Never forget another big idea again with the best note-taking apps, whether you're going back to school or to the office or studio. While writing notes on paper is all well and good, making digital notes can speed up your workflow, make it easier to connect ideas with colleagues or just ensure you never looks a note again.
There are literally hundreds of top note-taking apps on the market – no matter if you're a student off to college or a designer wanting to send ideas to clients. A lot of these excellent note-taking apps are free, or at least provide a free trial, but most busy creatives have nowhere near enough time to try them all out.
This is why I've done the research for you, road-testing everything. In this article, I've rounded-up the very best note-taking apps available for a range of devices and platforms. If you need a new device to use these apps on, then take a look at our guide to the best tablets with a stylus for drawing and note taking. And if you are heading back to school, then maybe a new laptop bag or laptop backpack is on your list, too. Read on to find out which is the best fit for you.
The best note-taking apps available today
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A pioneer in the field, founded in 2000, Evernote (opens in new tab) remains the cream of the best note-taking apps today. Working across all major platforms, this is the app we’d recommend for anyone looking to get started. Why? Because it’s got a good, capable free version, you can access your notes practically anywhere (laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or phone), and the app's packed with useful features.
We particularly like using the Web Clipper browser extension to save web pages; the ability to set reminders, and the integration with Siri for taking voice notes. You can search your notes not only by text, but also by tags, the date they were created, the type of media they contain, the location where you created them, and even more.
There are two paid-for versions: Evernote Premium (opens in new tab) for individuals, and Evernote Teams (opens in new tab) for, well, it speaks for itself. The former includes sync across unlimited devices (you only get two in the free plan), a 200MB maximum note size, 10GB monthly upload limit, access to notes offline and the ability to annotate PDFs. The Teams plan, aimed at businesses, offers even larger uploads and some great team collaboration tools. Admittedly, neither of these comes cheap, but if you want the Rolls Royce of note-taking apps, this is it.
Apple products are about beautiful, intuitive simplicity, and Bear (opens in new tab) fits that philosophy perfectly. As the best note-taking app for Macs and the iPad, it lets you create notes and sync them across all your Apple devices via iCloud. There’s no fussing about with folders and notebooks; you just create notes and then store them. You can attach tags, images and other files, as well as drawings created on your iPad or iPhone. There are apps for macOS, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, plus a browser extension.
There’s a free version of Bear if you just want to take notes on your iPad, but you’ll need to pay for the Pro subscription (opens in new tab) to sync them across devices. That also gives you extra export options, plus the ability to encrypt your notes, password-protect them, and unlock them using Face or Touch ID.
Just be aware that even the Pro version is a purposely stripped down app. For example, there’s no formatting panel, just support for Markdown. If you want more features, look to Evernote or OneNote, but if you want a simple, minimalist app for iOS that gets the job done, there’s no better option.
If you’ve invested in the iPad Pro, we expect you're using it for more than checking Facebook and watching cat videos. If you're looking to take advantage of its powerful functionality to be more productive, make sure you're using it to jot down creative ideas in the moment. To do that, we’d like to point you in the direction of GoodNotes (opens in new tab), our next pick from the best note-taking apps.
This iOS app turns your iPad into digital paper, allowing you to make searchable handwritten notes quickly and easily wherever you find yourself. You can use the Apple Pencil (or one of the best Apple Pencil alternatives), or just your finger. It's the most similar experience to writing on paper that we've found. And we’re not talking about a few scrawled words here; this clever app can recognise everything from equations to mind maps, and it does a great job of converting handwriting into text.
Everything gets auto-synced to the iCloud, and you can access your notes from your iPad, iPhone and Mac (there’s also a macOS version). GoodNotes also allows you to mark up PDFs manually. Goodnotes is a free download, with the free version supporting up to three notebooks.
Note-taking apps shouldn’t be complicated, but it’s surprising how often you can open one and not know where to start. The Android app Material Notes (opens in new tab) doesn't have that problem. Its opening screen proclaims simply, ‘Click the + button to add notes’, and it couldn't be easier to use.
The user-friendly approach continues through the whole interface, allowing you to create notes, to-do lists and reminders without effort. You can colour-code them, organise them into categories, archive them, assign favourites, and more. There are also some handy unique features, such as the ability to create quick notes from notifications, back up your notes to Google Drive, print directly from the app, and tell your device to read notes out loud.
The app is free to download, while a Pro version – available for a cheap one-off payment – adds extra features including a calendar view, backend encryption, extra fonts, and reminder notifications. There’s no sync functionality, but for many, that’s a feature rather than a gripe, since not everyone wants sensitive information floating about on the web. If you just want to keep your notes on a single device, this is the best note-taking app available for Android. If you do want to sync notes across devices, however, we’d point you to Evernote at number one on our list.
If you do most of your work in Microsoft's ecosystem, a notetaking app optimised for Windows makes a lot of sense, even if it's also cross-platform. The feature-rich Microsoft OneNote (opens in new tab) works across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. You can attach images, symbols, Excel tables, audio files and more to notes, and you can extract text from images. You can also clip web pages through a browser extension, and you can add diagrams and sketches drawn on a Surface tablet.
More uniquely, this note-taking app offers an Accessibility Checker, which highlights problems like low contrast, which can make text difficult to read, or images that are missing alt text. There are some great sharing and collaboration features too, such as allowing others to add comments to your notes.
Best of all, the free version of Microsoft OneNote includes the vast majority of its features. The only slight catch is that you get just 5GB of storage. If you want more, you’ll need to take out a Microsoft 365 Business subscription (opens in new tab).
Google Keep (opens in new tab) is the best way to link up all of your Google docs and apps, in fact the only Google app it doesn't connect with is YouTube. When installed a little light bulb appears in the corner of your apps, and clicking this links up your notes with your Google docs, emails and more – and vice versa.
You can essentially make notes and then email your notes to friends, or connect your Google doc work to your Google Keep notes. It really connects everything you're doing, meaning notes aren't simple short reminders but can be directly connected to broader and deeper work.
This makes Google Keep a little odd, as it's not strictly an amazing note-taking app, but its usefulness and the way it brings together all of your Google apps is actually incredibly handy.
If you want to take lots of handwritten notes with a stylus, MyScript Nebo (opens in new tab) is best note-taking app for that overall. It's optimised for modern digital pens like Apple Pencil and the Samsung S Pen, and it has some very cool features indeed.
You can write with both fingers and a stylus, use a digital eraser where supported, and change the colour of your notes. There’s support for 66 languages, and maths and equations are recognised by the app's clever AI.
With its proprietary Interactive Ink technology, MyScript Nebo also does a very neat job of translating handwriting into digital text. It’s also highly versatile, allowing you to combine handwriting and text in the same paragraph, sentence or even in a single word. You can add custom words, such as technical terms or slang, to help with recognition, and you can see a preview of your handwriting conversion in real time. The only downside is that it only works on high-end devices: but there a guide to compatible devices (opens in new tab).
Apple Notes is, as you'd expect, best used with an iPad or iPhone. Though it can be used in Windows without the deeper connectivity to the Apple Pencil you may miss some of the ease-of-use this note-taking app offers.
There's a wealth of powerful note-taking tools at your finger- and Apple Pencil tip, and includes adding attachments such as photos and documents, alongside creating checklists, tables and even sketching alongside your notes to bring your ideas to life. Apple's love of security also means notes can be stored and sent with assurity.
Apple is keen to make use of iCloud and the connectivity of its devices, so collaboration is a strength of Apple Notes; Activity view for example enables you to easily see any amendments to your notes and files made by others.
Where Apple Notes falls down slightly is in its print options, as it can be hard to print multiple files and docs in one go. I found the need to send files to print separately which takes a while. But then digital note-taking isn't always about creating physical docs. If you have an Apple Pencil, iCloud account and friends and colleagues all hooked into Apple's ecosystem, then Apple Notes is a decent - free - option.
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