Zoho Notebook is a free note-taking app that’s not just one of the best note-taking apps there is, it’s also absolutely gorgeous and one of our perennial favorites. Despite lacking some advanced features compared to other note-taking programs, like Evernote, Zoho has developed and refined its Notebook app to make it a more complete and viable product since our last Zoho Notebook review.
Apart from its affordable price and beautiful design, Zoho Notebook also has other delightful attributes that make it a top choice for anyone looking to bring their note-taking to the next level. Read on for a complete overview of its pros and cons.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Beautiful & intuitive design
- Unlimited notes
- Not feature-rich in advanced options
- Runs slow when opening long-form notes
- No “ink to text” or “optical character recognition” features
Zoho initially developed Notebook as a web-based app for taking notes, but it has since branched out to cover all major platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS.
Some features are not available across all platforms (we’ll get to those in a minute), but the good news is that, regardless of platform, Notebook syncs up to an unlimited number of devices, and it does so every few minutes.
Previously, Zoho Notebook suffered from some major limitations, including the lack of a desktop client, a 10,000 character limit per card and not having the option to sort cards by tags. Zoho has since improved these glaring deficiencies to make its app a better alternative to another free rival, Google Keep.
Zoho Notebook Cards
Even though they are all called “cards,” there are six different types of content you can add and manage inside Zoho Notebook:
- Text card: Your standard text-based note
- To-do card: Perfect for making lists, itineraries and recipes
- Audio card: Audio recordings of mental notes, quick flashes of inspiration, meetings, lectures, etc.
- Photo card: For taking and adding pictures
- Sketch card: Great for quick doodles, sketches and diagrams
- File card: For attaching PDFs, videos and table scans
Zoho has also moved beyond its web app by implementing the option to record audio notes and take pictures on Android and iOS devices.
After creating a card (of any type), you can then group it with other cards in a “notebook.” These notebooks come with exquisitely painted custom covers, but of course, you also have the option of adding your own images to create a more personalized look.
Zoho comes with many of the usual text formatting options you would find in a Word document — italics, bold, underline — in addition to some advanced features, such as inserting checklists, images, links, tables and more.
Along with a very solid spellchecker (for American English), Zoho lets you set reminders and share notes via email or by adding members for collaboration. The same goes for the other types of cards, though the audio and photo cards are pretty bare-bones as far as additional features are concerned.
Zoho Notebook integrates with Gmail, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, Zapier (but notably not with IFTTT) and numerous other Zoho apps. Migrating from Evernote is also an option, though it still has some kinks to work out.
The lack of features, like “ink to text” and “optical character recognition,” are big losses. These options, which are included in OneNote, would allow users to convert their handwritten notes or text-from-images and PDFs into editable text in the app, rather than wasting time manually transcribing it.
Various scammy websites and shady tech services have taught us that, unfortunately, “free” isn’t always really free; there’s often some sort of catch. Certain companies consider the information users provide them (wittingly or not) as precious consumer data that can be sold to the highest bidder, regardless of our online privacy concerns.
In this age when personal information itself is a twisted form of currency, companies must try extra hard to convince us that our personal data will remain, well, personal. Companies should be upfront about their business models and transparent about what data they retain and why.
Zoho is one such company. Instead of hiding behind a wall of misleading legal jargon, Zoho is straightforward about its free business model.
Notebook is just one of the 30-plus apps Zoho has produced in its 24-year-long history. Some of these apps are paid products, and some — such as Notebook — are free. Zoho makes its profit through these commercialized apps; the Zoho Books accounting tool is an example of one of its paid products.
Zoho considers its free apps a vital part of its brand that’s based on a healthy mix of the gratis and direct profit-making. Its paid products make it possible for it to develop its free apps, whereas the free apps are complementary for the paid tools.
Zoho Notebook pulls off the seemingly impossible task of merging a minimalistic-design approach with an expressive, color-filled artistic tapestry. The final look is at once clean and utilitarian, while also distinctive and unique.
Depending on which app you’re using, the card icons are placed on the upper-right corner of the screen (on the web app) or directly at the bottom (on the mobile app). Even if you’re not familiar with using notes apps, there shouldn’t be too much confusion over what does what; everything is clearly labeled and placed in accordance with modern design principles.
You can move cards around from one notebook to another, change their colors and covers, as well as choose a landscape or grid view, depending on personal preference. You can also sort them by name, creation date and when they were last modified.
This use is particularly optimized for mobile devices, where you can use flicking, pinching and swiping movements to navigate around and manipulate your cards.
To start working, all you have to do is register an account on Zoho’s website and then choose which platform(s) you want to have Zoho Notebook on. As mentioned, these all sync up between themselves, so don’t worry about losing your data or having to manually transfer content from one platform to another.
Security & Privacy
Free apps often carry a stigma of lax security measures and an outright disregard for user privacy. Luckily, Zoho Notebook doesn’t suffer from these issues.
For security, there is the option to turn on two-factor authentication, something we highly recommend for every piece of software that contains personal and professional sensitive data. The mobile app also comes with passcode and Touch ID encryption for added protection.
Privacy-wise, Zoho guarantees that it doesn’t read the notes we write and that it will never sell our data or add advertisements to its app.
The data is secured and encrypted on Zoho’s data centers located in the U.S., Europe and Asia. For accounts created in Europe, the promise is that this data will never leave the European continent and will always be stored on a European-based server.
Zoho Notebook has come a long way from being a web-based notes app that lacked some basic and essential features. Now it is a top note-taking contender among its competition. Although Evernote still ranks higher for its extra bells and whistles, if you are looking for a free, easy-to-use alternative, you could do a lot worse than Zoho Notebook.
What do you think about Zoho Notebook? How does it stack up against other apps like Evernote, Google Keep, OneNote and Box Notes? Tell us your thoughts and experiences, good or bad, in the comments below. Thank you for reading.
What Is Zoho Notebook?
Zoho Notebook is a free note-taking app. Characterized by a beautiful interface, it is a great choice if you are looking for free note-taking software that is available on a wide variety of platforms and can be synced up with an unlimited number of devices.
How Does Zoho Notebook Make Money?
Zoho Notebook is a free app that does not include ads and does not make money by selling your data. Instead, Zoho’s business model includes free applications that complement its paid apps.
Is Zoho Notebook Safe?
With over 50 million users worldwide, Zoho is a company that prides itself on transparency. Still, extra security is always a good thing to have, which is why we recommend everyone employ a good VPN and antivirus software in both private capacities and for professional purposes.