Review: Notability Note Taking & PDF Annotation App


If you use an iPad and are looking for a great app for taking notes and annotating PDF files, then look no further than Notability. Notability is by far one of the best note taking apps I have seen and is the only one that has taken some of my attention away from Evernote. Unlike Evernote, it is not free however, it is only $1.99 and it is packed full of features.


In the picture below, you can see how Notability allows you to organize your notes into nice note books called categories and tabs called subjects on the left side of the page. In the top bar you have a simple set of tools. The “Edit” button allows you to rename, delete, and reorganize your notes and notebooks. The right pointing arrow button to the right of “Edit” will allow you to share a particular note. Notability will connect to your email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, WebDav, printers, iTunes, and even other apps on your iPad. The second arrow button in the top right corner will allow you to import documents, PDFs, pictures, etc… from these connected services such as Dropbox. The final button in the right corner is used to start a new note.


Stylus and Finger Friendly

One of the few frustrations I have with Evernote has been the lack of an ink note on the iPad. An ink note will allow you to use a stylus, or your finger, to write on the tablet. Notability works great with a stylus. In the image below, notice the different colors of handwriting that was used as well as, the colorful sketches that were done. The ink in Notability is smooth as silk. If you press and hold on the pencil icon at the top of the note, you get several options for pen thicknesses, styles, and colors.

Ink Pen

Media Rich

Notability has the ability to insert a lot of media into a note. Below, you will where I inserted a picture of an apple pie I made. You will also see the little “plus” sign menu dropped down showing the different media available to you in Notability. Notice that I have a purple triangle inserted as a shape. I used the “figure” option to draw this into my note. You can also insert “Stickies” with all sorts of different paper colors and lines available. Another really cool trick is the “Web Clip” option they put into Notability. You can browse out to a web page and clip a picture of it into your note. This would be great if you were working on a website design team or if there is some important information on the web that you don’t want to lose. You will also notice the microphone icon at the top of the note. This allows you to make voice notes. This is excellent for those of us who work in construction and we want to give ourselves reminders as we walk through the initial stages of a project.

Media Rich

The Good:

For a $1.99, this app is fantastic. This app is fantastic for $10. It works very nicely with a stylus and it adds flair to your notes that a lot of other note taking apps just don’t do. For instance, the fact that you can pick lined or grid paper, or have color paper instead of plain white are great examples of the thoughtful additions Notability offers. It connects to most major cross browser cloud storage apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also send you note in a variety of formats such as PDF.

The Bad:

Notability will let you create text boxes that you can type in and move around, but they are a little buggy at times. Sometimes selecting and deselecting the boxes is difficult and they will move around on you as well. It doesn’t integrate with QuickOffice so you can’t import a spreadsheet in as a spreadsheet. It wants to convert it using Google Drive. It is currently not available for Android.

All that being said, those very small flaws are the only reason I can’t give this a perfect score, but it is pretty darn close in my mind. Notability is a must have app for the student, project manager, or someone who likes to keep up with good notes. I am confident that they are working to add better capabilities to this already wonderful app. It’s a 4 star app going on 5 soon.


Published by

Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!