It’s true! Taking notes helps you learn and absorb information better, remembering more essential details. And when you’re trying to get stuff done at work, those are two pretty important things. But you know what is essential: taking structured and organized notes at work, using digital paper templates.
GoodNotes vs. Notability vs. Noteshelf—Paper Templates
Using the right notes template can help you stay organized and get more done at work, even if you add a few lines on the page.
Well-chosen templates will make the information you’re trying to keep track of easy to find when you need it. You’ll eliminate clutter, stay on top of deadlines and get your work done without feeling overwhelmed or scattered.
So I’ve reviewed the three best note-taking apps for daily planning: GoodNotes vs Notability vs Noteshelf, so you don’t have to waste much time testing them.
Read the full review
5 | GoodNotes vs Notability vs Noteshelf—Settings, Flows (coming soon)
Now, let’s dive into the digital paper templates discussion.
Default vs. Custom Digital Paper Templates
The best note-taking apps come with default paper templates that you can use straight away to jot down quick thoughts, ideas, and reminders, or take notes during meetings or zoom calls!
However, chances are you’ll need more than just the default paper templates, so feel free to add your own and improve productivity when taking notes. Here’re some ideas for custom paper templates to use:
- meeting notes
- project Gantt chart
- order details
- KPI charts
- daily project management
Now let’s see how the best note-taking apps handle paper templates.
Digital Paper Templates in Goodnotes 5
1 | Goodnotes 5 Paper Templates – Pros and Cons
Goodnotes 5 has a primary selection of templates for multiple paper sizes, background colors, and portrait or landscape views.
- Navigating the templates library and adding and deleting templates is easy and intuitive.
- Goodnotes comes with a nice collection of simple but well-designed default templates: Cornell notes, single column or multiple column notes, TODOs and more.
- A big plus is that when you change a template inside an existing notebook, the new paper template will apply ONLY to the current page and not to the entire notebook (like you’ll see happening in Notability).
Cons: I can’t find any CONS regarding Goodnotes 5 templates.
2 | Templates Gallery in Goodnotes 5
GoodNotes has multiple built-in templates (i.e., essential/writing/planner/music templates, etc.) for various paper sizes, background colors, and landscape and portrait views.
To access the Goodnotes Notebook Templates gallery, go to the Documents screen (app’s home screen) and tap the Settings icon > tap Notebook Templates to choose a cover and paper template.
3 | How to add custom templates in Goodnotes
To customize the templates in your Goodnotes app by adding new ones, go to the Documents screen (app’s home screen) and tap the Settings icon > tap Notebook Templates > select + and add the new group’s name (i.e., “Andjela Templates”). A new section will be created and you can tap +Import to open the Files and select a PDF file to import.
4 | How to delete templates in Goodnotes
To prevent clutter, you’ll want to clean out your templates periodically. To delete the templates, open the Templates Library and tap Edit in the top right corner. You can now check the templates or sections to delete and clean your Gallery.
5 | How to change paper template inside a notebook in Goodnotes
There are moments when you’ll need to adjust your digital notebook to fit your daily needs. So changing a paper template inside a notebook is super easy with Goodnotes.
Go to the page you want to change and tap More (the 3 dots icon) > Change Template > choose a new template and hit Apply.
Tip: Do this before adding any content to your page. You can also do it later, but the written text may get all messed up.
6 | How to add a different paper template inside a notebook in Goodnotes
Go to the current page of the digital planner, tap Add page (the + icon) > select the location of the new page to be Before or After the current page > choose one of the displayed templates or go to More from Templates to browse more paper templates ideas.
Takeaway: The Templates Library is one of Goodnotes’ strong advantages. It’s easy to use, allows you to customize bits and pieces of your notebook, and boost productivity at work.
Digital Paper Templates in Notability
1 | Notability Paper Templates – Pros and Cons
Notability comes with a decent selection of default templates for multiple paper sizes, background colors, and portrait and landscape views. For more templates, you can always subscribe to their Plus plan.
- Navigating the templates library and adding or deleting templates is easy and intuitive.
- Easy to add your custom templates to enrich your digital planning experience.
- The default templates are… honestly… not very attractive: the basic ruled page or the basic Cornell notes page are the only two functional I could find.
- You must get a subscription plan if you want to access the entire collection of templates.
- Another drawback is that if you change a template inside an existing notebook, the new paper template will apply to ALL notebook pages.
2 | Templates gallery in Notability
Notability’s templates have been basic for a long time, until recently when they introduced the subscription plan, giving you access to more paper ideas.
To access the template, go to Notability Settings > Document > Default Template > Edit > choose a template from the Basic sections or tap Browse more for more premium templates > then tap Set as Default.
The chosen template will automatically apply to all new notes.
3 | How to add custom templates in Notability
To customize the templates in your Notability app by adding new ones:
- Go to the Settings > tap Document > select to Edit the default template.
- At the bottom of the newly opened window, look for the “My Templates” link to the custom templates section.
- Tap the + to add your paper templates from File, Dropbox, Google Drive folders or from a scanned document.
4 | How to delete templates in Notability
To prevent clutter, you’ll want to clean out your templates periodically.
To delete the templates you no longer use, go to the Settings > tap Document > select to Edit the default template and go to the “My Templates” section. Locate the thumbnail of the template you want to delete, press and hold with your finger, and hit Remove.
5 | How to change paper template inside a notebook in Notability
I don’t usually recommend changing existing notebook templates too often, but if you need to, open the note and tap Option (the 3 dots icon) > Templates > chose a new template and hit Apply.
Note: When you change a template inside an existing notebook, the new paper template will apply to ALL notebook pages.
6 | How to add a different paper template inside a notebook in Notability
In Notability, you can’t change a page template without changing all notebook pages.
However, there’s a trick you can do: import the single page as a PDF file to your current notebook or copy it from another notebook.
Option 1: How to import a paper template PDF file inside a Notability notebook
Pay attention that this process may mess up your notes if you don’t do it properly. So here are the steps.
- make sure you know the name of the notebook where you want to add the new page(s) to
- go back to the notes list and tap Import to open a notebook from Files, Dropbox, or Google Drive
- once you’ve selected your PDf file, you’ll be asked to “Create a New Note” or to “Add to Existing Note”
- Select Add to Existing Note, then select the note where you want to add it (a list will appear on the screen), then hit Next
- in the “Add to…” window, you can choose to import all pages or just a few of them, then tap Import
- The new pages will be added at the END of the document. You can always copy and paste it to another location.
Option 2: How to copy and paste a paper template from another notebook in Notability
This option will give you better control over your workflow.
All you have to do is combine all templates into a single PDF file (do this on your PC), then import that file into Notability as a digital notebook.
Anytime you need a particular template, open this notebook, copy the page template, go back to your work notebook and paste it as a single page.
Takeaway: Notability has made a big step when they introduce the premium templates and the option to add your templates. However, not being able only to change one page inside a notebook can be a relevant drawback for you unless you’re using the alternative flow I’ve indicated above.
Digital Paper Templates in Noteshelf
1 | Noteshelf Paper Templates – Pros and Cons
Noteshelf has the most extensive collection of templates, from essential to digital diaries to productivity or student templates. All digital templates are designed for multiple paper sizes, background colors, and portrait and landscape views.
- Navigating the templates library and adding and deleting templates is easy and intuitive.
- There are a lot of beautiful templates to choose from.
- You can easily change a page template or add a different template inside an existing notebook without messing up the rest of the pages (like in Notability).
- If you need more templates or planners, you can always check Noteshelf’s free online library and download what you need.
Cons: The only surprise is that you can access the Template Library from within a notebook. So if you want to add a custom paper template, you’ll need to open any notebook first, tap More (the three dots), and go to Page Template to get started. However, this is not such a significant downside.
2 | Templates gallery in Noteshelf
Noteshelf has multiple built-in templates (i.e. basic/digital diaries/productivity/student, etc.) for various paper sizes, background colors, and landscape and portrait views.
To access the Noteshelf Notebook Templates open any notebook, tap More (the three dots), and go to Page Template.
3 | How to add custom templates in Noteshelf
To add a custom paper template inside the Noteshelf Notebook Templates, open any notebook, tap More (the 3 dots icon) and go to Page Template, tap Custom, and tap + to import a photo (.jpg or .png images) or document (PDF files).
You can also add paper templates from current notebooks: once you find a page you need to use more than once, go to the All Pages tab, locate that page and tap the 3 dots on the bottom-left corner of its thumbnail and hit Create Template.
4 | How to delete templates in Noteshelf
You’ll want to clean out your Noteshelf custom templates to prevent clutter periodically. To delete the custom templates you no longer use, open the Templates Library, and in the Custom section (that’s where your added templates are), locate the template’s thumbnail, tap and hold it with your finger, and hit Delete.
5 | How to change paper template inside a Notebook in Noteshelf
There are moments when you’ll need to adjust your digital notebook in Noteshelf to fit your daily needs. So changing a paper template inside a notebook is super easy with the Noteshelf app.
Go to the page you want to change and tap More (the 3 dots icon) > Page Template > then tap a new template to change the current page instantly.
NOTE: Once you change the page template, you can’t UNDO it! So make sure you’re not playing or anxiously tapping on the templates. You can easily mess up a page in a digital planner with hyperlinks, and you can’t fix that page (like bringing back the old template with the hyperlinks)!
6 | How to add a different paper template inside a Notebook in Noteshelf
In Noteshelf, you can quickly bring a new paper with a different template than the rest of the notebook.
Go to the current location where you want to add the page, tap the + icon in the top-left corner of the toolbar, and hit Select Template in the Add Page tab. In the Gallery, find the template you need and tap it to import it to your opened notebook.
Takeaway: The Templates Library in Noteshelf is easy to use, allows you to customize your notebook’s bits and pieces, and boosts work productivity. If you’re OK with the idea that you can only access the Templates Library from within a notebook (and not from the Settings like in Goodnotes or Notability), then you’ll be happy with using the Noteshelf app.
The Verdict – which app is best for structured notes
All three apps have powerful templates to help you take better notes at work. Indeed, the Notability app is a bit tricky when changing a single-page template, and the Noteshelf app is slightly confusing when accessing the Templates Library. However, once you get to know how they work, you’ll love them!