massively useful when you need to add an event to your calendar, call a number or write an email.

Drag and drop text in Notability app

#10. Preview for the hyperlinks

One feature that I could only find in Notability is the hyperlinks preview. This comes in very handy when using my pre-designed digital planner, fully packed with hyperlinks. Once I click a link or functional monthly tab, I get a window overlay with a rendering of the page I am about to visit.

Hyperlinks preview in Notability app

#11. Fits the screen width in landscape

Notability automatically snaps the page to fit the screen width in landscape. This comes in very handy when talking fast notes. In Notability, I usually write in landscape so I can write comfortably, without zooming the page. Then, I change to portrait when reading or highlighting the most important information.

Fit screen width in landscape view in Notability app

#12. Notability adds another page automatically

This may be a minor feature, but I do love to have the pages created automatically when talking quick notes. This way my writing process is smooth and continuous.

#13. The search feature

Notability search through your titles and content and displays a list with all found results. You will then have to scroll to check the results until you find what you’ve looked for. An organization of the results by handwritten text, type of document, text notes, etc would come in very handy.

4 Reasons NOT to LIKE Notability

  • The basic notes organization – Notability only allows you to create dividers and subjects to organize all your digital notes. This is ok, however if you’re like me, and like to have folders-within folders-within folder type of organization, then you may want to check Noteshelf 2 (recommended), or Goodnotes 5 (which is a bit buggy at the moment)
  • Lasso tool – Ok, this is pretty basic and it deserves some extra love, guys! I am so used to rotate text or images, or resize the selections using this tool, but I can’t do any of this inside Notability.
  • Paper customization – You can’t move multiple pages or change template (size, orientation color) on one page without changing the whole document. Or, am I missing something here?
  • Table of content – Unfortunately THIS IS A MUST HAVE for me. For all my master digital planners I have created a Table of Content (or Outline) that it is very useful during the file navigation. I use this in Noteshelf 2 and Goodnotes 5, yet Notability does not have this feature (yet!).
Basic notes organization in Notability app

3 Questions I often heard from you

How can I access my notability notes on icloud?

The notability app is a great way to take notes, store PDFs, and more on your iCloud account. Here’s how to access and import your notability notes from iCloud (best to use this if you want to restore some notes):

  1. Download iCloud Drive (iOS 10) or Files (iOS 11) from the App Store
  2. Open iCloud Drive or Files.
  3. Find the file you’d like to import.
  4. Tap “i” by the file’s name.
  5. Tap the share button.
  6. Tap Notability from the list of apps.

If you’re not sure that your notes were synced to iCloud, open your iPad’s Settings and find the notes in iCloud: [your Apple ID] > iCloud  > Manage Storage > Notability > You should see a list of your note names here. 

To turn your iCloud Syncing on, open the Notability app > Settings > iCloud – and you should turn it ON.

How to bring text forward in notability?

If you’re trying to add text over color fill shapes, than you may see that the text goes behind the shape, if you’re not doing it in a particular order. To solve this, first do the shape then the text. It seems that most recently added object is the one placed at the front. If you’ve already written the text, you can try ‘duplicating’ the text and delete the original. It will bring new text to the front and move it over the box.

How to make page landscape in notability?

Notability has recently introduced the option to change the note template to landscape. You’ll need to open your note and go to Options (3-vertical-dots icon) and tap Templates. In the top right corner (just under DONE) you’ll have the option to switch between portrait and landscape. Pick your template and all notes pages will change to that template.

By default, Notability uses the Seamless (continuous) page view, which means there’s no gap between the pages. So, if you change your page template from portrait to landscape view you’ll have a hard time seeing the switch. To make sure the change applied properly, go to Options > View > Single Page and check how the page looks like.

That’s my experience with Notability so far. Again, I mostly use it for quick work notes, or random personal notes which I think it’s the best utility for the app. Meanwhile I keep all my organized notes inside my carefully designed digital notebooks on Noteshelf.

How about you? How are you using Notability? Are you using it in conjunction with another PDF annotation app?

NEXT: Which is Best for Handwritten Notes?

For an UPDATED side-by-side review of the best apps for iPad note-taking check these resources:

GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf—Manage Notebooks [Review 2022]
GoodNotes vs Notability vs Noteshelf —Take Notes [Review 2022]
GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf—Digital Paper Template [Review 2022]
GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf —Pages, Bookmarks/Tag [Review 2022]

2 responses to “Notability App for iPad – My Go-to Digital Note Taking App for Lectures, Webinars and Brainstorming”

  1. mama bear t shirt Avatar
    mama bear t shirt

    Hmm it looks like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so
    I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still
    new to the whole thing. Do you have any helpful hints for novice blog writers?

    I’d definitely appreciate it.

    1. Raluca [digital planners creator] Avatar

      Thank you for the appreciation! I hope all my information about the digital planners will be useful for you. Honestly, I do not have extensive knowledge about blogging, all I am focused on is to try and come up with useful ideas on how to use digital planners to be productive. 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Scroll to Top