I’ve been noodling a lot lately with digital journaling tools. In doing so GoodNotes quickly rose to the top for me in the “draw words on an iPad” category. The app is reliable, has an excellent ink engine, and, most of all, the developer has thought through the digital writing workflow better than any other app I tried (including Apple Notes).
With GoodNotes, it’s easy to mix drawing and writing. It’s also easy to write in a magnified view while the words simultaneously appear in a normal size on the page behind it.
And with yesterday’s version 5.5 update, GoodNotes is now also able to collaborate. While I’ve often used online collaboration tools with text in apps like Google Docs and Apple Notes, it had never occurred to collaborate with GoodNotes. The new feature works just as if you and a friend share a piece of paper across a desk. The pen strokes don’t show up in real-time but instead with a delay that, in my tests, were as fast as 20 seconds and as slow as 40 seconds. That’s not bad, considering what is happening. Think of this more as a shared note than a shared whiteboard.
What I like best about this feature is that it falls more in the category of “in addition” than “essential feature”. I use GoodNotes because it is so good at what it does. Now, also, I can collaborate.
Just a few weeks ago Apple announced the ability for developers to bundle Mac apps along with their iPhone and iPad apps. You might remember this was a sticking point with last year’s Catalyst release where developers were required to charge for the Mac versions of their apps.
There was a paid version of Catalyst-based GoodNotes on the Mac App Store, but yesterday they became one of the first developers to take advantage of the new ability to bundle their Mac app for free. Because of App Store mechanics, this required releasing a new version of the Mac app. So if you bought it previously, download the bundle Mac version now. That’s the only one that will continue to get updates.
As a daily user of this app, I appreciate GoodNotes getting on this early, but I’m also not surprised. GoodNotes is one of the best note-taking apps available and it comes as no surprise that its developers are on the ball.
If you’ve got an iPad and want to get better at using the GoodNotes application, the Sweet Setup has a new course just for you produced, largely, by my pal Mike Schmitz. The course goes soup to nuts on GoodNotes. My favorite parts are those toward the end covering how to create and use custom templates.
I wrote up my GoodNotes journal pages a few months ago. Since then, I have found myself increasingly using a paper journal for much of this data, but I know a bunch of readers wanted to modify my forms. Links are below in OmniGraffle, PSD, and PNG format. (I built all of these using OmniGraffle.)
These differ from the versions I made for myself in that I used a custom flavor of Futura that I purchased years ago. I changed the font to a system font for these downloads and changed some of the titles specific to me, such as working on a Field Guide every day, to something more generic. Enjoy, and let me know if you make something amazing with them.
Once you complete customizing your form, export to PDF, and you can then import and edit them in GoodNotes. You can leave them right in GoodNotes or, if you are a fancy Day One user like me, export the completed page as an image to Day One. Sort of related, Tom Solid made his own forms that are far superior to mine if you want more detail.
Regardless, click below to download:
There is a pile of applications that claim to turn your iPad into a virtual notebook but none of them, in my opinion, do that as good as GoodNotes, which just released version 5.
The best thing about the new version is the improved ink engine. I have always felt that GoodNotes had the most natural writing for the iPad. This new version only increases their lead. You can even see how the ink changes as you lift the Apple Pencil off the screen. I spent some time with the GoodNotes team at WWDC last year, and they explained how much time they had put into making the app feel more like writing on paper, and it shows. It’s still plastic on glass, but in every way they can improve on those mediums, they have.
That’s not all. With this new update, GoodNotes has added additional file management tools. There’s a new folder system where you can nest folders to organize your notes easier. Finding access your notes gets easier with other improvements as well. There’s a favorites view to help you get to the most important notes. You can now also start a new fresh note instantly upon launch. This isn’t as convenient with the Apple Notes app (which is baked into the operating system) but as instant as you are going to get with a third party app and, once you get rolling, the GoodNotes ink engine runs circles around the Apple Notes pen.
There’s a lot more new features, but they’ve also improved some of the older features. Traditionally, GoodNotes has one of the best paper selections to write on. They’ve got it all with multiple colors and styles (grids, lines, music).
GoodNotes 5 is $7.99. If you purchased GoodNotes, version 4 for full price, the upgrade to version 5 is free. If you paid a discounted price for version 4, you can get the new version for the difference. If you’re the type of person that likes to bring a pad of paper and a pencil into a meeting but iPad curious, GoodNotes may work for you.