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Digital note-taking may not be as tactile as pen and paper, but it’s certainly convenient. You already carry your phone everywhere you go, don’t you? There’s no point in carrying an additional notepad.

But there are so many note-taking apps to choose from! And they aren’t all equal. Some are better for this, others are better for that, which is why it’s so important that you pick the right one if you want to be an efficient note-taker A Quick & Dirty Guide to Perfect Digital Note-Taking A Quick & Dirty Guide to Perfect Digital Note-Taking Learn how to take notes the right way. Here are some of the most effective tips for becoming a digital note-taking pro. Read More .

We’ll help you come to a decision. Here are the best free apps currently available and a few notes to show you which one is a best fit for your needs.

1. Google Keep

Google Keep is really good for quick notes and reminders. Need a shopping list? Want to track your weekend project’s tasks? Do you prefer searching for notes rather than browsing through folders? Keep excels at those kinds of note-taking needs 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos 4 Google Keep Tips And Tricks For Better Notes, Lists And To-Dos Read More .

At first, Keep may feel strange and unlike any other note-taking app you’ve used — but that’s okay. There’s a reason why it does things the way it does, but once you get over that initial learning curve, Keep can greatly boost your productivity 10 Creative Ways to Use Google Keep Every Day 10 Creative Ways to Use Google Keep Every Day Google Keep is a simple note-taking app. But its simplicity hides its usefulness. Here are ten tips and ideas to use Google Keep for the little everyday things in life. Read More .

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Who should use this app? Anyone who’s more concerned with organizing day-to-day tasks and reminders than long-term archives of in-depth notes and files. Especially useful for those who are deeply entwined with Google’s ecosystem, including Google Drive and Google Docs.

Download Now: Google Keep (Free)

2. OneNote

After OneNote exploded in popularity when it went 100% free in 2015 OneNote Is Now Truly Free With More Features Than Before OneNote Is Now Truly Free With More Features Than Before Evernote no longer rules the roost of note taking apps. Microsoft recently announced OneNote would be more free than ever before. Let us show you what this means in terms of features and functionality. Read More , users abandoned their note-taking apps of choice and flocked to it in droves. It has since proven itself as one of the most useful, full-featured, and formidable note-taking apps on the market.

It can do everything you’d ever need 7 Little-Known OneNote Features You Will Love 7 Little-Known OneNote Features You Will Love OneNote is 100% free and packed full of advanced features. Let's check out some of the ones you may have missed. If you're not yet using OneNote, these may win you over. Read More , including clip from the web, insert multimedia files, tag and search notes, draw and write with your finger, and more. In spite of all that, it has an incredibly easy learning curve 5 Reasons You Should Take Notes with OneNote Anywhere 5 Reasons You Should Take Notes with OneNote Anywhere Few things are as important as the ability to take good notes, especially for students. OneNote is perfect for notes on coursework. We think you will find it's great for organizing other information, too. Read More . It also looks very clean and modern.

Who should use this app? OneNote is a multipurpose powerhouse — perfect for collecting and organizing long-term data like recipes, story ideas, and lecture notes. Not so great for quick one-off tasks and reminders. A smart choice for those who regularly use Microsoft Office 5 Good Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy Office 2016 5 Good Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy Office 2016 Should you buy the standalone package version of Office 2016? We present our case why we think you shouldn't and show you what you can do instead. Read More .

Download Now: OneNote (Free)

3. Evernote

Evernote held the throne for several years prior to OneNote’s explosion in popularity — some would argue that it still wears the crown — mainly because it was the first full-featured, multipurpose note-taking app to hit mobile devices. It was innovative for its time.

It’s still a great option for heavy-duty users but isn’t special anymore. Don’t get me wrong: it has a ton of interesting features Maximize Evernote with 5 Powerful Features Maximize Evernote with 5 Powerful Features With over 100 million users, Evernote is arguably the web's favorite productivity and note-saving tool. We are putting the spotlight on 5 under-appreciated Evernote features and detail their value. Read More like web clipping, scanning text in photos, cross-device synchronization, and powerful searching through notes 20 Evernote Search Features You Should Be Using 20 Evernote Search Features You Should Be Using It's one thing to use Evernote, but it's entirely another thing to master Evernote. If you’re new to Evernote, I don’t want to come across like it’s something complicated – it’s not, in fact, it’s... Read More . It just isn’t as distinguished as it once was.

Who should use this app? Evernote fulfills many of the same needs as OneNote, but its best features are locked behind a paywall and that could be a deciding factor between Evernote and OneNote Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote and OneNote are amazing note-taking apps. It's hard to pick between the two. We compared everything from interface to note organization to help you choose. What works best for you? Read More . If you really don’t like OneNote for any reason, such as the fact that it’s by Microsoft, then use Evernote.

Download Now: Evernote (Freemium)

4. FiiNote

FiiNote is a multipurpose note-taking app that’s similar to both OneNote and Evernote but nowhere near as popular. It has hybrid support for both typed and handwritten notes, along with a number of other advanced features.

android-note-app-fiinote

Calender? Check. Multimedia attachments and audio recording? Check. Deep organization? Infinite canvas? Note templates? Revision history? All check. The interface is a little bland but extremely functional. Very easy to use, even on a small-screen smartphone.

Who should use this app? I consider FiiNote to be a lesser version of both OneNote and Evernote. If those two offer too much for you, then you may be happy with this one instead.

Download Now: FiiNote (Free)

5. ColorNote

ColorNote swings in the other direction from all the apps covered above. Simplicity is its game and its main focus is to offer the same kind of quick convenience that you’d get from using real-life sticky notes. Jot a brief message, color code it, and done.

What I like best about ColorNote is its widgeting options. You can have a widget with direct note-editing access or you can have shortcut widgets that open up certain notes. Two note types are supported: lined notes and checklists.

Who should use this app? This app only serves one purpose. If you need quick notes that are temporary, it’s perfect. If you need to build up an archive of texts for long-term storage, skip this. It’s too simple for that.

Download Now: ColorNote (Free)

6. Omni Notes

Omni Notes reminds me of Evernote’s mobile app from several years ago: simple but not minimal, clean and delightful to use, complete with all the fundamental features you’d expect from a note-taking app but not much more. In a word, Omni Notes is solid.

android-note-app-omni-notes

Some notable features that might interest you: the ability to merge notes, batch editing of notes, quick access widgets, color coding, sketch-note mode for drawing, and Google Now integration that lets you write notes just by saying “write a note [text]”.

Who should use this app? It’s a lightweight app designed to be quick and fast without sacrificing too much organizational ability. Its main draw, for many of its users at least, is the fact that it’s open source. Not many high-quality note-taking apps can say the same.

Download Now: Omni Notes (Free)

7. Parchi

Parchi is a work-in-progress from the Microsoft Garage, but don’t let that turn you away. It’s actually a wonderful app that already shows a lot of potential to be something that a lot of users might enjoy using for quick tasks.

Take notes on the lock screen and pin notes to the lock screen. Reminders, lists, color coding, note sharing, and photo notes are all supported. You can search notes by hashtags and by color. Really nice for free-flowing creative minds.

Who should use this app? If you thought OneNote was just too much, then Parchi may be right for you. It’s best for quickly jotting notes — there’s barely any structure or organization. On the other hand, if you need folders and notebooks, skip this.

Download Now: Parchi (Free)

8. Simplenote

True to its name, Simplenote is one of the most lightweight note-taking apps you’ll ever come across. I can only think of one that’s even more lightweight — it’s covered down below — so if you’re tired of overly bloated apps with too many features you’ll never use, try Simplenote.

android-note-app-simplenote

This means that Simplenote has no intention of being a powerhouse, all-notes-in-one app. If you plan to have hundreds or thousands of notes, look elsewhere. Simplenote doesn’t offer much in terms of organization. Quick and easy is the name of the game.

Backups, synchronization, and sharing are all available if you create a free Simplenote account.

Who should use this app? Simplenote is all about speed and efficiency. It’s especially good for older phones that just don’t have the hardware to keep up with modern feature-heavy apps. Use it if you just want your note-taking app to get out of the way.

Download Now: Simplenote (Free)

9. Squid (formerly Papyrus)

Squid is a vector-based note-taking app that eschews typing for handwriting. Using an active pen, stylus, or even your finger, you can write out your notes instead of cramping your thumbs on a keyboard. (Typed notes are possible if you need them.)

Squid can import PDFs, allowing you to mark them as you wish and then save them again. You can also cast your notes onto a TV or projector using a wireless protocol like Miracast Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love Stop Using HDMI: Miracast Is the Wireless Alternative You'll Love The next time you need to stream media between devices, remember the flaws of HDMI and consider using wireless Miracast instead. It's the technology we all need and deserve. Read More or Chromecast.

Who should use this app? If you hate typing and prefer to take notes by hand, this is the perfect app for you. Infinite paper size, vector-based strokes, and lots of flexibility. An active pen or stylus with a tablet is highly recommended.

Download Now: Squid (Free)

10. Monospace

Monospace is a writing app and note-taking app wrapped up in one. It’s all about minimalism, which means a lot of the essentials you’d see in most note-taking apps are missing here. Other than basic formatting, you don’t get much more.

android-note-app-monospace

Instead of a folder system, Monospace uses hashtags to organize and search notes. Hashtags are managed on the last line of each note. One nice feature is the ability to export notes as Markdown (learn more about Markdown What Is Markdown? 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn It Now What Is Markdown? 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn It Now Tired of HTML and WYSIWYG editors? Then Markdown is the answer for you no matter who you are. Read More ). Both Dropbox and Google Drive are supported.

Who should use this app? It’s the kind of app that’s way too simplistic for most people, but if you have a thing for minimalism, then Monospace will scratch that itch.

Download Now: Monospace

Which of These Apps Do You Use?

Picking the right app can boost your productivity and make you feel engaged with your notes. Picking the wrong app can cause frustrations, hinder your creativity, and make you lose important details. Make the right choice.

For me, that means using ColorNote for quick tasks (though I may switch to Omni Notes or Simplenote) and OneNote for longer-term items like recipes and project ideas. Your mileage may — and should — vary. And don’t forget to heed these tips for being a more efficient note-taker Too Lazy to Take Notes? Try These Faster Notetaking Tips Instead Too Lazy to Take Notes? Try These Faster Notetaking Tips Instead There are several shortcuts you can take to capture everything from lectures to meeting minutes to to-do lists. Let's explore some of those shortcuts today with these tips for faster note-taking. Read More .

Which note-taking app is your favorite? What kind of notes do you take? Are there any other free ones that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. Majik
    June 12, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Sticky note. Basic, clean and easy.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Sometimes something simple is really all you need. :)

  2. Alan
    June 9, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    You have missed the best, easiest and most comprehensive one - Note Everything. It has text (great with the Google free handwriting app), paint, voice, barcode and Google Drive co-ordination. With addons (free) and the paid version you can do more.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      I can't stand Note Everything's old interface but you're right that it has some nice features. It's not the right app for me but if it works for you, keep at it. Thanks Alan!

  3. Varun
    June 9, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I use iA writer - it supports markdown and syncs with dropbox (two essential features for my way of note-taking).
    Compared to this, Monospace creates a "monospace" folder in dropbox, which is annoying because I have to shift all my notes into that folder. And moreover, monospace supports only markdown export. So, if you have a txt file with markdown syntax, it wont recognize it. iA Writer does not have any of these drawbacks; and at the same time maintains the simplicity of monospace.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Awesome! I had no idea that iA Writer on Android went free. This is great news and I'm going to try it out ASAP. If you're right, I have no doubt that iA Writer will score better than Monospace. Thanks Varun!

  4. G P Witteveen
    June 9, 2016 at 11:44 am

    I'm getting accustomed to extracting book notes by dictating with "voice typing" on google docs on chromebook. And on OneNote in Nokia windows-phone the voice typing via wifi seems to work in 1 minute increments. But it would be worth knowing which of the line-up in this article support voice typing.

  5. Paulson Paul
    June 9, 2016 at 10:18 am

    note everything is a good one .... but it has a slightly outdated UI.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Yeah the outdated interface really turns me away, but it has an impressive rating. Is there anything in particular you like about it that you can't get in another app? Thanks Paul.

      • Paulson Paul
        June 17, 2016 at 5:16 pm

        I started using it a long time back ( gingerbread days ) . At the time it was the only app with password protection and UI colour customization. It had nice widgets back in the day and it was relatively simple to use. I also loved the folder hierarchy system. If only the devs gave it a much need overhaul. Since it stopped updating, I've switched to Evernote. I've always thought of developing a note taking app from scratch.It would be awesome to have a note taking app tailored specifically to your needs. Note taking apps are somewhat easy to develop too .

        • Joel Lee
          June 24, 2016 at 1:33 am

          Ah, so you use Evernote now. That's cool. Kinda sucks that some developers don't put enough effort into user interfaces. I'm sure Note Everything would be pretty darn good but I'd never use it with that outdated look! Anyway, thanks for sharing Paul. Really appreciate it. :)

  6. Nick Allon
    June 9, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Quip

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      Looks interesting. Very nice for teams and group projects! I'll have to explore more deeply before I can come to a decision, but first impression is good. Thanks Nick!

  7. Susan
    June 9, 2016 at 5:04 am

    I use Google Keep. One Note is ok, but I don't need all the options for quick notes.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      Yeah, OneNote is overkill for simple notes. That's where Google Keep shines. Thanks for sharing, Susan!

  8. John omernik
    June 9, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Any.do. Good looking and interface is simple. Also syncs with Web interface

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      It's been a while since I used Any.DO but it looks like it has come a long way since then! Nice. Not sure I'd use it for regular note-taking, but it's pretty great for tasks and lists. Thanks John.

  9. Kamal Aljahed
    June 8, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Actually I prefer to use S note for noting. This app should have been mentioned.

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      I've never heard of that one, maybe because I haven't had a Samsung phone in a while. But it looks interesting! Not for me, but I'm sure many would like it. Thanks for the heads up, Kamal.

  10. Charles Bonfante
    June 8, 2016 at 10:26 pm

    Wow. It never ceases to amaze me the bias makeuseof has towards OneNote. I figure there is some kind of hidden incentive we don't know about.

    Really disappointing as I enjoy other articles. However, this clear favoritism which is unbalanced and inaccurate is appalling.

  11. Kevin Bingham
    June 8, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    For quick down and dirty notes, ColorNote is my goto. Quick ideas, shopping list, a temporary scratch pad for cut and paste, etc.

    It should be noted that ColorNote can backup your notes, and can be restored to a new device. (Though there is no online interface.)

    • Joel Lee
      June 16, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      ColorNote is pretty dang awesome. Good point on the backup and restoration features, too bad there's no web interface. :( Thanks Kevin.

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