Forgetting a great idea is frustrating, and having paper and pen nearby is not always an option. But your phone is always on you, so why not take advantage of that with a great note-taking app?
What do you Need in a Note-Taking App?
Everyone’s note-taking needs are different—what a student will find invaluable when taking notes during class could be cumbersome to the person walking down the street trying to write down that great joke they just thought of. Here are a few things to think about to help you decide which app is best for you.
- Organization Options: If you think something is important enough to write down, chances are you’ll want to be able to find it later. Organization options can be anything from folders, hashtags, to even simple color coordination—but they must be there.
- Input Methods: Having more options is always welcome, even if you think just having typed notes is fine. And being able to do things like record audio or handwrite notes could be more useful than you think.
- Cross-Platform Support: Even if you primarily use Android, being able to access your notes on other devices will be something that comes in handy and could even prove vital.
- Design: The app should be easy to use and navigate, but the design should also work for what you need. Whether that means a straightforward layout for the fastest access possible to note creation or having all your options presented to you at all times.
With a large number of note-taking apps available on the Play Store today, there’s most likely an app that fits your needs. Let’s take a took at five of the best available today.
Best for Most People: Google Keep
Keep is a great all-around note-taking app, and will feel familiar to Android users. Since it’s a Google product, your notes automatically sync with your account, making them accessible from any device. Keep also follows the design and look used throughout the Android operating system and Google’s other apps, making the app simple to use. However, that doesn’t mean it skimps out on additional features.
Aside from keyboard input, Keep offers a few different ways of taking notes. Handwritten notes are available for those missing their old pocket notepad. Audio notes can be recorded and auto-transcribed by Google’s speech-to-text software if you prefer to talk out your thoughts. Notes can be directly linked to reminders, making Keep useful for keeping track of your appointments. Finally, checklists round off the note-types for simple list-making and planning.
All of your notes appear on the app’s home page and can be color-coded to make more important notes stand out. And for further organization, “Labels” allow for grouping multiple notes together.
Keep may not specialize in any one thing, but it’s simple, feature-rich design and Google account syncing make Keep great for most Android users. Keep is included on all Android devices out of the box, so it should definitely be the first thing you try if you’re looking for a note-taking app.
Best for Short Notes: Simple Notes Pro
When it comes to those ideas that feel like they leave your head five seconds after entering, a note-taking app with a lot of features and options suddenly becomes a note-taking app with a lot of obstacles. In those moments, simplicity rules high—and Simple Notes Pro certainly lives up to its name.
Upon opening the app, you will see a new, blank note (after your first time opening the app, it opens to your last-opened note). This makes having a single, long-running note always open the quickest way to write something down. You can also create a widget of notes for even faster access.
The app does allow you to make multiple notes if you need it for organizational reasons, and swapping between notes is quick with either swipe to the left or right at the top of your screen, or you can tap the folder icon in the top-right corner to get a full list of all your notes.
The look of the app can be fully customized with options to change the color of the background, text, header, and even the app’s icon.
At the time of writing, there are two versions of Simple Notes available: a free one and a paid “Pro” version. The free one is still available on the Play Store but just had its development discontinued—meaning the app will not be receiving any bugfixes or improvements in the future—something that will only become more of a problem as time goes on. So, if Simple Notes sounds right for what you need, it’s best to bite the bullet and pay $1.19 for the “Pro” version.
Best for Longer Notes: Keep My Notes
If you find yourself writing multi-paragraph notes regularly and want something with a few more options than the apps mentioned so far, Keep My Notes is an app you should try. It features rich text formatting, which means you can strikethrough, underline, highlight, bolden, or italicize text—using these can help make longer notes easier to read. You can also put notes into a “read” mode, so that way notes can be read without accidentally making edits. Word and character counters can also be enabled.
The app also offers checklists, reminders, handwritten notes, and audio notes. If you need to transfer your notes to other devices, you can upload them to Google Drive or save them directly to your device as a text document. And, if you’re concerned about privacy, you can lock any note behind a password.
Keep My Notes is free but does have occasional ads—if you want them gone, you’ll need to get the no-ads subscription, which costs $0.99 a year.
Best for Power Users: Evernote
Evernote is a well-known note-taking app that is brimming with features. For the person who will write long notes and needs all the customization options of an app like Google Docs, Evernote is an invaluable productivity tool. Video, audio, and handwritten notes are all available. And even for standard text notes, text formatting and attachment options allow for much deeper note-taking than other apps. There are over 50 in-built templates ranging from budget management to weight-loss tracking, along with the ability to create your own.
Notes can be organized into separate notebooks, and tags can also be applied, which allows you to find a note on a specific topic quickly.
You will likely not use every feature Evernote has to offer, but if you need to do note-taking on your phone a level above most others, Evernote is the right choice for you.
Evernote has a free version available, but it is limited; notes are limited to 25 MB, you have a monthly upload limit of 60 MB, and you can only have two devices on a single account. There is a premium subscription for $7.99 a month, which raises the monthly cloud data cap from 60 MB to 10 GB, allows for unlimited devices, and grants full offline access to notes—this is what most people use and what we recommend getting if you want more out of the app. There is also the business plan, which adds many features focused around office work and sharing notes and documents, which is $14.99 a month.
Best for Students: Microsoft OneNote
OneNote primarily aims for that same power user crowd that Evernote does, holding many of the same features and options. However, OneNote does have a few advantages over Evernote when it comes to students. Features such as being able to embed images or articles into notes can be useful for research and presentations. And, with direct integration with Office365—something most students can get for free through Office365 Education using their student email—OneNote can be used with other Microsoft applications such as Word and Excel (for example, making a table in OneNote and then converting it to an Excel spreadsheet). Office365 also allows for cloud storage, meaning you can switch between note-taking on your phone and laptop without an issue.
If you’re a student and are already using many of Microsoft’s other applications for your school-work, OneNote will feel familiar and will still give you all features you’d find in other high-end note-taking apps.