There was a time when note-taking was all about leaving colored post-its scattered around your desk. They created so much clutter and chaos that you always ended up forgetting an important task.
Now that our work has shifted more to laptops and mobile devices, our note-keeping style also needs to change. We can no longer stick post-its on our screens to remember important tasks. Instead, we need sophisticated note-taking apps that can store all our notes in one place, sync them with multiple devices and remind us of important due dates.
To help you find the best note-taking app, we have compared three of the best. Before we start comparing them, here is a quick rundown:
With over 100 million users, Evernote is one of the most popular note-taking apps out there thanks to its wide range of features. Evernote provides rich text formatting options and an organizational structure that allows users to stay on top of their tasks at all times. This, combined with its powerful web clipper browser extension and mobile app with OCR features allows Evernote to be a full-fledged productivity app and is also one of our favorite apps for small business.
OneNote offers the editing features of Microsoft Word, combined with useful note-keeping features. Previously, OneNote was a part of Microsoft’s Office Suite, but has been redeveloped as a cross-platform app. Microsoft added premium features to the free version in 2013. Now, free users can create and sync unlimited notes, view version history and password-protect text in the notes.
Launched in 2010, Google Keep is a minimalist and straightforward note-taking app which is the default on Android phones.
Notes are color-coded, making it easy for users to divide their notes according to categories or priority. You can also add labels to each note (there is a limit of 50 labels per account).
If you just want a simple and no-fuss note-keeping app, then Google Keep might be perfect for you.
A Closer Look at Best Note-Taking Apps
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how these three stack up against each other. Note that we have a detailed comparison between Evernote and OneNote as well.
An efficient note-taking app should be able to make the entire note-taking process as easy and quick as possible. After all, an app might have all the features you need, but if it takes you too long to create a single note it really isn’t worth it.
Evernote, OneNote and Keep are all impressive in their own way when it comes to ease of note-taking. While OneNote has a better desktop app and Keep has a better mobile app, Evernote’s desktop and mobile apps are equally good.
Evernote organizes notes like a book, so there are three levels:
A stack can have multiple notebooks and a notebook can have multiple notes. It’s not the easiest structure to understand, but once you do, you are bound to find it extremely useful.
For every new note, users can add multiple labels, images, files and audio. There are also various formatting options allowing you to add checkboxes or tables and make the text bold, italics or strikethrough. You can change the font size or type, but there are no heading styles available.
Thanks to its latest integration with Google Drive (read our Google Drive review for more on this great solution), any Drive link added on Evernote gets automatically converted into a rich link and you can see the file/folder name. This update means you won’t have to choose between Google Drive and Evernote any more and is yet further reason to use it.
There is also an option to set a reminder for every note and users can set a custom date and time.
OneNote has four levels of note organization:
A notebook can have several sections in it and a section can have several pages in it. On a single page, you can create multiple notes and move them around accordingly. This little feature makes OneNote more of a scratchpad, allowing users to write several notes on a single page and then move them around.
All the main formatting options are available including bold, italics, highlight, numbering, bullets, heading and paragraph style and indenting. You can also add checkboxes. There is no option to set reminders on OneNote which is a little disappointing.
While OneNote is available online as a web app and mobile app, nothing beats the ease of access you get with the Windows desktop app. It also integrates directly with OneDrive (read our mixed feelings about this storage service in our OneDrive review).
Google Keep lets you create different types of notes including text, checklist, image and drawings. You can also add multiple elements in the same note, but there is no way to move them around in a customized order. So, if you have an image and want to add a checklist to it, then the checklist will automatically go below the image and nowhere else.
Keep recently integrated with Google Docs, allowing users to take down notes for every document. When you go back to Keep again, you will be able to see the notes you took along with the Google Docs link to the file. This nifty little feature makes Keep an excellent choice for Google Docs users.
Keep also allows users to set reminders for notes and these reminders can be accessed via Google Calendar and Gmail as well. In the settings, you can set default reminder timings for quick access.
Apart from being able to access notes from any device, it’s also important to choose a note-taking app which makes collaboration with other users seamless. This, in turn, will allow you to share already written notes and get feedback from other users directly.
Available sharing permissions are crucial as well. After all, if you decide to share an important note with a big team, then you wouldn’t want any one of them to make changes to the note, even by mistake.
Evernote emerged as the clear winner as we compared the three apps since it provides users with the most visibility control options. On the other hand, Keep was a disappointment since it only allows users to add a collaborator with absolutely no permission settings.
In Evernote, users can either share notes via a public link or email. There are three permission settings:
- Edit and invite
If you don’t want someone to get access to your notes while sharing, then you can directly email a copy to the recipient. Evernote also has a chat option which allows collaborators to talk about notes in real time.
Sharing on OneNote is similar to OneDrive as users can either share a note via email or link. There are two permission levels:
- View only
The recipients also do not necessarily need a Microsoft account to be able to view notes. While there is no chat option like in Evernote, Skype is integrated into the OneNote web app, just like with OneDrive.
In Google Keep, you can add a collaborator for every note and that’s about it. Note that there are no visibility settings and no way to just share the note via a URL.
Of course, it’s nowhere as amazing as Evernote and OneNote, but then again, this is just a note-keeping app by Google. If you want to collaborate with someone or send someone a document with view-only permission, there is always sharing through Google Docs.
With browser extensions, you are able to quickly take down notes from any web page without having to go back to the note-taking web app. You can also directly clip the content from a web page and save it for a later read.
Evernote clearly has one of the best web clipper browser extensions, filled with features. OneNote’s newly launched extension is a close second but that’s probably because it is very much “inspired” from Evernote. Keep’s extension is unimpressive and doesn’t match up against the other two.
One of the strongest features of Evernote is its web clipper extension which extracts pages in any way you want; it is one of the best of its kind we have used. You can clip a web page as a bookmark, screenshot, full page, simplified article or a complete article with images.
There is also a smart filing option in the web clipper settings which allows you to select a default notebook and labels for the web clips.
If there is one browser extension which comes even close to Evernote’s, it’s OneNote. A newly launched web clipper, OneNote was clearly inspired from Evernote and that is why you will find similar features on it.
You can clip a web page as a bookmark, full page, region screenshot or an article. Once clipped, you can choose to edit the note title, add some content or highlight parts of the page. While we did like the highlighting feature, there is no option to clip just the content of a web page without images and that is the reason we would still recommend Evernote’s browser extension over OneNote.
There is a Chrome extension for Google Keep as well, but it’s very basic. Users can take down notes from the web pages and choose to save the web page link, too. You can also right-click on a web page or image in the web browser and save it. That’s about all the extension does.
In this section, we have included minor features like ease of search, version history and mobile friendliness, which might not make a big difference for some users but can be a deciding factor for others.
With Evernote, you can search through the entire notebook and also through individual notes. One of the best features of Evernote is that it can search text in an image document and highlight that searched keyword. None of the other apps on our list can do that.
Users can also access version history on Evernote by clicking on the “i” button on top of each note. But free users can only download a copy of those notes and not restore that version. You can, however, store those imported notes in a separate notebook if you are using the Evernote desktop app.
The mobile apps are available for iOS Android and Windows. All the apps have a clean interface and a plus button at the bottom center to quickly create new notes. Evernote also identifies documents when you are trying to take an image note and converts it into a black and white scan. You can also customize the app’s home screen to add any extra features for quick access.
OneNote too can search through all notes and highlight the searched keyword; it would have been just as amazing as Evernote if it could also search text in images.
Version history is accessible on OneNote and you can choose to either hide, restore or delete a previous version.
With its attempt to be a cross-platform app, OneNote is available for iOS, Android and Windows. The first impression of OneNote’s mobile app was great. The interface was clean and uncluttered.
But we soon realized why the app looks so uncluttered: all the editing features which we loved in its desktop app are missing, making OneNote a rather sub-par note-taking app on mobile. Overall, if you plan to take most of your notes on your desktop and only want to view them on mobile, then OneNote can be an excellent choice.
Google’s robust search algorithm allows you to search keywords through any image or text in Keep. But sadly, Keep doesn’t highlight the searched keyword in an image or a text note which can prove to be a real pain because if you try to search for a commonly used word, you pretty much would have to scan through all notes manually.
Keep also doesn’t allow users to search through an individual note. You could do a search in the web browser, but a feature as simple as this should already be present in a note-keeping app.
Launched as a notes app for Android phones, Keep has a better interface and ease of access on mobiles as compared to the web app. Apart from Android, it also supports iOS and Kindle.
There are quick shortcut buttons at the bottom that allow you to take down any type of notes.
Clicking on a note, opens them in full preview and allows you to edit it. Overall, if you are looking for a simple note-keeping app which you will be majorly using on your mobile, then Google Keep is a great option.
From releasing premium features for free users to launching a new browser extension, OneNote is really trying a lot to be a cross-platform note-taking app, but it’s still not as great as Evernote.
On the other hand, Keep just wants to be a simple note-taking app, nothing more and nothing less.
The right note-taking app for you will depend a lot on your requirements and the devices you use. If you are a regular Microsoft Office user, then you really shouldn’t think twice before opting for OneNote.
For regular Google Docs users, Keep is a great add-on for quick note-taking. It’s also great for users who just want to take down notes on their mobiles without any fuss quickly.
Evernote is an excellent choice if you use a variety of different devices and operating systems. In fact, if you don’t use Microsoft Office or Google Docs, then we would highly recommend trying Evernote.
Do you use a note-taking app? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.