This guide will teach you everything you need to get started with GoodNotes 5. It includes basic information, step-by-step instructions, as well as some advanced tips and tricks. After finishing this guide, you will be able to answer the following questions:
- What is GoodNotes and what can you do with it?
- How is information organized in GoodNotes?
- How is the app structured and how do I navigate?
- What are notebooks and how do I create them?
- How do I use the editing tools?
- How do I import documents into GoodNotes?
- How do I share documents from GoodNotes?
Let's get started!
1. What is GoodNotes?
GoodNotes is a note-taking app that lets you take handwritten notes in digital notebooks and annotate imported PDF documents. The app aims to help you lead a paperless life. All your notes and documents are neatly organized in GoodNotes so that you won't ever lose anything again. Messy desks, paper jams in printers, waiting in line in front of the copier, carrying around heavy backpacks - all these things can be avoided by using GoodNotes.
2. How is information organized in GoodNotes?
The central elements to organizing information in GoodNotes are notebooks and (external) documents. Digital notebooks are much like paper ones, with individual pages and a cover. Yet, unlike with a paper notebook, GoodNotes allows you to create an unlimited number of notebooks with infinite pages. You can add all sorts of information to a single page and create rich, multimedia notes: handwriting, typed text, images, sketches, photos, screenshots, and more.
At the same time, using the app is as simple and straightforward as writing on paper. Just pick up a stylus and start writing.
You can import all your PDF documents into the app to annotate them right on your device. We recommend importing all the documents that will eventually need any handwritten annotation or highlighting. With the ability to search for your handwriting and other text, you'll always find what you need quickly.
Let's move on to the basic features and the structure of the app.
After opening GoodNotes 5 for the first time, you'll see your library.
This is where all documents, folders, and notebooks are saved. At the bottom of the screen, three different tabs are visible: Documents, Search, and Favorites.
All your documents are indexed by GoodNotes, meaning you can search everything. Just tap the Search tab, type a keyword into the search bar at the top to search for any of the following:
- handwritten notes
- PDF text
- typed text
- PDF outlines and custom outlines
- Document titles
- Folder titles
The more documents you save in your library, the harder it will be to quickly find what you need. This section provides a shortcut to your most important documents or the ones that you need to access frequently. Tap the Star icon in the upper right of a document or a folder thumbnail to add it to Favorites or remove it from there. Bookmarked individual pages from your documents & notebooks will also appear in the Favorites tab.
3. Creating your first notebook
After you have understood the structure and the basic ideas, it is time to get down to business and create your first notebook.
In the Documents tab, tap the large + button (the "New..." button) > Notebook.
You can select a paper template from our large template library and change the notebook cover. To switch between paper and cover selection, just tap on the default preview in the upper left and make your choice by tapping on one of the options presented below.
The cover is the first page by design and will help you to distinguish a notebook from others in the library. Add a title to your new notebook by typing in the designated title field and tap Create in the upper right. Congrats! You've just created your first notebook! Now you can start taking notes in it with your finger or a stylus.
Navigate through the pages of your notebook by swiping to the left and right (up and down, if you set vertical scrolling as the direction) with two fingers. If you're using an Apple Pencil, you can swipe with one finger.
Adding new pages
To add a new page to the end of the notebook, just continue swiping as if you would try to navigate to the next page. Lift your finger(s) to add a new page.
4. Using the note-taking and editing tools
By now you should have created your first notebook. Taking notes in it is super simple. Just like writing with a pen on paper.
When you open a document, you'll see two bars at the top of the screen.
The upper one in dark color is the nav bar. The navbar, as indicated by its name, lets you perform navigation actions or actions that affect the document as a whole, like exporting or renaming it. You also notice the Read-Only Mode is now located at the nav bar.
The lower one is the toolbar. You can select the tools or colors by tapping on the icon once. The selected tool will be represented in color, whereas inactive tools are colorless. Tapping on the icon of a selected tool a second time will reveal additional options or tool-settings.
Here is an overview of all the tools and what you can do with them:
Write on the page with your finger or a stylus. Other pen styles can be selected in the pen options.
- Fountain pen: Pressure-sensitive pen style
- Ball pen: no pressure sensitivity
- Brush pen: create artistic ink and notes with this highly pressure-sensitive pen style (works best with a high thickness)
Erase ink strokes or highlighting on the page.
Highlight notes or texts.
Draw perfect geometric shapes or straight lines.
Select objects on the page to reorder, resize, or edit them further.
Insert images from your photo library and edit them.
Take photos with your iPad camera to add them to the page or create a whole page from a photo.
Create a text box by tapping anywhere on the page to type with your keyboard.
Zoom Window Tool
Magnify a part of the page to write neatly and precisely.
On the right side of the toolbar, you'll see the "Contextual Area". Each tool has its own quick actions that appear in this area. The pen, the highlighter, and the shapes tool show a set of shortcuts for adapting the color and thickness. You can select more colors or change the thickness of the strokes by tapping on these icons again.
Other tools, like the Image tool, have different quick actions in the contextual area.
5. Importing documents
There are multiple ways of importing documents into GoodNotes. Supported are: PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and GoodNotes documents.
Import documents via the + button in the Documents tab
Tap on the + button and choose Import. The Files app interface will show up and you can select a document to import by tapping on it.
Use drag and drop to drag files into your GoodNotes library
In other apps that support drag and drop, you can tap and hold on any PDF document until it lifts off the screen a bit. Then start dragging it into any direction to start the drag and drop interaction. Hold onto the document and open GoodNotes. Drag the document over to the library and then lift your finger to drop it into GoodNotes. You can read more about how "drag and drop" works here.
Tip: You can drag and drop multiple documents from the Files app interface to GoodNotes as well without ever leaving the app.
Choose “Open In/Copy To/Import With GoodNotes” through the Share sheet in other apps
If you open a document in another app, for example in the Files app, tap on the share icon and choose "Copy GoodNotes" to import a document into your library. GoodNotes will open automatically and will let you pick the folder where you want to add the document. You can also choose to append the document to an existing document or create a new folder.
6. Sharing documents
Sharing and exporting whole documents or even just single pages is something that we do on a day to day basis. Share a page with a co-worker via email, or upload multiple documents to a shared cloud storage folder - being able to do that without having to scan, upload, and trash paper pages save a lot of valuable time and resources. There are multiple ways to do it in GoodNotes:
Sharing one or multiple documents from the library
"Drag and drop" makes it easy to select multiple documents at the same time and drop them into other apps but you can also tap on the Select button in the upper right of the library view in the Documents tab. Then tap on the documents you wish to share. After you've selected them, tap the Share button and choose a destination.
Sharing an open document
We introduced you to the nav bar before. In the upper left corner in an open document, you'll see the share icon.
Tap on it to share either the current page or the whole document.
Sharing multiple pages of a document
If you want to share some but not all of the pages in a document, there is a simple way to do it. Open the thumbnail view where you will see all the pages in the document. Now tap the Select button in the upper right and you'll be able to select all the pages you wish to share. After you made your selection, tap the share button at the bottom of the screen.
We hope that this guide helps you to get started with GoodNotes 5 and understand the basics of the app. For more information, answers to frequently asked questions, and troubleshooting help check out the other articles in our help center.