If you’re a student or are interested in a note taking app for any reason, I’m sure you’ve run into Evernote and Notability. Evernote for sure, since it’s the most obvious recommendation for all things ever. Notability on the other hand is known for getting specific things right. It’s only available on Apple devices as a paid app, and it stores notes in proprietary format like Evernote. Its big perk is that you can scribble things on the screen with a stylus or just your finger, while being able to record audio.
If you’re tossing and turning in your head, not sure which one to go with, hopefully you’ll have a clearer idea by the end of this page.
The Basic Differences
Cross platform availability: You’ll find Evernote apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and most importantly, the web. And Evernote does a commendable job at trying to keep the same functionality between the apps. Notability on the other hand is only available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
The money: Evernote is free to use. Notability’s iOS app costs $4.99 and the Mac app is $9.99. Though Evernote does have a premium plan for $4.99 a month that enables features like offline support, which is built into Notability’s app by default.
Notability Syncs Voice Recordings with Textual Notes
If you’re a student, you’re going to love Notability. When you create a new note, you get a big white area that you can draw, scribble or type on. You can also add images, PDFs and audio recordings, and you have the ability to highlight.
If you’re using an external or built-in keyboard to type, Notability will also map the typed words against the point in the recording. So you can quickly jump between lecture notes and start listening to the snippet you want. But this functionality only works when you’re using the keyboard. If you prefer to take notes by scribbling with a stylus, you’re out of luck.
Evernote Can Record Voice as Well
When you create a new note, you’ll see a Mic button. Pressing this will start the voice recording. Much like Notability, you’re free to type your notes while the audio is being recorded.
Note Taking in Notability vs Evernote
The biggest difference between the two is that Notability provides an integrated note taking experience. You have 4-5 different sources – audio, scribbled notes, drawings, typed text, imported images, and PDFs – and Notability binds them into one whole contextual bundle. If you do it right, all the things you need to revisit a lecture can live in one note.
Evernote, on the other hand, lacks all this contextual stuff. Yes you can have audio and text in one note but that’s it. If you need to annotate documents inside a note, they need to be in PDF format and you need to be a Premium member.
This is it. This is what it all comes down to. If you want the contextual, packaged note-taking experience, you’re gonna have to go with Notability, there’s no other way about it.
Where Evernote Wins
Notability is focused on creating this singular experience. Evernote is much more than that.
If your note taking takes place beyond classrooms and meetings, Evernote might have a lot more to offer.
Notability is also limited to iOS and Mac. This leaves out Android and Windows users, which is a sizable population.
Evernote is also free to start. But if you’re a heavy user you’ll get past the free usage quickly and you’ll want to have your notes available offline. This is when you’ll have to pay $5 a month or $45 a year for Evernote Premium. Notability on the other hand will cost you $15 total on iOS and Mac. No upgrades or monthly pricing there. Notability uses iCloud to sync between devices while Evernote uses their own servers.
When it comes to exporting content, Evernote and Notability are both pretty tied down thanks to their proprietary formats. Notability can export the notes as PDF and audio separately. You can also export notes as a Notability file to share it with other Notability users.
Evernote’s sharing features are far better. Multiple users can collaborate on the same document. It’s not as good as Google Docs but it’s still something useful that Notability doesn’t have.
Evernote Also Has a Secret Scribbling Weapon
A couple of years back Evernote acquired Penultimate, another handwriting/note-taking app where you are free to draw or write on the iPad screen. Lately, the app has seen integration with the Evernote experience. Penultimate is a free app but you can unlock features by paying for Evernote Premium.
One cool feature is that Evernote scans all your handwritten notes and lets you search through them. And yes, Penultimate is just a handwriting/note taking app with tight Evernote integration. But for some, that might be all you need.
There’s so much Evernote can do, people have written books about it. So I can’t go into full detail here. But it’s safe to say Evernote will let you scan all your handwritten notes/PDFs/images and allow you to search through them easily.
Notability is a pretty targeted app. That’s not a bad thing. They are the best at what they do. But you should be aware of the limitations before you jump in.
Which One Did You Go With?
I tried Notability and I’ll keep trying it, but right now I’m an Evernote man myself. What about you? Which did you finally choose? And if you’re not sure, don’t feel bad, we’re all in the same boat. This comparison was only about two of the leading services, and there’s still a lot more out there.