How to Use Notability on the iPad

How should you take notes on an iPad? What are handwritten notes? What is Notability and how much does it cost? These are just a few of the questions that we will be answering.

Content

Quick Summary

Notability is the best way to take notes in lectures. The best two ways to take notes on Notability is to type lectures, write lectures, or if professors have pre-made slides/notes then add information on that. It is an excellent app that helps you draw and write on top of slides and lets you focus on what the lecturer is saying.

Introduction

There are many different ways to take notes on an iPad.

Whether it is the £300 iPad or £1000 iPad Pro, they all tend to be the same.

Making good notes comes down to the app you use and how you utilise it.

At the end of the day, you need to choose what is best for you. You don’t have to choose an iPad; a paper and pen will do just fine. It is about fitting your notes into your study workflow.

Written vs Digital vs Typed Notes

Writing the old fashion way, aka paper and pencil, is the old-fashioned way of note-taking. As time moves on and technology improves, there’s always some advancements that happen, and one is digital note-taking!

Paper notes are great. When it comes to studying, they help you learn and memorise information in a way that typing notes just cannot do.

However, they can be cumbersome to take with you everywhere, and as time goes on, the notes will just pile on top of each other, never to be looked at again.

Why Digital Notes Won Me Over

There is one feature that persuaded me into buying Notability.

Imagine being in a class and your taking notes of the PowerPoint slide with just a pen and paper.

It can be difficult as you’re trying to jot down as many things as possible from the PowerPoint before the professor moves on to the next slide. Trying to both listen and write down what the professor is saying simultaneously is certainly a stressful task.

With Notability, you don’t have to worry about this anymore. You can simply download the lecture PowerPoint and save it to your Notability folder.

And that’s it!

Every time you go to class and open your notes you’ll have all of the professors lecture PowerPoints in front of you.

Suddenly, you can easily follow along with what the professor is saying and write notes simultaneously; the extra notes can be anything the professor is saying about the slide.

Another thing is that it’s nice to all have of your notes and information in one device.

You don’t lose anything or have to worry about forgetting your chemistry notebook at home. Although, the one negative is that if you forget your iPad, you won’t have anything to write with for the whole day.

Notability

The first decision you have to make in regards to making notes is deciding which app you are going to use.

For this post, I will be mostly talking about Notability but you can surely use these techniques to incorporate your notes taking skills on any other app.

There are two main apps on the market right now: Notability and Goodnotes

Notability vs Goodnotes

Notability is an app for the iPad designed to help students jot down notes for school, home, or work.

If you want to incorporate PDFs or take notes from documents, Notability is the best option for you.

This can help you use lecture PowerPoints, study sheets, or essays and take additional notes on those documents. 

Notability is what I decided to go with because there are certain features that I cannot live without.

These include:

  • Colours – doesn’t let you get overwhelmed in choosing colours.
  • Easily to write with.
  • Excellent file management system – as I am a disorganised person, this was a deal-breaker.

Goodnotes is similar to Notability.

I like to think of Goodnotes as a journal.

If you want to take notes as you would in a notebook, then Goodnotes is a better option.

Goodnotes is designed in an old school way, so it’ll be similar to taking notes as you would with a paper and pencil.

Notability-like Apps for Windows, Android and Mac

What are the best apps out there similar to Notability?

  • Apple Notes
  • Ginger Labs Notability
  • Time Base Technology GoodNotes 4
  • MyScript Nebo
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Write On Notes Plus

How to Organise Lecture Notes With Notability

One of Notability’s Pros is how organized everything is.

Everything is categorized by dividers.

Dividers are the main topics of the notes. For example, one divider could be Chemistry.

Then within the divider, you have subjects.

This is the subcategory of your divider.

Let’s say your divider is Chemistry. The subjects would be compound bonds, elements, mixtures etc.

It’s short and simple, which is perfect for arranging notes. 

If you’re searching for something, Notability has a tool that lets you search for any note or text.

You simply type the word and Notability will automatically find it. 

This feature is helpful when trying to find a topic or want to revisit your notes but can’t remember which folder they were in.

How to Incorporate Notability With Lectures

There are many ways to take notes on Notability. You can type topes, write notes, or use pre-made slides from your professor.

One way to take notes is to type. Honestly, if you are a type faster or prefer reading text rather than your handwriting then definitely type out your notes. This is efficient because you can easily organise your notes. Making lists, bulletin, dashes, or just anything. Changing fonts, text size number, and even add a text box anywhere on the page. You can customize your texts by changing the text’s colour, italicizing/bolding/underlying them.

Write any notes with your hands or a stylus.

Highlight important information or underline certain phrases or words.

Easily erase mistakes by using the erasing tool and wipe away any mistakes. Or you can simply use the undo feature to forget the last stoke you made.

Another feature is to add media in your notes. You can easily insert a photo, take a photo, scan a document, add a GIF, stickers or even add an image from the web (web clip).

Sometimes while taking notes and listening to a professor it can be a bit overwhelming, so this audio recording feature is really helpful. While taking notes you can record the person talking and if you miss something they said you’ll have a voice recording to go back to and write whatever it is you missed. You’re able to increase the speed when listening to the audio recording and also go back 10 seconds before.

Another feature of Notability is the ability to Cut images. When you select the image you can copy, duplicate, style (change the colour/font if words), duplicate, or delete. For example, there is a pie chart and you would like to incorporate it in another slide or page. You can easily select the cut feature and trace out the part/image you want to cut. Then select copy or duplicate and you will have an exact duplicate of this image/text/graph or anything and place it anywhere you would like!

Cons of Notability

As with everything in life, Notability is not perfect.

When it comes to using it with your phone, it is honestly not a good experience.

It’s a good place to view your notes as it’s quick and easy, but if you want to add something or even use a basic function, it is not the best. 

Notability is only available on app version for iOS. So, if you don’t have an Apple product there isn’t another way to use Notability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we answer some questions that people who want to try out Notability frequently ask.

How Much Does Notability Cost?

Notability is £8.99 in the UK ($8.99 + $0.74 tax in the US).

Compared to other note-taking apps such as Apple Notes or Goodnotes, Notability is a tiny bit more expensive. 

However, it is only a couple of pounds so it is certainly worth it.

Can You Use Notability Without an Apple Pencil?

Notability does not allow any other Bluetooth styluses besides an apple pen. However, there are some other options.

Notability has an in-built palm detection which allows you to write naturally with your hands.

However, writing with your hands is not a great experience. It is much harder to use, takes longer and results in notes are messy and unreadable. Also, when trying to write down notes with your hands, you have to make sure only the tip of your finger is touching the screen or else nothing will be written.

If you don’t want to buy an Apple Pencil, I suggest using the text box tool. You can type normal notes as if you would on Google Docs as long as your notes page is blank.

If you have words on your screen from PowerPoints or documents, you can draw a text box with your fingers, type the information you want, and place it anywhere you’d like on the screen.

Can Notability Convert Handwriting to Text?

Notability has a feature to convert handwriting to text but it costs an additional $2.99 (£2.99) for this feature.

If you purchased Notability before January 1, 2020, then this feature is free and you simply restore the purchase for free.

However, if you want the text instead of handwriting and not pay additional charges, you can simply just insert text boxes on the page.

When the text box appears you can simply just type words using your iPad or iPhone touch keyboard.

If you’re using an iPad and can upgrade, then I suggest you can a keyboard to help make typing easier. 

To use a text toolbox is simple. Click the text bar and it’ll automatically start typing like a Google doc.

If you want to write over a PDF or lecture PowerPoint, just draw a text box and start typing. This way you can move the text box anywhere you’d like in the slide. 

Can You Share Notes With Other Devices?

Since Notability is only available through iOS, your notes can be backed up through iCloud. This allows you to share your notes through devices as long as the device has the same iCloud.

Because macOS is different from iOS, you have to buy Notability on both separately (it is £1.99/$1.99 for Mac). Only then will you be able to see your notes.

If you delete a note on iCloud then it will automatically be deleted on Notability. I would suggest that you instead delete your notes from Notability because then you can always recover them later (for a limited time). 

If you do not want to use iCloud and only use Notability on one device, then you can use auto-backup which backups all your notes into a copy version.

Conclusion

Making notes digitally comes down to a few simple things:

  • Choosing an App (i.e. buying Notability – it’s worth it!)
  • Select which colour you want to use for your notes
  • Start writing!

References and Extra Resources

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