Better Than a Notepad: The 3 Fastest Ways To Jot Down Notes on Android

Chris Hoffman 07-06-2013

handwriting notes on android Whether you need to jot down ideas for your next project or items you want to pick up at the store, it’s always good to have something ready for taking notes. Many people carry around a pen and paper in addition to their smartphones — a pen and paper is just faster than many note-taking solutions. We’ll try to beat a physical notepad by looking at the fastest way to take notes on Android.


We’re not looking for the most full-featured apps here — just the quickest ways to whip your phone out of your pocket, write a note, and put the phone away so you can get back to your life.

These apps all offer online sync features, since you’ll probably want to access these notes from your computer. An app that only allows you to access them on your phone just isn’t convenient enough.

What We’re Looking to Beat: The Pen and Paper

Just to get an idea of how fast a note-taking app needs to be to replace the trusty pen and paper in your pocket, we timed writing a note with a simple pen and scrap of paper.

Method: Fumble in pocket for a pen and paper, pull them out, uncap the pen, place the piece of paper against a wall, write “Buy milk later,” then cap the pen and return everything to the pocket

Time: 13-16 seconds


Of course, if you had a pen you could click to open and were more accustomed to taking quick notes, this could be faster. We’re just trying to get some idea of the relative speed of these methods.

Google Keep Lock-Screen Widget

One of the problems with using your phone for note-taking is the lock screen. Having to pull your phone out of the pocket and key in a passcode adds time and makes the process feel like a drag when you just want to take a quick note. Of course, you can disable the lock screen on Android and go right to your home screen or previous app when you press the power button, if you like.

However, if you use Android 4.2 Top 12 Jelly Bean Tips For A New Google Tablet Experience Android Jelly Bean 4.2, initially shipped on the Nexus 7, provides a great new tablet experience that outshines previous versions of Android. It even impressed our resident Apple fan. If you have a Nexus 7,... Read More or later, you can use custom lock-screen widgets instead. Google offers its own note-taking app, Google Keep, which includes a lock-screen widget. This allows you to take notes without even unlocking your phone. For this test, we placed the Google Keep lock-screen widget on the main lock screen.

Process: Take phone out of pocket, press the power button, tap the Google Keep widget, swipe in “Buy milk later” with the Android 4.2 keyboard, and put phone back in pocket.


Time: 7-8 seconds

Your notes can be accessed from your computer via the Google Keep website or Google Keep Chrome app.

handwriting notes on android


Okay, we know that more people use Evernote than Google Keep — Evernote is better if you have a lot of complicated notes you want to keep track of, while Google Keep is better at reducing the friction when taking notes and allowing you to quickly jot down notes.


Still, we wanted to look at just how fast you can take notes with Evernote. Evernote doesn’t offer a lock-screen widget, so we installed the Evernote home-screen widget instead.

Process: Take phone out of pocket, press the power button, unlock the phone, tap the Evernote widget, give the note a quick title, swipe in “Buy milk later” with the Android 4.2 keyboard, and put phone back in pocket.

Time: 13-14 seconds

The problem with Evernote is that it can’t be on your lock screen, so you have to unlock your phone first. You also have to give each note a separate title, while Google Keep allows you to take a quick note without requiring the title.


If you love Evernote How to Use Evernote: The Unofficial Manual Learning how to use Evernote on your own takes a long time. This is why we've put together this guide to show you how to take full advantage of the most important Evernote features. Read More and can live with the few extra seconds or want to set up your phone to skip its lock screen, Evernote is still a good option.

notes on android

Catch Notes

Catch Notes is designed for capturing ideas, so it should be ideal for this type of quick note-taking. Unfortunately, Catch Notes doesn’t offer a lock-screen widget, either. Catch does include a home-screen widget, so we used that. We performed the same process we did with Evernote.

Process: Take phone out of pocket, press the power button, unlock the phone, tap the Catch widget, swipe in “Buy milk later” with the Android 4.2 keyboard, and put phone back in pocket.

Time: 9-10 seconds.

Catch performs better than Evernote because the application starts up more quickly, focusing a single text field and not requiring a note title — it’s a much faster way to jot down quick notes. However, no lock-screen widget means it’s slower than Google Keep.

You can access your notes from your computer via the Catch website.

notes on android

The Fastest Keyboards

Everyone has their own opinion on which keyboard is the best Android keyboard MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard? In this follow-up to our post from 2011 featuring 6+ fantastic Honeycomb keyboards, I’d like to take a good hard look at four of the most popular and well-regarded sliding keyboard. Call it a “keyboard... Read More . How fast you can take notes will depend on how fast you can type with your phone’s keyboard. Some of the best keyboards include:

You can also dictate notes with Google’s voice typing MakeUseOf Tests: What's The Best Voice Recognition Keyboard For Android? Voice recognition has become increasingly popular, and more options are becoming available over time. One can hope that with this increased popularity comes increased accuracy as well. Can you really dictate whole sentences to your... Read More if you have your hands full — this even works offline if you have Android 4.2 and download the appropriate language support.

Feel free to try them all and decide which one you’re most comfortable with.

handwriting notes on android

The Winner

Google Keep wins the competition by far, simply because it lets you quickly take notes without unlocking your phone. If you have your lock screen disabled (or if Evernote, Catch Notes, and other apps start offering lock-screen widgets), the competition will be much more even — any app with a home-screen widget is pretty quick.

Unfortunately, Evernote will always be a bit behind the others. Evernote just has more options and, by requiring a note title, slows things down. Evernote is better at managing a large number of notes; it’s not designed for the quickest idea-capturing possible.

If you go out of your way to set your Android device up for quick note-taking, it can be faster than taking notes with a paper and pen. If you don’t set up your phone properly and have to unlock it and fumble through the app drawer each time you want to take a note, it will definitely be slower.

What handwriting notes on Android do you use on your phone? Do you have a faster alternative? Or have you stuck with the trusty old notebook 5 Ways To Kick Your Moleskine Notebook Up A Notch Over the years, the Moleskine notebook has become a trademark staple for anyone dabbling in creative endeavors. In fact, the Moleskine is almost as iconic as the Apple laptop, the hipster glasses, and the daily... Read More ?

Image Credit: Man using phone via Shutterstock

Related topics: Note-Taking Apps, Notepad.

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  1. jena
    January 30, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Now you just made me sad about my android 4.1.2 galaxy xcover2 (the best outdoor phone available) - no lockscreen widgets and no swipe-like keyboard :-

  2. ken
    August 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    i think Grafitti or Grafitti Pro text input should have been listed under Fastest Keyboards. Loved it on my Palm Pilot and have been using it on Android phones for years! Fast and easy to learn and use!

  3. Juan Monsalve
    June 13, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    gnotes should be worth of mention, comes in both web and android app, allows export, and the only account you need is: google (and yes, its free)

  4. Peter
    June 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm


    Actually, I'm just using the Android voice recorder and listen to and act on the note later.

  5. Vampie C.
    June 10, 2013 at 7:36 am

    My program for quick notes on my android is GNotes. ( &
    It has a lock screen widget, it has a normal widget to create a new note, can pin existing notes as widgets, syncs with their own site, so you can check the notes online.

    It's easy and lightweight to use.

  6. John Hauxwell
    June 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I use apMemo Lite. Have it on my homescreen - don't even have to type if in a hurry - my wobbly finger writing works!

  7. Flower King
    June 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    I use catch for reminder feature. Keep has good UI.

  8. wall
    June 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Haven't looked at ifttt but if there is a keep hookup then you could send to evernote automatically.

  9. chad
    June 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Article is incorrect, evernote does not require a custom title be inputted. Evernote automatically puts in a default title that you do not need to change. Example "note @ city"

  10. Phuc Ngoc
    June 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

    Wow, it's so interesting. I've never thought that the note-taking in android could be so serious like this.

  11. Rick Shortt
    June 8, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I agree that Evernote will always be slower - but if all you are typing is a one-liner like "buy milk later", you can put that in the title and hit save. No need to add anything else to the body of the note. Will save a second or three. I still wasn't able to do it in 13-14 seconds though - it took me 14-15.

    GTasks is another decent app to try. Make a list called "Quick Notes" or whatever, then put a shortcut on the homescreen to create a new task for that list. Works pretty fast - though, again, I wasn't quick enough to match your Keep or Catch times.

    BTW, both these were done at home using Bluetooth and WiFi Unlocker to bypass my lock screen. Just press the power button and the home screen pops up. If I was not on my WiFi, or the wifi at work, I would have to enter my passcode first.

    • Rick Shortt
      June 8, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      I had sort of written off Keep as too simplistic when it first came out, plus it wouldn't work on my old Froyo phone, so I was only playing around with the web interface. But after my first response above last night, I decided to give it a try anyway on my recently acquired Jelly Bean phone and have decided that maybe I do like it after all. For quick, simple note taking it really is pretty slick - and fast! No way in its current state will I ever use it for the same things I use Evernote for, nor can it yet replace GTasks, since there is no reminder feature or Gmail integration. But for quick, simple notes that will be visible right on a small 2X2 homescreen widget, it seems it now has a place on my phone, and if a note needs to later move elsewhere, it is easily shared to Evernote, GTasks, Gmail, whatever. Thanks for convincing me to take another look!