Notability 5: Get Creative With Your Notes

Despite my emotional attachment to the smooth touch of paper, I agree that a paperless environment is both appealing and beneficial. Having less clutter and flexibility over my files made me more efficient and productive at managing my time and workflow.

There are plenty of note-taking apps to help you go digital, one of which is Ginger Labs’ Notability. Originally designed for the iPad, the latest update allows users to record, write and draw notes of all kinds on their iPhone while enjoying the design refresh, additional languages, offline access and lots of customisation among other neat features.

There’s plenty to love about Notability 5.0, so let’s dive in and see what its best points are, how it fairs in comparison to Evernote and what’s in store for today’s tech-savvy note-takers.

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Note-taking For Everyone

Notability brings together several useful tools for creating notes while you’re on the move. These include the keyboard, the pen tool, the highlighter, the camera, the scissors tool and the eraser. As such, you can create typewritten notes, handwritten notes, sketches and add photos when necessary. Just tap and hold to start typing, or snap a photo as you encounter moments worth saving. And although it isn’t included in the Tools drop-down menu, you can record and save audio memos using the voice recorder beside it.

Welcome to Notability.

Welcome to Notability.

With just limited screen space, you may wonder if it’s even possible to create comprehensive and organised notes on the iPhone. At version 5, Notability allows you to scale, rotate and manipulate handwritten notes and photos to make your content fit into the document. Once it is filled, you have the second page below to continue. It’s flexible and convenient to use.

Notability can be used for all kinds of tasks.

Notability can be used for all kinds of tasks.

These tools are designed to “transform how you work,” a goal Notability strives to achieve. But even with such capability, the app doesn’t feel bloated or confusing at all. It’s simple to use yet powerful enough to capture, record and save all kinds of information. As such, you can use the app for a variety of applications: record lectures, sign a contract, share team notes, snap a vacant apartment or save a new recipe for next week’s family dinner.

Customise and Share to Your Heart’s Content

Who said note-taking has to be just on plain white space? Should pens be limited to just black digital ink? Everyone works according to their own methodology and creative preferences, which I am glad Notability respects. Besides the great selection of pen widths and colours, you can choose different paper types and lining to suit your notepad preference.

Purple polka dot notes.

Purple polka dot notes.

In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of handwriting or sketching digital notes mainly because of how horrendous my handwriting looks on the app. When I gave handwriting a try once more on Notability, I actually liked the outcome very much. I adjusted the pen width and wrote using a Targus stylus until it looked just right.

Share and backup your notes.

Share and backup your notes.

Just as diverse as the available paper types are your sharing, backup, and import options. Notability supports various free cloud services like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, webDAV, Box, and iTunes, which you can use to backup and store your notes. You can also share them via email and Twitter with friends and family for easy collaboration. During the test, I managed to save my handwritten note to Dropbox and export it from PDF to PNG.

Notability vs. Evernote

I currently use Evernote as my main note-taking app, so I found myself comparing the two. On one hand, Evernote can annotate notes, photos, PDFs, and other digital formats thanks to its recently established Skitch integration. It also has its own unique features such as reminders, places, tags, and my favourite page camera.

On the other hand, Notability steps over Evernote by saving me that extra process of using a third party app to annotate and sketch. It’s also very flexible since I can customise the note settings, pen colour and width, and choose where to backup and save my notes. I also prefer its list-style organisation over Evernote’s tiled display.

Here's what a photo note looks like.

Here’s what a photo note looks like.

Having said that, it boils down to a person’s note-taking needs. Notability’s best points include a fantastic array of writing, sketching, and note-taking tools, backup support, and customisation options to suit your needs and preferences. Evernote, though a bit cramped in terms of design, is feature-rich in that it creates and saves notes while making sure that everything—PDFs included—is searchable; you get the best page scans; and you receive timely reminders when set. Both apps are prominent players in the note-taking niche, so it’s best to evaluate your needs and see which app fits the bill.

Note-Taking to the Next Level

The latest version of Notability is definitely impressive. It’s a robust note-taking app with all the tools you need to accomplish your tasks and get creative. Moreover, it is simple enough for everyone to use, making it an ideal productivity app for all occasions and applications. Besides a slight glitch with the voice recorder’s audio playback, I didn’t experience any significant bugs the whole time I was using the app.

Having bought and used the iPad version in the past, I can see a lot of work has gone to improving the overall interface design and the writing experience itself. In fact, I can see myself using Notability for more than just typewritten or photo/audio notes now that writing by hand and sketching has become a delight to do. Of course, there’s much more to Notability’s feature set that the review couldn’t mention individually, so it helps to have the Help menu open and ready when you need it.

Which do you prefer, Notability or Evernote/your preferred note-taking app? What are your thoughts about Notability’s latest update? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Notability aims to transform the way people take notes. Along with its new design are a variety of note-taking tools, paper types and lining, pen widths and colours, and other unique features that make it a powerful but simple productivity app.