Evernote is dialing back the free version of its service and pushing key features to its premium tiers, so as a result, we declared OneNote the best choice in our comparison review. The company’s decision to abruptly impose restrictions on nonpaying accounts has left many longtime users feeling, well, miffed. Luckily, there are many great alternatives. We’ve rounded up a few of the best note-taking apps for your convenience.
Bear is a very easy-to-use yet powerful app that allows you to combine text, photos, to-do lists, and even code snippets if that’s what you do. Yes, you can code using Bear because it has a markup editor that supports over 20 programming languages. The app also makes it easy for you to search through all your notes and focus on specific things using triggers such as @task, @tagged, and @files.
The app is compatible with iMessage and the Apple Watch. You can expand the power of this app by subscribing to Bear Pro. The subscription costs a little over $1 monthly, or you can pay $15 per year. The Pro version gives you the ability to convert your writing into PDF, Word documents, HTML, and more. It also gives you the option to sync all your notes across all your devices.
Are you an iPad Pro user? You’ll be happy to know that Bear supports the Apple Pencil and hand sketching, too.
As the name suggests, Simplenote is as simple as they come. If you want the ability to sync your notes across all of your devices without paying a subscription, then Simplenote has you covered. You can also share notes with other users and collaborate. Once you create your free account, you can start creating notes, tagging them, pinning them, and sharing them. The interface is very straightforward and easy to get to grips with.
Simplenote is compatible with iOS devices, Android, MacOS, Windows, and even Linux. Your notes will automatically backup online and sync across all your devices.
Don’t worry about having too many notes. Simplenote lets you tag, pin, and organize your notes, and it also boasts a good search feature.
If you’re looking for more serious note-taking and collaboration apps that work well with large teams or corporations, then you should look at Quip — Docs, Chat, Sheets. The idea behind this app is to provide a place for a team to create a live document that can be accessed and edited by many people. You can look at it as a combination of chat, documents, task lists, and spreadsheets all rolled into one app. Create, share, and collaborate on notes, task lists, or edit documents with any group. You can also chat in real time with your team so that you can eliminate the need to send multiple emails back and forth. Whether you are working on your iPhone, iPad or a desktop computer, you will be able to access and edit spreadsheets with support for over 400 functions. Your work syncs across all your devices, so you can pick up where you left off anytime.
You can import documents from Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Google Docs and export documents as PDFs or Microsoft Office files. Quip also allows you to import your address book from Yahoo, Hotmail, Microsoft Outlook, Google, or iCloud.
You can sign up for a free trial so that you can decide if Quip is right for you. The pricing is $30 per month for a team of five, and $12 per additional person if you subscribe monthly, or $10 per additional person with an annual commitment. If you have a very large business, you can pay for Quip Enterprise which is $25 per month per person.
Productivity software company Zoho typically gears its development efforts toward enterprise, but its newest app, Notebook, is strictly consumer-oriented. It’s a note-taking app for iOS and Android that organizes your to-do lists and tasks visually, in a card-like interface, with notes appearing as colored stickies stacked on top of one another. And, like real-life sticky notes, they’re manipulable – you can group individual notes together by “pinching” them into a stack or swipe across them to see additional information.
Notebook packs a few novel features. You can attach files to notes — i.e., audio, photos, and miscellaneous web clippings — plus reminders and due dates. Content syncs across all of your signed-in devices, and notes are searchable within the notebook interface — a downward flick surfaces the search bar.
In terms of platform-specific functionality, on iOS, you can create and view recent notes from the notification panel, as well as record voice memos with an Apple Watch. And on Android, you can create shortcuts to notes on your home screen.
Notebook’s not without its shortcomings, to be fair. You can’t label or tag notes, and it lacks a web-based interface. But it’s free, and Zoho said the app will “never include ads.”
Any.do positions itself less as a to-do manager and more a productivity “accelerator.” Its headlining feature is undoubtedly “Moments,” a daily planner that helps you to prioritize the upcoming day’s tasks. It takes the form of a unified timeline that shows the notes, reminders, and appointments you have scheduled in the next few hours. The best part? Once you finish checking items off your Moments list, you get a random motivational message and pleasant chime.
Beyond Moments, Any.do sports a few other handy features that its note-taking competitors lack. When you miss a phone call on Android, a helpful pop-up at the bottom of your screen provides shortcuts to set a callback reminder. If on the other hand, you’re on the line with someone and receive a message, Any.do offers the option to send canned responses like “I’ll call you right back” and “Can’t talk now.” Also worth mentioning is Any.do’s “zooming” feature, which lets you “zoom into” tasks to reveal sub-tasks and other details and “zoom out” to a big-picture overview of ongoing projects.
Any.do’s premium $3 a month service is all about flexibility. You can share an unlimited number of tasks with collaborators (free accounts are limited to just one) and upload files to a larger (100 MB versus 1.5 MB) digital locker, so to speak. Moments, which appears only five times a month for free users, recurs daily with Any.do Premium. And finally, Premium lets you customize Any.do’s theme, set recurring tasks, and set up location-based reminders — features more or less on par with paid offerings from rival its note-taking rivals.
Wunderlist may have been acquired by software behemoth Microsoft in 2015, the architect of note-taking competitor OneNote, but the to-do platform is still alive and kicking. One of its cooler tools is natural language interpretation. Much like Google Calendar on Android, Wunderlist automatically recognizes words that might as due dates — e.g., “tomorrow,” or “Friday” — and schedules reminders accordingly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t recognize locations, and Wunderlist doesn’t support location-based reminders like Any.do does.
Wunderlist sports a few features that are exclusive to its platform. On Android, you can quickly add to-dos straight from the notification bar. Wunderlist integrates with Google Now on Tap, Google’s intelligent assistant, so if you compile a list of movies in Wunderlist, Now on Tap will provide the synopses and showtimes of each. The note-taking app provides templates for the most common sorts of tasks — i.e., those involving work, personal, bills, vacations, family, and purchases — and much like the email inbox which undoubtedly served as its inspiration, it allows you to group tasks into folders and sort them chronologically, by a particular day, or alphabetically.
Wunderlist has a premium tier that grants you more. The $5-per-month Wunderlist Pro nets you the freedom to upload files of any size (the free service caps out at 5MB), you can share an unlimited number of tasks with collaborators (free users are limited to 25), and create as many subtasks as your heart desires. As an added bonus, you get 10 background images to swap between at your leisure.
Rather than treat lists as the pillar of its productivity hierarchy, Todoist encourages you to organize tasks around projects. Individual to-do items live within those projects and can be customized to an exhaustive degree. You can add due dates, recurring reminders, flags, subtasks, and more. Todoist, like Wunderlist, optionally parses your notes for dates using natural language, so a task with the phrase “every three weeks” will be scheduled to recur, as you might expect, every three weeks. The service also features organizational filters by priority and due date.
Todoist, much like Any.do, is far more capable than your average to-do app. A few of its major differentiators is offline support and automatic backups. If you find yourself without Wi-Fi, the service’s apps will show you the last couple of tasks you added, replete with due dates and timestamps. When an internet connection is readily available, Todoist will save every major change you make to the cloud as a revision. Mistakenly delete a bunch of tasks? Not to worry — you can restore the dashboard’s last known good configuration.
Todoist, unfortunately, places serious limitations on free accounts. You can’t add labels, notes, or files to tasks without a $29-per-year Premium subscription, and you can’t perform searches within your dashboard’s projects. Email, text, and location-based reminders require a paid account, as does the ability to add new tasks via email and sync tasks to a calendar. But Todoist’s premium offering is generous in other respects. You get 200 tasks per project (versus 150 with a free account) and up to 200 projects. You can also access Karma, an analysis tool that gamifies your goals so that when you accomplish a certain number of tasks in a day or week, you earn points toward digital productivity badges like “Professional,” “Expert,” and “Master.”
Remember the Milk
If bare-bones task management is what you’re after, Remember the Milk may fit the bill. You can create to-dos, of course, and attach things like due dates, tags, notes, and the estimated time a task might take to complete. As with Wunderlist, you can organize tasks by categories. Like Todoist and Wunderlist, Remember the Milk features natural language recognition. Simply type a due date as part of the task — e.g., “tomorrow” — and it will schedule an appropriate reminder. There’s basic support for reminders, including location-based ones, and there are nifty sharing features that let you share entire individual tasks or entire categories. Furthermore, Remember the Milk allows you to set permissions restrictions on task editing and writing if, say, you want Aunt Bertha to be able to read the week’s grocery list but not amend it.
That’s not to say Remember the Milk isn’t versatile. A major update in February introduced a bevy of new features like subtasks and advanced sorting. And in addition, Remember the Milk’s mobile and web interfaces received a much-needed revamp that introduced slick, sliding panels and simpler ways of sharing and assigning tasks.
Remember the Milk’s premium tier adds a few more features to the mix, but not many. In addition to unlimited task storage, users who decide to shell out $40 for Remember the Milk Pro will see devices associated with their account back up tasks automatically and receive push notifications, plus sync offline and integrate with Microsoft’s Outlook Tasks software.
Google Keep, Google’s take on task management, admittedly isn’t quite as holistic as other productivity managers. But it’s entirely free and packs more than enough useful features to warrant mention.
Predictably, Keep plays nicely with Google’s other services, so every note you add to Keep is searchable and accessible from within Google Drive, Google’s cloud storage locker, and reminders appear within Google’s virtual assistant Now on your smartphone. Keep inherits a few of Google’s machine learning smarts, too. It can transcribe text from images using optical character recognition, and, by parsing the content of your notes for keywords, it automatically filters your notes by topic, location, and activity. As you’d expect, Keep’s search features are fully featured. You can perform queries like “Blue notes with voice memos,” and “Yellow notes with checkboxes,” for example, to quickly surface tasks you’ve created.
Keep is not without its shortcomings, though. There’s no way to group notes and tasks by folder, and Keep lacks support for subtasks. Its collaboration tools are also a tad disappointing. You can’t delegate tasks to other people, fine-tune permissions, add comments, or see edits by others reflected in real time. But for free note-keeping synced across a broad range of devices, Keep can’t be beaten.
Microsoft’s OneNote is the granddaddy of all note-taking apps. It debuted way back in 2003, but in 2014 received a fresh coat of paint and bunch of new features.
OneNote supports to-do lists with subtasks, starred tasks, highlights, labels, tags, and, on the desktop and the web, a virtually endless array of formatting options. You can attach images, videos, links, screenshots, files, Excel spreadsheets, geometric shapes, too, and pretty much every other type of file imaginable. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. OneNote has a file revision history browser so you can see what changes authors have made to a document over time. It’s got optical character recognition, too — OneNote automatically transcribes the text of any PDF or paper documents you upload. And, much like like with Keep, your notes are stored in a cloud storage locker, Microsoft’s OneDrive, accessible from any device with an internet connection. You get up to 15GB for free, shared among any other Microsoft Office apps you use.
OneNote has a few platform-specific features worth mentioning. On all iOS devices, it supports document search through Spotlight and multitasking by way of Split View. And on the iPad Pro, it supports note-taking with Apple’s Pencil stylus. Android users, meanwhile, get the OneNote badge: a floating widget that allows you to create a note no matter what app you’re using at the moment.
Given the disparate nature of note-taking apps, it’s exceedingly difficult to crown a winner. But in terms of sheer volume of features on offer, OneNote takes the cake. Not only does it support to-do app staple features like task lists, subtasks, formatting, and project assignment, but it sports a myriad of embedding options. You can attach videos, pictures, slideshows, Office documents, and practically any other file type you please to individual notes and tasks. Its formatting options, meanwhile, are robust as any of its note-taking competition and then some, and its got additional little benefits, like optical character recognition, 15GB of cloud storage, file revision history, and real-time collaboration, abound. And it’s all free.
Google Keep comes in close second. It may lack the formatting and embedding options offered by competition like Dropbox Paper, but it more than makes up for it in organizational tools. Keep’s support for labels and colors, plus its machine learning-powered keyword sorting, are a godsend for anyone with more notes than they can keep straight. Free Google Drive storage, optical character recognition, and recurring reminders are pure icing on the cake.
Update: We took a second look at this list and added Quip, Bear, and Simplenote.
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