Key Ways to Take Better Notes Using Goodnotes on the iPad

Lightning-fast search through handwritten notes is just one way to leverage the power of digital note-taking.

Jenn Greene
Nov 5 · 4 min read

I’m an avid note-taker. I was initially doubtful about digital notes.

After testing out various digital handwritten note-taking apps out there in the market — Goodnotes, Notability, and Evernote — I have settled on Goodnotes. Goodnotes is an iOS note-taking app and its suite of nifty features makes note-taking a whole lot easier. While some of these features can seem obvious, they really add up to a smooth and efficient experience.

These are the ways I found to leverage the features of Goodnotes on the iPad for my work as a software engineer and student. (I’m not affiliated with Goodnotes in any way.)

Handwritten Text Search

This is by far the greatest advantage of digital notes over traditional pen and paper. The app recognizes handwriting and allows you to search for any term you want. The handwriting recognition is mind-boggling cool; the search function is an unparalleled time-saver. Imagine Ctrl — F capabilities for your handwritten notes.

Handwritten text search probably singlehandedly sold me on the idea of digital notes in general. Say, for example, I forgot the definition for a particular theorem. In the past, I would have to flip through pages and pages of my notebooks fruitlessly. Now, I can just search for “theorem” and it’ll automatically compile all instances of “theorem” for me to easily browse through.

Drawing Shapes Is Now a Breeze

As an engineer, I use the shape feature to sketch a quick graph, box important equations, and draw circles. Using the shapes tool gives me perfect circles in one try. We sure are living in the future.


Being a full-time software engineer and a part-time student, having access to all my digital notes makes my life easier and more productive. I no longer need to worry about carrying textbooks with me and I can always pull out my school notes for review during lunchtime and work notes during the commute.

For permanent storage, I choose to upload my notes to Google Drive for backup rather than to a physical hard-drive. This way, all I need is internet access to retrieve all my notes. To make things more convenient, I also download frequently accessed notes locally on my iPad.

Drafts and Notebook

This is a seemingly minor feature that sets Goodnotes apart from some other popular alternatives. Some have a folder hierarchy that forces you to categorize your notes before you can even start writing down your notes. For me, most of the time, I just want to quickly jot notes and not worry about categorizing them until later. Goodnotes allow you to select a quick note and start writing right away with no hassle.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can also create a notebook. For the courses that I’m taking, it’s so simple to create notebooks and put all the lectures into their respective notebooks. It’s just exactly like how you would do it with traditional notebooks.

Whiteboard Presentation

Remote capabilities are becoming ever more relevant. By combining the iPad screen share with Goodnotes, I can hold remote whiteboard sessions with my teams. From planning discussions at work to virtual study sessions, this has been a handy feature that makes note-sharing a breeze.

There is also a laser pen that allows you to point and gesture at your notes with temporary marks. This prevents you from making a mess out of your notes if you used drawing tools to make your point.

Switching to digital note-taking has really streamlined the entire process. I no longer aggressively — yet frustratingly — flip through pages and pages of notes to find the specific nuggets of information I’m after. For coursework, I now can easily search for notes that I’ve taken for a class two semesters prior. Its impact on work is even more substantial. This year, I walked into my annual performance review meeting prepared with my entire year of work notes on one iPad. It was so easy and gratifying to browse through an organized compilation of all my accomplishments neatly and efficiently.

If nothing else, the sole benefit of not having to make late-night Walmart runs to buy cheap notebooks is already worth the switch.

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