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I can't search my notes

If you can't search your notes, whether it's your own handwriting or the PDF text of an imported document, there could be a couple of reasons:

  • You're using the free version, and so handwriting search isn't available. Please upgrade the app and try again.
  • The imported PDF isn't searchable to begin with, despite its visible text.

If you can't search at all

Please double-check that the functionality is enabled:

  • Tap the Gear icon in the top-right corner of the Library view > Settings > Search Indexing and make sure the option there is enabled. Try searching for some text again.
  • Tap the Search icon near the top-left corner of the document view. If you see something like "Indexing x pages for search...", please wait until that message goes away and try again. This might take quite some time, especially if the document has many pages. If indexing is not finished, you might not find all text in the document.

If you can't search handwriting

If some or all handwriting of a document can't be found even though you're using the full version, the indexed data might be corrupted or incomplete. Please try the following:

  • Re-index the document: Open it, tap its title at the middle-top, tap the "Recognition Language" line, change to another language and change back. Alternatively, just write something and undo it.
  • Duplicate the document: From the library view, tap the down-arrow on the document and choose Duplicate. Wait for a while before searching the duplicate. If you still see something like "Indexing x pages for search..." in the Search popover, please wait until that message goes away before trying again.
  • Force-close the app and relaunch it, and/or restart your device.

If you can't search an imported PDF

Not all PDFs were created the same way and not all of them are searchable:

  • Text-based or “true” PDFs are created from a word processor like Apple Pages or Microsoft Word. These are searchable.
  • Image-based PDFs contain pages that are actually screenshots or images created from a scanner. Therefore, the visible text is actually part of the image and thus is not searchable. A simple test is to try to select the text; if it can't be selected, chances are the file is not searchable. If you happen to have an image-based PDF, you will need the help of a third-party program to make it searchable. See the next type.
  • OCR’d or “made-searchable” PDFs: Image-based PDFs that have been processed by a special Optical Character Recognition program to include an invisible, searchable text layer. These PDFs should still be searchable in GoodNotes. However, if they are then exported from the app, the OCR layers might be stripped off, making the resultant PDFs not searchable. Unfortunately, this is due to how the original PDFs are encoded and there's little we can do here.
  • PDFs with defective OCR layers are not fully searchable. Here's how to check: Open the original PDF in a PDF viewer, like the Files app, Adobe Reader, or Chrome, and see if you can select the text you want to find.
    • If you cannot, the PDF is not searchable to begin with.
    • If you can select the text, copy and paste it in a text field. If the pasted text turns out to be garbled, the PDF was likely encoded with a defective underlying searchable layer, which is why you can't search for its visible PDF text. If you happen to have the source document from which this PDF was produced, e.g. in Word, Keynote, or PowerPoint format, you can try exporting that document to another PDF using a different process and see if the new PDF is searchable.

If you still can't search a document

Please send it to us for a look and let us know what keywords you have tried searching for and on what pages they should be found. If it's an imported PDF, please also send us the original PDF.