It happens to the best of us: you’re out and about, and suddenly you think of something you need to do at home. Or, you’re looking at your pantry, and want to make sure you get the right groceries for the week. Out comes your phone and your note-taking app of choice. But which app is the best for you?
Google Keep is my personal favorite since I use the rest of Google’s services—but even if you’re not all-in on Google’s ecosystem, it’s worth taking a look at Keep.
Keep syncs all your notes to your Google account, so you know it’s backed up. You can read your notes on any device with the Google Keep app (iOS, Android, or Chrome extension) or by visiting the Google Keep web-page.
Keep lets you color code your notes, pin important stuff to the top of your list, and archive notes that you don’t want to see every day. As for the notes themselves, you can make a checklist, a drawing or a doodle, or just type in plain text. You can also record your voice, insert a drawing, or add a collaborator from your contacts. Keep goes one step further for voice recordings: you can have them automatically transcribed into text.
Keep is minimal compared to the other options, but that’s part of the beauty. You don’t have to sort through a bunch of options: just write down whatever’s on your mind. When you open Keep again, you don’t sort through a bunch of folders: everything is either staring you in the face or it’s archived.
If you prefer Microsoft’s services over Google’s, OneNote may be better for you. OneNote syncs with your Microsoft account, so you can add notes on your desktop (Windows and macOS) or smartphone (Android and iOS).
OneNote organizes your notes into Notebooks, so you can have different Notebooks for different topics. If there’s something you want to have as soon as you can, you can add the note to your homepage. The way OneNote organizes its notes won’t be for everyone, but the ability to add your favorite notes to your home screen should appease those—like me—who just prefer everything up front.
OneNote is more full-featured than Keep. You can add pictures, voice memos, drawings, or checkboxes for a to-do list. OneNote can even turn your writing into regular text and clean up your scribbled math equations (plus, show you how to solve them). Of course, all those additional features come at the cost of some added complexity.
If you have a Samsung phone—especially a Galaxy Note—you’re probably familiar with Samsung Notes. If you don’t use it, it’s a handy alternative, particularly if you organize your notes at all. Samsung Notes lets you break things down into different Collections, but you can also view all of your notes on a single page. You can also set important notes as favorites, or sort notes by title, date created or date modified.
If you’re using the S-Pen with your Galaxy Note, you’ll be happy to know that Samsung Notes lets you scribble some words down onto a note, like in the photo at the beginning of this post. You can also attach a voice recording or a photo.
Where Samsung Notes comes up short is compatibility: it only works on Samsung phones. If you love your Galaxy that’s great, but not so much if you want to sync notes to a desktop or different mobile device.
Evernote has been out since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, but it’s still a great option in 2018. You can view your notes on your smartphone (Android and iOS), the Evernote app on Windows, or on Evernote’s webpage.
When it comes to writing a note, you can type in text, sketch with your finger or a stylus, insert diagrams or drawings, or record audio. You can also use speech-to-text to have Evernote transcribe your note for you if you’re on the go and don’t want to worry about typing.
Evernote organizes your notes into notebooks, but by default, you’ll see all your notes when you open the app. You can also share notes with other Evernote users, so your partner can help you with your grocery list.
As the name implies, SimpleNote tries to remove the barriers between you and your notes. It does this by offering simple, text-based notes. SimpleNote is more basic than the other options, but that means it doesn’t throw a bunch of distractions in your way when you’re just trying to jot something down for later. You can get to your notes on your smartphone (Android or iOS), desktop (Windows 10, Windows 7/8, macOS, and Linux), or by visiting SimpleNote’s webpage.
SimpleNote displays all of your notes up front, and you can organize them with tags. You can collaborate with other SimpleNote users, either with their email or by sharing a link to your note. As for the notes themselves, you can add text…and that’s it. No checkboxes, no images, no voice memos: just text. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it could be perfect if you prefer the basics.
Color is a great way to organize your notes, and ColorNote runs with that. You can create a note or to-do list and set its theme color right as you make it. ColorNote opens to a list of all your notes, but you can sort by name, created time, modified time, color, or reminder time.
You can only add text to each note, so no adding a diagram or doodling with your stylus. You can archive notes, but there isn’t the option for folders or tags.
Availability is the biggest downside to ColorNote: it’s only available on Android. If you only want your notes on your phone, that’s fine, but it’d be nice to be able to view them on a desktop web browser as well.