8 Best Note Taking Apps in 2019
It is time to talk about note taking apps because after about a full week of let’s be honest here far more research than I should have done for this topic. I am now ready to present to you my top 8 note-taking apps in 2019.
Now before we dive in I do want to talk a little bit about my criteria for this list:
First, the apps on this list primarily use text as their input method because I can type a lot faster than I can write and I want to be able to type and get data out at the speed at which I think.
So, while we’re gonna talk about apps like Evernote and OneNote which can support drawing to an extent, we’re not gonna focus on apps that primarily use hand writing as their method of input like Noteshelf 2 for the iPad. Plus a lot of those apps have integrations with Evernote anyway.
Secondly, every app I’m gonna talk about here has some form of cross platform availability. Not every app on the list is available on every platform but nothing on this list is available on only one OS.
Criteria number three which I find to be the most important criteria, I don’t think an app is the note-taking app unless it combines its note-taking or editor area with its UI for browsing files or notes.
I think this is crucial for note-taking app, because I’m constantly referencing different notes, searching for things, and I want to have all that available in one window.
So that means apps like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, Dropbox Paper are all not going to make the cut here. Though I do have to admit the Dropbox Paper in particular has probably the best writing experience in writing app that I’ve ever tried.
Though we do have one app on this list that does come very close to that level of greatness.
Yes, Evernote, the granddaddy of syncing note-taking apps. I’ve been using Evernote for darn near nine years at this point and I have to admit that it’s a very powerful tool that I basically can’t get myself to break away from.
Its got a pretty capable rich text editor, the ability to share notebooks with other people. It’s got tags, the ability to save searches and a ton of different integrations with other apps.
It also features optical character recognition which means that you can scan in images with text and it can make that text searchable and you can also annotate images in the app as well.
But for all its strengths, Evernote frustrates me, and that’s primarily because you cannot create nested hierarchies of notebooks. You can do notebooks and you can notebook stacks, but that’s it. Now some people out there, like the writer Michael Hyatt for example, advocate using a tag based structure to gain that hierarchy instead.
But that doesn’t really work because on the Evernote mobile apps those tags are not going to show in their hierarchy, they’re all alphabetical, so it kind of breaks down.
Still, Evernote is incredibly powerful, it’s available on basically every platform. And because of those reasons I am continuing to use it at least for certain parts my work flow, even though I have many other options in 2019.
2. One Note
Speaking of other options, let’s now talk about OneNote.
Microsoft OneNote is probably the closest competitor to Evernote in terms of features as you’re gonna find similar image support, optical character recognition, the ability to annotate images and honestly the editor area is a lot more flexible and customizable than Evernote is.
Additionally, Microsoft OneNote is free, like actually free. The only way you’d ever pay for Microsoft OneNote if you decided to upgrade your OneDrive storage as that’s the only way the ever charge you money, they just use OneDrive for their storage.
That being said, I personally just can’t get into OneNote. I know a lot of people out there love it, it’s incredibly powerful which is why it’s on my list, but it doesn’t work for me because you cannot sort notes within your notebooks by date modified, date created or alphabetically.
You can only drag them around like they’re actual note cards or pages in a notebook. And that combined with limited tagging capabilities
and the same number of organizational levels of hierarchy as you get in Evernote.
Bear is an absolutely beautiful app that I wish that I could use as a daily driver in my work flow.
But Bear is a Mac and iOS exclusive and that’s kind of a bummer because I also use Windows on a daily basis alongside my Mac and iPhone. That being said, if you are a Mac and iPhone only kind of person, Bear is definitely worth your consideration.
This is primarily because unlike Evernote and OneNote, Bear has a beautiful hybrid markdown editor. And if you’re not familiar with markdown, it’s a markup language that allows you to format your text as you type by putting different symbols around your text.
So for example, you can put two stars around a word to bold that word. Now a lot of markdown editors force you to write in plain text and then you can only preview your formatted text. But Bear doesn’t do that, it actually format your text as you write which I really really like.
Additionally, Bear also has a pretty interesting organizational system that does let you create as many levels of hierarchy as you like and they use tags to achieve this.
By typing hash tags in your document and then using slashes to create additional tags beyond it you can create your own organizational structure. Now some people don’t like having tags right in the editor window like that but some people might not mind that. And I also have to give a shout out to their archive feature which lets you archive notes and take them out of search and your organizational hierarchy but not delete them.
4. Apple Notes
Of course if you are an Apple exclusive kind of person then we do have to consider Apple’s own notes program. Mainly because it’s free and unlike Bear, if you happen to not have access to an Apple computer at some point or you’re a part-time Windows guy like me, you can at least access your notes at icloud.com.
Now though Apple Notes doesn’t have the awesome hyper markdown capabilities of Bear or some other apps we’re gonna talk about, it does have really nice formatting tools.
And to my eyes, the default formatting looks better than it does on Evernote. Additionally, you guessed it, you can indeed create your own nested list of hierarchical folders and I love that feature.
5. Google Keep
Moving on to the next item on our list, we are now at Google Keep which is a pretty nice and simple note-taking app that’s available in the browser and also on pretty much all of your devices as well.
Now when I was testing Google Keep the number one word that kept coming up to my mind was simplicity.
It’s a very simple note-taking app. Very simple but effective formatting options and you can even change the background color of your notes to visually distinguish them.
The problem for me though is there’s only one level of tags that you can create, you cannot create a hierarchical level of basically anything, so there’s no hierarchical organization.
So I guess if you’re gonna use Google Keep as a note-taking app, you’re gonna want to rely mostly on their search function. And I guess with it being Google, that search function is probably pretty good. But that being said, since it lacks true organizational hierarchy, I don’t see this as a viable alternative to Evernote or OneNote or anything more complex.
If you want a scratch pad for taking notes and setting reminders for later, Google Keep could be a good bet.
That brings us over to Notion. And I know a lot of you guys were waiting for me to talk about Notion.
It’s definitely the app that I get the most questions about these days and for good reason, because notion is stupidly powerful. It’s definitely the most flexible tool on this list, allowing you to layout pages however you want, create an infinite hierarchy organization on the sidebar and even interlink between pages easily.
It’s also got a great hybrid markdown editor that’s very similar to the one you’re gonna find in Bear, though it does have some quirks that keep me from really loving it, such as the fact that you cannot precisely select text if it goes outside a single block of information.
But my gripes about the editor aside, Notion can do things that no other app can do, that’s mainly because the combination of a couple of different features.
First, their table feature is actually a database feature, so every row in a table actually links to its own page and secondly, they’ve got a templating feature that allows you to make basically anything into a template.
And I have combined these two features to build Notion out into an incredibly powerful video management platform that has made our editing process so much smoother.
So in one area of the app I’ve got a database with all of our videos who’s sponsoring them, their publish dates, all kinds of good information like that.
It is definitely a great organizational app in general and it’s, again, very flexible.
7. Standard Notes
All right, let’s talk about Standard Notes. Now Standard Notes as far as I can tell, I could be wrong, but I think Standard Notes is the only app on my list that is developed by one single developer.
Given that fact, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty impressed with everything the developer has been able to accomplish with this app.
For one it is easily the most security focused app on list as everything you write is encrypted by default and only you can access it. Now you’ll immediately notice that the free version of Standard Notes is just a plain text editor.
There is a note browsing window but you can’t write markdown, there’s no rich text editing, it’s just plain text. But upgrade to their extended version and you get a whole bunch of extensions that you can optionally turn on or off.
There are several different editors to choose from, including multiple markdown editors, a rich text editor and even a code editor. This is really cool, you can choose which editor you want to use on a note by note basis.
You can create custom folders with your tags and these are infinitely nestable and you can even define custom searches based on those tags or even other information and then save those searches within the app.
Standard Notes is not perfect though. For one, the image support is kind of lacking right now as you have to host your images elsewhere to have them displayed within the app. And you also cannot drag and drop notes between different folders or tags.
Still, I’ve got to say that I am pretty impressed with what the developer accomplished so far.
Let’s talk about Slite. Slite is by design a very team focused note-taking app that could also work pretty well for a solo note-taker. It’s got an absolutely fantastic hybrid markdown editor that I found pretty similar to the one in Dropbox Paper which allows you to format your text on-the-fly and also embed images and videos and even tables.
I’m also a big fan of their table of contents view which lets you quickly zoom to different headings within your note. And this is something you’ll find in Google Docs and Dropbox Paper and it’s something we even built into the articles in the latest version of College Info Geek but it’s very rare to find in a note-taking app, so props to Slite for including it.
Now Slite also allows you to create a nested hierarchy of notes within the app so you can organize things. Though the way they implement it is kind of weird because one side you’ve got channels and then within the middle part of the app that’s where you can create these collections which are infinitely nestful.
The only problem is that you can only sort by a recency on a channel level. So their sorting options are a little less powerful than other apps can offer you.
Now much like Notions, Slite is built primarily for teams, so you can collaboratively edit a document with somebody in real time. There’s also this great comment section that puts comments in a nice little window to the side of your editor, I really like that. It is also available on mobile apps and on the web and basically every platform out there.
So at least from a design perspective it seems to be one of the best note-taking apps that I could actually find when doing the research. My main gripe with it right now, at least right now is the experience of using it.
Source: Thomas Frank, subscribe and see other videos here!Apple NotesappsBearBest Note Taking AppsEvernoteGoogle KeepNotionOne NoteSliteStandard Notes