In this article we’ll list the “best of the best” note-taking apps of 2023. To that end, we won’t try to list every possible note taking app, like some articles that seem to aim for triple-digits. Those articles are designed for the beginning of a search.
Rather, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ll list those note-taking apps that everyone knows should truly be on your shortlist as you narrow your choices.
Even so, we cast a wide net as to the purpose of note-taking apps.
Some of those included in our “best of” list are designed specifically for business teams, in that they connect seamlessly to business functions that any team, company, or enterprise uses – meetings, calendars, tasks, accountabilities. We’re unabashed to say Fellow.app is the best on the business end of the spectrum.
Others in this list are designed for individuals taking notes mostly alone. These apps provide a more free-form space in which even doodles and drawings are supported. Evernote (paid) or OneNote (free) are the best choices for that end of the spectrum.
Others fall somewhere in between these two poles, for example Nifty and Zoho. They try to do both well, which is difficult if not impossible.
There’s a place for both kinds of note taking apps.
If you’re a highly creative person who journals a lot (or when you’re in that mode as a team member or team leader, alone with your thoughts), then Evernote or OneNote is the most flexible, most inclusive choice.
On the other hand, if you’re a highly-focused, goal- and task-oriented individual (or when you’re in that mode as an individual or as a leader of a team), then a more business-oriented note-taking app is the right choice. Hands down, that choice is Fellow. (We’ll explain why below.)
Fellow.app is the leading meeting management platform designed to empower teams to run effective and productive one-on-one and team meetings. With a wide range of top features tailored for modern businesses, Fellow.app streamlines the process of building collaborative agendas, sharing meeting notes, and tracking action items, whether your team is in-person or remote.
Fellow.app also offers a vast library of 500+ expert-approved templates to expedite your meeting preparations and ensure every meeting has a clear purpose. Integrated seamlessly with popular tools such as Google Chrome, Fellow.app brings your meeting notes and agendas directly inside the tools you already love!
Beyond meetings, Fellow.app is an excellent tool for promoting a culture of feedback and continuous improvement. Whether you are a team leader or a team member, Fellow.app is your must-have tool for transforming meetings from time-consuming and endless to strategic, actionable work sessions.
Nifty is an all-in-one, powerful app that brings you functionality for chats, documents, tasks, calendars, and meeting tools. It offers users several highly sophisticated views including Kanban, Swimlane, and List views.
Instead of switching from tool to tool, Nifty aims to allow you to keep it all in one view. That view can get a little cluttered sometimes, and you’ll want to make sure you and your team members are choosing what works best for you – Kanban works for some, but others prefer List, for example.
Each project has its own collaboration thread and specified knowledge hub. An advantage (or too much, depending on your needs) is its built-in calendar. With a little setup, it can be synced with a standard calendar such as Google Calendar or Outlook. It also provides in-app document sharing and file sharing.
Finally, its automated progress reporting purports to largely automate that process across all projects. When that works perfectly, it can be as convenient as a self-driving car which works perfectly. (On the other hand, perfect automation of such tasks may still be somewhat distant in the future.)
SimpleNote allows you to take basic notes and to categorize them via tags. This system is of course now intuitive, after decades of blogging has made it second-nature. The advantages beyond thus user-friendliness are obvious: it’s simple to sort your notes into indexes which you can use to organize and find them later.
It’s a great system for idea capture, especially for individuals. Although teams can accomplish some collaboration by adding each others’ email addresses as “tags”. This causes the note to appear in their collection. It can be set to editable or to view only.
For taking general notes and making on-the-fly to do lists, SimpleNote is fast and easy. It also syncs across all your devices with no extra cost involved – it’s free.
Drawbacks to Simplenote are connected to its very simplicity. It has very limited customizability, and cannot easily support images, photos, drawings, etc.
If you’re taking notes only for yourself, and are primarily text-oriented, not needing images or audio or doodles, then SimpleNote is an efficient solution.
Zoho Notebook’s most remarkable feature has been its scan to text capability. As an in-app feature, that’s pretty awesome in the right circumstances.
It allows you to capture ideas, notes, intentions, and simple to do lists, save them in the cloud, and organize real-time collaboration. It has the capability to record audio notes, and include images, as well as text notes of course, and files, checklists, sketches, and even a “Smart” mode which tries to classify your notes into their proper categories. (However, it doesn’t have any image editing capability.)
It syncs across all your devices and integrates with a few apps natively, most notably with Slack. (Most of its native integrations are with other apps in its Zoho family, but it does work with Google Workspace, and Microsoft Teams – plus, as with any app that can integrate via Zapier, Zapier connects it with the more than 1,000 apps in its library.)
Evernote is a classic note taking app solution for the creative individual working alone, or for anyone who is in the mode of working alone.
That’s not to say that it’s isolating. You can do some collaboration with it. But it’s a very free form app, that’s designed to accommodate creative, individual thinking, and not very focused on enabling collaboration, integration with business calendars, or task tracking.
It’s among the most capable note-taking options, as it can accept notes in virtually any form. These include text, images, PDFs, audio notes, and even nowadays Slack notes, emails, entire web pages and websites, and more. It’s truly a massive magic basket to accept virtually anything you want to save.
Even better, it makes organizing your notes easy. This is accomplished via both the traditional method of tags and via a more modern and something that sets Evernote apart for those who need it: a powerful global search.
Evernote’s global search capability, a feature in paid subscriptions only, includes even searching within PDFs. More powerfully, under the right circumstances it can search images that have text clear enough for Evernote to discern and make searchable. This could include signs, pages from books, recipes, food labels, menus, specifications sheets, and so on. (If your handwriting is good enough, it can even search within handwritten notes. But that’s likely just a toy for most users, unless you have reams of old very-neatly-handwritten journals, since you can probably type faster than you can handwrite notes.
Evernote’s conventional, highly useful tag system allows you to categorize notes as you create them, or go back later and categorize them when you have time.
Drawbacks might include the $7.99 per month subscription fee to get all the goodies. (The free version is quite limited, compared to the Premium version.) On the other hand, you’ll probably earn far more than an extra $7.99 a month just by becoming more creative with Evernote.
If you want the ultimate Cadillac of all note taking apps, especially for an individual, Evernote is a good choice.
What works for teams, however, is often more simplicity not necessarily more features and free-form bells and whistles. The reason for that is clear. Apps for teams, companies, or enterprises need to fit into the way teamwork and business is done – through meetings. Adding more bells and whistles doesn’t necessarily accomplish that. In fact, it can mightily distract from it.
If the paid version of Evernote is just too much for you to justify for a note taking app on principle, Microsoft OneNote is a better free option. It has two clear advantages over many other options. First, it’s free. Second, it’s part of the Microsoft Office Suite.
You can grab OneNote in the right version for your system or device via appropriate links at OneNote.com or from the app download service you use, whether for Apple or for Android. That’s the free way. And you can also obtain OneNote as a component of a Microsoft 365 subscription, if you’re already subscribed to Microsoft 365. (It’s unlikely anyone would subscribe to Microsoft 365 primarily to get their hands on the somewhat better paid version.)
As with Evernote or Dropbox Paper, OneNote allows the storage of text notes and of images in flexible documents that you can share with others to view or to collaborate on. OneNote has a robust search capability, tags, annotations, highlighting, and more.
A quality that many like is that OneNote note-taking is modeled “real world” paper notebooks. Each note is like the page of a notebook. You can draw on it anywhere, type on it anywhere, add images anywhere. You can combine a number of pages into a section, just like in a ring-bound notebook. And sections are contained within, you guessed it, a digital model of a ring bound notebook. You can of course have multiple notebooks.
Like many of the Evernote advantages, it seems intuitively more suited to individuals or students or creative professions than for task- and goal-oriented business teams. There’s not much specially designed ability to assign and track tasks across multiple team members or multiple departments, for example. It can be done, of course, just as even a paper notebook can be used to write down tasks and who is responsible for them. But OneNote doesn’t fully take advantage of power of digital tools to assign and track tasks.
With that said, of course OneNote has thousands of integrations via Zapier, so with some work and troubleshooting, you can get no-code connections to Slack, Asana, Google apps, and many more. But you would need to design those processes yourself, and maintain them in a sense (even in a no-code environment).
OneNote is free, as discussed above. But there’s a caveat. The caveat is storage. You get 5GB of OneDrive storage for free. That can be plenty for most users. But if you store a lot of image notes and audio recordings, it’s conceivable you could run out of free storage. In any case, the caveat should be noted: anything over 5GB of storage that you need will require a small fee of $1.99 per month to get to the next step on the storage ladder, 100GB.
Although we frontloaded the conclusion, it’s worth repeating after you’ve digested all that information about the two different kinds of note taking apps, and seen examples of some on the business end, some on the “journaling” end, and some that try to satisfy both needs.
The best note taking app for business teams? Fellow.app. There’s really no competition for such a focused, functionally designed app for that.
The best note taking app for creatives? Or for individuals in creative mode? Evernote (the paid version) or OneNote (if you want to go with a free app).
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