Is Notability Finally the Best Note-Taking App?

Notability
Tom Solid

Tom Solid

When you visit my website, paperlessmovement.com, you’ll notice that I keep a list of my picks for the top three note-taking apps to use with your iPad and Apple Pencil. For a long time that list has consisted of GoodNotes, Noteshelf 2, and Notes Plus. But…I’m excited to say that the latest update to Notability has been a complete game changer. This update has skyrocketed Notability into the first place position as my favorite note taking app. In order to make it onto the list, there were two features I wanted to see inside the Notability app. For a while now, users of Notability have been sending their feedback for suggested improvements, and it looks like the developers were listening. The following 2 updates were the changes I felt that Notability needed to take it to the top.

Handwriting Recognition in Notability

What set Notability apart from other apps was that it did not have handwriting recognition.

With the latest update this has changed.

Using your Apple Pencil, you hand write directly onto your iPad screen, and then you can select that specific text and convert it into typing.

From there you can change the text size, the font, the color, and the location of the text and turn it into a really nice looking document. You just take your stylus and select the specific text you want to focus on or convert.

You can also select “copy text to clipboard”. This allows you to select the text and copy it into your email and send it on.

What really pushed this app ahead of GoodNotes 4 is that you can choose “convert selection” which will convert handwriting directly into text without the need to copy and then paste and then delete the handwriting like it is the case in GoodNotes4. You can even convert your handwritten text into typed text with a clickable bullet point so you can turn it right into a task.

Until now, Notes Plus was the only note-taking app to have auto recording and text conversion. This is why I called it the all-in-one note-taking app. But with this newest round of updates Notability now has these features as well.

So why am I saying that Notability is now the number one note-taking app instead of Notes Plus, when they both have the same features? Here’s why: I personally like the handwriting function in Notability better than the handwriting function in Notes Plus. It is much more fluid and I just really like the feel of it.

Inside notability you can also add GIFs. It’s just a nice extra feature that gives you a little more capability. You just select a GIF and insert it into your document on your iPad screen and you have an automatic GIF function right inside your document. In order to select a GIF and move it around you need to use two fingers so you don’t accidentally move something around you didn’t want to move.

Unique Split Screen Function in Notability

Notability now has an amazing split screen function. On one side of your screen you can have a new document ready to be created, alongside another document you’ve already completed. This allows you to have information on one side of your screen while working on an active document on the other side of your screen. This is a feature that users of note-taking apps have been asking for for a very long time.

What differentiates Notability from Notes Plus is that Notes Plus also has the split screen feature but you can only write on one of the open screens, while the other screen is stuck in “read only” mode.

With Notability both sides of your screen are usable. You can reduce or increase the size of a screen. You can also go inside the menus and actively use both sides of the screen at the same time depending on which one you have selected with your stylus.

In addition to these game-changing updates, Notability also has these important features:

Global Search Function best in Notability

Notability has a global search function (it will look for every example of a word or phrase in a ny notebook). Inside the app you can search globally for your handwriting as well as for typed text. At this time, it’s the only note-taking app with this function. The other note-taking apps only search within the notebook.

To demonstrate how the global search works, I can open up a notebook and use the handwriting function to write the word “test”. Then I save and close the document and open up the search function. I search for the word “test” and the app brings up the results immediately. When I open the notebook suggested by Notability the app has even highlighted the specific words in the document that I was searching for. It’s amazing.

PDF Import

You can import a PDF directly into Notability. This particular app will allow you to select specific pages of the PDF for import, instead of just defaulting to importing the entire document. Notability will ask you if you want to import the PDF into the note you’re working in, or a different note, or create a new note. You select exactly where you want the document to go.

Once the PDF is imported into Notability, you can open it and the hyperlinks inside are still active. This means you can import Digital Journals.

Clickable Hyperlinks

Like in GoodNotes4 and Noteshelf2 you can import PDFs with hyperlinks that are clickable. This means you can also use digital journals. However, in Notability you can even drag and drop hyperlinks from your Browser into your note and the text will be clickable or you can just hand write it and convert it into text which makes it also a clickable hyperlink.

The Drawbacks

With all of these amazing new updates, there is still one feature that is disappointing to me that I hope the developers can solve. It is the highlighting of words.

If I highlight a word, the highlighting lays over the top of the word instead of going behind it. The more I highlight a word, the more the highlighting covers up the text. When you use the highlight function inside of GoodNotes, the text will jump to the top of the highlight. This makes the text with highlighting behind it easier to read.

Some users of this app have complained that when you use your stylus to highlight a word or a sentence, the line is squiggly because it follows your hand. The way to fix this is to start drawing your line and then just hold your stylus in place for a moment and the line will straighten itself out. You can even do this when you’re drawing shapes. If you’re drawing a square, just start the line and hold it for a moment until it straightens out, then make your connecting line until it straightens out, and so on until the square is complete. This function makes drawing shapes inside the app very convenient.

Every time one of these note-taking apps has an update it is big news for us! We use these apps on a daily basis to improve our workflow and productivity.

Because we’re constantly using these apps, our community has special insight into what could make these apps even better.

If you take the opportunity to try out Notability with the new updates, let me know what you think. What are your favorite features? How could the app be improved? Leave a comment in our Facebook group to keep the discussion going.

I will keep you informed every time one of these note-taking apps has an update, so you can stay on top of the best features and get the most out of your note-taking.

For the latest updates and reviews you can stay tuned to this blog, join the paperless movement Facebook Group, check out my YouTube channel, or grab a copy of my eBook: Paperless Note-taking Like a Pro.

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