Note-taking: FAQs

Short answers

How much iPad storage is enough for note-taking in 2022?

We recommend getting at least 256GB. Remember, you can’t expand your iPad storage later. Anything below 256GB is ideal if you plan to upgrade your device every year.

Can I add a blank page to a PDF?

With most note-taking apps you can add a blank page between pages of your PDFs and notebooks. You can’t do that with Apple Notes and OneNote though, because they have unique page management setups.

What apps create small files like Notability?

Notability is exceptionally impressive when it comes to creating small files. The app creates an average of 4MB per notebook. Closest to that is Noteshelf at 15.5MB then Noteful with an average of 28MB. Technically, no app creates files at small as Notability.

How to images in Apple Notes work?

In Apple Notes, your images can either go into the app’s body text (sectioned away from your text & handwriting) or it can mix with your handwritten notes (and recently, text boxes).

Which note-taking apps can create hyperlinks?

Which note-taking apps can create hyperlinks

All most every note-taking app you choose will open hyperlinks: Noteful, Notability, GoodNotes, ZoomNotes, CollaNote

How do I switch from Notability to Noteful?

Since I announced my switch from Notability to Noteful, most of you guys have been asking how I did it. Moving from one note-taking app to another is a process; one that might even take months. I have used Notability since 2017. I briefly switched to ZoomNotes (early 2021), but in November 2021 I switched to Noteful.

Know what you’re signing up for

Before switching to a new note-taking app, make sure you must know exactly what you’re signing up for. Know the new app you are moving to, that is why we recommend checking out our complete review of Noteful.

Every app has limitations, that is probably why you’re moving from your current app. It’s ideal when you can move to a new app that has new features, without losing important features you are currently using.

Since you’ve built a workflow around the limitations and strengths of your current app, switching to a new app will disrupt that workflow. It will slow you down, which you want to do when you’re 100% sure you are ready to make the switch.

First, replace then add

To appreciate the ‘first replace then add’ rule, our team created a simple checklist for switching apps. You can download it from our Patreon page or simply draft one for yourself.

  1. Find out if the new app can replace the old one (on page one): You can do this at once, or over several days by paying attention to the features you use the most in your current app. Make your list as specific as possible. For example, with Notability’s audio recording feature, I only care about syncing to my notes (that is why I wrote that in my checklist). However, if you love editing, merging or splitting the recordings, make sure to add all those details to your list. It’s very important.
  2. Tick all of the features for your current app since you already know these are available in the app.
  3. Now, as you try out the new app, make sure to tick off this checklist (as much as possible) for the new app. It helps when you can try the app for free like you can with Noteful.
  4. On page two, list all the reasons you want to leave your current app. What’s frustrating you? What are you hoping to improve by switching from the old app? Obviously, your current app doesn’t have any of these features, so you can go ahead and note that.
  5. Now, focus on the new app to see how much of your wish list it checks off. You can even take this a step further by adding new features (that are not on your wish list) that you are excited to try out in the new app. On my wish list, I wrote those in red. These are features you are discovering in the new app that can unlock new possibilities you haven’t imagined before.

At the end of this exercise, I learnt that I was using 8 features in Notability of which, Noteful had one missing. No Hex code was a massive deal-breaker at first, but our team also wanted developers we could work with so, that was a good way to test that. Noteful added a hex code the moment we mentioned it in the first video we did covering the app.

Noteful has five features that I was missing in Notability and five new ones that I was excited about. That brought the total of missing features from Notability to ten! Noteful could, therefore, replace and out-perform Notability in my workflow!

This exercise is very important, it will save you time. You don’t want to just jump around from app to app realising, each time, that the new app doesn’t work for you. Take your time, study your workflow, pay attention to features you repeatedly use and then use this template to help you evaluate your switch.

The gradual move

Once I was sure that I was switching apps, I gradually left Notability, one notebook at a time, over a period of time. Switching apps effectively changes your workflow, so it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to get used to the new app and its tools.

For example, Noteful uses tags, instead of folders. That dramatically improved how I organised my notes, but I had to learn how to do it. At first, I reproduced the system I had in Notability. It was easier and more familiar, especially to quickly get started.

There are a few rules to follow during the gradual move to your work’s new home. The Notability notes format does not open in Noteful. You have to convert all your notes to PDF if you want them in another note-taking app. The notes become uneditable, which is acceptable for some notes, but not all of them. That is why we came up with a set of rules to help you get the most of all your notes, even if you switch apps.

  1. Create all your new notes in the new app. Since you’ve made the switch, it makes no sense to continue creating new notes in the old app. While still familiarising yourself with the new toolset, it helps to do it each time you have new notes you need to take.
  2. Move your notes on a need basis; particularly important for Notability, which only exports one notebook at a time. I moved a notebook, each time I needed it. For example, this Apps notebook has all my notes on the different apps I study. I exported it as a PDF from Notability meaning I can’t edit some sections of it. Each time I fail to erase something, I simply annotate it instead.
  3. Keep notes with unique features in their original app until you don’t need the feature anymore. Exporting notes with audio recordings out of Notability removes their sync. This is why I have kept my audio recordings in Notability, for now. Once I finish using them, I will send the notes to Noteful.

Your old notes can remain in the old app for a while as you can gradually move them to the new one. I delete the notes I have moved from Notability to keep track of the notes I still have to move. It helps me stay organised. That way I know all the notes in the old app (those I haven’t deleted yet) need to be moved to the new app.

Once you’ve finished moving the notes, you can delete the old app.

How do I switch from Notability to GoodNotes?

Now that Notability has dropped a forceful subscription on all of us, most of us are looking for a new note-taking app. Notability shares notes with other apps in four formats: PDF, Note, Image and RTF (Rich Text Format). Of these, only one is editable (Note) and the rest can only be annotated. 

Exporting notes

Note, the editable format shares your notes in the Notability format. They can only be opened and edited in Notability. When you try to export to GoodNotes, the app doesn’t appear in the export options. 

Exporting PDF

Notability can combine handwritten and typed notes on the same page. The best way to export everything (the way it looks) is as a PDF. Your notes, however, will not be editable once in GoodNotes 5. They can only be annotated.

If your notes have audio recordings, Notability zips the PDF and audio files. GoodNotes can unzip the files. The only problem is that it doesn’t support audio files, so your recordings folder will be empty. GoodNotes doesn’t support audio files yet. You can’t export your audio recordings to GoodNotes.

Exporting multiple documents

When switching between apps, you want to send multiple documents all at once (if not all of them). On the homepage in Notability, selecting multiple documents gives you two options: delete and duplicate. You can’t export documents that way.

To export multiple documents out of Notability (without audio recordings), do the following:

  1. Tap export the export icon on the homepage
  2. Select the multiple documents you wish to export
  3. Export as PDF
  4. Tap the export icon again
  5. Open in GoodNotes 5 (not copy to GoodNotes)
  6. Import as New Document

💡 Note: If you select copy to GoodNotes, the app will only copy one document (the first selected document only).

When switching from Notability to GoodNotes 5, it is better to leave your notes in Notability.

Exporting images

You can opt to share your notes as images. The option to open in GoodNotes is not available for exporting images. When you copy to GoodNotes, the app will export one page (the first page). This feature is still hit-and-miss and needs to be worked on. It seems to work when exporting a few pages, two, maybe three pages. However, when you have a lot of pages, the app can’t export that many images to GoodNotes.

Exporting RTF

Rich Text Format (RTF) can only export the text and audio recordings. It does not export handwriting. You can’t export RTF files to GoodNotes. The app doesn’t appear in the export options. So if you have typed notes in Notability but want to move to GoodNotes, you’re out of luck.

It is difficult to move documents from Notability to GN5. The two apps don’t communicate with each other. They are different apps from different developers. Not surprising at all.

When switching between apps, it’s best to keep your notes in the app you’re leaving and start afresh in a new app. Don’t make a habit of jumping around from one note-taking app to another. You’ll find yourself with notes all over the place. Digital notes can get just as messy as physical ones. 

What is the Notability subscription?

For old users

The Classic plan in Notability is available for anyone who had purchased the app before the Notability 11.0 update. Old users keep all the features they had previously purchased before the app become a subscription. From the version 11.0 update, old users also get to keep the following updates for free:

  • Page templates and all their updated customisation
  • More organisation levels
  • Notability Gallery

For new users

Free trial

You can now try Notability for free, but it has crippling limitations that mean you can only try it for less than a week each month (with average use). Monthly edits count as anything you do in the app:

  • Handwrite or erase
  • Add media (photos, GIFs, stickers and sticky notes)
  • Add text

Subscription package

Notability+ is now a yearly subscription that costs $14.99/year. Paying for this means:

  • Removing edit limitations
  • Access to themes, technology features, planners & stickers
  • Subscriptions don’t support family sharing, it is one person per subscription
  • Access Notability on all your devices (under the Apple ID you use to purchase the subscription)

Non-subscription alternatives to Notability

FreeOne-time purchases
Apple Notes
OneNote
CollaNote
Noteful
ZoomNotes
Noteshelf
Nebo
GoodNotes

Learn more about the alternatives for Notability.

What are digital/indexed notebooks?

I am currently trying to breathe some new life into my high school french notes. Before throwing away the old paper notebook, I am rewriting them in our Paperless X Minimalist Digital Notebook.

Why use digital notebooks

Digital notebooks help you organise your notes, especially in Notability and Noteshelf, where you can’t create folders within folders. For any subject or project, a digital notebook can group all the topics in one notebook, instead of having a notebook per topic. For example, this digital notebook allows me to add twenty-one topics. I have all the topics (for my French notes )on the contents page.

When you have a lot of notes, navigating through many pages can be a bit of a pain. Hyperlinks will ease your navigation through pages in your notes. In this minimalist digital notebook, every page links back to the contents page. The table of contents has hyperlinks on the margins to avoid accidentally tapping on them when filling your topics. They also help you skip to different topics, saving you the time you’d otherwise waste scrolling through pages to get to your topics.

Few note-taking apps can create hyperlinks to link pages of your notes. Only ZoomNotes and PDF Expert have that capability. If you use any other app, which is the case for most users, you need a notebook that already has those hyperlinks.

How to use a digital notebook

On the contents page, you must fill in your topic. Tap on the hyperlink (in the margin) to go to the topic page. Once there, write or type out your topic in the top grey margin and start taking notes. We designed this digital notebook for simple note-taking to replicate physical books and notebooks. We wanted something familiar, digital and easy to use.

Every page in the notebook links back to the contents page. No matter where you are, you can easily skip to the contents page to go to another topic. Topic pages are the ones your contents page links to. You also get non-topic pages because rarely is one page enough to write notes for a topic. When you need more paper, you can duplicate these non-topic pages as much as you need. The duplicates also link back to the contents page.

After years of using digital notebooks, I have never needed different page templates in one notebook. Also, in an effort to explain digital notebooks, we thought to start with something very simple. That is why we designed one template for our digital notebooks: A4 and ruled.

We have covered complex digital notebooks in the past. Until now, it has been difficult to explain exactly what digital notebooks are. Most of you guys didn’t understand how they work and we hope this simplifies the idea. Should you need more complex notebooks, you can check out BrookeBot’s Digital Notebands.

How to get a copy

Our minimalist digital notebooks cost $4.99 in our shop. They are also available for free for you on Patreon, we made them free for our patrons. They come in three line-spacing options: Narrow, College and Wide and we hope to add more page templates in the future.

Paperless X’s Minimalist Digital Notebook is the perfect notebook for simple and minimalist notes. It’s great for keeping all your subject or project notes together. Our team uses them for everything we take notes on. We particularly love the margins.

When we were designing these, we all had very different ideas on how our digital notebooks should look. The final product doesn’t look like anything anyone had designed, but, we all wanted margins. So we added margins! Don’t you just love it when digital stationery has margins? Are we the only ones?

Other alternatives

How do I import files into GoodNotes?

From the homepage

  1. Tap the big Plus icon in the Documents tab
  2. Go to Import
  3. Browse through your Files app to find what you’re looking for.

From other apps

  1. When you share a file from another app to GoodNotes, GoodNotes automatically opens.
  2. Select the folder you want to import to under Location.
  3. Optional tap on the title to rename.
  4. Tap Import as New Document and the app opens the document in the app.

From the working space

  1. Tap the Thumbnail icon on the left side of the toolbar.
  2. In the Thumbnails tab of the popup window tap on the big plus icon at the end of your document.
  3. Go to Import
  4. Browse through your Files app to find what you’re looking for.

Or

  1. Tap the Plus-page icon on the toolbar (right corner).
  2. Go to Import
  3. Browse through your Files app to find what you’re looking for.

Note

  • You can import the following formats into GoodNotes: Image, PDF, Word (.doc, .docx), Powerpoint (.ppt, pptx), GoodNotes (.goodnotes) and GoodNotes backup (.goodnotes.zip).
  • GoodNotes converts Word and Powerpoint documents to PDF when importing them.

How do I extract PDF snippets in Notability?

Is there a diagram/chart in a PDF textbook that you want in your notes, but you don’t want to waste time drawing it? Here’s how you can extract it using Notability. 

  1. Using the lasso tool (the freehand one is better), select the section you want to extract. 
  2. Once selected, long-press until you see that section lifting out of the page.
  3. Now simply drag and drop it into your notes.

This works on your scanned documents and sections of your notes too! 

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