Note-taking is an essential thing, especially now more than ever. Engineers, educators, students, designers, and whatnot all need to scribble down some notes, anytime and anywhere. On the job or simply for personal use.
The best note-taking apps implement different approaches to enhance the experience. There are many note-taking apps available that it can be daunting to choose the best from the rest or fail to choose at all. There are excellent free note-taking apps, while others are paid.
In this article, we have listed some of the best note-taking apps available, suited for every need for taking notes independent of your occupation. But first, what should you consider when choosing a note-taking app?
How to Choose a Note-Taking App that Suits your Needs
Tons of note-taking apps are available on the market. Some free, some paid. Some have to be downloaded, while others come pre-installed on your device. Choosing the best note-taking app can be a gamble if you don’t know what you want to get out of it.
But even if you settle on an app, your needs are constantly changing, and you might want to switch if your favorite note-taking app fails to keep up. If you’re going to switch or just out to look for a reliable note-taking app, we’ve listed the top ten best note-taking apps for iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac, and Windows.
But what does it take to feature in this list? Here are the key features to look at when choosing a note-taking app.
2. Storage Capacity
4. Cross-platform support
5. Offline support
6. Ease of use
The Top 10 Note-Taking Apps of 2021
1. Microsoft 365 Apps
Microsoft 365 has come along way. While many may not see this as a note-taking app, it includes dedicated apps for different purposes.
There’s Excel for spreadsheets, PowerPoint for presentations, and Word for more versatile articles, blog posts and etc. And it doesn’t stop there. Office 365 also includes Access (a handy yet easy-to-use tool for creating business applications, from templates or scratch.) and Publisher.
Office 365 is versatile and offers easy-to-use note-taking apps, namely Sticky Notes and Microsoft OneNote.
The primary benefit of Microsoft 365 is its cloud-based, allowing for cross-platform syncing. It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Syncing eliminates the need for exporting notes, and you can switch from one device to another without a fuss.
Microsoft 365 also takes care of your storage needs with up to 1TB of OneDrive storage for a single Microsoft 365 Personal account. Not to mention Microsoft Teams, a video conferencing app, which is now bundled inside. Organizations get extra features from Microsoft 365, including more collaborative capabilities.
In short, Microsoft 365 is more than just a simple platform for taking notes. It’s a full-fledged platform that can help you do nearly everything, if not everything.
Evernote has been around for quite some time. Every list of the best note-taking apps can’t be worth looking at without Evernote. This is one of the most potent note-taking apps out there. Evernote caters to both standard and power users. It’s easier to work with yet packs so much advanced functionality to take care of different needs.
But why choose Evernote?
It makes it easy to put your ideas down. You can add images, videos, or text. Includes more effortless organization through the use of tags, and you can group notes. Evernote also has a Web Clipper feature, available in Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, which lets you save and annotate web pages, images, and PDFs.
There are also dozens of templates available for beginners. For a more personal touch, you can create your outlook from scratch. Siri integration is also available for iOS.
Plus, Evernote doesn’t limit you.
You’ll also have it easy to find saved notes inside Evernote, thanks to its character recognition feature. Character recognition enables you to find notes using keywords across your workspace even if the words appear in photos, whiteboard scans, business cards, handwriting, or documents.
The app is available across multiple platforms, including Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. App integrations are also available, although only Google Drive, Slack, Outlook, MS Teams, Zapier, and Gmail are supported. A significant drawback is the lack of support for Microsoft Office apps.
Evernote is available for free, a plus. However, the gratis version is limited in functionality. Evernote Premium is more versatile, but the Business package is the app’s highlight with more monthly upload limit, app integrations, and collaborative features.
Simplenote stays true to its name. It’s simple to use and has a simple yet attractive user interface – no clutter. Simplenote works across iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux, and there’s automatic syncing. Tags make it easier to organize your notes, and it stores file history, so you can go back in time and find even the version of a file from last month.
Markdown support is available, too. Simplenote allows for sharing your notes, and you can publish them online if you like.
Best of all, Simplenote is entirely free!
But it doesn’t come with a drawback. Using Simplenote, you can’t add anything other than text, which could be a deal-breaker to many. But if you want an easy way to capture your notes, clutter-free, and sync them across devices and for free, this can easily be the note-taking app.
Google Keep is bundled with every Android phone. It’s easy to use and doesn’t cost you a dime. The interface is clutter-free, and there’s a chance it already lives on your phone. Google Keeps supports auto-sync, allows for note organization using tags, and you can add an image, a recording, or a drawing without much fuss. You can also create to-do lists using the checkbox feature built inside. Google Keep also allows you to draw or handwrite.
Google Keeps has dedicated space for creating reminders, and you can pin the most important notes on top.
The app is available via the Web so you can use it on any platform. However, there’s a dedicated app for Android, iOS, and Web.
The truth is, Google Keep is more focused on providing an easy way to take notes. There are no advanced features, unlike most note-taking apps in this list. Of course, its simplicity may make or break the user experience depending on who you are.
Google Keep is an excellent app for jotting down notes and ideas, like your shopping list. Google Keep works offline, which is a plus, especially if you’re not connected to the internet all the time.
Notion majorly shines due to its intense focus on being an all-in-one workspace. Notion is pretty popular with students these days due to the way everything is organized into blocks. Every advanced feature is built from blocks. To make it even easier, Notion has a wide variety of existing templates. This makes it easy to get started.
Notion also allows for creating databases with property-rich types, timeline views, and access privileges for admins.
Aside from notes, you can create checklists, product roadmaps, journals, reminders, calendars, and many more. It is built for everyone – engineers, sales and marketing personnel, students, and whatnot.
It also allows for real-time collaboration among team members.
You don’t need anything to use Notion. The app is available for free. However, there’s a premium plan for individuals and an enterprise package. For students and educators, Notion is free. No wonder it’s popular with these kinds of users.
Notion is available across multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac. It also has a Web Clipper, available on Chrome and Firefox, allowing users to save any page on the Web.
The major downside with Notion is the lack of an offline feature. As such, you cannot jot down anything without an internet connection. This can be an issue for those who aren’t always connected. This can also be an issue if the platform’s servers go down.
The block system also presents a challenge in formatting or creating some things.
Apple Notes is a dedicated note-taking app for those inside Apple’s ecosystem. It’s available on iOS, macOS, and Web. Apple Notes(also called Notes or iCloud Notes) is convenient and easy to use, and Siri integration is a plus though it’s an obvious addition.
Apple Notes doesn’t have tags, but that’s barely a deal-breaker when you can organize notes into folders. The app also makes it easy to find anything buried inside your dozens of notes and folders with the simple(from the UI) yet advanced search bar with character recognition built inside.
This note-taking app allows you to add images, too, aside from just text. Apple Notes allows for document scanning and also handwriting or drawing. You can also add checklists and format notes into tables for better organization.
Apple Notes works best if you’re on iOS. For Android users, Google Keep, or any other note-taking app on the list, might be a better alternative given the app support.
Bear thrives on its advanced markup down editing features. The advanced markdown writing features allow you to format text in a more versatile manner. Bear is an ideal app to write simple essays to more advanced ones with images in between, thanks to full in-line image support.
It has a wide variety of themes and typography for better formatting, and you can count words, even characters, a handy addition if you want to hit a specific word or character count. Bear also allows for multiple export options, including HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG, and more. Custom markup shortcuts ease the writing process as well.
Bear also includes multi-device sync via iCloud, hashtags, Focus Mode, Smart Data Recognition, Rich previews, Cross-Note Links, and the ability to encrypt individual notes and lock Bear with Face/Touch ID to protect sensitive information.
The app is only available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Most features are free to use. However, you’ll have to pay for more, including syncing across devices, more additional themes, and more export options. You can pay for Bear monthly or yearly.
This is another iOS-only note-taking app. It uses Markdown and is an excellent app for taking notes, from just a few lines to long-form ones. Ulysses makes note organization easier. Notes can be sort using creation date or specific modification dates. Also, using fabled nested or hierarchical levels.
Focus Mode is also available, similar to Bear, and also packs different customization options. Ulysses is convenient for writers, and bloggers, allowing them to create an entire article without switching platforms.
You can add attachments, and Ulysses allows you to embed images inside text.
Notes can be exported in different formats, including plain or rich text (as a Markdown file or HTML code), PDFs, Word, and ePub. For bloggers, you don’t need to export anything. With Ulysses, you can publish articles directly to WordPress or Medium.
While Ulysses is this powerful, the primary issue platform support is only available on iOS and macOS. There’s no free plan as well, and the premium plan is a bit costly.
Standard Notes is less popular but straightforward to use has powerful encryption and is open source. It supports multiple platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Additionally, Standard Notes is available on the Web.
There’s automatic syncing across platforms, and you can link with an unlimited number of devices at no cost. Offline Access is also available. Standard Notes offers extended encryption support as well, but you’ll have to pay for this.
Extended security includes version history, two-factor authentication, automated backups to your Email, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, Access to advanced editing and formatting features. You also get encrypted attachments for notes that are stored directly in your Dropbox or Google Drive.
One of the drawbacks of using Standard Notes is limited image support – you can’t host images inside the app. It also doesn’t allow you to drag-and-drop notes between folders and tags.
Our last app on the list is Dropbox paper. Dropbox Paper features lots of templates to get you off the ground and is entirely free. The app’s collaborative functionalities are exceptional and, to add more icing on the cake, it allows integration with several productivity apps, including Google Calendar and Slack.
Dropbox Paper includes one of the best hybrid Markdown text editors that allows powerful editing and customization. From Paper, you can also access your Dropbox files which is a plus for existing Dropbox customers.