Taking notes is a necessary task for many.
Whether you're a student attending classes, a business person who needs to take minutes, or just someone that wants a way to jot down thoughts and ideas on the fly, there is a mobile solution to help. We're taking a look at five superb note-taking apps that offer a vast improvement over your iPhone's native Notes app, and all of them are available now — for free.
Take note of our carefully curated list of the best note takin' and makin' apps below.
Following is a handpicked list of Top Note Taker Apps for mac, with their popular features and website links. The list contains both open source (free) and commercial (paid) software. 1) Notion Notion is a note-taking, collaboration, and project management software that can be integrated with databases and tasks. App developer Ginger Labs recently launched a companion app for the Mac ($10; OS X 10.9 or later), where you can sync your notes via iCloud across devices. If you're not a Mac user, you can still. The first reliable note-taking application for Mac is Apple Notes. Since Apple Notes is a part of Apple’s productivity suite it comes pre-installed on every modern-day mac computer. You can attach all sorts of media files like photos, videos, documents scanned from your iPhone, hand-drawn sketches, audio recordings, and much more to your notes. The note-taking apps that make it to our list for Mac are quite easy to use. They also have pleasant UI and a responsive editor which creates an amazing user experience. Below is a list of the best note taking apps for Mac.
A clean and contemporary solution for Apple device owners
Bear is an advanced editor that supports over 150 programming languages and is far superior to the iPhone's native Notes app. Many of the Bear app's features are available for free on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Using the free version you can create notes, add tags and attachments, and export to a variety of formats. Bear Pro, which you can subscribe to monthly or annually, offers more advanced features such as the ability to sync between all your devices, improved security features, and more powerful export options. We like the Bear app for its incredibly clean and simple design, which makes it both easy to use and easy to view.
It has three main sections. The first section is the Sidebar, which is where you'll see a list of tags you've created within the app. The middle section is the Note List which offers a chronological list of all your notes (although you can choose to pin a note to the top), and then there's the Editor area, where you create your notes. We love how clean the Editor is. You have a blank screen at the top and your keyboard view at the bottom. In the middle is a tidy, scrollable icon menu that offers one-touch formatting options such as text style, bulleting, link making, adding the date in different formats, inserting images, and adding attachments.
Another thing we love about taking notes with Bear is that you can use your iPhone's Spotlight search to look for words and phrases within your Bear notes. It also integrates brilliantly with Siri. You can ask Siri to create a new note in Bear, and even start dictating what you'd like the note to say.
A date-focused option that's ideal for anyone who works chronologically
Agenda has a different approach to note taking that might be just the ticket for your organization needs. It is a date-focused note-taking app that incorporates planning into the process. Agenda creates documents that can be readily converted to formats like HTML and PDF. It's currently available on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. The iPad version has support for Apple Pencil.
Agenda organizes your notes into a timeline. You can attach dates to your notes, which is useful if you're making meeting or lecture notes, connect notes to your calendar, and add due date reminders. You can create Projects to file notes under, or create a Category if you want to make notes for different areas of your life, work, or study.
Agenda's Editor is nice and uncluttered, but on the iPhone you only get a small window to type in by default. You can swipe to expand to get a larger, clearer text editor to work in, however. The formatting options are comprehensive and easy to use. There is a small menu bar above the keyboard that offers expandable options that you click on to generate different header styles, list formats, text formats, and an add button that lets you add links, hashtags, images, attachments, and create Reminders in your iPhone's app.
A two-in-one audio recording and note-taking tool for iOS and Mac
Noted has a unique note-taking premise as it's a fully-integrated audio recording and note-taking app. This makes it ideal for anyone who needs to both record audio and make notes at the same time in lectures, meetings, and interviews. It's available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, with an Apple Watch version that allows you to record from your wrist.
This app is highly effective and easy to use. You simply create a new Notebook, which works like a folder, give it a title, add a new note to it, hit the record button to start the audio recording, then make notes using the text editor. This has a clean interface and allows you to do basic formatting, including highlighting. You can quickly and easily add a searchable time tag at any point during the recording. Within the text editor, there is also the option to snap a live photo, add an image from your camera roll, attach a document, and even create a quick sketch, complete with Apple Pencil support. Once you're done, there are options to share and export both the audio and the notes.
Other functionality worthy of note is the ability to activate the app using Siri, the ability to sync across Mac, mobile, and Apple Watch, to pin Notebooks to the top of your list, and to search via hashtag.
A straightforward, cross-platform note-taking and syncing solution
Originally developed as a Notes alternative for iPhone users, Simplenote is, as the name would suggest, a very straightforward note-taking solution. If you're looking for a robust note-taking app that will sync across multiple platforms with no gimmicky bells and whistles, this could suit you perfectly.
Simplenote helps you take notes and create to-do lists, organize them with tags and pins, and find what you need with instant search. This free solution is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, and Linux and works seamlessly across all the different platforms. With Simplenote, notes are quick to create. You can add tags to find notes quickly, and the notes automatically sync, in real-time, across all platforms, meaning you're always backed up.
It's easy to share and collaborate with others using Simplenote; you can share a to-do list with a colleague or a shopping list with a housemate, for example. Particularly useful for bloggers: Simplenote can publish directly to a WordPress site by connecting your WordPress.com account.
A robust handwriting recognition app, perfect for tablet owners
Nebo changes the game for tablet owners who want to make handwritten notes on their digital device and not have to then take the time to type them up. It's a very capable and competent solution that boasts accurate handwriting recognition across 66 different languages and is available on iOS, Windows, and Android. It works best with an active pen, such as the Apple Pencil.
In addition to writing with an input device, you can also type, and mix up typing with handwriting. There is also the ability to sketch and draw, with math equations and shape recognition abilities built in to the app. Nebo even recognizes drawn emojis and can convert these into digital versions. The app uses simple gestures to create sections, edit and resize your notes, create headings and lists, add and remove spaces and line breaks, delete content, and emphasize text.
You can add images into Nebo notes, then annotate them in the note. Nebo notes can easily be organized by dragging and dropping. You can add words, names, or acronyms to your personal dictionary to 'train' Nebo to recognize them in the future. All Nebo notes, whether handwritten or typed, are searchable. When you're done you can export Nebo pages as a Word doc, a PDF, HTML, and text.
We're big fans of all these apps, all of which offer something to suit particular needs and users. Our overall top choice is Bear. This is a contemporary note-taking solution with an intuitive user interface and a clean design.
Anyone looking to hand write their notes on a digital device is advised to check out Nebo, it's ultra-smart handwriting recognition technology will take your hastily scribbled scrawls and convert them into neat type in no time. If you need to combine recording audio with note-taking then we thoroughly recommend Noted. It's an ideal choice for students attending lectures, business folk that need to take minutes of meetings, and a handy way to record interviews while jotting down comments.
Note-taking is personal. It has as much to do with how your mind works as it does with what you’re taking notes about and why you’re taking them in the first place.
Still, search for the best note-taking app and you’ll invariably find Evernote at the top of most lists.
Some notes are for sharing. Some are a reminder. Some are taken and never looked at again.
Sometimes a note is a quick thought, jotted down on-the-go on a mobile device. Other times your notes are prepared at length at your computer over a large project, meeting, or study session.
Evernote is fine, generally-speaking — but you’re not just anyone, and your notes aren’t just any notes.
To find the best Evernote alternatives, we tested and used over 30 apps, reviewed top threads on Reddit, and consulted reviews on G2 to hear what the community had to say.
It’s not all just Evernote vs OneNote anymore. There are a slew of great note-taking apps, each with a key advantage over Evernote depending on what you are doing.
The best note-taking apps that aren’t Evernote:
- Hugo - Best meeting notes app
- CacoonWeaver - Best speech-to-text notes app
- Milanote - Best whiteboard-style notes app for creatives
- Bear - Speediest markdown notepad for iOS & Mac
- Typora - Best distraction-free notes app
- Workflowy - Infinite expandable bullet points
- OneNote - Best free option (not just for Microsoft lovers)
- Boost Note - Best note-taking app for developers
- Google Keep - Best note-taking app for Google fanatics
- Ulysses - Top-of-the line notes for serious writers
- Notability - Best notes app for iPad with Apple Pencil
- Nebo - Best note-taking app for Surface with Surface Pen
Why Evernote is no longer the gold-standard for notes
For many years, Evernote was on top of the note-taking game. With its sleek, comfortable interface, enjoyable mobile experience, and easy way of organizing with folders and stacks of folders, Evernote dominated the note-taking world after the iPhone’s original launch in 2007.
However, over the last 4+ years, Evernote has undergone a series of problematic changes, introducing bizarre new products in an attempt to expand its reach. They also changed the free plan in ways that have driven away users by crippling key features unless you pay.
Evernote remains a great product in many ways. It syncs across devices, offers a handy web clipper, and can even search handwriting.
But in trying to be all things to all people, the notes app market has opened up, offering a slew of note-taking apps that are going to appeal to more specific groups of people looking for more specific solutions.
What’s not on this list?
With note-taking apps, you need to be able to quickly take notes. Speed is of the essence. That means not having to waste time organizing and saving your files. You also need to be able to easily search your notes to find information.
Of course, you can take notes almost anywhere you can write.
Some people use the cells in a spreadsheet. Others use word processing apps like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Authors may prefer to jot down notes inside the tools they are already working in, like Scrivener. You can also take notes in project management software like Asana, or collaborative docs like Dropbox Paper.
None of these, however, beat the speed and simplicity of a dedicated notes app.
So in this post, we’re only looking at tools that are primarily for notes. Full-on word processing tools aren’t in the running, nor are project management tools or CRMs that happen to have a notes function. (Ulysses might be a minor exception, as it can be both a notes tool and word processor depending on how you use it.)
With that, here are the best note-taking tools in 2020 that aren’t Evernote.
Hugo - Best meeting notes app
For iOS and in your web browser. (Android, iPadOS, and macOS are on the horizon)
Plenty of note-taking apps are good generally-speaking, but taking notes in meetings poses some unique challenges. Fortunately, Hugo is purpose-built for meeting notes at work.
First, staying organized. Hugo centralizes and organizes all of your meeting notes with the help of your calendar. Notes are associated with your actual meetings, so you basically don’t have to worry about categorizing anything. (You can always add tags if you want to.) This works with G Suite, Gmail, or Office 365 calendars.
Plus, Hugo also integrates with over 20 other apps used for work. It syncs notes to your CRM (e.g. Salesforce), pushes tasks to project management tools (e.g. Jira), and works seamlessly with video conferencing tools (e.g. Zoom).
The Chrome browser extension gives you access to your notes from any page in your browser, which means you don’t have to dedicate your screen to note-taking during a video call. Just open and close the Hugo drawer when you need to check your agenda or jot a note down.
Hugo isn’t designed to just help you (although it will). With accounts for teams, collaborative note-taking, and a library of 80+ meeting note templates, everyone in your organization can use Hugo to centralize your meeting notes together.
- Free plan: Yes
- Paid plan: $6/user/month for teams 10+ or if you want premium features
ALSO: Take a look at this guide to taking amazing meeting notes.
CacoonWeaver - Best speech-to-text notes app
Compatibility: iOS (iPhone/iPad)
CacoonWeaver is the best way to collect audio notes for iOS. Pop open the app and transcribe your ideas, thoughts, memories, and dreams. To organize your notes with voice commands, just say something like, “Cacoon Shopping” and the app will automatically put your notes in the Shopping category.
Unlike other note-taking apps where you need to enable dictation to record an audio note, and then carefully watch to make sure your text is going in correctly, CacoonWeaver records your audio and transcribes at the same time.
You can play back your notes, or read them back, which gives you the peace of mind to know that no matter what, your information won’t be lost, and there are no limitations on the max length of an audio recording.
CacoonWeaver also keeps track of where you had ideas, showing you blips on a map.
The UI is clean and minimalistic for distraction-free recording and offers custom push notifications and nudges to help you be your best self. Convert mp4 to mjpeg free.
Because it is still in its debut phase, CacoonWeaver is currently free and keeps your data private and secure. The app claims to be in beta but it is fully functional and in better shape bugs-wise than a lot of other apps you’ll find on the AppStore.
- Free app: Yes
- Paid plan: N/A
Milanote - Best whiteboard-style notes app for creatives
Compatibility: Desktop apps for Mac and Windows, plus mobile apps for iOS and Android
The Next Web calls Milanote “the Evernote for Creatives” and it’s easy to see why creative directors, filmmakers, photographers, marketers, and designers of all kinds enjoy using it.
Unlike most note-taking apps, Milanote takes a highly-visual approach, allowing you to organize your ideas and projects in visual boards. Collect images, videos, text, and tasks all together on your screen.
If your creative process includes activities like mood boarding, brainstorming, storyboarding, or mind-mapping, the visual canvas offers a flexible and delightful experience.
Milanote works for teams and clients too, with build-tin commenting, sharing, and notifications. Plus, you can download a high-quality, printable PDF of any board.
You can try Milanote free with no time limit, although it is limited to 100 notes, images, or links (and only 10 file uploads). After that, it’s $9.99 for unlimited storage
- Free plan: Yes
- Paid plan: $12.50/month when billed monthly, $9.99/month when billed annually.
Bear - Fastest markdown notepad for iOS & Mac
Compatibility: iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Mac
For Apple fans looking to upgrade beyond Apple Notes, Bear offers a good balance of features, design, convenience, and software speed. If you’re coming from Evernote, for example, it’s so fast, you’ll notice the difference immediately.
From your very first note, Bear’s design shines, treating you with elegant typography and theme options which include multiple dark modes.
Bear's speed isn't just for writing notes, either. Searching in the app also runs fast, with minimal delays when searching notes.
With many advanced markdown options (or is it markup?), Bear works great if you like to format as you type. Hybrid markdown support means you can see the formatted text as you’re typing, although if you’re not a regular user of markdown, you might not enjoy the experience at first. You can easily export these nicely-formatted notes to HTML, PDF, and TXT.
It also has quick shortcuts, such as for finding today’s date, and supports checkboxes to help with to-dos. Built-in tagging is powerful and allows you to create tags anywhere in a document that are automatically captured in the sidebar.
Bear uses iCloud to speedily sync notes between iOS and Mac with a Pro membership. Still, some users complain that this should be a free feature like it is with most other note-taking apps.
Bear is rated 4.5 out of 5 on G2 Crowd with positive reviews from many note-taking app power users, such as consultants, software developers, and UI/UX designers. The biggest complaint about Bear is a lack of helpful or effective support.
- Free app: Yes
- Paid Plan: Bear Pro is $1.49/monthly, $14.99 annually with a free trial
Typora - Best distraction-free notes app
Compatibility: For desktop/laptop computers only (Mac, Windows, and Linux)
Typora is a slick alternative to Bear that is even more minimalist and distraction-free. The app is simple, with very little UI getting in the way. It’s also beautifully designed, with clear, aesthetically-pleasing text.
Typora has a night mode and also supports custom themes so that you can create the perfect writing experience.
It also has two cool modes. One is a unique Focus Mode that highlights the paragraph you’re currently working on, while graying out everything else. Typewriter Mode similarly highlights the center of your screen.
Many of the same advanced markdown features are in Typora, meaning that you can type up nicely-formatted notes without ever having to shift your hand to your mouse. Even so, if you want to get a little bit fancy, Typora supports tables, diagrams, mathematical formats, footnotes, code fences, and task lists.
- Free app: Yes, during beta
- Paid Plan: Not yet announced
Workflowy - Infinite expandable bullet points
Compatibility: Desktop apps for Windows, Mac and Linux, plus iOS, Android, and in your browser
Do you love taking notes with bullet points?
Do you wish everything in life could be bullets — Infinite, ever-expanding bullet points, as far as the sky can reach?
Does your whole world spin around lists and bullet points? If not, would you like it to?
If the answer the above is a resounding Yes!, you’ll be in heaven with Workflowy.
The concept is simple. Workflowy lets you create infinite piles of bullet points which are also each their own document. Expand, collapse, move documents, drill in and out — it’s intuitive and natural bullet points at a scale that you may have never dreamed of.
The product works well for outlining and project organization just naturally. It’s novel, intuitive, and requires very little learning to figure out.
The only downside to Workflowy is in organizing more matrixed information. This might be more challenging, because every bit of information may not have a clear place in your stack of bullet points for where it should belong. (Contrast this with Hugo, which organizes meeting notes based on your calendar, so notes don’t live in just one particular place — they’re associated with names, companies, dates, meeting titles, etc..)
Still, for your next novel or work project, especially for people whose minds work in a certain bullet-driven way, give Workflowy a try.
- Free plan: Yes
- Paid plan: $5/month
OneNote - Best free option (not just for Microsoft lovers)
For iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and in the browser
Simple, practical, and ubiquitous for Windows and Office users, OneNote is a free note-taking app that seems to be everywhere.
It’s a great basic option, with a familiar UI to anyone who has ever used Microsoft products like Word, and while it does most of the things Evernote does, it stands out because of one big four-letter word that starts with an F.
You get more advanced functionality here without having to pay.
In OneNote, you can add multimedia elements to your notes, such as audio, video, images, and even websites using the Webclipper browser extension. Task lists are an option, although robust task management in OneNote can be challenging because you can’t put due dates on anything.
OneNote has a large folder organization system, letting you create notebooks and sections, and nest them inside each other. The way that sections get dragged around can be frustrating — trying to move one section below another and can have it end up inside on accident — but again, for a free option, for many, this may be a minor inconvenience. Cross-notebook search is available, although there is a learning curve to finding your information.
OneNote uses OneDrive to sync across all of your Microsoft apps. If you don’t have an Office 365 subscription, you can upgrade your OneDrive to a paid plan for an increase in storage space.
- Free app: Yes
- Paid plan: Upgrade OneDrive for more storage space, starting at $1.99/month for 100 GB
Boost Note - Best note-taking app for developers
Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, and in your browser
Stylish, markdown-enabled, and fully open-source, Boost Note is a developer’s dream. The interface resembles Sublime, the popular text editor, with a slight skew toward taking quick and easy notes.
Boost Note highlights syntax for you and recognizes over 100 programming languages. It also supports math blocks where you can write math equations using LaTeX syntax. Themes are fully customizable.
Notes are stored safely in the cloud, with more file system-based storage coming soon.
Boost Note Pricing:
- Free app: Yes (100 MB cloud storage)
- Paid plan: 2GB cloud storage at $3/month. Boost Note for Teams launches in June 2020.
Google Keep - Best note-taking app for Google fanatics
Compatibility: Android, iOS, and in your web browser
Google Keep is a straightforward notes app that comes as part of your G Suite or Gmail account. It offers a clean, nicely-organized UI that has most of the standard features you’re looking for in a note-taking app, without too many bells and whistles.
If the rest of your life already revolves around Google products, Google Keep may be the right pick for you.
As you create notes, they are organized on your screen visually in a corkboard style. You can change the background colors to give it a post-it notes effect. While if you take a ton of notes, this may feel haphazard, with moderate use it's colorful and fun.
You might be wondering, Why do I need Google Keep when I have Google Docs?
For some users, it may be redundant to have multiple types of Google Docs, but others may enjoy the simpler note-taking experience in Google Keep. And if your notes start to become something more than just a note, there’s always the Copy to Google Docs action to transfer it over.
Google Keep Pricing:
- Free app: Yes
- Paid plan: N/A
Ulysses - Top-of-the-line notes app for serious writers
Compatibility: Mac, iPad, iPhone
For writers and authors, Ulysses is a notes app that will replace your word processor 99% of the time. Fully-featured and elegant, it is a very power writing app.
Export in various file formats, including text, HTML, ePub, PDF, and DOCX, plus a number of export styles for professional-looking PDFs and manuscripts. You can also schedule or publish articles to Wordpress and Medium directly within the app.
Ulysses also excels at organizing, if you’re willing to set it up. With views, custom searches, filters, and tags, it’s the most organizable note-taking experience on this list (except for Hugo, which auto-organizes meeting notes based on your calendar.)
All of this functionality comes at a cost, however. Ulysses is free to try, but if you get hooked, there’s not paired down free version to stick with.
- Free plan: Trial only
- Paid plan: $4.99/month or $39.99 ($3.33/month) when paid annually
Notability - Best note-taking app for iPad with Apple Pencil
Compatibility: iOS (iPhone and iPad)
Combine handwriting, photos, and typing into a single note with Notability. The elegant interface is nicely-designed, letting you choose from a variety of typing and drawing instruments with ease.
Notability has a nice range of sketching tools that make it easy to recolor, scale, and adjust your ideas and sketches. You can also pick from different paper backgrounds, for example, to sketch your notes on graph paper, or more textured art paper.
Notability syncs with iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, AirDrop, and Email for easy sharing with colleagues and study partners.
It’s also great for annotating PDFs.
- Free trial: No
- Paid app: $8.99
(Note: Nebo, discussed below, is another great option that works across all tablet platforms.)
Nebo - Best note-taking app for Surface with Surface Pen
Compatibility: iOS, Android, and Windows
Microsoft’s Surface Pen offers a delightful drawing experience on the Surface Book, Pro, and Studio, and there’s no reason you can’t use OneNote for this purpose. The anniversary update of Windows 10 also brought the Windows Ink Workspace, which gives you three cool apps: Sticky Notes, Sketchpad, and Screen sketch.
If you have an active pen like the Surface Pen, you might be asking, with all this greatness bundled for you in Windows, can note-taking get any better?
The answer is yes, and the other answer is Nebo.
Draw sketches and diagrams. Easily switch between your pen and keyboard.
There are tons of cool gestures that make the experience delightful, like how you can scratch out a letter to delete it, or swipe up to join two sentences together.
Getting notes out of Nebo is a breeze, with image, text, DOCX, and HTML formats available. You can also copy/paste diagrams to PowerPoint and they stay fully-editable.
Best Note Taking App For Mac And Ipad
- Free app: N/A
- Paid app: $9.99