iOS App Review: GoodNotes for iPad

mzl.zllmeecr.175x175-75I’m always on the lookout for a good note-taking app for my iPad and have found a few pretty good ones along the way. Up until a couple weeks ago, my go-to favorite was NoteTaker HD. That is until I came across GoodNotes. Feature-wise it is very similar to NoteTaker HD. They both have a zoom box for writing more precisely. They both write very smoothly and look nice. They both allow you to mark up pdf files and export your notebooks as pdf files. On almost all fronts, they are pretty identical, but in my opinion GoodNotes pulls it off better. It has a much simpler interface, is more user-friendly and just simply feels better when you use it. Even though NoteTaker HD was my note-taking app of choice, I hesitated recommending it to people simply because it isn’t very easy to use. It has it’s quirks and I knew how to get around those quirks, but GoodNotes is everything that NoteTaker HD is, but without the quirks. And, they threw in a few extra features to put icing on the cake! But, this wasn’t supposed to be a comparison review, so I’ll get on to talking specifics about GoodNotes!

20130521-124331.jpgAs I already said, writing notes with GoodNotes is very smooth. It feels natural writing and it looks like my handwriting on the page. I can even write with a finger and the text looks great. It’s better with a stylus, of course, but it’s nice to know I can use my finger in a pinch (no pun intended!) and it will still look great. You can easily change ink color and thickness using a few presets (which you can edit to your liking) or you can manually select each on a custom basis.

The second “pen” type is a highlighter. Just like the ink pen, you can modify the color and thickness of it using presets. It is very intuitive and looks great, whether you’re highlighting your own hand-written notes or highlighting text in a pdf document.

There is also, of course an eraser that easily erases any mistakes you may make. The erase size scales to your zoom so when you’re zoomed in on text, it is small enough to erase a single letter and when zoomed all the way out big enough to erase large chunks of notes. You can also change the size and shape of the eraser for even more control, which is a nice touch.

GoodNotes has nice “palm-rejection” technology that will detect when you are writing and ignore your hand resting on the bottom of the page. I don’t use this much as I am usually zoomed in when writing which provides a “palm rest” area for my hand to rest. You can also configure the palm rejection for your specific angle of writing, whether your left handed or right handed. And, for good measure they threw in a palm rest that you can slide up from the bottom of the screen whenever you need it. They thought of everything!

Text Entry
If you don’t want to take notes by writing and would rather type, fear not! Simply tap and hold anywhere on a note page and a menu will pop up allowing you to add typed text! When you do so a single line text box will appear which you can change the width of. The height will automatically adjust as you add lines of text which is great! You can change the font to a number of typical iPad fonts as well as the text size, formatting (italics, bold), justification, and color. You can also adjust the padding size of the text box itself! I really like the interface for adjusting the font size. Some apps simply give you a slider to change the size and it can be real tricky to dial in a specific number. I always seem to be able to select the number I want, but as soon as I lift my finger it changes. Ugh! GoodNotes has the usual slider, which is nice for big changes, but they added 20130521-124022.jpgincremental buttons for changing the size up and down by 1 point increments. Awesome! Thank you!

Lasso Tool
So you just hand-wrote a paragraph of text and realized you’d rather have it someplace else on the page? No problem! Simply select the lasso tool and draw a line around the text you want to move. Then, simply tap and drag it to it’s new location! Want to move it to another page? No problem! Once it’s selected tap anywhere inside the selection and a menu will pop up allowing you to cut the selection. Then, go to the page you want it placed on and tap and hold anywhere on the page. Select “Paste” from the menu that pops up and then drag your pasted selection to it’s new location on it’s new page. Beautiful!

Drawing Assists
Another awesome little touch GoodNotes has is the feature to assist you in drawing perfect lines and shapes. Simply toggle the assist on in the toolbar at the top and then when you draw, it will automatically straighten your lines and shapes. Draw a circle and it will snap to a perfectly round circle! It is a very nice feature when you want to have a little more precision on the page.

GoodNotes allows you to place, resize and even rotate images anywhere on any of your notebook pages! Simply tap and hold anywhere on the page and select “Image” from the pop-up menu to place an image from your iPad photos, camera, iTunes, Dropbox, etc. Very cool!

Page Templates
Each page in your notebook can have it’s own background (template) or they can all match. They even have a few cover templates that you can use as covers for your notebooks so you can quickly identify them on your bookshelves. Nice! Oh, and you can also import your own backgrounds/templates for endless possibilities whether it be specific forms that you can fill out and then export or creating your own covers!

20130521-124005.jpgWhen you first launch GoodNotes you will either be taken to the last page you were on, or you will see your library view which looks very much like iBooks where you have book shelves with your notebooks on them. The notebooks look very cool lined up on the shelves. And like iBooks, you can create “Folders” which are in essence different bookcases that you can sort your notebooks on if you have a lot of them. I, for example, have one folder for manuals that I put various pdf manuals for many of my electronics, cameras, etc. That way I have them all in one place should I need to look something up while out and about. I can also highlight and bookmark parts of the manuals for finding information faster in the future!

In summary, I see myself using this app a LOT.  I used NoteTaker HD quite a bit, but sometimes hesitated due to its somewhat clunky interface.  GoodNotes, however, has a clean and enjoyable interface which makes it a joy to use.  It is currently $5.99 in the App Store, which is a little pricey as far as iOS apps go, but I can highly recommend this app to anyone that is looking for a good note-taking app for their iPad…it’s worth every penny!

iOS App Review: GoodNotes for iPad