GoodNotes is a premium handwritten notes app that can come surprisingly close to the old pen-and-pencil experience. You get the added goodness of cloud saving and multimedia support. GoodNotes is a no-brainer if you’re a frequent Apple Pencil user with money to spare. However, as a premium app ($7.99 for GoodNotes 5), it’s quite expensive. And as an iOS-exclusive, you’re out of luck as a Windows or Android user. Have a look at these GoodNotes alternatives: From open source desktop note-takers to freemium Android solutions to a genuine GoodNotes competitor on iOS, we’ve covered the whole spectrum of alternatives here.
Who it’s for: iOS users looking for a premium paid alternative to Goodnotes
A premium iOS app that makes full use of Apple Pencil, iCloud, and iOS multitasking. Sounds like GoodNotes? Well, that’s because Notability is a genuine, premium iOS alternative to GoodNotes. While the free and freemium note-taking apps on iPad are great for jotting down notes in a pinch, they lack the close platform integration that Notability and GoodsNotes have. Like Goodnotes, notability offers handwriting recognition combined with Apple Pencil support, but it also offers some unique features like – voice-over recording for lectures, split-screen view, etc.
iCloud supports means that you don’t have to subscribe to a third-party cloud service, as you do with Metamoji or Noteledge (coming up next). Multitasking support shines on the iPad: you can use up to two separate note spaces at a time. While this might all sound great, the $12 price tags (in-app purchases extra for themes) make this a hard sell unless you’re an iPad user who takes notes frequently (for college or work, for instance). If you just dabble with note-taking from time to time, you’d be much better served by one of the free options here.
Platform: iOS, iPadOS
- Tight iOS integration with Apple Pencil and iCloud support
- Handwriting recognition
- Very expensive for a note-taking app
Who it’s for: Desktop users who want a basic, local note-taking app
Windows don’t seem like an ideal platform for hosting a handwritten notes app at first blush. Who’d connect a drawing tablet to their PC just to take notes? But Xournal proves that there’s always a solution if you look hard enough. Xournal is an open-source project that works on Windows, Linux, and OSX. Xournal has a very simple interface that’s designed to look like a ruled notebook.
Instead of a blank canvas, you get notebook-like lines to write between. You can use the interface to change the color and thickness of the written notes. A caveat is that Xournal doesn’t support handwriting recognition, so your written notes stay as they are. However, you can add in text fields to type in. Another drawback is that Xournal doesn’t have cloud support. The notes you take are saved locally. You can prints notes out and export them to PDF, though.
Platform: Windows, Linux, and Mac
- Free and open source
- Works on desktop OSes
- No handwriting to text support
- No cloud-based remote access
3. Metamoji Note
Who it’s for: Power users who want a cross-platform app that’ll work on desktop and mobile
Metamoji Note’s key highlight is just how interoperable it is. This app works on Windows, Android, and iOS. This means that no matter what device you’re using, you’ll be able to view and edit your handwritten notes on the fly. Like Xournal, it doesn’t support handwriting recognition. However, you’re able to add text notes through a separate text field. You’re free to adjust the color, thickness, and other aspects of your handwriting presentation.
One area in which Metamoji Note has a leg up is in terms of cloud sharing. Enabling cloud sync will let you sync your Metamoji notes to the Metamoji server. You can then pick up and play on any of your devices. Metamoji Note Lite is free and there is an optional in-app purchase if you want what they describe as “advanced cloud features.” But We found the Lite version to be more than adequate.
Platform: Windows, Android, and iOS
- Free to download
- Available on multiple platforms
- Cloud note sharing
- Slightly dodgy sign-up process
Who it’s for: Android and Windows users want an alternative to iOS-exclusive note-taking apps
Fiinote is a great solution if you’re not an iOS user. Cross-plat support between Windows and Android mean that you can have a pickup and play experience like Metamoji, sans Apple devices. Fiinote is technically a freemium app, but the only limitations in the free version are a lack of encryption, in-app ads, and limited attachment space. These ads aren’t present in the Windows version at all.
Fiinote’s Android app is very accomplished: You get a notebook-like interface with handwriting and text support. You can write with your finger anywhere on the screen and the app scales this down and intelligently aligns the text with the notebook lines. You even get handwriting recognition: Long-press a handwritten item and select handwriting recognition and the app will convert it into text. The Windows app isn’t as robust, lacking handwriting recognition and generally harder to use. Nevertheless, it’s a great package overall.
Platform: Windows and iOS
- Cross-platform between Android and Windows
- Handwriting recognition
- Intelligent formatting and alignment
- Windows app not as robust
Who it’s for: Users who want the most versatile note-taking app possible
Noteledge adopts a “throw everything and the kitchen sink” approach to note-taking. Whereas apps like Xournal are content with just giving you handwriting and text input, Noteledge bills itself as a “multimedia” note-taking solution. What this means is that, in addition to handwritten notes, you’ll be able to add in sound recordings, typed text, videos, images, and other media. While this sounds great in theory, I found the app to be difficult to use in practice, at least on Android.
The app defaults to the handwriting/drawing mode. There’s no writing recognition here and your handwriting isn’t scaled down, so you can very easily fill up entire pages. If you want to add in other content, you’ll need to go to the attachment tab and add in a box for text, video, or something else. In my experience, Noteledge worked better as a general jotting pad–you can throw doodles, sound recordings, or whatever else at it and save them thanks to the cloud sync features.
Platform: Windows, iOS, Mac, and Android
- You can add all kinds of media to notes, in addition to handwriting
- Cloud sync
- The interface is clunky, especially on Android phones
Who it’s for: Android users who want a robust note-taking solution
The last item on our list is something of a rarity: An Android-exclusive productivity app. That right: iOS users will have to miss out on Squid (though of course, they get GoodNotes and Notability, among others). Squid keeps things simple. You get a selection of page ruling options, from a blank canvas to college ruling and wide ruling among others. You then get to scribble between or on top of the lines. You can adjust brush color, width, and pressure sensitivity, too. Squid doesn’t have handwriting recognition, so your scribbles are just that–scribbles.
Squid also has a handy PDF notation feature that lets you import PDFs and write on them. While the interface is nice and its easy to start taking notes down, Squid comes with a major caveat: Many important features, like cloud saving and even adding text boxes, are locked behind a paywall. Squid premium costs a dollar a month. This isn’t much but it’s really only giving you what Fiinote offers for free. The app also gives you the option of unlocking the “Tool pack” for $3. This lets you add text boxes and gives you a smart eraser tool. To be honest, this felt a little cheap.
- Neatly designed interface
- Easy to just start taking notes
- Important functions are locked behind a paywall
Closing Words: Goodnotes Alternatives
Each of these apps has its own advantages and drawbacks. If you want a full-fledged iOS to GoodNotes, Notability is the default port of call. It’s very expensive for what it offers, though. Xournal offers Windows users a no-frills note-taking experience but the lack of cloud saving adds to the inconvenience. Squid would be great for Android users except that it locks so many features behind a paywall. Fiinotes gives you almost everything Squid offers for free, with a Windows app to boot. The Windows app isn’t as robust as the Android version, though. And lastly, Noteledge is what you want to check out if you want a note-taking app that does everything, though its clunky interface makes it hard to use in practice.