What is 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 14 of the best digital note taking apps and tools for all types of operating systems and platforms. At the end, I’ve also got a free bonus which will help you proofread and edit your notes faster.
Simplenote is a free note capturing app with a cult following. There are Simplenote apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. You can also access Simplenote through a web app.
Simplenote is geared towards those who want to capture and organize text notes. You can’t keep or store webpages and clippings in Simplenote.
To be honest, I like 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 categorize your notes using tags, and these tags make it easy to organize 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).
Tip: If you have an idea for a blog article, use the @blog tag to arrange and find these ideas later on.
Evernote is one of the more popular cross-platform note taking apps available today.
The logo for Evernote is an elephant for a reason. It’s an “everything bucket” in that you can capture, organize 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.
A few years ago, 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.
3. 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.
4. Microsoft OneNote
Microsoft OneNote is a cross-platform note taking app that comes part of Office 365. 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. It also syncs all of your data back to Microsoft OneDrive.
You can use Microsoft OneNote to keep your digital notes, to create To Do Lists and to store articles you find online using the OneNote web clipper. That web clipper is good, but it’s not as intuitive as Evernote.
OneNote integrates with Outlook and the other MS Office apps like Outlook and Powerpoint. It also handles Excel, Word and other MS Office attachments better than the other note-taking tools featured here.
If you use an iPad, OneNote works with the Apple stylus.
It’s free but to get the most functionality from OneNote, buy MS Office or subscribe to Office 365 (approximately between $70 and $100 for the year).
5. Google Keep
Google Keep is a lightweight 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 organizing 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).
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 similar to Simplenote.
When iCloud and Notes launched years ago, it used to have syncing issues. These days it appears to be rock-solid.
Apple have upgraded it a bit over the years. Now you can drag and drop content into it including photos. You can also use it to write and manage basic to-do lists.
If you have an iPad or iPad Pro, Notes works the Apple stylus.
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’s available on Mac and iOS only. Like Evernote, it also has a web clipper for capturing online content.
It costs $1.49 a month or $14.99 for the year.
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.
I use Day One regularly and syncing work effortlessly across my iPhone, iPad and Mac.
Premium costs $2.95 per month, billed annually.
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 syncs to Dropbox or iCloud.
Unfortunately, it’s only available for Apple Mac.
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.
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.
It’s available on Windows, Apple Mac, iOS and Android.
Many writers I know love Notion because it’s so customizable.
To be honest, I found all the options overwhelming. I also found the blocks within notion hard to get used to for formatting my work.
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.
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, Apple Mac, Android and iOS.
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.
13. Roam Research
Roam Research is a newer note-taking app. It bills itself as a “tool for networked thought”.
I tested Roam Research for a month and it shows huge promise… it’s also got a cult following on YouTube.
Basically, it auto suggests links between your notes bi-directionally. Unlike other note-taking apps, it will unearth connections between ideas organically.
However, there’s a modest learning curve to Roam Research and you’ll need a large database of notes to get maximum value from it. It’s also only accessible via a web browser.
I’m not quite ready to move everything into it just yet.
Roam Research also costs $15 per month.
14. Plain Text Files
Plain text apps work just fine for note-taking. Whatever your device, it probably has one. And they are free.
Plain text doesn’t allow for rich content or multi-media but that’s fine because you’ll spend less time formatting your notes.
Plain text files work anywhere too, so you don’t have to worry about a database. The only other downside of plain text files is that you’ll have to figure out a system for managing all of your new notes. Many prolific note-takers use folders for this.
Finding Best Note Taking App: Your 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. Do you want a note taking app that syncs with your productivity apps?
Or would you simply like a place to record your ideas quickly?
And it cost and cross-platform functionality important?
Whatever note taking app you decide on, it’s important that you have a trusted system for getting ideas out of your head. Then, 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 note taker.
Best Note Taking Apps FAQ
What are the best note taking apps for iPad?
Apple Notes is one of the best note taking apps for iPad. It works with the Apply stylus and supports multi-media content. Syncing is also fast and reliable.
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