Zoho Notebook Review
An easy-to-use note-taking app, Zoho Notebook may not be the Evernote killer it obviously wants to be, but still has plenty to offer users. On top of that, it's pretty much the best-looking of its kind out there. Read our full Zoho Notebook review for more information.
Like many a marketing department before them, the team behind Zoho Notebook styles its cloud notebook as an Evernote killer. That makes sense, of course, given that it’s a popular opinion in all corners of the interwebz, including our little nook here at Cloudwards.net, that Evernote is the best note-taking app overall.
In the case of Zoho Notebook, however, there might actually be a glimmer of truth to the claim, depending on your personal digital notebook needs. While Zoho’s entry doesn’t have nearly the impressive resume of features that Evernote (or OneNote, for that matter) has, there’s still quite a bit to love there, starting with the price tag.
Zoho Notebook is completely free, allowing you to create unlimited notes and notebooks in the cloud without ever having to spend a penny. Additionally, while there’s no desktop app offered, the Zoho Notebook web interface is a work of art, right down to the hand-drawn covers available to spruce up your notebooks.
In the upcoming Zoho Notebook review, we’ll take a more thorough look at the application to see where it rises and where it falls to help you decide if it’s the best digital notebook for your thoughts, meeting notes and manifestos.
- Completely free
- Unlimited notes
- Creative design
- No desktop client
- 10,000 character limit
- No note tagging
- Limited formatting options
Zoho Notebook is a web-based note-taking tool. There’s no desktop client like you’ll find with OneNote, Evernote and Box Notes (read our Box Notes review). There are, however, smartphone apps for both Android and iOS if you want to take memos while stuck on the subway or kicking back in a coffee shop.
Notes, which Zoho calls “cards,” can be organized into notebooks. These notebooks can be given individual covers for faster identification and are displayed in a convenient tile format.
Cards themselves don’t have to be text-based. Zoho Notebook has six different types you can choose from, in fact:
- Text card: type out text notes
- Checklist card: create to-do lists, recipes, etc
- Audio card: record voice notes, lectures, etc.
- Photo card: add images, scans, etc.
- Sketch card: write handwritten notes or hand-drawn diagrams
- File card: attach PDFs, documents, spreadsheets, etc.
Within text cards, you can also add checklists and images if you want to create something more dynamic. Sketch and audio cards can only be created using the Android and iOS apps, unfortunately, and not the browser interface.
Handwritten notes (sometimes called “ink”) compiled in a sketch card also can’t be automatically converted to text like they can with OneNote (read our OneNote review). Additionally, while you can scan documents with your smartphone, Zoho Notebook doesn’t pack any optical character recognition (OCR) algorithms to extract text from .pdfs or images.
For compiling web research, Zoho does have a decent web clipper that you can use to capture webpage links, selected text or screenshots and add them to a notebook.
Location information is sent to Zoho to help you remember where you took your notes. However, you don’t have to grant permission to check your location if you’re worried about privacy. If you’re on a public WiFi network and protecting your internet usage with a VPN like you should be, the location won’t be accurate anyway (see our best VPN guide).
In addition to organizing them in notebooks, you can group relevant notecards into stacks. However, Zoho Notebook doesn’t let you tag cards with labels (e.g., book ideas, favorite recipes, places to visit). You also can’t crosslink notes with embedded links, which is a bummer. These misses make it a poor choice for complex research projects.
While you can email notes to others, Zoho Notebook otherwise doesn’t have much in the way of sharing features. For example, with Evernote you can create collaborative notebooks that you can use to gather research with others (read our Evernote review).
Additionally, there are no IFTTT or Zapier recipes for automatically creating notes from emails, social media posts and the like.
Overall, Zoho Notebook just doesn’t have the capabilities of a more advanced notebook. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a niche. As we’ll discuss in the next two sections, both the price and user experience of Zoho Notebook make it a worthwhile tool for those looking for a more simple online journaling tool (like moody teenagers).
Like Google Keep (read our Google Keep review), Zoho Notebook is completely free. You can create as many notes and notebooks as you want without restriction. This is something that sets it apart from both OneNote and Evernote, although both of those notebooks do have limited free versions.
On top of being free, Zoho Notebook doesn’t bombard you with advertisements. Essentially, the application has no revenue value to the company other than spreading the Zoho name. Zoho, of course, has many other products to make bank with, including CRM tools and a bookkeeping program which is up there with the best accounting software (read our Zoho Books review).
While free is always good, value rests on features, too, especially when those features help save time and improve work quality. As mentioned in our features section above, while Zoho Notebook isn’t exactly bereft of features, there certainly are many good ones missing. In the absence of any revenue generation, we have to wonder whether Zoho will make much effort to improve, too.
That said, if you’re looking for a basic notes tool, the price is right with Zoho Notebook.
For those that aren’t a fan of web-based notebooks, preferring desktop clients instead, Zoho Notebook might just change your mind. In many ways it’s one of the most beautifully designed online apps out there, notebook or otherwise.
While minimalism may be the approach most cloud services take with online interfaces, not many come to mind that feel as crisp and clean as Zoho Notebook. The design makes it easy to focus on taking notes with minimal distractions.
The left-side margin has links listed vertically for “notebooks,” “all notes” and “search.” Further down, you can access settings and your account information.
To create a new notebook, you only need to click the “+” icon near the top of the web app. This will create a notebook called “untitled” with a random cover. You can change the notebook name by clicking on it and typing a new one.
Notebooks can be given identifying covers to help you sort through them quickly. As mentioned, Zoho provides some covers you can use, or you can design your own. To change a cover, just right-click on it and select “change cover” from the menu.
It may seem inconsequential at first blush but the notebook cover feature really enhances the user experience. Identifying a brightly colored, unique image is a much faster way to find your notebook among the clutter.
Creating cards can be done using the controls to the right of the create-notebook icon with separate buttons for text, photo, checklist and file notes.
Clicking on a text card brings up the card and you can immediately start typing out your note.
There are a few basic text formatting options available like bold, underline and italics. You can also create bulleted and numbered lists and align paragraphs. There certainly aren’t as many formatting options as you’ll get with OneNote, however, which also lets you position text anywhere you want within a note.
You can, at least, insert checklists and images into Zoho Notebook text cards. You’re not restricted to having to create a separate checklist or photo cards for those unless you want to.
At the bottom of any card type, you can set an alarm-clock reminder, which is useful for managing to-do lists with deadlines attached. There’s also an option to lock your notes and revert back previous note versions if you’ve accidentally overwritten something.
We also love the fact that you can send notes directly from Zoho to others rather than having to recreate them in an email.
For finding specific notes later, Zoho Notebook has a search function and lets you sort notes by name, date created and a few other fields. However, there’s no option to tag notes like you’ll find with many note-taking apps. That can make it difficult to organize research projects, even with the fancy notebook covers.
For that reason, from an ease-of-use perspective, if you’ve got many digital notes to compile, Evernote is still probably your best bet thanks to ultimately superior organizational feature (not to mention more general features, overall).
However, for those looking for a basic journaling tool, Zoho Notebook’s straightforward design and absence of cost makes it a solid choice.
Zoho implemented at-rest encryption in late 2017 for all documents and file attachments stored in its servers using the AES protocol as a cipher. That includes attachments uploaded using Zoho Notebook and the notes themselves. However, at-rest encryption was only implemented for U.S. servers, not those for European accounts.
Communications between your computer and the cloud are protected using transport-layer security (TLS) and AES encryption, so they should be safe from man-in-the-middle attacks and other types of cyber eavesdropping.
Zoho Notebook doesn’t have an option for two-factor authentication. That means anybody who gets a hold of your password can log into your account with ease (with 2FA, an additional security code would be required when logging in from an unfamiliar machine).
In short, Zoho Notebook isn’t the most secure note-taking app out there, especially when you can privately encrypt notes for Evernote and OneNote using the third-party SafeRoom add-on.
While a range of missing features like better rich-text formatting, tagging, note crosslinking, optical character recognition and automation integration with IFTTT and Zapier keep it from being the Evernote usurper the Zoho claims it to be, we still can’t help but like Zoho Notebook.
Bad for big research projects, Zoho Notebook has a place among the digital notebook pantheon as a straightforward journaling tool. A minimalistic browser application and brightly colored notebook covers, along with no cost and unlimited notes, make it ideal for that purpose.
Zoho Notebook’s smartphone audio recorder, checklist and reminder features are useful as well, though we think Google Keep’s (read our Google Keep review) implementation of those particular features is quite a bit better.
That’s our take on Zoho Notebook. Don’t forget to leave your questions and comments below. Thanks for reading.