Notes are how ideas begin to take shape. From programmers to authors and college students, they’re the foundation of so many creative and knowledge-based jobs. But your typical paper notebook can’t back up to the cloud, sync with your calendar app, or invite colleagues to edit and share. That’s where note-taking apps come in! These capabilities are essential if you want to work effectively and productively!
Thankfully, there are dozens of note-taking apps on the market today, and with so many options, you’re certain to find one that suits your needs.
Whether you’re jotting down ideas on the go or writing in-depth lecture notes, an Apple lover or a Microsoft devotee, a solo scholar or a collaborator at heart, there are note-taking apps out there for you.
Here are seven of your best options.
If your note-taking is a group effort, then you might enjoy Notion — it’s powerful, flexible, and ideal for collaboration. Within the app, you can create shared or private workspaces, then fill them with all kinds of content, in the form of “blocks.” That includes files, text, images, discussion threads, checklists, and even snippets of code!
Notion is so powerful because it’s not just a note-taking app, it’s also a project management tool. This platform makes it easy to organize everything to do with your project in one place. It comes with plenty of handy templates, and if you’re really happy with how you’ve organized your project, you can easily save and replicate it as a new template, too. That means your notes can easily become the stepping stone for a whole new project!
And if you’re looking to integrate Notion with your other tools? Unito’s got you covered.
Notion is free for individual users and offers a free trial for teams (you’re limited to 1,000 blocks, but that should be plenty). After that, it’ll cost teams $10/month for each user. So, it’s not cheap, but if collaboration is what you need, you may find it’s well worth it.
For some people, Notion’s greatest strength might actually be a drawback. If you don’t need all these powerful capabilities, you might find them more cumbersome than anything, and prefer something a little more streamlined — especially considering the hefty price.
It’s also not great for text-centric notes. Due to its block-style organizational system, each paragraph will display as a separate block, so you can’t really edit them en masse. Also, Notion currently isn’t usable offline.
Evernote is one of the most popular note-taking apps out there, and for good reason! It’s versatile, powerful, and designed to work for all kinds of note-takers, whether you’re a student, filmmaker, or engineer.
Within Evernote, you organize your notes into virtual “notebooks,” then group those notebooks into stacks. You also can tag the notes to further organize them (think of them like color-coded sticky tabs).
Evernote can support nearly any type of content you throw at it like PDFs, audio, video, PowerPoints, and web clippings. Thanks to its character recognition capabilities, nearly all that content is searchable — even text in an image!
Evernote works for Mac and Windows, with a variety of apps available for various devices. It will sync across devices on those systems, too.
While Evernote does offer a free plan, it’s a bit limited; you can only sync across two devices, and you can’t download notes to use offline.
Evernote’s Personal plan will run you $7.99/month, and will allow 10GB of offline storage every month and sync across two devices. The Professional plan is a little more expensive at $9.99, but you get twice the storage and more capability.
If you’re looking for a free (or cheap) note-taking app, you will want to look elsewhere. Also, Evernote doesn’t integrate with Office 365.
Finally, like Notion, Evernote might just be too powerful for some people. If you’re looking for something super-simple (with a price to match), there are other note-taking apps that will be a better fit.
OneNote is the obvious note-taking app choice for die-hard Microsoft Office lovers. Since it’s part of the Microsoft ecosystem, it integrates natively with other Microsoft apps like Word and Excel. Similarly to Evernote, you’ll organize your work into virtual notebooks, and you can also color-code and label them for easy organization.
In addition to typing up your notes, you can write them using a stylus and tablet, or even scan notes written on pen and paper, the old-fashioned way. You can also easily search your notes, across many different content and file types.
As you can probably tell, there are a lot of parallels between Evernote and OneNote — and some key differences. Unlike EverNote, OneNote is free except for the cost of storage, but it’s also a little more flexible. Within your virtual notebooks, the pages are pretty much a blank canvas! Type up some notes, drop in an image, and even add a few doodles, all on the same page.
As we mentioned, OneNote doesn’t have any paid tiers — all the features, including unlimited device syncing, are included. It does come with 5GB of free OneDrive storage, but if you’re saving tons of notes or large files, you’ll likely need more than that.
Upgrading isn’t expensive. You can get an extra 100GB of OneDrive space for just $1.99/month.
Unfortunately, organizing your notes might be tricky in OneNote — their tagging and sorting capabilities are pretty limited. Also, some users find the interface to be clunky and unintuitive, although if you’re used to Microsoft apps, you likely won’t have that problem.
And, of course, OneNote makes the most sense if you’re already comfortable in Microsoft’s online environment. If you’re a Google, Linux, or Apple person, you’ll probably prefer something that feels a little more native to those systems.
Bear is an affordable, intuitive note-taking app that’s great for iOS users. In addition to taking notes by typing, you can code, thanks to support for multiple programming languages. You can even draw if you’re an Apple Pencil user. Bear uses iCloud to sync across devices and is available as an app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. You can use hashtags to organize and search through your notes.
Bear has a clean, beautiful interface, and users also love its Focus mode to help eliminate distractions. You can format your text as you type thanks to the text-to-HTML conversion tool Markdown and add images right into your notes — very few apps offer both these capabilities together!
Bear’s free version includes many of the app’s useful features. For $1.49/month or $14.99/year, you’ll get more syncing, more export options, support for more file types, and more themes and editing tools.
This one’s for Apple users only, with apps for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you’re a Windows person, it won’t work for you.
Also, Bear’s organizational powers aren’t quite as robust as other note-taking apps on the market. If you’re looking to create nested subfolders galore, you might want to look elsewhere.
Apple Notes is one of the simplest, most user-friendly note-taking apps and comes included with every Apple device. In fact, if you have an iPhone, you’ve likely used it already! Many people use this familiar app to write down shopping lists, reminders, and random thoughts.
But Notes is much more powerful than it might seem at first. You can’t tag your notes, but you can create plenty of folders and subfolders for tidy organization. The app can also handle checklists, tables, images, or even scanned documents, most of which are easily searchable.
Of course, Apple Notes is meant for Apple devices. But if you need your notes on a PC or Chromebook, you can also access them through your browser.
Similar to OneNote, Apple Notes is free — you’ll just need to pay for iCloud storage. You get 5GB free, and extra space starts at $0.99/month for 50GB.
Obviously, Apple Notes is iOS-centric. Also, it’s definitely not as sophisticated as some of the other apps on the list. But depending on your needs, that might be a good thing instead of a dealbreaker.
Think of Google Keep as a home for all those ideas, revelations, and tidbits that float through your mind during the course of the day. The app is designed like a digital, super-flexible version of sticky notes — multiple small, adaptable blocks, each of which can hold one idea.
You can use these sticky notes to hold a checklist, reminder, photos, or even voice memos (which the app will transcribe into text automatically).
It’s a simple system, but where it really shines is in how well it integrates with Google’s other apps — for example, you can turn a Google Calendar reminder into a note, or invite other people to collaborate on a note via Gmail. You can also color-code your notes, and pin anything super-important to the top of your page.
Overall, if you’re an Android user who needs to remember stuff (and who doesn’t?), Google Keep is an app you’ll never want to be without.
Google Keep is free, and since it’s intended for small, simple ideas and reminders, it’s unlikely that it will use all your storage. But if you do need to upgrade, you can buy 100GB of Google Drive storage for just $1.99/month.
As we mentioned, Google Keep is simple — it’s not intended for long, complicated notes and projects. You also won’t really be able to organize your notes beyond color-coding and tagging them.
Like Bear, Ulysses is an Apple-specific note-taking app with a great interface. But unlike Bear, Ulysses is meant for writers — it’s especially ideal for long-form writing like articles, or even books! It’s powerful and flexible enough to handle the research, drafting, and editing stages of your process.
Ulysses comes with a Focus mode to help you avoid pesky distractions, but even its regular interface is designed to be clean and simple, getting out of your way so you can focus on the task at hand.
It also has great organizational power. You can sort notes in many different ways — such as by when you created or modified them — and create folders that nest inside each other hierarchically.
You can save and sync your work using iCloud, and use Markdown to edit and format your writing. When you’re finished, export your work as a .PDF, .doc, HTML, or even an ebook — however you like to get your words out into the world!
While Ulysses does offer a free trial, the actual product doesn’t come cheap. The app will cost you $5/month, or $49.99 for the year. If you need a powerful writing tool to help you get those words down on digital paper, you might find it’s well worth the cost!
However, if you’re a student, Ulysses does offer some seriously discounted rates, albeit for six-month plans.
Right now, Ulysses is only for Apple users — and it doesn’t sound like that’s changing anytime soon. And if you’re looking for something geared towards coding or team collaboration, Bear or Notion might be more your style.
Otherwise, this is a well-rounded, powerful note-taking app with few downsides!
Love your notes
With this many options out there, there’s no reason to stick to plain old pen and paper (or a simple Google Doc) ever again. The right tool will feel intuitive and effortless to use, while powering up your notes with a whole lot of extra features and capabilities.
Once you get started with one of these note-taking apps, you might find that you don’t even remember how you got by without it!