The 7 Best Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives
OneNote is one of Microsoft’s crowning achievements. Not only is the note-taking software free, but everything is optimized for daily use, helping you stay focused and organized. The same is true of Evernote, too.
However, neither app is perfect. This is especially the case when it comes to software. Their browser-based editions lack features, while the software versions can be bloated and slow.
If you’re after an alternative to OneNote or Evernote, then you do have options.
If you’re after a minimal, no-fuss note-taking app, then you should opt for Simpltenote. The app lives up to its name, as you won’t find bloat or additional features here. The primary focus is on distraction-free note-taking. As a consequence, the app is pleasing to the eye, as well.
There aren’t any notebooks. Notes are organized using custom tags, although you can pin individual notes, so they stay at the top of the notes list. The notes themselves are plain text, so no rich-text editing. But, if you need formatting, you can switch into Markdown mode on a per-note basis.
Another noteworthy feature is per-note revision histories. As notes are edited, Simplenote saves periodic snapshots. You can look through them and revert the note to a previous snapshot when necessary.
Download: Simplenote (Free)
Laverna’s main selling point is its focus on privacy. Your notes are never stored on the company’s servers. However, you can store your data on Dropbox or RemoteStorage if you want to sync across devices. It’s also possible to set a password that’ll encrypt your notes, too.
Laverna has two other big points in its favor. First, all notes are written in Markdown with a live preview window. Second, it has three levels of organization; profiles, notebooks, and tags. Notebooks can even be nested within other notebooks.
Also, it has distraction-free editing mode, syntax highlighting if you ever write code in your notes, several handy keyboard shortcuts, and it’s open-source on GitHub.
Download: Laverna (Free)
3. Standard Notes
Standard Notes is a secure, encrypted, and open-source note-taking app. If you’re after a privacy-focused Evernote alternative, then this software is ideal. Not only is the app available on all desktop and mobile platforms, but there’s even a web edition, too.
Standard Notes operates a freemium model; the app is free to use, but additional features need to be unlocked with the Extended edition. The free version comes with all the app’s encryption features, sync services, and offline access.
The Extended option opens up additional editor styles (only plain-text is available in the free version), adds two-factor authentication, and enables note history. For anyone who has used Apple’s Notes software, the Standard Notes interface will feel familiar, too.
Download: Standard Notes (Free, premium edition available)
Turtl is a secure Evernote alternative. Most of the app’s features mirror those available in Evernote and OneNote. However, privacy is the top priority here. To that end, Turtl is open-source and available to view on the project’s Github page. All notes are encrypted locally before being uploaded to the syncing server.
Despite being an alternative to OneNote, the way you use the app is different, and there will be a learning curve. Another important item to consider is that Turtl is currently not available on iOS. However, you can use it on the desktop and Android devices.
You can use the Turtl browser extensions to collect files, images, and bookmarks, too. All of these items are arranged into a board, which are notebooks with a more visual layout, and can be tagged for more granular organization.
Download: Turtl (Free)
CherryTree is a great open-source alternative to OneNote. Many of the features found in Microsoft’s note-taking app are here, too. Despite being open-source, the app is regularly updated. For this reason, it is one of the best note-taking tools for programmers .
It can handle rich-text notes and code-based notes with syntax highlighting. And although CherryTree doesn’t have notebooks per se, notes can be nested under other notes, so top-level notes act as notebooks.
One of CherryTree’s standout features is the ability to create internal links to other notes. In this sense, it functions much like a wiki. This is fantastic for notes that are relative to other notes, such as when planning characters and plots for a novel.
Download: CherryTree (Free)
Unlike all of the other apps on this list, TagSpaces is completely offline. It never sends data across the internet. Instead, it only uses local folders and files, which also means no cross-device syncing. That is unless you sync using a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
TagSpaces is free, although you can unlock extra features by upgrading to the Pro edition. The app supports three note types: plain text (TXT), rich text (HTML), and Markdown (MD). The interface is a bit overwhelming at first, but once you get used to it, it will all make sense and boost your productivity.
And since TagSpaces uses the local file system, staying organized is as easy as creating your own preferred subfolder hierarchy.
Download: TagSpaces (Free, Pro edition available)
7. Google Keep
If you prefer digital sticky notes over a virtual notepad, consider switching to Google Keep. Like most of Google’s services, there isn’t a desktop app here. Primarily, Keep is designed for web and mobile. However, if this isn’t a deal-breaker for you, then this may be the best Google equivalent to OneNote around.
This app is ideal if you’re after smaller notes, quick reminders, and checklists. However, if you dig a little deeper, Google Keep can make a great digital notebook, too. So, if you so make the switch, be sure to use these Google Keep tips for better lists .
If you use other Google services or have an Android smartphone, Keep’s integration with your account makes it a worthwhile alternative.
Download: Google Keep (Free)
The Best Note-Taking App for Your Needs
While we’ve listed some of the best OneNote alternatives, you shouldn’t spend too much time deciding which to use. Regularly switching between apps can be a wasteful way to spend time, and is often a symptom of procrastination.
You may find that these feature-rich alternatives offer more than you really need. In which case, consider using one of these uncomplicated note-taking web apps instead.