Noteworthy note-taking apps
Your smartphone and tablet make ideal tools for jotting down notes, reminders, checklists and sudden brainstorms. While iOS devices and Android phones come with some sort of basic text editor, dedicated note taking apps such as Evernote have exploded in popularity, leading Apple to improve its Notes app and Google to release its own Keep alternative. Check out 15 of the best note taking apps available on the App Store and Google Play. (Credit: Robie Online/Shutterstock)
Evernote (Android, iOS: Free)
Evernote (Android, iOS) is one of the first apps that comes to mind when it comes to note taking, and for good reason. It provides a feature-rich note taking service that syncs across multiple devices and platforms, making sure that your notes, photos and other documents are always at your fingertips, whether you're on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Tagged notebook organization, support for photos, videos, to-do lists and more make Evernote a versatile note taking solution, though it is more complex then minimalist solutions. The free Basic plan has a limit of 60MB of new uploads each month, while paid Premium and Business accounts increase your monthly limits and add other features.
OneNote (Android, iOS: Free)
Microsoft's OneNote (Android, iOS) is another strong option, especially if you're looking for a note taking solution that integrates closely with Office. Users can type or dictate notes and checklists, attach photos or PDFs, send emails or clip web content. Once uploaded, you can sort your content through a notebooks system, with sections, tags and text search to help you easily keep track of your notes. Cloud syncing means that your content is automatically available on all your connected devices. OneNote has tons of extras, including collaboration features, Android Wear and TouchID support, though again, some would call that feature bloat for an app about quickly jotting down notes.
Notes (iOS: Free)
Apple's own Notes is an iCloud-powered aims more for a middle ground, with a clean and simple note taking interface that can take formatted text, dictation, drawings (with Apple Pencil support on the iPaD) images, web snippets and file attachments. Users can organize notes and attachments in a folder system and search for text, and all of your notes are synced across your iCloud devices. You can also password-protect your notes (or unlock them with TouchID).
Google Keep (Android, iOS: Free)
Where many note keeping services focus on rich feature sets, Google Keep (Android, iOS) tries to do the opposite, aiming for a fairly simple cloud note taking app that still supports a wide variety of inputs such as text notes, checklists, audio and photos. Notes and to-dos are displayed in a card format reminiscent of sticky notes, and each note can be tagged, colored or set with a time or location-based reminder.
Notion (Android, iOS: Free)
Notion (Android, iOS) aims to be your personal and team productivity hub. The app allows users to create custom private or shared workspaces that they can then add versatile "blocks" that can act like text snippets, bookmarks, images, toggle links, files, code snippets, discussion sections, and more. As a result, you can easily customize your workspace, and it's also easy to drag and drop individual blocks of content to where you need them, without disrupting an entire document. Whether you're doing notetaking, spreadsheeting, or building a Kanban board, Notion's powerful building blocks make things a snap to set up. The free version of Notion allows you to save and sync up to 1,000 blocks of content, while premium subscription plans remove that content limit and add admin tools, permission settings, and other features, depending on which tier you opt for.
MyScript Nebo (Android, iOS: $5.99)
MyScript's Nebo is a feature-rich note-taking app built with handwriting and active stylus devices like the Apple Pencil and the Samsung S Pen in mind. Using MyScript's Interactive Ink tech, Nebo parses your handwritten notes into text, while allowing you to easily format your notes, add extras like emphasis, underlining, bullet points, mathematical notations, and picture annotation. Users can write equations and calculate or export to LaTeX, export into Microsoft Office documents or text files, and search through your notes to find something you've scribbled down. If you're more about jotting down notes as opposed to typing them down, MyScript Nebo is an incredibly versatile note taking tool. Originally an iPad exclusive, Nebo has since expanded to include a Windows 10 version for Surface Pen, as well as an Android version for devices that use active stylus peripherals.
Dropbox Paper (Android, iOS: Free)
Born from Dropbox's acquisition of HackPad, Dropbox Paper (Android, iOS) is a note taking app with collaboration and teamwork in mind. Users can create and edit shared documents and task lists, add comments and revisions, videos, links, images or audio, all in a shared workspace that comes with notifications and plays well with Dropbox's cloud storage organization. Dropbox Paper provides the option for clean collaborative note taking and media-rich documents and workspaces, without having the clutter of a more robust mobile word processor. It's an interesting option to consider if you need simple note taking for a work group, especially for one that already uses Dropbox.
Bear (iOS: Free)
Bear is a flexible writing and note-taking app that works great for jotting down quick notes, doodles, poetry and prose or even snippets of code. Focus mode lets you get right down to business, and a markup editor supports 20 different programming languages. Inline image and photo support combined with Apple Pencil and hand sketching makes adding scribbles, doodles, and illustrations a simple task. Bear also includes cross-note links, and tag support for easy searching. A pro subscription — $1.49 per month or $14.99 annually — includes note syncing, export options for multiple file types and extra editing tools.
Paper by WeTransfer (iOS: Free)
While Paper by WeTransfer (formerly Paper by FiftyThree) may have made a name for itself as a virtual notebook for drawing and scribbling, it's since added more productivity and note taking-oriented features such as checklists, photo annotations and text input. Recent updates have added a photo collage feature. At the app's heart, though, is the idea of emulating physical paper, with users organizing their content by notebooks and pages. A slick and responsive touch and drawing interface does its best to give the feel of analog pencil and paper, which has won Paper a legion of fans.
Notebook (Android, iOS: Free)
Zoho's Notebook app (Android, iOS) is a multipurpose note taking app that works great for jotting down notes, checklists, to-do lists, and and more detailed journal entries. Entries can be simple text, or can include images, checklists, and recorded audio, and a variety of gesture commands and batch operations make it easy to sort and group notes together and organize them into notebooks. Multi-device syncing makes sure that your notes are on every device you own.
SimpleNote (Android, iOS: Free)
For something more feature-light and text-oriented, try out SimpleNote (Android, iOS), a cross-platform note taking app by Automattic. Available on a variety of platforms, SimpleNote focuses on saving, formatting and sharing text notes, without any of the excess fluff of things like extra media file support or fancy editing. What you get is a clean text input system with some basic formatting, a tag-based organization, a simple collaboration and a history feature. The clean simplicity is the upside, making SimpleNote easy to use, with cross platform syncing being a great plus.
Noteshelf (iOS: $9.99)
Noteshelf is another feature-rich note taking app that's about more than just tapping out text. The $9.99 app supports virtual keyboards, handwriting through a variety of active stylus brands, and includes an expressive ink engine and a variety of tools for things like highlighting, diagrams, photos and annotations, and recorded audio. Users can sort their notes into virtual notebooks, write down their notes in a variety of paper formats, mark up and print their notes, or export them to Evernote, social media, and various cloud storage services. That said, Noteshelf does come at a premium price, so if you don't need all the advanced features, you might want to check other options.
Penultimate (iOS: Free)
Of course, if you actually do like the physical feel of jotting down handwritten notes, consider Evernote's Penultimate. A note taking and scribbling app with handwriting in mind, Penultimate features an expressive inking engine, a smart Drift feature that automatically moves the page to accommodate your writing. In addition, Penultimate processes your notes, allowing you to search through them for snippets of text, and the app also integrates nicely with Evernote.
Squid (Android: Free)
Formerly known as Papyrus, Squid is a note taking app with a focus on handwritten notes, drawings and diagrams. Squid's vector-based rendering system means you can zoom in and out of your notes and drawings without quality loss, with support for using a passive stylus or active pen. Users can import images into their notes, and export the notes themselves as PDF, PNG or JPG files, and notes can be organized into notebooks so you can keep track of them. A premium subscription unlocks nice extras like more paper styles, PDF import and annotation, and bulk export of notes to cloud services.
Notability (iOS: $9.99)
Notability is a feature-rich note taking app that takes maximum advantage of the interface features introduced since iOS 9. The $9.99 app's got you covered on all the note taking basics such as text, formatting, photos and sketching, while also including PDF and photo annotations and audio recordings all of which can be organized into folders. Support for multitasking on new iPads makes it a great research companion, and 3D Touch can speed up note creation, opening and preview. About the only recurring criticism is that Notability doesn't have handwriting search built in.