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android note taking appNote-taking and productivity apps are a dime a dozen; in fact, there are so many of them, I’ve reverted to using a pen and paper for planning out my day (really). But a part of the problem is that many of them keep trying to outdo each other with features and complexity – online sync, Google Tasks Use gTasks To Synchronize Your Tasks With Google [Android] Use gTasks To Synchronize Your Tasks With Google [Android] These days, there are a million and one great ways to manage a to-do list online and via mobile apps. That said, there's often still a few people who are not yet using one of... Read More sync, password protection, handwriting support Take Handwritten Notes Online or Offline With SuperNote for Android Take Handwritten Notes Online or Offline With SuperNote for Android I tested out a number of device-based note-taking apps, and eventually settled on the one that I consider the best of the best, called SuperNote. Don't bother checking Google Play for the app - it... Read More , photo and audio notes Catch Notes: A Full-Featured App for Portable Note-Taking [Android] Catch Notes: A Full-Featured App for Portable Note-Taking [Android] Portable notes have saved my life on more than one occasion. Not in the literal sense - thank God! - but in this day and age, when information is being thrown around at such high... Read More …..the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, these are good features, and the apps I just linked to are superb at what they do. But not everyone wants this level of power and complexity – sometimes you just want a simple way to keep some text notes on your device. I found a couple of really simple Android note taking apps that let you do just that, but with the lovely Holo visual flair. In other words, they’re both flat and simple, and look right at home on an Android device running ICS (Android 4.0) or Jelly Bean (Android 4.1-4.2).

If you’re a power-user, these aren’t for you. But if you’ve been shopping around for something simple that still looks nice, Hashnote or Note l!st both deserve a look.

For To-Do Items: Hashnote

Hashnote has a deceptive title. It’s not for notes: It’s for to-do items. Each “note,” or item, can’t be more than a single line. But it does make judicious use of hashtags and at-signs to  help you filter through your tasks.

First, the overview screen:

android note taking app

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Simple, beautiful, and colorful. Every hashtag gets its own color, and @mentions (people) also get colors. This is the default screen shown when you start the app, and it’s most of what you have to know. There aren’t any deadlines, and no priorities, either. There’s just a single swipe gesture, for popping open the filter sidebar:

android note

Tap a row in the sidebar, and the list filters to show just those items (say, #groceries). You can tap another row to filter by AND logic (so, #groceries and #birthday yield all lines marked both with #groceries and #birthday).

Adding a new note looks like this:

android note

Yes, it looks like there’s room for adding an extra field, but that’s just blank space. Tapping it does nothing – you can’t write there. Of course, you can make your note very long if you so desire. The # and @ buttons just enter those symbols – I expected auto-completion  for existing tags, but that didn’t happen.

Bottom line: Hashnote is great for managing to-do’s, if you  just need quick filtering, no sync, and absolutely zero fuss.

For Longer Notes: Note L!st

Now, if you’re looking to write longer texts on your device (but are still not interested in automatic sync), Note l!st might fit the bill. It comes with several predetermined categories, and a slim font.

Here’s a full-width crop of the first screen:

android note

There’s an ad at the bottom which you can’t see above – you can remove it with a $2 in-app purchase. I’m not a fan of this particular model (I prefer apps that offer a free and paid version right on Google Play, because you at least have a 15 minute refund window). Tap the “add note” button, and you find yourself in the new note screen:

android note app

Here the slim font is particularly noticeable. I like that the developer didn’t stick an ad into this screen – makes it easier to focus on what you’re trying to write. Tap the down-pointing arrow, and the title expands to let you enter some metadata about your note:

android note app

The stars denote priority (which you can use to sort notes), and you can mark a note as Completed, in case it’s an actionable item (I’m more prone to writing journal-style meandering thoughts, but to each his own). When reading the note (after you’re done composing it and save out of the editing mode), the banner ad makes its appearance:

android note app

A bit distracting, but if you use the app, $2 isn’t a hefty price tag. And finally, let’s take a quick look at the few settings available for tweaking:

android note taking app

So basically, you can shell out to remove the ad, toggle between light/regular fonts, add a shortcut to your homescreen, and read a little about the app (changelog and credits).

These Developers Have Their Priorities Straight

Both of these apps have one thing in common – pursuit of aesthetics rather than tacking on another feature. To me, that’s encouraging. Features are alluring because they’re so easy to quantify – “my app does 1, 2, and 3.” Visual appeal is far more subjective, so for a developer to go for looks first feels brave to me.

I’m not saying these apps are perfect as they are, feature-wise. But in their current state, these Android note taking apps fun and easy to use, and with a solid user experience in place, I feel both Hashnote and Note l!st can now carefully add more power. I wish more mobile apps took a similar path.

Will you be using one of these, or are they too simple? And in general, where do you stand on the looks-vs.-features question? Do you like your apps beefy (even if ugly), or would you choose a pretty app over a powerful one?

  1. Geeker
    August 24, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Hashnote was pretty cool when the creator grasped that the vast majority of Android device owners don't run Android 4.0+ -- seems kind of silly that a note-taking app that touts itself as unusually simplistic needs one of the absolute most recent copies of the OS to merely run. (If there was a reason for it, I'd totally agree...but Hashnote isn't exactly leveraging features missing in earlier copies of Android.)

  2. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    March 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Hashnote looks so similar to Fetchnotes-down to 'hashtag' and 'mention' features.

  3. Andrew Lake
    March 12, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    I love, love, LOVE the design of Note L!st. It is sooo well done. Simple, clean uncluttered and straight to the point.

    Another note app that you might consider is BeNote (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.uobia.benoteng).

  4. HildyJ
    March 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    An even simpler note app is Open Intent's Notepad. It's totally free and has the bare minimum of permissions. It doesn't have folders so you have to prefix your note titles if you want to group them. On the other hand, in combination with OI Safe, it allows you to encrypt notes. OI also has a list app for task oriented notes.

  5. Ryan Harter
    March 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Full Disclosure - I'm the developer behind hash note.

    Its great to see that people are liking Hashnote. Its still early but I've got big plans. I'm working hard to give people a great experience, so if anyone has any requests or suggestions, feel free to track out the rough email, Google+ or Twitter.

    One thing to add that I think people will like is that there also a Dashclock extension to really help making keeping track of you important tasks.

    • Tanmay
      March 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

      Taks list that syncs with Google Task

      • Andy Pretzsch
        March 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        What I need is a tool I can use on my mobile (android) phone whereever I am an whatever I do.
        But it has to sync with my account so I can edit my notes on my Notebook too.
        May be I need a GTD tool which is very easy and low level. I need to have one Point / one Tool to have all my stuff. Using 2 or 3 Tools just frustrates me because I never find stuff again or have some parts twice not knowingwhich one is the last I was working with.
        Up to date I have not found a tool fulfilling all my needs :(

  6. Xavier
    March 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I'm definitely checking out Note L!st. I admit, I love my evernote, but there are times when I don't need to have a note synced in my notebook in my notebook stack; there are times when an awesome, world-changing idea just hits me and I need something to jot it down in before it exits my brain immediately, never to be thought of again (as all awesome, world-changing ideas do). Seems like Note L!st would be perfect for that.

  7. Dave Bakker
    March 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks, I will check these two out. I used Plain text for the iPhone and miss it on the Android. Mind you Dropbox now allows plain text editing so I have started using that also.

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