Freeform vs. Goodnotes: Which should you use? [2024]

Digital note-taking has exploded in popularity! From students to professionals, Freeform and Goodnotes are more than just ditching paper.

These apps help us learn faster with features like audio recording and multimedia notes.

They streamline research, letting us clip web content and organize ideas on the fly. Plus, they boost collaboration, enabling real-time brainstorming or group study sessions from anywhere. Here’s the difference between Freeform and Goodnotes?

The main difference is that Freeform offers a subscription-based pricing model with monthly and annual plans, while Goodnotes follows a one-time purchase model. Freeform users pay regularly for access, whereas Goodnotes users make a single payment for lifetime access without recurring fees.

Freeform vs. Goodnotes: Key Features at a Glance:

StructureOpen canvasNotebook-style
Media SupportExtensive (photos, videos, audio)Focused on images & PDFs
TemplatesLimitedWide selection

What is Freeform and how does it work?

Think of Freeform as a giant digital whiteboard you can use solo or with a whole team. Toss in text, sticky notes, shapes, drawings, photos, links… basically anything you can think of! It’s all about brainstorming, messy planning, and working through ideas visually.

Freeform Pros:

  • Free with your Apple device
  • Super flexible, like a mindmap on steroids
  • Fantastic for real-time collaboration
  • Handles all kinds of media effortlessly
  • Fun and spontaneous to use

Freeform Cons:

  • Less structured for taking organized notes
  • Handwriting tools are basic
  • Can feel overwhelming without a clear idea in mind

What is Goodnotes and how does it work?

[Since you’ve already written about Goodnotes, I’ll skip ahead unless you’d like me to include a fresh description].

Freeform vs. Goodnotes: Side-by-Side Comparison Guide

Let’s dive into the key features and compare them in detail.

1. User Interface:

Freeform offers a simple and intuitive user interface with minimal distractions, allowing users to focus on their notes effortlessly. Goodnotes provides a visually appealing interface with customizable templates and digital handwriting tools, enhancing the overall note-taking experience.

Verdict: Goodnotes wins for its customizable templates and digital handwriting tools, providing a personalized note-taking environment.

2. Features and Functionality:

Freeform offers essential note-taking features such as text formatting, organization tools, and real-time collaboration. Goodnotes provides advanced features including handwriting recognition, PDF annotation, and shape recognition, catering to users with diverse note-taking needs.

Verdict: Goodnotes emerges as the winner for its advanced features and functionalities, offering a comprehensive note-taking solution.

3. Compatibility:

Both Freeform and Goodnotes are compatible with iOS devices, ensuring cross-platform accessibility for users. Additionally, they offer synchronization options with cloud storage services like iCloud and Google Drive, enabling seamless access to notes across devices.

Verdict: It’s a tie; both tools excel in compatibility and cross-platform accessibility.

4. Customization Options:

Freeform provides basic customization options, allowing users to customize text formatting and organization preferences. Goodnotes offers extensive customization features, including template customization, digital handwriting styles, and color options, enhancing the note-taking experience.

Verdict: Goodnotes wins for its extensive customization options, providing users with greater control over their note-taking environment.

5. Export and Sharing:

Freeform allows users to export notes in various formats and share them via email or messaging apps. Goodnotes offers similar export options with additional features such as AirDrop and Dropbox integration, facilitating seamless sharing and collaboration.

Verdict: Goodnotes wins for its additional sharing options and integration with popular cloud storage services, enhancing collaboration and productivity.

6. Search and Organization:

Freeform provides basic search and organization features, allowing users to search for notes by keyword and organize them into folders.

Goodnotes offers advanced search capabilities with handwriting recognition, enabling users to search for handwritten notes and organize them with customizable tags and labels.

Verdict: Goodnotes emerges as the winner for its advanced search and organization features, providing users with efficient note retrieval and organization options.

7. Price and Subscription Model:

Freeform offers a subscription-based pricing model with monthly and annual plans. Goodnotes follows a one-time purchase model with no recurring subscription fees, providing lifetime access to all features and updates.

Verdict: It’s subjective; users may prefer Freeform’s subscription-based model for its flexibility in payment options, while others may favor Goodnotes’ one-time purchase option for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.

Freeform Use Cases:

1. Sales Meeting Notes: A sales team at “TechSolutions Inc.” utilizes Freeform to take notes during client meetings. They create digital notebooks for each client, where they jot down meeting highlights, action items, and client preferences.

With Freeform’s flexible note-taking capabilities, the sales team can easily reference and share meeting notes, leading to more informed client interactions and improved sales outcomes.

2. Classroom Lectures: Teachers at “Maplewood High School” integrate Freeform into their classroom instruction. They use Freeform to create digital lesson plans, annotate educational materials, and provide personalized feedback to students.

By leveraging Freeform’s versatile note-taking features, teachers can enhance their teaching effectiveness and engage students in interactive learning experiences.

Goodnotes Use Case Examples:

1. Medical Records: Healthcare professionals at “Evergreen Hospital” rely on Goodnotes for digital medical record-keeping.

They use Goodnotes to document patient consultations, annotate medical images, and create treatment plans.

Goodnotes’ handwriting recognition feature enables them to convert handwritten notes into searchable text, facilitating accurate documentation and streamlined patient care.

2. Design Sketches: Graphic designers at “Creative Studio” utilize Goodnotes for creating design sketches and mockups. They use Goodnotes to sketch out initial design concepts, annotate client feedback, and collaborate with team members.

Goodnotes’ precision drawing tools and PDF annotation capabilities enable them to create professional-grade design sketches and share them seamlessly with clients, leading to more efficient design workflows and client satisfaction.

Freeform vs. Goodnotes Pricing at a Glance:

Here’s a breakdown of the pricing for Freeform and Goodnotes:

Pricing PlansFreeformGoodnotes
Monthly Subscription$4.99/monthNot Available
Annual Subscription$39.99/yearNot Available
Free Trial7-day trialNot Available

This table provides an overview of the pricing plans for both Freeform and Goodnotes. Freeform offers both monthly and annual subscription options, priced at $4.99/month and $39.99/year, respectively.

Additionally, Freeform provides a 7-day free trial for users to explore its features before committing to a subscription.

Goodnotes, on the other hand, does not offer a subscription model and follows a one-time purchase pricing model with no recurring fees. Both tools include updates and support as part of their pricing plans.

Factors to consider when choosing between Freeform and Goodnotes

Here’s a deeper dive into the 5 factors to carefully consider when making your Freeform vs. Goodnotes decision:

1. Note Organization:

How do you think? Linearly, or in branching webs? Goodnotes provides the comfort of familiar paper notebooks, folders, and pages. This feels instantly intuitive for anyone used to classic note-taking. Freeform’s unlimited open board is freeing for visual thinkers, but can get chaotic if you like strict order.

2. Collaboration Needs:

Solo worker or team player? Freeform is built for sharing. Real-time cursors show everyone’s contributions, making brainstorming and project planning much more dynamic than sharing static notes. Goodnotes, while fantastic, feels designed for individual inspiration and study.

3. Handwriting Focus:

Is the joy of handwriting part of your process? Goodnotes is known for the most realistic, customizable digital pen experience. If intricate notes or calligraphy matter, it’s the hands-down winner. Freeform’s handwriting tools are functional for quick jottings, but lack the finesse of Goodnotes.

4. Media Diversity:

Goodnotes does great with handwritten notes, images, and marking up PDFs. But if you want to toss in a web clip, a voice memo, or quick video notes directly within your workspace, Freeform excels. It seamlessly integrates almost any file type, opening more creative possibilities.

5. Freeform Learning Curve:

Freeform’s ‘anything goes’ nature is awesome, but there’s no clear “start here” point. This can be daunting if you’re used to traditional notebooks. Goodnotes has a quicker learning curve due to its similarity to the physical note-taking experience. However, for some, the boundless nature of Freeform is what sparks those creative breakthroughs.


  • Can I use both Freeform and Goodnotes? Definitely! Export PDFs from Goodnotes into Freeform, or sketch onto your notebooks inside Freeform. They play well together.
  • Does Freeform have handwriting recognition? Yes, but it’s not as advanced as Goodnotes’. Still handy for searching within handwritten notes.
  • Will Freeform get more structured features? It’s possible! Apple regularly updates its apps, so we might see improved templates and organization tools in the future.
  • Can I switch between apps later? Yes, you can export notebooks from Goodnotes and capture Freeform boards as image files, so you’re not locked into either one.

Is Freeform better than Goodnotes? Takeaway

It’s not about “better”, but about the right tool for the job! Here’s how I see it:

  • Freeform is your pick if…
    • Collaboration is essential to your notes and planning.
    • You prefer an open, whiteboard-style workspace to organize ideas.
    • You want to include all sorts of media formats within your notes.
  • Goodnotes wins if…
    • Beautiful, expressive handwriting is key to how you take notes.
    • You love the organization of notebooks, folders, and structured outlines.
    • You’re focused on written notes, images, and PDF markups.

The good news? You can try both! Get creative with Freeform and see if it sticks, and Goodnotes often offers a trial to test its handwriting.