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Ever have a thought slip away and wish you had written it down? Grab one of these modern note-taking apps, and you’ll be able to jot down a promising idea at the drop of a hat.
For some people, there’s no replacement for pen and paper when it comes to taking notes. However, if you’re open to a more high-tech way to record your thoughts, you might get more mileage from one of the many note-taking apps that are available to download for free from the Windows Store.
Whether you’re taking down shopping lists or writing HTML code, there’s a notepad app out there that will suit your needs perfectly. Here are some of the very best modern apps to help you record your ideas and keep them organized.
Microsoft’s modern version of the flagship note-taking app concentrates on doing simple things well.
With more than a decade of development behind it and a spot as part of the Microsoft Office suite, OneNote is the standard that all other note-taking apps are judged by. Like many of the modern versions of Microsoft’s established product line, the OneNote app focusses on streamlining the experience to ensure that it can be used across a broad range of devices — but there’s still plenty of functionality on offer here.
The app makes great use of action wheels to offer a broad selection of tools without cluttering the interface. With a couple of clicks, you can add an item to your to-do list, or insert an image, or gain access to a highlighter to mark up your notes. While the drawing interface is clearly intended for use with touch-based devices, it’s been calibrated well enough such that you can readily use pen tools with a mouse.
Of course, if you’re used to the fully-fledged version of OneNote that’s part of the Office suite, there are going to be features that you will miss. There aren’t nearly as many options in terms of how your organize your notes, or the tools that you’re given to create the notes themselves. It’s a scaled-down version by design, so don’t go in expecting a similarly all-encompassing version of the software as its bigger brother.
The OneNote app keeps things simple, and does an admirable job of distinguishing between the must-have features of a note-taking app and the tools that can be discarded to help with accessibility. Strong search tools and cross-device access make this a great app for general use.
Notepad Classic [No Longer Available]
A Metro-styled version of the long-standing Notepad tool.
While it’s developed by a third party, Notepad Classic does an excellent job of mimicking the Metro stylings of Microsoft’s own modern apps. This minimalist approach to the interface carries over to the rest of the app, making for a very robust tool — even if it’s not much to look at.
When you open up Notepad Classic, all you’re presented with is a large space to write in, and a basic toolbar for functionality, like saving your work and adding a timestamp. There are no frills at all here, and if you’re a believer in distraction-free environments helping to get work done, then you’ll be right at home.
Given that this app purports to be a modernized take on the stalwart Windows Notepad tool, it’s unsurprising that a few small accommodations have been made for users planning to use it for coding. Perhaps most useful is the addition of a constant line and column readout in the top-right of the interface, akin to Notepad’s status bar. It’s a minor detail, but it demonstrates what this app is meant to be — a modern recreation of Notepad, no more and no less.
For those purposes, it works perfectly. However, if you’re looking for a little more from your notepad, there are some serious advantages to be had from some other apps with more of the functionality that you’d expect from a current piece of software.
Refined coding tool with plenty of useful features.
Like Notepad Classic, Code Writer is heavily influenced by Notepad — but rather than simply seeking to replicate the original program, this app dares to make a few improvements of its own. None are particularly earth-shattering, but put together they amount to a very slick package for a coding novice or a more veteran programmer.
As its name suggests, the primary focus of Code Writer is on coding; this is an app firmly in the spirit of the Notepad application, rather than a pen-and-paper notepad. However, it’s perfectly capable as a distraction-free workspace that will let you record your thoughts as simple text on the page, without any embellishments.
However, there are plenty of little touches intended to make writing in computer code as easy as possible. More than twenty templates are available to users, for languages including Python, Java and Ruby. From there, a range of advanced editing tools tailored to individual languages are available to help save a little time and effort on the user’s part.
These added features won’t get in your way if you don’t care to use them, but will likely prove very handy for most users. It’s clear that Code Writer has been built on a lot of experience using software for this sort of purpose — if you write a lot of code, it’s well worth checking out.
Minimalist distraction-free environment to help you get your words down on the page.
For a truly distraction-free note-taking app, there are few options with less clutter than Poe. Aside from a background featuring the raven that the app uses as its logo, all that’s there is your words on the page — but there are plenty of tools hidden just out of sight to make sure that you’re as productive as you can be.
The word count tool is supplemented with a couple of neat tweaks that will spur you on to accomplish your writing goals. You can set a word count goal, then have Poe keep you updated with your progress towards it with percentage figures, leaving you in no doubt of whether you’re on track or not.
Alternatively, there’s the option to set a timer, if you find that you work best under a different kind of pressure. These tools can be accessed within a few seconds, but once they’re set you can forget all about them. They’ll tick away in the background, but your interface won’t be cluttered with anything that might prevent you from getting the words on the page.
This sort of writing experience won’t work for everybody — it could certainly be said that Poe’s understated interface is a little too plain. However, for the right user, this spartan app could be a real difference-maker in terms of helping you to reach your personal word count goals.
Post-it inspired app that sacrifices functionality for ease of use.
Different types of notes are best expressed in different ways — and, for some things, nothing beats a post-it note. Sticky Notes 8 lets you jot down ideas just as you would in real-life, choosing from a selection of different colors and arranging your thoughts as you see fit.
It’s not a system that lends itself to in-depth note-taking as well as some of its competitors, but if this method of organization appeals to you, this app will serve your purposes well. It’s simple to the point of being fool-proof, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone struggling to get to grips with its straightforward, intuitive interface.
However, that simplicity comes at the cost of features — this is about as bare-bones as it gets. You can add text and an image to a note and sync it between your devices, but that’s about it. It’s also worth noting that the free version of the app is ad-supported, albeit in the non-invasive form of a single note that displays sponsored messages alongside your work.
Sticky Notes 8 does exactly what it sets out to accomplish, and does it very well. You’ll know the program like the back of your hand within moments of running it for the first time — the only drawback being that you might wish there was a bit more functionality on offer.
Cross-platform note-taking service that makes keeping track of notes across multiple devices a breeze.
This note-taking and organization service is one of the most popular options currently available, largely thanks to its brilliant cross-device compatibility. Whether you’re working on your laptop, an Android tablet or an iPhone, you’ll have access to all your content stored on Evernote.
Many apps have similar functionality, but Evernote stands out from the crowd. There are no ties to any one manufacturer or type of device, making it feel much more like a web service that you happen to access through device-specific apps than one piece of software you’re shackled to. Everything works just as you would expect it to — and for something as simple as note-taking, that’s a huge plus.
Evernote also excels in keeping your notes arranged neatly. You can split things into different notebooks, or just tag individual posts so that you can track individual thoughts by topic at a later date. It’s trivially easy to take an audio note on your phone when out and about, then find it and elaborate upon it when you’re sat at your desktop later on.
If there’s one criticism to be made, it’s that the Windows app isn’t quite as slick as the equivalent software Evernote offers on other platforms — but that’s a very minor issue. For the most part, the Evernote system works so well, you’ll soon wonder how you managed to keep track of anything without having Evernote across all your devices.
Do you know about another note-taking app that we’ve missed? Let us know about it in the comments section below.