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.
During 2019 I have used Notability side by side with Goodnotes 5 or Noteshelf. Now I am going to reveal why and how I love to use it. But before I start, check this video to see me flipping the pages of my digital daily planner inside Notability.
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 Appealing features in Notability app
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.
#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 2 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!).
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.
#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 2 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.
#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 2 inking experience very much.
#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:
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
While I do love Notability, here’s why I am not 100% sold to it
- 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!).
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):
- Download iCloud Drive (iOS 10) or Files (iOS 11) from the App Store
- Open iCloud Drive or Files.
- Find the file you’d like to import.
- Tap “i” by the file’s name.
- Tap the share button.
- 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?
Want more? I wrote a detailed article about the best digital note-taking apps. Check it out.