I downloaded Notability to give it a try, back to back with Goodnotes, both are about the same price from the App and iPhone/iPad stores, I bought both the Desktop and the iPad app to test on my iPad mini, with my apple pencil, and the desktop app to test on Thrud.
While both applications are very smilier, and Notability has more features for adding images in, and something that is supposed to function like Post-it Notes, I was not enamoured enough with any of it to try and play with it completely.
According to people on the internet the auto progressing pop up box that you can write in is called the ‘Focus Box’ both GoodNotes and Notability have this feature, unlike most of the other applications I tried, However the Notability one has most of the pen apps functionality as a local menu bar, as well as an adjustable progression area.
While on the whole Noteability gives you more control of the pen colour, size and line style (flat vs brush) I found it hard to get a combination that felt right for me, (I like a dark blue, thin, ‘fountain’ pen style, on a light yellow squared paper).
I am more let-down by the desktop apps, both GoodNotes and Notability seem to have just re-badged their iPad application:
Notability however have at least put some thought into using the extra screen real estate; I do like the right hand side page overview, and the organisation panes on the right hand side that make it easy and quick to navigate between documents.
On the other hand; at the time of writing every file I opened on my mac in Notability came up with the following warning, which does not inspire confidence…
Notability also doesn’t have the notebook paradigm, so no covers, and no custom page templates.
GoodNotes hand writing recognition, or typed text handling is no where near as good and or intuitive as that of Notability.
Also at the moment neither GoodNotes or Notability support saving of files outside iCloud for synchronisation; which makes collaboration between people, or storing notes in a way that multiple people can refer to difficult, as you will end up with lots random revisions in different locations.
My preferred syncing method is NextCloud that has a WebDav interface. on my iPhone and iPad I have Documents by Readdle installed, it’s a great app, that works amazingly well with Nextcloud via WebDav, and will automaticly sync selected folders in both directions (I use the native NextCloud app to auto upload my photo stream to my server).
Other weird options
The Rocketbook is a physical notebook that, with the help of a QR code, and fiducial markings allows you to scan it with a special app; they are wipe clean, so can be re-used again and again, the pricing start at £15.99 for the cheapest option including a pen, the Rocketbook Everlast ‘mini‘. however for less than £7 I can get 10 normal reporters notebooks.
I had a quick look at the app, and while the app is free, to do anything it requires you to make an account; however they do also offer free PDF pages. The app claims to support hand-writing recognition.
For £399 I can buy a black and white, e-ink looking tablet like the reMarkable with a stylus, they have their own cloud service, which according to the FAQ:
All content is synced via our cloud service across all devices that have a reMarkable app installed. This includes smartphones and computers, as well as your reMarkable device.
We currently offer our cloud service free of charge
Which I assume means that without their servers the device is useless.
At this time I am going to stay using GoodNotes for everything, and OneNote for work, unless anything changes; I hope that GoodNotes will get better, and pull in more of the features that I have mentioned on these two posts to become even better.
- Ability to import videos and other arbitrary file formats
- Good hand writing (Handwritten Text Recognition) to text support
- Notebook paradigm
- Backup / Sync via WebDav, FTP etc.
- Cross platform desktop clients.