Why I use Notability (instead of Penultimate)

Recently I had the good fortune of attending the 2013 ANZAM Doctoral Conference, and a number of people asked me about the handwriting app that I use for taking notes on my iPad.

There are a number of note-taking apps, however after evaluating Penultimate, Notability and Notes Plus, I’ve eventually settled on Notability as my app of choice.

This is largely due to a number of features. Some of these features may have been ‘caught up’ by the other apps, but when I committed to this these were the key features that were important to me.

Password Protection

In taking notes related to research, especially where there is potential for those notes to be related to individuals, it is important to be able to protect the documents on my ipad. Notability allows you to protect folder, so that all notes within those folders can be locked and unlocked.

If the files are browsed while the folder is locked, then it’s details are not able to be viewed.


Note Recording – Audio

Notability has in-app recording. This is useful for two reasons.

  1. The recording can be exported as a MP3 (directly to Dropbox or other file sharing sites, as required), and
  2. as the recording is being made, you can type keywords that relate to the audio. When you play-back the audio, tap the keywords and the recording will jump to that section of the audio.

This last point was very impressive.


Adding Photos / Screen Shots / Images on the Fly

Want to make notes on presentation slides that are being shown up the front? You can take a photo of the slides (or anything), and they will be inserted in to the note page ready for you to doodle and add comments. Way cool!


Export – Backup and Synchronise

There are a number of file sharing services, like Dropbox, Google Drive and Skydrive, that the app will upload notes to in a PDF format. I particularly like the ability to open PDF versions of the notes in Evernote, which then indexes the content, including handwriting if it’s neat enough. This is handy for finding information later.

Notability is NOT free. In the Australian iTunes Store, I think it’s $2.99. If you do want something free, I suggest you try Penultimate, but I don’t find the features as rich.

More information on Notability can be found here.

Update: 6.Dec.2013

I am a fan of Notes Plus and Notability on Facebook. Some recent posts made me have another quick took at Notes Plus. It now has some of the features mentioned above, but they feel a little bit more cumbersome than what I’m used to in Notability – probably just because I’m used to Notability’s interface. They do have a handwriting recognition pack that’s available as an in-app purchase, which might be useful. For now, however, I’m staying with Notability.

Another thing that I forgot to mention as part of all of these note-taking apps is the ability to import PDFs… This has been incredibly useful from a note-taking perspective (being able to scribble notes on a journal article or class/workshop notes, and also from a marking perspective (sometimes if I have a late submission and I’m on the road, I can get the office or the student to scan/PDF it, email it to me and I can mark and return to the appropriate people quickly and efficiently. Handy!!

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. May 8, 2014

    […] Saw this demonstrated by a colleague… S$95. Integrates with Evernote and seemed to work well. It might even tempt me away from Notability to Penultimate. […]