Goodnotes 5 App for iPad – Smart Setup and Flexible Editing for Digital Planners

The Goodnotes app shaped my digital planning journey and it remains my first love when it comes to PDF annotations apps for iPad.

2019 schedule digital planner in Goodnotes app - digital planning and digital note talking

The idea to turn my planner into a digital product did not come overnight. I had it in my mind for almost a year until one morning when… I randomly searched on Etsy for “digital planners”. That’s when I discovered this magical process of turning a PDF with hyperlinks into a functional digital planner using Goodnotes. In just a couple of minutes I decided that “I can do that too!“ so I ordered my new iPad 9.7” with a Stylus Apple Pencil and the Goodnotes 4 app. My planner’s journey has shifted completely from pen and paper to digital paperless planning in a matter of days. The planners were well received and 10 months later I reached the 1000 sales milestone.

DISCLAIMER: I proudly used Goodnotes 4 for my day to day planning, however I did not make the switch to using the new Goodnotes 5 version because it feels a bit unstable and has a few bugs I do not enjoy (I will talk about them below). I am still using Goodnotes 5 to test my digital products, and I do hope that the team will fix some of the issues so I can come back to it in 2020.


Eager to try it before jumping into details?

Download my FREE 2019 Digital Planner and get started today.


Here are 10 reasons why I like Goodnotes 5 for daily digital notes and digital planning

#1. Beautiful organization system in Folders

Goodnotes 5 is using the “folder-in-folder-in-folder” approach which I love! It’s really easy and intuitive to add a folder anywhere I want. Plus, moving one or multiple files to a folder is so much easier in Goodnotes 5. Also, I can choose to display all my documents as lists or as grid, for a comfortable experience. Well done!

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Folders in Goodnotes app - digital planners

#2. The table of content

This is A MUST HAVE for me. To enable an easy navigation through my digital planners I have built-in the Table of Content (or Outline) to quickly jump to a pre-defined section like – a monthly page, meetings section, projects section and more. Goodnotes had this feature implemented in version 4 and kept it live in the version 5 too.

The Table of Content (Outlines) in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#3. It’s easy to navigate my digital planner’s pages with the hyperlinks

In order to click any hyperlinks and functional monthly tabs in Goodnotes 5 you need to be in the Viewing Mode. While this requires some extra taping and may disrupt the planning process, it can be useful in some cases to prevent clicking on hyperlinks while writing. Nevertheless, the possibility to click a link or a monthly tab, and go to different sections inside the digital planner is priceless.

Digital planner for Goodnotes. How to enter the editing view in Goodnotes 5.

#4. It’s easy to use my digital planner’s built-in templates WITHOUT MESSING UP THE HYPERLINKS

I put a lot of effort into creating my digital planners with 30k+ of hyperlinks. So, whenever someone wants to use one of the 16 templates included inside the digital notebook, I really want them to be able to copy those templates WITHOUT losing up the links functionality. In Goodnotes 5 they can and it’s super easy using the Copy-Paste function!

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Copy a page in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#5. Document editing is flexible, easy and intuitive

I can easily add pages, move or delete one or multiple pages at once, duplicate pages, change a page template or rotate a page without changing the whole document. Goodnotes 5 is indeed the best app when it comes to managing my notebook pages without losing my mind!

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Copy, rotate, export multiple pages at once in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#6. Copy – paste one or multiple pages in a new location

This action is SO EASY to do in Goodnotes 5. This is particularly useful when people are using my built-in templates inside the master digital planners. With the Copy-Paste function, everyone can copy a template and paste it ANYWERE inside the planner, without messing up the right-side monthly tabs’ hyperlinks.

Monthly planner for Goodnotes. Paste a page in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#7. Supports both VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL scrolling

Goodnotes’ competitors allow for either vertical scrolling (Notability) or horizontal scrolling (Noteshelf 2). So Goodnotes 4 is the only app that allows both types of scrolling!

Talking notes on Goodnotes. Vertical scrolling in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#8. Documents open in tabs

By far, this is the best feature to have when working with the same documents every day. I found it extremely helpful to have all these digital documents open and ready to use when I open the app. Every day I write in my 2019 master digital planner, the 5-minute Journal, the Health Tracker and the Books Reading Tracker, so having these open all the time is a time saver.

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Documents in tabs in Goodnotes 5 app - digital planners

#9. Export feature

In Goodnotes 5 I can export editable or flattened PDF files, images or .goodnotes format!! This comes in very handy when I want to share my work with someone else. I’ll just export one or multiple pages (or the entire document) and share it with my clients, colleagues, friends or family members.

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Export options  in Goodnotes 5 app - export editable PDF - export flattened PDF - export image

#10. The global search feature

By far, Goodnotes 5 is the best app when it comes to organized search results. I can search for keywords across all my notebooks and get organized results based on “Titles”, “PDFs”, “Document Outlines”, “Typed Notes” and “Written Notes”!!

Digital planner for Goodnotes. Global search in Goodnotes 5 app

Plus, a lot more flexibility to edit the digital notebooks:

  • Settings flexibility – in Goodnotes 5 I can opt for top/bottom toolbar that can improve my digital handwriting experience. I do however like the default option with the top editing toolbar.
  • Easy to import new PDF documents inside an active notebook
  • Easy to import images/stickers with or without transparent background
  • Easy drag & drop text, photos from other apps into Goodnotes 5 with Multitasking
Digital planner for Goodnotes. Drag and drop in Goodnotes 5 app using Multi-tasking for iOS - digital planners
  • Great handwriting experience – great sizes and color choices for the ink, and highlighter. Also, I can easily customize them with my own colors and stroke thickness.
  • Advanced lasso tool – This works very well! I can move the selection around the page, copy it, delete it, resize it or rotate it! For the handwritten content I can also change the pen color or convert it to text.
  • The eraser tool works super smooth – it can delete parts of the stroke, the entire stroke or the highlighter only, giving me so much more flexibility when taking notes
  • Presentation Mode available – this is a killer feature when you need to present in front of an audience. Just mirror your screen and you’re good to go. I did not use this feature yet, but I hope I’ll have the chance to use it soon.
Digital planner for Goodnotes. Weekly planner for Goodnotes 5

Here’s why I am not 100% sold to Goodnotes 5

  • POOR Performance and speed – This is the main reason I did not use Goodnotes 5: the poor performance and readability issues (this did not happen in Goodnotes 4!). Since lunching the new version, the team has taken care of some of the issues, but I still face problems with files not importing properly (solution: you’ll need to close the app and try importing that file again), or the app crashed on files bigger than 7-10MB.
  • Requires a considerable storage space on my iPad – Definitely Goodnotes 5 app has a lot to improve at this chapter. It easily exceeds 1 GB of storage while Goodnotes 4 app needed around half of that space for the same amount of documents. Since I like to keep my digital planners and notebooks inside the app for 1-2 years, keeping the storage size as decent as possible is a must.
  • NO auto-backup and slower file syncing – although this was very well handled in Goodnotes 4, it seems that in the new Goodnotes 5 app automatic backups ARE MISSING. Plus, the iCloud synchronization gets slower for large PDF files.
  • Unproductive and less intuitive toolbar layout – This impacts my productivity! I waste a lot of time playing around with the software interface rather than getting things done. I wish for a simpler and more organized toolbar; however, this is just a matter of preferences.
  • Not so easy to bookmark and label a page – This is a very useful feature whenever I need to bookmark a client profile page, or a particular meeting. However, in Goodnotes 5 app there is no straight forward and efficient way to do this. You can bookmark a page (add to Favorites), but you can’t label that bookmark. A workaround would be to bookmark the page, go to Favorites tab, click on the small arrow on the bottom left of the bookmarked page, and click Add Page to Outline. You will be required to add a page title and you’ll find this new labeled page inside the Outlines tab.
  • Go Back button – I got used to this button when working in Goodnotes 4 however the “Go Back” button no longer exists in Goodnotes 5 app – such a pity! If there is one NEW feature that I would like to see back in Goodnotes 5 that would be the “Go Back” Button.
  • DOES NOT HAVE the Record and playback audio – This is a killer feature that GoodNotes 5 does NOT have. Would have been so useful to audio record my meetings or skype discussion while talking notes on my dedicated Digital Clients Book. Hopefully the team will include this into a feature app update.
  • DOES NOT recognize dates links, emails and phone numbers so I CAN’T use them directly from my notes to add events to the calendar, call a phone number or write an email (you can do this with Notability instead).
  • Does NOT Fit the screen width in landscape – I admit that I love Notability’s ability to automatically snaps the page to fit the screen width in landscape. This comes in very handy when talking fast notes. In Goodnotes 5 however you can’t do that, so if you rotate the iPad in landscape view you will have to zoom the page manually. However, the design I use for my digital planners is quite comfortable for handwriting, so you don’t have to zoom in too often.
  • The text editing feature has basic styling options, so there is plenty of room for improvements.
Digital planner for Goodnotes. Weekly and daily planner for Goodnotes 5. Styling text in Goodnotes 5.

That’s my experience with Goodnotes 5 so far. Again, I mostly use it to test my carefully designed digital notebooks, before adding them to the shop.

How about you? How are you using the Goodnotes 5 app? What features would you like to see implemented inside the app sometimes in the future?

Post navigation

← Previous Post

Leave a Comment

Logged in as . Log out?Type here..

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top