I have spent a lot of time looking for the perfect software to take notes. You wouldn’t imagine it would be that big of a deal, but it was for me. I had a list of requirements, or hopes, for my note app, and finding an app that would fulfill all of them has been a frustrating endeavor. However, with the maturity of the computer and software market, and because I started taking 100mg of Sertraline (medication for anxiety and depression, a different subject) which made my thinking less chaotic, finding the best note app has become easier.
Of course, there is no one best app for taking notes. It depends on your needs. If all you need is something to take casual notes and you only use your mobile device, you can try the hundreds of note apps made for mobile devices. If you require that the note app works on your phone and syncs with your tablet and laptop, the search becomes more complicated, but not impossible. And if you want to do that and be able to organize your notes in different ways, it becomes even more complicated. Well, it was more complicated, but over the past several years, the search for the perfect note taking app has slowly become easier.
What were those requirements that caused this search to be so difficult:
- The app needs to sync to all my devices
- It needs to be organizable
- It needs basic writing and formatting tools
- It needs to work well, without frustrations
- It needs to work at a reasonable speed
- And I really wanted it to be free
If you only use your notes on one device, and the syncing option is not a concern, that opens up dozens of possibilities regardless of what type of device you own. You just need to download them and try them. But once you start requiring the note app to sync to different devises, your options shrink. Here’s the good news. Those few options are the best of the note taking applications.
You have three great options. I say three, that is wrong of course. There are many other note apps that sync, but I believe these are your best three options, or at least, they are the best ones I know of. If you have a favorite note app that you want everyone to know about, please leave a comment.
The three options I wish to discuss are Evernote, Onenote, and Google Keep.
Google Keep is a great app. If your note taking needs are modest, you can’t go wrong with this app. In fact, for modest note taking–taking notes for to-dos, reminders, ideas—Keep is great even if you do not need to sync. And if you would like access to your notes on any computer, Keep will sync with all of them. Where Keep seems to hit its upper limit is if you are doing a project that requires a lot of organizing and collecting of information. For that kind of activity, you need either Evernote or Onenote.
Onenote is a powerful note app. And now that it is free (yes, FREE), it is a great value. The free version of Onenote has almost no restrictions; although, I seem to remember that it wants you to sync to Microsoft Onedrive and exporting and password protecting is limited. You’ll find it hard to find any more restrictions. So if you need something more than Keep and if you’re on a budget, Onenote should be the first computer notebook you try.
I tried very, very hard to love Onenote. She’s free, easy and willing, but I’m just not attracted to her. I’m not completely sure why I do not like Onenote more. Part of the problem is the design. Onenote does not feel open. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not sure what I mean by that, but compared to Evernote, Onenote has a closed-off feeling. Second, I don’t like the search function. I do not get the good sense that it’s finding all my stuff. And what finally made me give up on Onenote was the realization that the Onenote mobile app would not allow me to move notes or create new notebooks. Several years ago, the Onenote app was so bad it made me doubt Microsoft’s ability to program. The new app is much better, but it is still very limited.
So that brings us to the best option, in my opinion, Evernote. I do feel that Evernote is a better note app than Onenote. They do have different designs and strengths, and Onenote is a powerful note app and is now free. So give it a try first if you’re on a budget. Evernote does have a free option, which may be all you need, but for some functions you must pay. The first time I tried the free version of Evernote, so long ago I can’t remember when it was, I loved it. However, I had a fallout with Evernote because to use it on my phone, I lacked a data connection, I had to pay $45 a year. This might not seem like a lot, but I did not make a lot of money, so I did what I could to save. I dumped Evernote and tried Onenote. Now I’m dumping Onenote and coming back to Evernote. My budget is not so tight anymore, so I even forked over the $45.
Evernote has a clean and open design that I like. You can organize your notes with notebooks or tags, personally I prefer tags. You can easily drag and drop your notes to the different tags. You can use Evernote as a word processor. Granted, as a word processor, it does not offer all the bells and horns, but it has everything that is necessary for most word processing (I’m writing this in Evernote). You can actually use it as a simple email client and as a simple off line storage app (the key word in this sentence is “simple”). Although Onenote is powerful, Evernote is more flexible, and therefore, more powerful. But you need not take my word on it. Onenote is free and Evernote has a free version. Download them and give both a try.
I plan to write another article about ways to use Evernote in a few months, so stay tune.
Myth: we have to save the earth. Frankly, the earth doesn’t need to be saved. Nature doesn’t give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment — making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so. -Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author (b. 1953) and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author (b. 1945)