Can Notability make my iPad into an old school notebook?

Anthony Caruana
4 May, 2018
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A couple of weeks ago, I asked Macworld Australia readers what there favourite note-taking apps for the iPad were. and they came back and told me Noteability was one of their favourites. So, I headed grabbed my iPad Pro and spent $14.99 at the iOS App Store to find out if it is the pick of the iPad note-taking applications.

Before I get started, I’m a big fan of Evernote. It will take a lot to get me to move away from that platform. I have thousands of Notes arranged into dozens of Notebooks and use it for clipping content from web browsers and as my main writing tool. It also integrates with my ScanSnap scanner so it holds scanned versions of statements, bills, receipts and other business documents.

In short, Evernote isn’t going anywhere for me. So any other tool I use needs to fit in worth how I already work and add something without causing me lots of pain.

I’ve installed Notability on my 10.5-imch iPad Pro. I’ve had that iPad for about a year. If I had to make the purchase again, I’d go for the recently released iPad which now has Apple Pencil Support for $500 less than I paid for the Pro.

Notability, optionally, uses iCloud to sync across multiple devices and there’s also a backup feature that sends PDF versions of all your notes to cloud services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive and WebDAV servers. You can customise the appearance of your notes with 12 different coloured “papers” and nine different page styles including lined pages and grids.

If you don’t have an Apple pencil capable device you can use a finger if you don’t have an Apple Pencil. There are 16 different ink colours, 12 pencil thicknesses and you can choose between ballpoint and fountain pen nibs. You can type notes, record audio, take photos, insert pictures fromyour Camera Roll and insert GIFs from GIPHY.

Notability is one of those apps where most people use a fraction of what it does – it’s just that we all use a different fraction. For me, the main use is to replace the scraps of paper and notepad I have by my desk while I’m working. I use them for taking notes during phone meetings, managing my daily to-do list (I write notes in black pen and use red to cross them out) and to record interviews while I take notes.

While an electronic system is possible for all that, there still something different for me when I write things down. I can still write faster than I type. I can record an interview, scrawl down notes and add diagrams far more easily and keep the audio with the notes.

I even used it when discussing some organisational stuff with my wife as I could use it to draw a picture to explain something we were talking about. As my wife is very much a visual person the ability to draw something and pass the iPad back and forth was handy.

Notability can also annotate PDFs.

Macworld Australia’s buying advice: When you factor in the cost of an iPad (entry level price is $469), the Apple Pencil ($145) and a cover or case it’s clear the iPad doesn’t stack up as a replacement for paper and pen. But the iPad is much more and is all the computer many people ever need. Notability adds another dimension to the iPad and further increases its usefulness.

I can offer no higher recommendation than I try out a lot of applications and this one is staying on my iPad.

2 Comments

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  1. Peter Schaper says:

    For 3 or 4 years I have been using Polaris Office on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to record meeting notes and to jot down memos etc. and convert them to type, then I use Android File Transfer to transfer them to my Mac for final editing before emailing them or whatever. The handwriting recognition on this Samsung is limited (perhaps the current model may be better but I can’t afford it, and I don’t like its long skinny shape anyway), I have to be careful how I write and I often have to make several attempts to correct a misread letter, and Polaris Office does not make text editing easy and it has a few annoying glitches as well, so I have been a bit disappointed with the Samsung, but it does work and having bought it at a model run-out sale I regard it as having been worth what I paid for it.

    In this iPad report you don’t even mention handwriting recognition or file transfer to other devices, and the illustration only shows script and scribbles, like S-Note on the Samsung, which I have never used, it is the handwriting recognition that is important to me. I briefly tried the new iPad with handwriting recognition at the Apple Store in Brisbane a few weeks ago and my first impression was that its handwriting recognition is a bit better than my old Samsung’s, but I still don’t know whether it can transfer text to my Mac without having to use iCloud, which would be inconvenient for me because of our slow ADSL connection.

    So how good really is the iPad’s handwriting recognition, and can it transfer files to a Mac via a cable, or perhaps via BlueTooth, or is it limited to transferring data via the cloud?

  2. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    There’s no handwriting recognition in Notability.

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