I run a good portion of my entire business with a note-taking app (the first one listed below).
It serves as my to-do list which is pretty much all I need in addition to some Google Sheets.
I like note-taking apps because they’re simple and load fast and immediately available at my fingertips on every device (laptop, phone, tablet).
If I get an idea, I jot it down. If I finishing a task, I delete it.
I can search old notes (I have hundreds of them).
Not only do I run my business with these simple tech marvels, but I also organize much of my personal life in the same manner.
I’ve tried many. Here are my findings for the best note-taking apps.
Table of Contents
1. Apple Notes
If you have an Apple product like an Apple iPhone, tablet, or Mac or any device that runs on macOS or iOS, you have access to Apple Notes which is built into the device, so you already have it, if you have any of these devices.
With Apple Notes you can easily start a note through the app or ask Siri to work her magic and start a note for you. Within the Apple Notes tool, you can create lists, draw images, scan documents, and add attachments such as images, documents, and videos. More recent additions to the Apple Note app you can format, use tables, add bullets, and even use bold and italicized texts.
The version that comes with your Apple iPhone is pretty basic, but you can save documents in folders for easy access. The version that you will find on your Mac desktop is very easy to use and adds a few extras and can be synced with your iPhone or any iCloud devices so they will be available to you no matter what Apple device you may be using.
This is a very affordable app. They offer a free plan for up to 5GB of storage and you can purchase an extra 50GB of storage for less than $1.00 per month.
2. Google Keep
Google Keep syncs across devices as well. For desktop, you install the Chrome Extension. On mobile, you install the app. It’s free everywhere.
Here’s the desktop view:
Here’s the mobile view:
Google Keep is a very, very cool note-taking app with loads of functionality. Had I not discovered it sooner, it may well be my go-to app.
You can make several types of notes including:
- Regular text,
- Checklist, and
- Photo notes.
As the name indicates this is a Google product and is convenient to use with your Google email platform. There is nothing too sophisticated about this easy to use tool other than it offers many handy features.
You can quickly filter, save, and search your notes. You can share notes as well as lists, images, and audio notes.
The app features areas where you can save notes, set reminders, edit labels, archive notes, and delete them to make room for others.
This is a free service and will probably have all the features needed outside of the business environment.
Why don’t I use it if it’s so cool?
Two reasons. First, I didn’t discover it until I was well along using Apple Notes. I’m too lazy to move my notes over.
Second, I don’t care for how Google displays all the notes in a grid. There’s a list view but it shows too much of each note instead of a tight list like Apple Notes. I know this sounds minor, but it’s a considerable user experience feature that matters to me.
Workflowy is cool. It’s free. It functions much like Apple Notes. You can sync it across your devices including desktop. It’s my second favorite note-taking app.
One thing I like about it over Apple Notes is how it creates bullet lists automatically. It’s easier to read.
However, I don’t care for how all the different notes show up on the main page. You click the drop-down arrows to see the full note. Apple Notes doesn’t do this. If you have tons of individual notes, the main page is cluttered.
In other words, I don’t like the navigation nearly as much as I do for Apple Notes. It’s a personal preference really, but that’s why I don’t use it.
Evernote is cool but it costs money. I see no reason to spend yet more money on software when Apple Notes (and others) works perfectly for me.
Evernote has been around a while and offers products for businesses and personal use. They were an early leader in the note-taking arena and is still considered to be one of the best services you can find because it supports a wide range of different images including text, images, audio messages, scanned documents, lists, checklists, and Webpages. This platform offers great tools for organizing your notes.
With a business account, you can use Evernote for real-time chats and to collaborate with others.
One feature that many find valuable is the ability to search for text images. So, if you take a picture of a home with a fore sale sign, you can search “for sale” and pull up that photo.
Premium and business accounts enable you to upload documents, PDF’s and a variety of different types of files. With those types of accounts, you can also use it as a scanner.
5. Microsoft OneNote
This is a very versatile app and offers a wide range of offerings, it is often compared to Evernote because of the capabilities it offers. But that is where the similarities end. They are very different apps in the look and feel of the app.
While Evernote has the look and feel of a business product, Microsoft OneNote has the appearance of paper. To take note you click on the page and start taking your notes in a lined page, just like a legal pad. The app offers a variety of tools that help you stay organized like tabs for keeping your notes organized and at your fingertips.
Some of the more unique features are the ability to move things around the page and save audio memos. You can also use it to scan images and it has a tool that will take hand-written texts and converts them into typed text.
This app features a great search function, but what sets it apart is the fact that features notes, knowledge bases as well as categorizes tasks/projects and databases. So, you will have all these tools in one app.
With Notion, each new document is a new page and each item is called a block. It offers all the tools you will need to create basic texts, lists, save images and bookmarks and save codes, video, and audio files.
Notion also offers some great tools for business purposes. You can create different workspaces that enable you to store notes in one place and then share it with different teams. Because it does have business applications and tools to share “blocks” and “pages” within teams in a business environment, it may be too much for personal use.
Notion has a free plan that is limited to 1,000 blocks of information. You can delete old blocks to add more space or purchase more blocks if you are using it for business purposes. The Team plan starts at just $8.00 per month.
Some note-taking apps were created to serve a certain industry or purpose, and this is the case with BoostNote. It is a free app that was created primarily for developers. It features an extra panel on the right-hand side of the screen for editing and review purposes and enables the user to see codes.
To save your BoostNote you have a choice of storing them offline or adding them to a file storage/syncing provider.
BoostNote has a very innovative payment plan. While it is free to all users, they do accept contributions. So, if you find BoostNote to be a value to your business, they are more than happy to accept any donation you would like to make.
Just like BoostNote, Milanote was created primarily for designers and visual thinkers and those that use images more than words. It enables the user to paste images and create a file that features design elements and little text.
The app features a storage drawer to hold visual elements that you plan to use but have not placed yet. It keeps everything at your fingertips so you can see all the images you have available to you as you plan to place them into your “canvas”.
It also has a tool that will let you clip images that can be stored for future use. Instead of relying on a third party, Milanote will store, sync, and back up your files.
Free members can only upload 100 images/links and only ten files. Pro members have many more perks like unlimited storage of notes, images, links, and files and also includes a search tool. Pro members will pay $9.99/month with an annual subscription.
This is a handy app and is, in fact, quite simple to use! But then again there is not much to it. It is similar to a blank slate of page where you can create reminders, notes, etc.
You cannot use it to draw or record memos, it is a scaled-down and basic platform that includes no rich text formatting capabilities, no uploads, and also you cannot add an attachment. It is the most basic form of a note-taking app.
Simplenote will let you search for text and view your history so you can find saved notes. You can also sort and organize your notes. One of the benefits is that Simplenote can run on any browser and just about any platform.
This is a free service with no subscription options. If your needs are very basic and you do not need any complex features, Simplenote may suit your note-taking needs.
10. Standard Notes
Standard Notes utilizes 100% encrypted note-taking making it a great option for those that need to write and store confidential information. The only way you can gain access to the encrypted notes is by entering your private passcode. No one will be able to gain access to these notes unless they have the code.
Because this app is created for extremely sensitive materials and information, it may offer too many options for the regular user that just needs a place to save their information. That is unless you opt for the free version, which is scaled down greatly from the paid plan. The free version does not support rich text, images, links, or attachments. You can organize by using tags and saving those notes in a folder.
While many note-taking apps offer the same level of note-taking abilities, there would be little reason for someone to choose this app over others that offer more to the unpaid user like Evernote and AppleNote.
Now the Extended plan is another story and is oozing with functionality. You can add widgets, extensions, and other add odds based on your need to customize the app. You also have more storage options in folders; you can also copy and save notes by syncing from Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive.
As mentioned, there is a free plan that offers very scaled back offerings. For the advanced Extended Plan, you will be paying $4.17 per month with an annual subscription plan.
Different Note-taking Apps Offer A Variety of Features
Not all note-taking apps are the same. Some offer different features that may be more popular with students, parents, kids, professionals, and for personal use.
The first thing you should consider is the ease of use and set up. You should also consider value for those that charge a subscription fee. You need to determine if your note-taking app needs more bells and whistles that warrant the cost of the app.
Before you decide on the first note-taking app you come across, explore what other options are available to make sure you make the appropriate choice that best meets your needs.
A college student that relies on taking school notes will have different needs than a mom who only needs to access her weekly grocery list.
You will find that some note-taking apps were created for different business needs, whether they offer the ability to cut and store images. Some apps are designed primarily to work in a business or team setting where work documents are shared among a group.
Some apps are created just for designers and the specific needs they have that align with their business. Other apps are encrypted so no one but you or anyone that has the password will have access to them.
With more and more apps created for specific business niches, there is no doubt that soon there will an appropriate app for just about any type of business or individual need.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.