Picking the best note-taking apps from the crowd can be pretty tricky. While we’ve only written a handful of reviews, as you can see in the list above, there are plenty out in the wild to choose from. However, most of them are so poor in features we could disregard them before putting pen to paper and so focus only on a the very best for our note-taking apps reviews.
These six note-taking apps are all pretty good, and we can imagine that each of them have a loyal following full of pleased users. That said, we wouldn’t be very good reviewers if we didn’t dig as deep as possible and nitpick the hell out of everything so get you the most thorough information possible on every one.
Before we discuss why the top-ranked note-taking apps are placed as they are, let’s first take a look at the criteria we took into consideration when going over them.
How We Rate
By setting up a few critical standards for what makes a note-taking app good, we ensure that you get the most transparent information possible. At the same time, we want our articles to be readable, so we ended up with the following four sections in each review.
The “features” section is all about what a particular program can do, with the rating depending on its flexibility and number of applications. Evernote, for example, got a very high rating thanks to its impressive web clipper, while Google Keep scored well thanks to its integration with the rest of the Google suite.
Other features include integration with Office products, how nice the mobile app plays with different OSes and a host of other nifty things the respective programmers may have come up with. We aim for this section to be the place where you can see at a glance whether a note-taking app is up to your needs.
The good ol’ bottom line. While all note-taking apps have some kind of free plan, most require you to dig a credit card out of your wallet to get full functionality. Thankfully, none of the apps we recommend will put you in the poor house, though there can be quite a bit of difference at times, Evernote comes most strongly to mind, here.
However, in the end this section is about value as much as it is about sheer dollars, in which case the picture becomes a bit more even. Evernote might be pricey, but brings the most features to bear, while Google Keep and SimpleNote are free, both are stripped down apps that let you jot down simple thoughts and nothing more. The choice is yours.
As reviewers, we’re more familiar than anybody with the frustration of using badly designed software. No matter if it’s for our VPN reviews or our cloud storage reviews, more than once we’ve decided to take a walk around the block rather than deal with a UI that was put together by somebody who was clearly insane.
As we like to spare our fellow man these experiences, this section is all about making sure you don’t tear your hair out. While all our best note-taking apps have a decent interface, some are a little more user-friendly than others. We go into the details of how to use the programs so you can decide which will let you go through life without reaching for a stiff drink.
Security & Privacy
Last but not least, we take a look at the security and privacy of each app, no undue luxury in this age of Facebook scandals. Security in this case is how well a program keeps your data from falling into the hands of cybercriminals, while privacy is about making sure that same data isn’t abused by the people behind the service.
Generally speaking, security is decent for all apps, though people noting down more sensitive data may want to be choosier than those who just use it as an easy way to write down shopping lists.
When it comes to privacy, however, the playing field is a lot more uneven, owing to the fact that Microsoft and Google both have poor recent track records when it comes to using customer data for advertising purposes, meaning the privacy-conscious may want to stay away from anything they have put out.
The Best Note-Taking Apps
With the how and why out of the way, let’s take a quick look at our top five note-taking apps.
Our overall winner is, almost by default, Evernote, the most well-rounded note-taking app out there. It pretty much wrote the script for note-taking apps and comes with more features than you can shake a stick at, as you can read in our Evernote review. Highlights include optical character recognition (meaning it can translate your handwritten scribbles into legible text) and a handy web clipper.
You can also organize notes very easily into “notebooks,” though for some reason these are capped at 250, total. Another two, admittedly minor, niggles are that you can’t take video notes — handy when out and about — and that there is a monthly bandwidth limit even on paid plans. However, Evernote is still the Ferrari among note-taking apps, and we recommend you give it a spin.
From the Ferrari we go to the Porsche, namely OneNote. You can tell its designers were hell-bent on overtaking Evernote because OneNote does include video notes and the ability to take handwritten; basically everything Evernote does not offer. It also integrates directly with the entire Microsoft suite, which is pretty handy if you want to rework a note into a full document.
However, as you can read in our Evernote vs OneNote article, while OneNote is very good at covering Evernote’s holes, it creates a few of its own. For one, its security and privacy is a bit suspect, and Evernote’s organizing capabilities are simply better, though OneNote does offer more flexibility. We recommend you check out our OneNote review to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Up as third is Zoho Notebook, which is as middle-of-the road as the other products this office software company has put out (read our Zoho Books review for the accounting suite; it’s above average). While it doesn’t have any particular strengths, it has no real downsides, either.
If you read our Zoho Notebook review you’ll quickly see that the app has plenty to offer, but falls short of the massive features set that Evernote, and even OneNote offer. However, as it integrates well with Zoho’s other products, it’s a no-brainer for those users. Overall, it’s a solid app that gets the job done.
In fourth place is Google Keep which is a very basic app that keeps notes and that’s it. It’s biggest strength, and the thing that keeps it from the number five slot, is its direct integration with the full suite of Google products, most notably Google Drive (read our Google Drive review to see why that’s a good thing).
However, for those among you that like bells and whistles, Google Keep is a lemon, despite the fact that it’s free to use; most Android-powered phones have it pre-installed, even. As you can read in our Google Keep review, all the app does is keep notes, without any real organization options to speak of. It’s great for fervent Docs users, and that’s about it.
Last up is Box Notes, which actually reminded us of Google Keep in that its main attraction is integration with the Box suite. However, as Box is nowhere near the giant Google is, it’s a bit of a letdown, though it is a decent service, overall, as you can read in our Box Business review.
As we mention in our Box Notes review, it has a massive storage capacity of 10GB for free and offers decent collaboration features, but has too many drawbacks to be a serious contender compared to Evernote or OneNote. It lacks organization options nor can you tag notes, meaning everything you jot down will exist as a chaotic soup in the app; not ideal for frenetic scribblers.
Note-Taking Apps Frequently Asked Questions
Over the past few years we’ve fielded more than a few questions regarding note-taking apps, we’d like to take this opportunity to go through the most common ones, and their answers, here.
What Is the Best Note-Taking App?
Evernote. While some people may find it a bit overwhelming thanks to all the options it has, for most people most of the time it seems to be the ticket. That said, OneNote has certain features that are very useful in specific cases, and Google Keep is a stripped down free app, so you may want to check them out before committing.
Why Is Taking Notes Important?
So you don’t forget things, basically. Doesn’t matter if you’re a hard-working professional, a college student, a housewife or an itinerant writer, everybody at some point will need to write something down real quick so they don’t forget it. Unless you like carrying pen and paper around at all times, note-taking apps are the best way to make sure you can jot stuff down at any time.
What Is the Best Note-Taking App for College Students?
Evernote, without a doubt. Even using the basic, free version you can tag notes for different subjects, organize them in notebooks per class, all that. It also has OCR, which means you can even copy other people’s notes if you missed a lecture. OneNote is a distant second, if Evernote isn’t to your taste.
How to Improve Note-Taking Skills
There are more tricks to keeping good notes than fit into a quick FAQ, but the most important tip we can give you is to take notes at first by only jotting down key words and phrases, then working your notes out right after. This way you let your short-term memory and note-taking ability work hand in hand, improving retention.
What Is the Best Note-Taking App for Android?
Google Keep, with Evernote coming right behind. Keep integrates really well with the already included Google Drive on Android, so using it to quickly write something down and then reworking it later with Google Docs is just great. Evernote is still the king of note-taking apps, though.
What Is the Best Note-Taking App for iPhone?
Evernote. Apple has no note-taking app of its own, and in our testing we found Evernote to play the nicest with iOS thanks to its one-click install. It also has a great interface that fits in nicel with the rest of the iPhone experience.
We hope you found this information useful and that you have plenty of fun and profit taking notes from now on. If you’d like to know more, either check out the reviews at the top of the page or check out our full library of note-taking articles. Thanks for reading.