7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives

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I absolutely love OneNote. Not only is it completely free, but it has a bunch of features that make daily note-taking such a breeze. I’ve also enjoyed Evernote in the past, although I haven’t used it in a while due to its pricing. All in all, both apps are excellent (see our OneNote vs. Evernote comparison 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 ).

But neither app is perfect. I recently got a Chromebook and am unimpressed by the web versions of both apps. Furthermore, both OneNote and Evernote sit on the “heavy duty” end of the spectrum, meaning they can be slow and bloated. Sometimes speed and performance trump features.

And that’s why I’ve been looking for an alternative. Perhaps you have, too. The good news is, lightweight alternatives do exist — you just have to be willing to sacrifice some power and flexibility for them.

1. Thinkery (Free)

Available on Web, Android, and iOS.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app thinkery

I’m not a huge fan of web-only note-taking apps because web interfaces tend to be slow and unimpressive, so I was skeptical when I heard about Thinkery. But I can confidently say that this one deserves every bit of praise it gets.

Thinkery is truly lightweight. It supports three entry types: Notes, Todos, and Bookmarks. Notes are just regular rich-text notes. Todos are notes that can be marked as completed. Bookmarks are snippets from the web. Beyond that, notes are mainly organized using custom tags.

The web version works well enough, but the Android and iOS apps haven’t been updated in a few years so you may run into occasional bugs.

2. Simplenote (Free)

Available on Web, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app simplenote

Simplenote lives up to its name. The developers haven’t wasted any energy implementing useless bloat that you’ll never use. Instead, we have a streamlined note-taking app that’s fast, organized, and pleasing to the eye.

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 (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 — and you can look through them and revert the note to a previous snapshot when necessary.

3. Laverna (Free)

Available on Web, Windows, Mac, and Linux.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app laverna

The biggest selling point of Laverna is its focus on privacy. Your notes are never stored on Laverna’s servers, but you have the option of integrating with Dropbox or RemoteStorage if you want to sync across devices. You can also set an encryption password to keep your notes 100 percent private.

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 (and notebooks can be nested within other notebooks).

In addition, 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.

4. Turtl (Free)

Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app turtl

Turtl is another security-minded note-taking app — so much so that it doesn’t have a “lost password” feature. If you forget your login details, all of your notes are doomed and irretrievable. Keep this in mind before committing to this app.

What makes Turtl unique is that, in addition to notes, you can also collect files, images, and web bookmarks. All of these items are arranged into boards (which are basically notebooks with a more visual layout) and can be tagged for more granular organization.

Turtl is definitely unconventional, so it may take a while for you to grow into its design and structure — or you may never come to like it. I do recommend that you give it a try, though. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love it.

5. CherryTree (Free)

Available on Windows and Linux.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app cherrytree

CherryTree was my preferred note-taking app for years prior to falling in love with OneNote. It’s extremely lightweight, it’s open source, and it’s been regularly updated for several years now. I consider it the best note-taking app for Linux Productivity on Linux: 7 Apps for Note-Taking Productivity on Linux: 7 Apps for Note-Taking Here are seven different applications you can use to write notes and increase your productivity in Linux. Often there are web versions available, but we'll instead focus on alternative desktop applications you can use. Read More .

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 basically act as notebooks.

The coolest feature, and the reason why I started using CherryTree in the first place, is that you can create internal links to other notes like a wiki 4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized 4 of the Best Personal Wikis to Keep You Organized What if there was wiki software designed to help you out on a personal level? You could use it for anything, for example to outline your novel, keep track of home improvement projects, or plan... Read More . This is fantastic for notes that are relative to other notes (such as when planning characters and plots for a novel).

6. TagSpaces (Free, $40)

Available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app tagspaces

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 (unless you sync using a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive).

TagSpaces 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.

While the free version is fully functional, you can unlock extra features (like advanced search, geotagging, and file/folder tagging) with the one-time $40 Pro version.

7. Google Keep (Free)

Available on Web, Android, iOS, and Chrome.

7 Lightweight OneNote and Evernote Alternatives note taking app google keep

If you prefer the “sticky notes” approach over the “pages of text” approach, then why not use Google Keep? I don’t use it much because I like dedicated desktop apps, but I have to admit that Google Keep is fantastic for mobile note-taking.

You should check out these awesome Google Keep tips and tricks 7 Tips for Taking Better Notes in Google Keep for Android 7 Tips for Taking Better Notes in Google Keep for Android If you use Google Keep for Android, these tips will make your experience a much better one. Read More : color coding, quick notes with gestures, organizing with labels, voice notes, and more. A lot can be done with it, including planning travel trips How to Use Google Keep to Organize Your Travel Plans How to Use Google Keep to Organize Your Travel Plans Give Google Keep a try for planning your next trip. The simple Google app has terrific note-taking features that helps to keep all your travel details organized in one place. Read More and managing simple projects How to Use Google Keep for Simple Project Management How to Use Google Keep for Simple Project Management Are you looking for a basic, intuitive, and cross-platform project management tool? We show you how to use Google Keep for simple projects. Read More .

What’s Your Favorite Note-Taking App?

Don’t spend too much time trying to decide which one to use.

I know all too well that searching for a new app can be an incredibly wasteful way to spend time 10 Time-Wasting Habits You Should Quit Today 10 Time-Wasting Habits You Should Quit Today A minute here or there doesn't feel like much, but it all adds up! Could it be that you're wasting time on meaningless habits? We'll show you daily tasks you can quit. Read More and is often done as a form of procrastination.

So download the ones that look interesting, give them each a few minutes, and don’t be afraid to drop all of them and go back to OneNote or Evernote if they aren’t satisfactory. It’s possible that OneNote and Evernote are the best options for you, at least for the time being.

Are there any other lightweight note-taking apps that we missed? What’s your favorite? Which features do you consider essential? Let us know in a comment below!

Explore more about: Evernote, Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps, Task Management.

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  1. steve
    May 20, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    If you're on a Mac or iOS check out Notability. Pretty amazing little app.

  2. Spoxi
    October 3, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Most of my research consists of web clips, short notes and many short lists of different types like ip addresses, medical files, passwords, etc. I have always used Evernote for notes but it's become so slow with my more or less 5000 notes that I'm looking around for a replacement. I've come across Qbase (www.qbasesoft.com) which is essentially a database manager but it allowes to add a rich text column and use it for note taking. The good thing is it's free and it also reminds me of my old ListPro outliner, the bad thing though is that it looks still under development. The data is stored locally or on your network so no security issues here plus it offers password protection.

  3. TBolt
    September 5, 2017 at 2:54 am

    For research / study notes, which tend to get very long & need embedded images, links, tables & other features, few things beat the simplicity of Google Docs. I use Google Docs for all of my heavy note-taking needs, aside from To Do lists, shopping lists or small reminders -- for those, I use Google Keep.

    Both Google Docs & Google Keep are available on the web, iOS, Android.

    Occasionally, I'll use the Notes & Reminder apps on my iPhone, but I never use either of them regularly.

  4. Zubin
    May 23, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I really like OneNote for its sync , movable textboxes and (ftw) Per-Tab password protection.
    I like to know I can see my notes from any windows device and Internet connection, being able to organize entire paragrahs and displace them is handy and most important per-tab/note password protection, I like to open fast for the quick jot-down so going through a login screen is quiet annoying.
    But Major issue; slow...so very slow, 1N hangs a lot sometimes you open a tab and its completely emptied like it failed to load. quite the headache when you're in a rush.

    Do any of these apps have the above(good things), I'm going through them one by one and already hit cherrytree and realizing that I might be stuck with OneNote

  5. Caroline
    May 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

    I loved catch and used it a lot; then it died and i had all these notes that couldn't export to say evernote. I could export plain txt but i uswd a lot of images to accompany my notes and these were not exported together with the notes. So i am now weary of using another note app. Although i would love to find one that let's me export notes with the images i have attached to that specific note. Any note apps cover this issue ?

  6. Bo Grimes
    May 6, 2017 at 3:02 pm

    Collate is new (.3 just released) and seems to have promise. Cross-platform, MD, rich text, and outline modes. Tagging. But it saves everything locally or in a service like Dropbox, and essentially organizes like a file manager, so you can basically navigate your files in any file manager (or at the command line) and edit using any editor. The tagging will be only in Collate, and I don't know if tags will inherent from, say Linux to Windows versions, but grep is still grep.

  7. Clint Walker
    May 5, 2017 at 4:23 am

    I've never yet seen an article on note taking apps that focuses on *search capabilities* For example SimpleNote beats every other note taking app in the area of synchronization speed, but is unable to search more than a single tag.

    Even Evernote falls Shor when search tags.

    Example: search for notes tagged "cat" OR "dog" but exclude notes containing "bird"

    This is beyond many note taking apps. And this is a horrible thing to discover when you're already 50 000 notes and 4 years invested into an app.

    Secondly: Recommending web only services for anything more than a shopping list is irresponsible - here today, gone tomorrow - unless there a copy on your on drive (which you're backing up) you're better off with pen and paper.

    • daniel
      April 3, 2018 at 8:15 am

      using CHERRYTREE's search, you will see all instances where the "keyword" exists. You can then click on the one you want and it will take you to that keyword instantly.
      This is super helpful when you have lots of notes..

  8. Andrew W
    May 5, 2017 at 3:06 am

    I'm all in on Bear (http://www.bear-writer.com/) right now, because I have the luxury of keeping it all Apple. When I'm on my non-Apple hardware, I rely on my phone for note keeping. It's beautiful, and I find the copy/export as options super handy. I also appreciate that it's smart about handling code blocks.

    That said, I also bought a year's subscription to Standard Notes (https://standardnotes.org/) because I like their approach of emphasizing simplicity, longevity, portability, and security while not letting those things detract from the experience.

  9. Khiusttin
    May 5, 2017 at 1:47 am

    Yeah, I will install Thinkery right away, especially because it hasn't been updated in almost 4 years

  10. Philip Truax
    May 4, 2017 at 11:50 pm

    Boostnotes is pretty solid and has a clean interface. It's great for small bits of code.

    QOwnNotes allows self housing your notes for sharing across computers.