Five Best Note Taking Applications

Whatever the reason you want a better way to keep your notes, memos and other scraps of information organised, you have a number of applications to choose from. Some of them just help you get your thoughts down quickly, others sync with online services that organise your notes for you. Here, based on your nominations, are the top five apps or services for the job.Photo by MagneticNorth.


Evernote helps you remember everything — and by everything, we really do mean everything. The service's webapp, desktop apps for Windows and Mac OS, mobile apps for iPhone and iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and even WebOS mean that Evernote can help you take notes, save them, tag them with a location, create and organise notebooks, and share them anywhere you are and on any device you happen to have on you. Evernote is great for taking notes and organising them, but it's just as good at letting you capture, scan, and save objects in real life, clip web pages you browse, and share them with friends, colleagues and classmates.


Springpad takes the hassle out of sorting your notes and thoughts for you, and organises everything without your help. You have to set up a few basic categories, but of all of the note-taking services, Springpad is probably the best at automatically guessing what it is you've just clipped from the web, snapped a photo of or uploaded to your notebooks, and then organising it without your help. Products you've saved automatically go into a wishlist and you're alerted to price drops, notes go into notebooks organised by topic, and more. Springpad's webapp and mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android mean you're never without your notes and the ability to access them. The service recently updated to incorporate your Facebook friends' likes and interests into your account.

MS OneNote

OneNote grew from a side component of Microsoft Office into a fully-fledged and robust note taking and organisation tool in its own right. The tool functions like a basic word proessor, but it saves automatically, lets you enter any kind of information anywhere, create and save notebooks for specific subjects and projects, and then share those notes and notebooks with others. OneNote is easy to get started with and use, and makes note taking and organisation incredibly simple. While OneNote is part of Microsoft Office, you can download versions of the suite for the iPhone and for Windows Phone 7, and use the OneNote webapp to take and save notes on the go from any web-enabled device.


Simplenote is easy to use, free, and has a robust user and developer community behind it creating apps and utilities that plug into the service to make it even easier to use. Simplenote lets you easily jot down your thoughts and organise them by tag, search note contents and tags later to find what you need again later, search through revision history for your notes, share them with others, and access them on any web-enabled device. Simplenote does have premium accounts, but all of the service's basic functions are free. There are Simplenote apps for the web and iOS, but developers have built dozens of notetaking apps that work in conjunction with Simplenote for Windows and Mac OS.

Pen(cil) and Paper

Many of you said you don't need a special app to take notes: you don't even need a computer or a tablet to stay organised. Sometimes the oldest methods are the best, and you said that when you head to class or into a meeting, you bring pen and paper instead of laptop or tablet. What happens to those notes after the meeting vary; some of you type them up and store them, others just organise your paper notes, but for many of you paper and pen (or pencil) is the way to go. Photo by Ramunas Geciauskas.

Honourable mentions this week go out to Notational Velocity and Catch, both of which have a large and dedicated following. Notational Velocity is Mac only, but boasts the ability to sync with Simplenote, the ability to search note content, title, and tags quickly, and make it incredibly easy to encrypt, save, and retrieve your important data. Catch on the other hand sports a robust webapp and mobile apps for the iPhone. iPad, and Android devices. It also keeps your notes secure, lets you share themo n Twitter, and allows you to clip and save almost anything you want to keep and remember later.

Also worth mentioning is the venerable text editor-many of you said you use whatever text editor you have on hand instead of a specific app or service, and that suits you just fine. Have anything to say about the contenders? Did your favourite not make the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


    I've taken to using xmind to map meetings. It allows you to keep track of how things relate to each other.

    I'm not sure what all the others do, but I've just made the transition to paperless and One-Note is more than adequate for my note taking which usually is the result of frantic scribbling in meetings. I can attach PP slides and 'handouts' and easily search for everything i need.

    Handrite rocks for Android. Can use your finger, keyboard or probably a stylus...and take real notes. Great for tablet. Actually works for taking notes at a conference!

    +1 to simple note.

    Tiddlywiki, a reusable non-linear personal web notebook; and Freemind, for all things mindmapable (is that a word?)

    I use springpad on my PC's at home and work as well as my android. The ability to work on-line or off-line and keep everything synchronised is a BIG plus for me.

    I find the LIVESCRIBE pen is great, esp for meetings. That way, when someone says, "No, I thought I said blah blah blah," with a simple tap of the pen, you can play back to them EXACTLY what they said! No more mercurial deadlines!

    OneNote is my constant companion. I can attach just about anything.

    I would love to see onenote installed more often by default. It is strange how so many people dont know about it still.

    I work for the gov and we have everything but onenote unfortunately. Maybe it is available but I just have to ask to have it advertised to me. Something to investigate tomorrow!

    Please add Growl for OSX to your next round, I'm curious whether it's any good.


    What about It's a nice web app that keeps up with Simple Note in terms of speed but is way ahead of the curve vs. Evernote or Springpad in that it lets you start jotting things down before you even log in!

    Not really an apples to apples comparison but worth checking out.

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