Creative Journaling with the iPad: Part 2, Getting started with Goodnotes

In the same way that computerized word processing displaced type-writers; many people are making the switch from paper journals and diaries to digital ones. Computer based journaling offers several key benefits over paper: backups, sharing, multimedia, and security options are all easily accessible options in an application but difficult to achieve in paper.

Apple’s tablets and phones have a multitude of applications dedicated to the art of journaling and notetaking. One of the mot popular options is Goodnotes. The software has quickly become a favorite among creative types and for good reason. It features support for multiple smart styluses including: the Apple Pencil, Wacom’s Bamboo Finetip, and Pencil 53 to name a few. The app also has advanced palm detection and PDF markup. Your data can be automatically backed up to one of several cloud storage providers and synchronization between multiple Apple devices is facilitated by iCloud.

Goodnotes works well as an everyday note taking app. You can easily create a personalized notebook with it’s many built-in Notebook covers and page styles. Unlike other note taking programs, Goodnotes does not use a sectioning layout. You’ll just add a new notebook for every subject. The brushes and pencils are great and the lasso tool is epic. You can lasso and move almost any object.

Where Goodnotes really shines is in it’s ability to import notebook templates. Etsy is full of templates that have been created by some very talented people. Many of them come with stickers, banners, and other premade flair that you lasso and drop onto a page. Lots of the templates have hyperlinked facades that replicate actual paper journals down to the bindings and cover stitching.

The information you enter into your notebooks will be indexed and searchable. Even the items you enter in handwriting will show up in most cases. You can also export pages from your notebooks to either PDF or image files for easy sharing.

To get started in Goodnote; download the app from the Apple Store. I suggest restarting your device before launching the software. If you’ve purchased a template you’ll want to follow the instructions that came with it, most of them utilize the import function to get going. Otherwise open the software and watch the introduction. When it’s finished click the + button in the upper left corner and choose “Create Notebook”


Tap the cover thumbnail to choose the cover you like best and then do the same for the paper. You’ll be able to easily change both options later so don’t strain your brain on this step. Tap and hold on your notebook’s label and select text to give it a name. You can also use the writing tools in the top menu for the name tag.


After you have the label sorted, swipe to the left with two fingers to open the first page. The tool icons in the top menu are self explanatory. Tap on an icon twice to open that tool’s menu for more options.


The action menu icon in the upper right corner will allow you to change things like the page type (under more options) and allow you to export or import information. You can also print your pages from here.


Overall I find Goodnotes to be more creative and decorative than either Evernote or Onenote are, especially if you have an Apple Pencil or one of the other supported styluses. It doesn’t offer the structure or integration options available in the other packages. As a business oriented professional, I appreciate Goodnotes’ design and it’s templating solutions but I struggle to come up with a reason to use it over OneNote.

If you have to choose between them I think the decision is similar to choosing between an Apple device or a PC. Goodnotes looks better and one could argue that it’s easier to use but OneNote is more flexible and integrated into lots of other Office software. Lucky for me; I have both.


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