Best Note-Taking Apps in 2020: Organizing Your Thoughts

A good note-taking app is the best way to organize your thoughts and making sure you don't forget something important. There are a lot of options out there though, so we've put together this list to help you find the best note-taking app for your needs.

Vladimir Sumina
By Vladimir Sumina
— Last Updated: 2020-11-20T21:01:12+00:00 Facts checked by: Andrea Babic

Apps can make our lives a lot simpler. Since the advent of cloud computing, there’s no longer a need for us to carry physical notebooks; we can instead take out our smartphones and write a quick — or long-form — note on the fly. There are many note-taking apps out there, which is why we made this list to help you choose the best note-taking app for your needs.

We could talk about these apps for days, but to keep this article from getting too long, we’ve narrowed down the best of the best to a list of five. Our top pick here is Evernote, a fantastic note-taking app that is filled with great tools and advanced options. We’ll talk about it and our other four choices in greater detail below.

  • While there are many great apps for taking notes, our best note-taking app award goes to Evernote. This notes app has it all: great tools and an equally great user experience that makes it a joy to use. Its Business pricing plan also provides it with some project management capabilities for even better team collaboration.

  • Most note-taking apps have free versions available, but our favorite entirely free note-taking app is OneNote. Similarly to Evernote, OneNote has some of the most advanced tools of any note-taking software. These include optical character recognition, ink-to-text conversion and dictation. Unlike Evernote, which makes you pay to access its best features, all of OneNote’s tools are available for free.

  • Every notable note-taking app has an iOS version available on the App Store. That being said, our favorite notes app for the Apple iPhone would have to be Evernote. With Evernote, you get a superb note-taking app that will handle all of your notes-writing needs and its powerful search tool enables you to keep track of all of your notes, notebooks and their contents.

  • Thanks to cloud computing, note-taking apps can be used on a wide variety of platforms, from desktop computers to mobile and web apps. We consider Evernote to be the best cross-platform note-taking app, although it doesn’t feature a Linux client yet (one is in development).

What Makes the Best Note-Taking App?

A good note-taking app should be easy to use, available across multiple devices and have a lot of options when it comes to taking and sharing notes. Our top five picks all excel at these criteria.

  1. Evernote — The absolute best note-taking app
  2. OneNote — Completely free and full of amazing tools
  3. Google Keep — Simple and works well with Google Docs
  4. Zoho Notebook — Beautifully designed; a great choice for individual users
  5. Box Notes — Great collaboration features for businesses that use Box

We’ve chosen these specifically because they cover all the note-taking uses you may have, from professional work to school assignments and private use. Advanced features such as customized tagging and optical character recognition (OCR) will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Note-taking apps should likewise be easy and comfortable to use. There’s nothing worse than an app that’s badly designed and difficult to work in.

Finally, the best note-taking apps all feature cross-platform functionality. This enables you to have your favorite note-taking app on your mobile devices and desktop computers and freely switch between them, knowing that your notes will sync across all platforms.

The 5 Best Note-Taking Apps

These are the five best note-taking apps of 2020. Some are all-around great choices for every note-taking task, while others are more suited to individual or collaborative use.

Whether you’re a passionate note-taker or a novice user who just wants a nice-looking app to write your to-do lists, you are certain to find something that fits your note-taking preferences here.

1. Evernote

evernote it all starts
Evernote offers many note types.

More details about Evernote:

  • Pricing: Evernote Basic — Free; Evernote Premium — $7.99 per month; Evernote Business — $14.99 per month
  • Website: www.evernote.com

Pros:

  • Advanced tools
  • Precise searching
  • Available on most platforms

Cons:

  • Limited free version
  • Monthly bandwidth limits
  • Expensive

Evernote is our best note-taking app choice for a reason. While some apps can outperform it in certain aspects, no other note-taking app has Evernote’s versatility and all-around high performance in every relevant category. It stands out not just by being fully featured, but also through its first-rate user experience, numerous integrations and transparent privacy policy.

It boasts an impressive list of tools that you can use to save time. To give you an example of how effective these can be, take the OCR tool — it can detect 11 handwritten and 28 typewritten languages from sources such as whiteboards, notes and documents and then transform them into text inside the app.

evernote note editor
Evernote’s impressive note editor is loaded with tools.

Available for Mac and iOS, Android and PC devices as well as a web app, there is also a Linux client currently in development. Coupled with a powerful search tool, this means that you will be able to use Evernote on almost any device and find whatever it is you are searching for across all of your notes.

evernote pricing plans
Evernote offers a free basic plan and two paid plans: Premium and Business.

Evernote’s biggest issue is that its free plan has a 60MB monthly upload limit and doesn’t provide access to Evernote’s best features. Evernote Premium is priced at a steep $7.99 per month and raises the upload limit to 10GB. Evernote Business is even more expensive, costing $14.99 per month, and gives you 20GB, plus an additional 2GB per user.

2. OneNote

onenote ui
OneNote’s user interface has some great tools that Evernote lacks.

More details about OneNote:

Pros:

  • Completely free 
  • Great features
  • UI familiar to Microsoft Office 365 users

Cons:

  • Frequently slow syncing
  • Uninspired mobile app
  • Average web clipper

Second on this best note-taking apps list, OneNote has one huge advantage over Evernote — it’s a free app that doesn’t restrict its best features to paid plans. Every Microsoft OneDrive user has 5GB of free cloud storage space available. If you want more, you can gain an additional 1TB by upgrading to a Microsoft 365 Personal plan for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

We discuss the differences between these two apps at greater length in our Evernote vs OneNote article, but besides the fact that OneNote is free, it also has some great tools that Evernote lacks. One of these is the dictation tool, which allows you to take notes by speaking. Taking video clips is another such feature; OneNote is the only app on this list that can do this.

onenote dictated
OneNote’s dictation tool allows you to take notes by speaking.

OneNote is unique in the way it handles its notes. Other note-taking apps handle text as most word processors do, by having an entire page of the note act as one whole that you can edit. In OneNote, every piece of text or drawing on the page is a note in itself. You can freely change these however you want, or drag and drop a note atop another one to merge them together.

onenote microsoft pricing
Microsoft 365 Personal gives you 1TB of cloud storage for $69.99 per year.

Besides standard notes, Microsoft OneNote also allows you to make drawings, which you can then convert to text notes using the ink-to-text tool. It also integrates with Zapier and IFTTT. While there is a web clipper add-on that allows you to clip out images and text from web pages, it isn’t as good as Evernote’s web clipper, which can also annotate clipped-out screenshots.

3. Google Keep

google keep interface
Google Keep’s UI is easy to navigate.

More details about Google Keep:

Pros:

  • Free with every Google account 
  • Simple to use

Cons:

  • No notebooks
  • Lacks text formatting options

Together with apps such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, Google Keep is part of Google Drive. It’s a note-taking app that every Google user has, even if they are not aware of it. Simple to use, Google Keep also doesn’t count toward Google Drive’s 15GB of storage space, so you can use it to make an unlimited number of notes.

google keep drawing
Using Google Keep’s drawing tool makes note taking quick and easy.

When it comes to design, Google Keep is like a wall covered with sticky notes — a quick and easy way to take notes consisting of plain text, drawings and images. It lacks all the options one would expect to find in a text editor, so you won’t be able to do things like changing fonts or bolding and underscoring your words.

The main reason it is on our list of best note-taking apps available is that it pairs quite well with Google Docs — and for free. After making a note, you can copy it over to make a new Google Docs document in just one click. As you can read in our Dropbox Paper vs Google Docs showdown, Google Docs is still the best app for collaborative writing.

4. Zoho Notebook

types of cards
Zoho Notebook is more than just a pretty face.

More details about Zoho Notebook:

Pros:

  • Free
  • Gorgeously designed

Cons:

  • No advanced features
  • Slows down when opening large notes

Few apps look as beautiful as Zoho Notebook. If you want an easy-to-use, free note-taking app that will look magnificent on both your computer monitor and mobile device screen, look no further than Zoho Notebook. Luckily, it’s more than just a pretty face, and while it may lack the advanced features of more prominent apps, it is still a solid note-taking app in its own right.

zoho custom cover
Custom covers you can create in Zoho Notebook.

Zoho Notebook integrates with apps such as Gmail, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zapier (though not with IFTTT) and, naturally, with other Zoho apps. There is also the option to migrate from Evernote, but this isn’t something we can recommend in its current state, as this feature seems a bit buggy.

Out of all the note-taking apps on this list, Zoho Notebook is the one we would most likely recommend for casual individual use. The artistic design makes it an excellent choice for stories, poems and travel journals with a list of all the places you would like to visit and things you want to do while on holiday.

5. Box Notes

box notes search
Box Notes’ user interface was built for collaboration.

More details about Box Notes:

  • Pricing: Box Individual – Free; Box Starter – $7 per month; Box Personal Pro — $10 per month;  Box Business — $20 per month; Box Business Pro — $33 per month
  • Website: www.box.com/notes

Pros:

  • Free plan 
  • Collaboration & project management capabilities

Cons:

  • Lack of advanced features
  • Slow to sync on mobile apps

Box Notes is similar to Microsoft OneNote and Google Keep, in that all three of these note-taking apps are part of a larger cloud-based infrastructure. However, unlike OneNote and Google Keep, Box Notes is employed by businesses that use Box as their storage provider and want to make the most out of its collaboration tools.

box notes sharing
Box storage users will appreciate the robust collaboration tools in Box Notes.

Box’s free version, called Box Individual, offers 10GB of free storage, shared across all other Box apps. The Box Starter and Personal Pro plans, priced at $7and $10 per month, respectively, both increase this to 100GB, while the Business and Business Plus plans offer unlimited online storage for $20 and $33 per month. Unlimited storage is something that not even Evernote Business has.

box notes box plan
Box has four tiers of paid plans available.

Box Notes isn’t as bare-bones as Simplenote, but its limitations make it difficult to recommend for anything except work collaboration. Up to 30 users can simultaneously work on the same document, and you can set different permission levels for each user, allowing all team members to participate by editing, viewing or providing their feedback via comments.

Note-Taking Apps: Honorable Mentions

Of course, there are other note-taking apps out there besides these five. We would be remiss if we didn’t at least give a shout out to Apple Notes, Notion, Milanote and Standard Notes. Some of these note-taking apps have their own little niches, such as Simplenote’s markdown support, or quirks, like the fact that Ulysses and Bear are available only on Apple devices.

The best note-taking apps have to be versatile and available on multiple platforms, in addition to having great tools, which kept these from clinching one of our top spots.

Final Thoughts

These are the top five best note-taking apps available. Naturally, Evernote and OneNote tower above the rest, thanks to their cutting edge tools, but Google Keep, Zoho Notebook and Box Notes are likewise great choices.

Taken together, these five possess the features and design necessary to satisfy every note-taking need a user may have. Even better, each app on our list has a free version — or is already free — so you can try out each one to see which suits you the best. Since no single note-taking app does it all, you can use several of them to get the best parts out of each one.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our best note-taking app list. For more information about each app, you can read its full-length review on our site to get an even better impression of how it works.

What do you think about these note-taking apps? Do you think they are the best, or would you rather see another app on this list instead? Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. Thanks for reading!