What’s the best note-taking app?
Perhaps, you know how important it is to take notes regularly. And you make an effort capture ideas everyday. You also spend time recording your thoughts. But, you’re having trouble finding the best note-taking app.
If you’re a writer, you need a note-taking app you can depend on. This way you can spend more time developing your ideas and less time waiting for inspiration to arrive.
In this updated article, I feature 12 of the best digital note taking apps and tools. At the end, I’ve also got a free bonus which will help you proofread and edit your notes faster.
1. Your Camera
If you hold your finger on the screen of your smartphone, it will automatically focus on what you’re looking at, and enable you to snap a picture that’s easy to read.
Most smartphones are synced to the cloud meaning your (photo)notes are backed up, even if you lose your phone.
If you snap notes with your camera, consider Day One for iOS. It encourages you to use your camera alongside text notes to record and document your thoughts. Unfortunately, there’s still no Android version.
- It’s probably in your pocket
- May not suit those who prefer to just write
- You’ll have to get your notes out of your photo gallery
Simplenote is a free note capturing app with a cult following. There are Simplenote apps for iOS and Android. You can also access Simplenote through a web app.
Simplenote is geared towards those who want to capture and organise text notes. You can’t keep or store webpages and clippings in Simplenote.
To be honest, I liked that about Simplenote.
It also plays nicely with the popular long-form writing application, Scrivener.
Previously, I used Simplenote to capture digital notes and ideas for articles on the go on my phone. You can categorise your notes using tags, and these tags make it easy to organise and find notes later on.
It also plays nicely with Notational Velocity for OS X, and it is great for taking notes at meetings (if you have internet access).
- Widely supported
- Can’t capture webpages
- Not much use for those who work with multimedia
Tip: If you have an idea for a blog article, use the @blog tag to organise and find these ideas later on.
Evernote is one of the more popular note capturing apps available today.
The logo for Evernote is an elephant for a reason. It’s an “everything bucket” in that you can capture, organise and store almost any type of digital note with your phone, web browser or desktop client.
Evernote has apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop apps for Windows and OS X. You can also access it through a web browser and use several different browser extensions to capture snippets of web pages for your notebooks.
When I first wrote this article, I relied primarily on Simplenote. A few years ago, I migrated all my notes from my paper systems and from Simplenote into Evernote and added PDFs and pictures.
I capture ideas for articles I want to write, I “swipe” articles by others that I want to reference later on, and I even store audio recordings and photo notes in Evernote.
I subscribe to numerous blogs and when these bloggers send me free content, I store these giveaways in Evernote too. This way, my desktop and email isn’t cluttered and I can find this content easily.
Last year, I attended a Photoshop course, where the lecturer shared an Evernote workbook of useful articles and images with the class. This is an excellent way to take advantage of Evernote’s free multimedia features and share them with others.
I’m happy to pay for Evernote as it’s a powerful digital note-taking app.
- Powerful search and tagging
- Stores multimedia
- Slow on older devices
- Premium version needed for offline mobile access and for heavy users
- You’ll only see the power of Evernote if you use it to store all your notes
OneNote is Microsoft’s note taking app. It’s intuitive and a surprisingly fun to use tool aimed at business people.
OneNote’s biggest selling point is that it makes it easier for people on a team to share digital notes and collaborate with each other.
You can use OneNote to keep your digital notes, to create To Do Lists and to store articles you find online using the OneNote web clipper. The web clipper is good, but it’s not as intuitive as Evernote.
OneNote integrates with Outlook and the other MS Office apps, and it handles Excel, Word and other MS Office attachments better than the other note-taking tools featured here.
It’s free but to get the most from OneNote, buy MS Office or subscribe to Office 365 (approximately EUR99 for the year).
- Easy to use
- Works best if you use Microsoft Office 365
- Less useful if you don’t use MS Office
- Works best if you use Microsoft Office 365 😉
5. Google Keep
Google Keep is a relatively new note-taking app that’s aimed at people who want to capture what’s on their mind quickly.
It’s free, it’s colourful and it comes on many Android devices. You can use Google Keep to take notes and create lists, which are stored on Google Drive.
Like Evernote, Google Keep also suports image recognition, enabling you to convert images (photos of your notes) and PDFs into searchable text.
If you keep digital notes, tags are a great way of organising and finding these notes later on. Unfortunately, Google Keep doesn’t support tags and, for this reason, I don’t use it (but that doesn’t mean you can’t).
- No tags
- Better suited for those who already use Android/Google services
6. Apple Notes
Lately, I use Apples Notes most of the time to capture ideas from courses I take and while out and about. It suits how I work as I use an iMac, iPad and iPhone.
So all of these devices play together. To be honest, Apple Notes is very similar to Simple Note, except it doesn’t support tags.
- It just works
- Ideal for Apple and iPhone users
- No tags
- Not much use if you have a Windows machine
Bear is an alternative to Evernote that feels lightweight and faster. It also supports Markdown, which means you can write notes faster. Many Evernote users have migrated to Bear since I wrote this article.
It costs $1.49 a month or $14.99 for the year.
- Supports Markdown
- Search is faster
- It’s also cheaper than Evernote
- Not as feature-rich as Evernote
- No integrations with third-party apps like Trello
8. Day One
Day One is a journaling app, but I use it to capture my ideas about random topics and arrange them into journals.
I also sometimes tag photos of my index cards and other notes and add it to Day One.
Day One syncs across all of my devices. I also like the template feature of Day One as I can save a series of questions and insert them quickly into individual notes.
Premium costs $2.95 per month, billed annually.
- Pleasing to use
- Ideal for writers
- Contains templates for taking the same types of notes regularly
- Windows only
- Best suited for writers
Ulysses is a note-taking and writing app.
It’s more powerful than Simplenote, in that you can turn notes into articles and even blog posts and book chapters. Use it to arrange your notes into folders and even set writing goals.
Ulysses supports Markdown and contains a number of themes and a type writer mode.
It costs $5 per month or $40 per year, but remember you’re getting more than a note-taking app. It’s a writing, blogging and publishing tool.
- Supports many types of writing
- Tags and folders are good for arranging ideas
- A small learning curve
- Mac only
Notion bills itself as an all in one workplace for notes, writing, project management, collaboration and more. It aims to consolidate all the tools writers or creatives might use, like their writing app of choice, to-do lists and even project management tools.
Many writers I know love Notion, but to be honest, I found all the options overwhelming. It also struck me as a tool better suited to writers who work with others on the same team.
You can try it out for free before paying $4 per month.
- Beautiful UI
- A fresh alternative to Evernote
- The volume of features might put off some
- Comes with a learning curve
11. Zoho Notes
Zoho Notes is ideal if you approach taking notes with the idea that each one should be separate and focus on a single idea.
It presents each note as a card that you can review quickly on the go. That’s a good feature if you’re learning a new skill and want to review key concepts.
It supports checklists, photos, sketches, audio clips and files. Zoho notes works on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
- Works everywhere
- Cards might put off some
12. Pen, Paper and Index Cards
I know it’s not digital, but it’s hard to beat pen and paper or index cards. They’re cheap, available and just work. You can always GTD your Moleskine notebook.
You don’t have to upgrade or worry about battery life or passwords. You can bring it anywhere, and it comes in many form factors.
- Doesn’t need a charger
- If you lose a notebook, you lose your notes.
- Search, what search?!
Your Notes, You Choice
All of the above note taking apps will get the job done. Your choice boils down to personal preference and how you like to work or write.
Whatever note-taking app you decide on, it’s important that you have a trusted system for getting ideas out of your head. Then, you should make a point to review these notes regularly and act on them before you write.
This way, you can become a more productive and creative writer.
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