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Modern note-taking apps like Evernote or OneNote can do almost anything. You can attach images and videos, take photos of whiteboard, and even dictate to turn speech into text. But sometimes, all you need is a simple notepad. But two things make a great notepad.

First, auto-saving. Windows users are well acquainted with the pain of the default Notepad app, and others like it. You can write quick notes, but if you forget to save it or if your computer crashes, it’s all gone forever. So any note-taking app has to automatically save what you type.

Second, a notepad should be fast. It should be easy to access on whichever operating system you’re using. And when you start it, you should also immediately start writing.

With these parameters in mind, we found the best note-taking apps for various platforms.

1. Notes (Windows, Mac, Linux): Mac’s Notes App, Now on Every OS

For a long time, Mac users have enjoyed what is possibly the best default note-taking app. Notes is a faithful recreation of its best features, and a great Windows alternative for the macOS app 13 Windows Programs That Are Better Alternatives to MacOS Apps 13 Windows Programs That Are Better Alternatives to MacOS Apps When moving from Mac to Windows, you'll need to replace many apps. Let us show you the best Windows apps that can successfully replace or replicate your favorite Mac-only apps. Read More .

notes app

Notes auto-saves anything you type in it. Start a new note or edit an existing note, and the app will save it without you ever having to press Ctrl + S. The left pane has all your notes, while the right pane shows the current note you’re working on. You can also search within all the notes you have written, and it’s surprisingly fast.

The app is free to use on all platforms. It even includes nifty keyboard shortcuts to type faster.

Download — Notes for Windows, for macOS, for Linux (Free)

2. Bear (Mac, iOS): Supercharged “Notes” for Apple Users

With Continuum, the Notes app syncs across Macs, iPhones, and iPads 10 Tips to Get the Most out of Apple Notes on OS X 10 Tips to Get the Most out of Apple Notes on OS X Have you switched over to Apple's vastly improved Notes app? Here are a few tips on improving your workflow. Read More . That makes it a powerful tool for any Apple user. A new app called Bear is a supercharged version of Notes.

Bear scores in every category where Notes is still found wanting. For starters, it is gorgeous and includes Markdown support for writers. Its simple hierarchical tagging system makes it stand out. Add #todo to a note to automatically file it under the “todo” category. If you add #todo/work, it goes into the sub-category “work” under the “todo” mother category. It is as convenient as it can be.

The iOS app also offers all these features, but doesn’t include the split-screen view mode. And while it auto-saves, syncing Bear on two devices is a paid service. But for $15 per year, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Download — Bear for Mac (Free) or for iOS (Free)

3. Noty (Android) and JOT (iOS): Just Open and Type

Two similar apps, two exclusive platforms. These are apps which you open and start writing your thoughts, without thinking about categorizing or anything else.

jot ios notes app

JOT actually stands for “Just Open and Type”, conveying its core philosophy. The app starts with the keyboard and a blank screen. Write what you want, close the app. It saves everything chronologically, so you need only look at the date later. It’s almost like a daily journal on your iPhone 5 Awesome iOS Apps for Starting & Keeping a Gratitude Journal 5 Awesome iOS Apps for Starting & Keeping a Gratitude Journal Keeping a gratitude journal can result in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy – and we can all be grateful for that. Read More . Of course, you can review and categorize notes later. But it’s nice that you don’t have to think of those things when you start the app.

DownloadJOT for iOS (Free)

Noty has a similar line of thought. Fire up the app to get a blank slate. Write what you want and tap Save to finish. It’ll immediately start a new note. You can edit or delete the notes later, but you can’t categorize them. It’s sad that Noty doesn’t have auto-save, otherwise it would be the best note-taking app on Android What Is the Best Free Note-Taking App for Android? What Is the Best Free Note-Taking App for Android? If you want to take notes on your Android smartphone or tablet, you need one of these apps. Read More .

DownloadNoty for Android (Free)

4. Notable (Android) and Quick Notes (iOS): Take Notes in Notifications

Notable and Quick Notes are two more apps that do similar things, but are exclusive to Android and iOS respectively. The idea is simple: a notes app that lives in your notifications shade. That way, no matter what you’re doing on your phone, you can pull down Notifications and jot down notes.

notable quick notes

Android’s Notable is the older and more powerful of the two apps. You can create multiple notes at a time, and even use it for reminders.

DownloadNotable for Android (Free)

Quick Notes is simpler and only takes a single sheet of notes at a time. On the plus side, it can back up your notes to iCloud, so it’s easy to retrieve what you wrote. It’s a neat way to put iOS widgets to good use iOS 10 Widgets Are Great: Here's How to Put Them to Good Use iOS 10 Widgets Are Great: Here's How to Put Them to Good Use Apple's new widgets in iOS 10 might not seem like a big deal, but developers have already made great use of this new function. Here's how to use them. Read More .

DownloadQuick Notes for iOS (Free)

5. Papier (Chrome): Create a New Tab, Take Auto-Saving Notes

Users are spoiled for choice when it comes to productive New Tab extensions for Chrome 10 Most Productive New Tab Extensions For Google Chrome 10 Most Productive New Tab Extensions For Google Chrome When you start a new tab in a browser, are you looking to go somewhere or are you looking for information to come to you? Google Chrome has many extensions to make it productive. Read More . Papier is the latest, and might be one of the greatest.

papier notes app

Create a new tab and start typing anything you want, whether it’s jotting down simple notes or something more complex like copy-pasting an entire article. Papier supports rich text formatting. You can even make a checkbox as a to-do list, and has a built-in character counter.

It works offline and saves your text offline, without ever uploading it to any cloud. There’s also a Night Mode, and you can print all your notes whenever you want.

DownloadPapier for Google Chrome (Free)

The Best Note-Taking App?

If images aren’t required, then in our opinion, SimpleNote is still the best note-taking app out there. It’s almost as easy to use as any of the ones above, and syncs across devices. But the aforementioned apps have their own special traits that SimpleNote lacks.

Which note-taking app do you use? And Windows users, be honest. If there was a way to auto-save whatever you wrote in Notepad, would that be the best program?

Image Credit: MyImages – Michavia Shutterstock.com

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  1. Mike
    March 21, 2017 at 9:06 pm

    Wonderlist is a great one, also. And, I like Simplenote.

    • Mike
      March 21, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      And, I forgot about A5.gg which I learned about from MUO. Great for Chromebooks, as long as you don't delete cookies.

  2. Ratindra
    March 21, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Action Notes for W10 Mobile & Desktop

  3. kmf
    March 21, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Typora :)

  4. Gnat54
    March 21, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I will look into SimpleNote.

    I really want a note taking app (to replace Evernote) that has an android app & that I can access through Firefox or Chrome on the internet. Apps for Windows (& unfortunately I'm still using Windows XP at work so OneDrive, which I don't particularly like anyway, is out of the question) or Macs don't matter but would be nice. Zoho look(ed) promising but there's no way to reach it by the web. So I guess web/Android app is the main requirement. But I haven't found one I like.... Any ideas?

  5. Murteza
    March 21, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    I can't believe you forgot SimpleNote. ?t is available in almost every platform (not sure about Windows phone, blackberry and Ubuntu phone though), free, auto-saves, can categories (label), supports markdown, syncs between devices and it works like a magic. It is my default note taking and paste-bin app between devices. If it has one drawback which makes me keep Google Keep as 2nd now taking app, that is not being able to set reminders.

  6. Dan Murray
    March 21, 2017 at 9:59 am

    While Bear is a nice app I prefer Drafts 4 by Agile Tortise. Fast and easy to use. Lower cost and better, faster publishing options. It's my default note taking app on iOS. Drafts integrates with some many different applications I use it to compose tweets, start blog posts, then open them in Ulysses for complete iOS and MacOS integration.