Despite the wealth of information a Google search box puts at our fingertips, good old-fashioned note-taking is still one of the best ways to build a personal knowledge database. The only sensible solution used to be pen and paper, but computers have introduced a handful of excellent alternatives for capturing notes in computer-friendly digital form. Keep reading for a look at the five best note-taking tools according to our readers. Photo by Dvortygirl.
Evernote (Windows/Mac, Free)
Evernote is a free, cross-platform universal capture application. With support for text, images, audio, tagging, and syncing between its web interface and all of your desktop installations, Evernote offers seamless capturing of information no matter where you are. Images you add to Evernote are searchable by text, and Evernote even supports several mobile devices—including the iPhone and Windows Mobile phones. If you can't install Evernote on a computer, you can also use Evernote's web interface and clipping bookmarklet to pull anything into your notebook. Evernote is free to use, provides 40MB per month of upload space; for $US5 per month or $US45 per year, you get 500MB.
Pen(cil) and Paper
Despite a multitude of high-tech note-taking tools, the classic pen and paper still holds a special place in many a note-taker's heart. The low-tech gadgets readers prefer for pen-and-paper notes vary greatly. From classics like the Moleskine or simple notebook to the Hipster PDA or Post-It notes, the dead-tree route is still the place many prefer to take their notes. If paper is your preference, check out how to customise your notebook to take great notes.
Microsoft OneNote (Windows, Shareware)
Whether you're a fan of Microsoft products or not, Microsoft OneNote is a killer note-taking app that integrates with every corner of your Windows PC. In fact, some readers even admit to running Windows in virtual machines on their Macs solely for the note-taking goodies available in OneNote. OneNote 2007 syncs with the web and other computers, provides two-way sync with Windows Mobile phones, boasts quick searching of all your notes, and much more. Finally, if you miss putting pen to paper with digital note-taking apps, OneNote's marquee feature is support for handwriting recognition on tablet PCs (you can even search your handwriting without converting it to text). Photo by DannoHung.
Google Notebook (Web-based, Free)
Google Notebook is a web-based note-taking application that brings Google's familiar interface and excellent search capabilities to your notes. The application includes a rich-text editor, labelling (Google's version of tagging), and the recent integration with Google Bookmarks. The Google Notebook add-on for Firefox and Internet Explorer makes adding notes and clips to Google Notebook a breeze. With the right setup, Google Notebook also makes for one helluva GTD application.
Whether you've installed your personal MediaWiki (the software that runs Wikipedia) or you're getting things done with GTDTiddlyWiki on a thumb drive, wikis are excellent tools for note-taking. You can easily link pages together, collaborate with others, or just use it as a simple notebook you can access from anywhere. Since the primary point of entry for a wiki is your web browser, you can access your wiki from any computer with a browser—whether it's web-based or running locally.
This week's honorable mentions go to DevonThink (Mac), OmniOutliner (Mac), and voice-to-text service Jott (web-based). Whether it made the list or not, let's hear more about your note-taking app of choice in the comments.