GoodNotes: A Quick Tour & Review

I’m on a mission to get to know the full landscape of note-taking apps, and here I’d like to share a quick tour and mini-review of the app GoodNotes.

These app tours that I’ve been sharing (here’s one on Notability) are helping me to develop my latest course Digital Sketchnoting, which you might enjoy participating in.

Let’s jump in!

A Few Highlights

One feature in particular stood out to me when I first started using GoodNotes: the quick access to three color and brush size options.

Quick access to brush color and size is really helpful.

For real-time sketchnoting (when you can’t – or don’t want to – pause the information source), that ability to quickly change colors or brush size keeps you in the flow of the note-taking experience, rather than pulling you out of it by forcing you to open a menu item to get to those.

That feature fits particularly well with a specific sketchnoting approach that I described in a previous video: A Three-Color Note-Taking Process.

I also found the shapes tool to be interesting:

I can see the shapes tool coming in handy as well.

For the most part I enjoy sketching out shapes by hand and not worrying about the slight imperfections in the lines, but there are some cases when creating a perfect circle or rectangle would come in real handy.

An unexpected add-on within GoodNotes was an impressive number of templates that you can use as a starting point:

The number and variety of templates available is impressive.

I found it particularly exciting that the Cornell structure was one of the first options.

That pairs well with my most popular video to date: Improving Cornell Notes with Sketchnoting Techniques.

Next, let’s talk about brushes.

I found that GoodNotes’ brush pen had a lot more pressure variation than those I’ve seen in other apps.

Though the pressure sensitivity of the brush pen will take getting used to, it opens up great stylistic options.

At first I thought it might be too much pressure variation, but then I got excited about the stylistic options that opens up for you.

You can get all sorts of different line weights without having to change any tool setting.

Yes it will take practice to use that pressure variation consistently, but I think that practice will pay off.

With those as some of the stand-out features, let’s look next at some sketchnoting examples.

Sketchnoting Examples

In this first example I’m working on a prompt that I shared within The Verbal to Visual Community to come up with icons for abstract concepts:

A skill-building activity – coming up with icons for abstract concepts.

That provided some good practice with the brush pen, both as a writing and drawing tool.

From there I jumped into some real-time sketchnoting of an episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman and guest Ira Glass.

Test run with some real-time sketchnoting of the Design Matters podcast.

Throughout that sketchnote I tried to make good use of the pressure variation within the brush pen to make certain words and phrases stand out.

Here’s another activity from The Verbal to Visual Community that I didn’t share in the video above – an Earth Day sketchnote to share what I’m grateful for:

Another example from The Verbal to Visual Community – an Earth Day sketchnote.

That one gave me some good practice bringing in lots of different colors and weaving text around images.


With that set of experiences under my belt, I feel great about GoodNotes as a tool for sketchnoters.

It’s similar in many ways to Notability, so both a great options, but at the moment I have a slight preference for GoodNotes, mainly because of the quick access to colors and brush sizes, and also because of the pressure variation of the brush pen.

So I plan to continue developing more ease with GoodNotes, while also experimenting with other apps!

To follow along and build your own skills, come join us in our latest course…

Digital Sketchnoting

If you’d like a bit more support developing your process for sketchnoting with the tablet-and-stylus tool combination, then join us within our newest course Digital Sketchnoting:

Learn more techniques for sketchnoting in GoodNotes (or your app of choice) in our latest course Digital Sketchnoting.

Throughout that course we’ll explore the most commonly-used sketchnoting apps, and dive deep into how best to use the features that those apps provide.

Come join us!

Happy sketchnoting,