Google makes its note-taking AI NotebookLM more useful


Google launched its note-taking app NotebookLM last year for researchers, students, and anyone who needs to organize the information they’ve gathered. Now, users can now upload Google Slides and web URLs as sources, not just the Google Docs, PDFs, and text files it accepted previously.

The new Notebook Guide also reads sources in NotebookLM and creates study guides, FAQs, or briefing documents, and inline citations can point to your own sources to fact-check AI responses — up to 50 sources per “notebook,” or project, and each source can be 500,000 words long. Previously, people could only upload five sources.

Users can also now ask questions about charts, images, and diagrams they uploaded to the platform because NotebookLM is running on Google’s Gemini 1.5 Pro, the latest large language model that currently powers the paid version of the Gemini chatbot. I was able to try my hand at these features to see how they work.

Google’s NotebookLM adds new features like a Notebook Guide that distills information into an FAQ, study guide, or briefing report.
Image: Google

In a briefing, Raiza Martin, senior product manager at Google Labs, told reporters that NotebookLM “is a closed system.” It will not do any web searches beyond reading the website content users add. Martin says NotebookLM’s answers to queries about data or images will only come from the user’s “corpus” or body of information they add to the platform. 

I tried NotebookLM to see the new features in action. The Notebook Guide was not yet available for reporters to try, but I was able to add new data sources, get inline citations, and get Gemini 1.5 Pro to look at graphs for me. I asked NotebookLM to give me information from a PDF of a line graph, and it gave me the numbers I was looking for. I also asked it to summarize the text of the EU AI Act, and it was able to give me an overview and include citations so I knew where it was pulling its answers from.

Unfortunately, web URL sources didn’t work in my demo: whenever I pasted a link into NotebookLM, the model would start to upload the website, but it didn’t show up on my list of sources.

NotebookLM is not a tool that will write research papers for you, unlike Perplexity’s Pages, which supposedly helps researchers find data and make it easier to share information (but, in my opinion, fails to do so).

Google gave examples of how people have been using NotebookLM, including shouting out author Walter Isaacson, who the company says used the platform to analyze Marie Curie’s journals for his next book. Google also says that nonprofits use NotebookLM “to identify needs in underserved communities and organize information for grant proposals.” 

Martin says that while NotebookLM’s target audience remains researchers, students, and often writers, the company found other use cases, like a Dungeons & Dragons dungeon master who used NotebookLM to prepare a campaign. 

NotebookLM is now available in over 200 countries and territories and supports more than 100 languages. 

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