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?
- 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!
What is GoodNotes 5?
GoodNotes 5 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.
If you are unsure about transitioning to digital paper, GoodNotes 5 allows you to create 3 free Notebooks to see if the app is to your taste, and if you enjoy the experience, you can choose to purchase the full version of the app. For more information on the differences between versions and common questions, check out this article.
If you have previously purchased the app and you are now returning to the app you may choose to Restore Purchase to reinstate the full version of the app:
If you cannot Restore Purchase, please see this article for further information.
How is information organized in GoodNotes?
The central elements to organizing information in GoodNotes are Notebooks, (external) documents and folders. Digital notebooks are much like paper ones, with individual pages and a cover. If you have decided GoodNotes 5 is worthy of your investment or you are already a paid user, 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, or use your finger as your pen 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.
With these types of files you can also organise them into Folders. So whether you want all PDFs within one place, or your study materials for a certain class, you can alter your library to suit your needs. For more information on Folders, check this out.
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 (full version only)
- 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.
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.
Navigate through your notebook by swiping left and right (or up and down, if you set vertical scrolling) with two fingers. If 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.
Using the note-taking and editing tools
Taking notes in your first notebook 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, which, as indicated by its name, lets you perform navigation actions or those that affect the document as a whole, like exporting or renaming it. You also notice Read-Only Mode is located on the nav bar.
The lower one is the toolbar. You can select a tool or color by tapping on it once. The selected tool will be represented in color, whereas inactive tools are colorless. Tapping the selected tool a second time will reveal additional settings of that tool.
Here is an overview of all the tools and what you can do with them. Tap the links to learn more about the tools:
- Zoom Window Tool: Magnifies a part of the page to write neatly and precisely, especially with large fingers.
- Pen Tool: Lets you write on the page with your finger or stylus. Other pen styles can be selected in the pen options. The three pen options are:
- Fountain pen: pressure-sensitive pen style
- Ball pen: NOT pressure sensitive
- Brush pen: highly pressure-sensitive pen style for artistic ink and notes (works best with a thick stroke)
- Eraser Tool: Erases ink strokes or highlighting.
- Highlighter: Highlights your notes for emphasis.
- Shape Tool: Helps you draw perfect geometric shapes or straight lines.
- Lasso Tool: Selects objects on the page to reorder, resize, or edit them further.
- Elements Tool: Allows you to save frequently used images, drawings, or texts as an 'Element' for easy access and re-using.
- Image Tool: Inserts images from your Photos library. Within the contextual toolbar of the Image tool, you can also find the Camera Tool.
- Text Tool: Creates a text box. Just tap anywhere on the page and start typing with the keyboard.
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. For the Pen, the Highlighter, and the Shapes tool, there is a respective set of shortcuts for changing the color and thickness. You can select more colors or change the thickness of strokes by tapping on one of these shortcut slots again.
There are multiple ways of importing files into GoodNotes. Supported are: PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and GoodNotes documents.
The most common method is to tap on the New... (+) button and choose Import. The Files interface will show up and you can select a document to import by tapping on it.
Learn more: How to import files in GoodNotes 5
Sharing a document or just a single page is something we do on a day-to-day basis. Sharing a page with a co-worker via email, or uploading multiple documents to a shared cloud storage folder - being able to do such things without having to scan, upload, and then trash paper pages saves a lot of valuable time and resources. There are multiple ways to do it in GoodNotes, but it all boils down to the following basic steps:
1. Select the document(s) or page(s) to export.
2. Initiate the Export command.
3. Choose a location for the exported file(s).
For specific cases, please see How to export documents or pages in GoodNotes 5.
See also: Sharing a document with other users to collaborate on it
We hope that this guide has helped you 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.