Top 5 Note-Taking Apps of 2019
2017 and 2018 haven’t been too eventful in the note-taking application space.
With the king kong of note-taking tools, Evernote, not releasing new features or updates - we’ve been in a standstill with the tools we have available to us. But in 2019, things are shaking up! New entrants like Notion are changing the note-taking space and what we determine note-taking applications to be.
In our first in a new series of top productivity solutions here on Keep Productive. We start with the world of note-taking applications to help you choose the best for you.
We’ll wrap up the top five strongest note-taking applications of 2019 giving you all the information you need to know to make an informed decision to which is the best note-taking application for you and your work.
Pricing & Subscriptions
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If you’re looking for a wrap-up of the top 10 note-taking tool, we created a round-up on YouTube that you might benefit from, and do check out Thomas Frank’s list too.
We believe tools should be judged by their use.
We’ll list them on average use case and popularity, so make sure to take time to understand which note-taking application best suits you and your needs.
📝 TOP 5 NOTE-TAKING APPLICATIONS OF 2019
Evernote is widely known as the world’s best note-taking application.
With a wide range of tools, Evernote provides a way for users to take notes, keep them stored in notebooks, organized with tags and well maintained with a set of multimedia tools like audio, image and text-formatting to improve note density.
The last 5 years have been uncertain for Evernote, with some poor media coverage and a lack of features, but their new CEO, Ian Small aims to address that in 2019 and 2020.
Web Clipper: Grade-A web clipper, Evernote allows you to clip pretty much anything, from PDFs to websites, save it into your notebooks from Chrome.
Document Scanning: Scan in any document in crisp quality without any issues. Evernote shines on desktop allowing you to convert these into PDFs too.
Notebooks & Tags: Organization with Evernote is the backbone of the experience, famed by many - the tags and notebooks help to get organized.
Powerful Search: With filters and hand-writing search, you won’t struggle finding any small or large details inside Evernote.
Available on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows and Web.
Evernote doesn’t lack on device availability and even includes the Chrome Web Clipper too.
Connect Evernote to your Gmail too to save emails into your notebooks.
The thing to note is that the experience is a little different on each device right now, May 2019, but Evernote have stated this is something they want to work on.
PRICING & SUBSCRIPTION
Free Plan - $0 per month: Limits to 2 Devices, 60MB upload limit (monthly), 25MB maximum note size, desktop only offline mode,
Premium Plan - $7.99 per month: No device limits, 10GB per month uploads, 200MB maximum note size and offline mode everywhere.
“Evernote Plus”: This is an old tier pricing plan that some people are still seeing. This is a middle ground between Free & Premium plans.
You can compare Evernote plans here, to find out all the information you need.
Evernote is really the all-round note-taking application. It’s powerful when it comes to document search, storage and bringing together basic notes.
For those who struggle with note organization, the notebooks are a saviour for messy note-lists.
If you’re looking for something with tables and project management abilities, Evernote lacks in this area. Tools like Notion excel here.
BUT if you want a reliable, strong way to save notes, documents and organize like a pro, we recommend Evernote and it’s the perfect GTD companion too.
Notion is very much the new kid on the block.
Powerful in nature, Notion isn’t directly a note-taking application, neither is it a project manager, or a task manager. It’s a new tool called an “All-in-one workspace”. This breed of application is making waves and slowly becoming the new norm in the note-taking space. If you’re a total newbie to Notion, you can learn all about it in our Beginner’s Guide to Notion - we’ve got courses, resources and videos there.
Curious about Notion is? Notion is a workspace that you build yourself. Like lego, you add your own blocks and build the space you need. So if you wanted a place to take notes, you can build that, wanted a task manager? No worries, you can build that. Wanted a project management base for your team, Notion can be designed for that too.
Database Power: Notion has what’s called “databases” to help you organize information. You can use a table, list, gallery, calendar or board database to help you express information. This allows you to create anything from a recipe gallery to a table of upcoming tasks. It’s very smart.
Layouts: Notebooks might be an effective way to organize in Evernote, but many people don’t like to have constraints. Notion allows an open plan way to create new pages and create your own layouts, no limitations to structure.
Templates: You can find a list of templates available on the templates area and duplicate them into your workspaces. This is perfect to save you time learning how to create large databases or new tools inside Notion.
Custom Pages: With each new page, you can add a cover and a custom icon, allowing you to have total control of what you see every time you go into the page.
Available on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows and Web too.
Notion’s desktop experience is popular, with their mobile experience being a little slower than traditional productivity applications.
Notion are releasing an update every single month, but might risk bloat in the future.
PRICING & SUBSCRIPTION
Free Plan: Limit to 1,000 blocks, 5MB upload file limit, unlimited guests and members. Note: You will exceed the 1,000 blocks in a 3-month period, but this can be reviewed in Settings anytime. Block limits are explained here.
Personal Plan ($5 per month, $4 per month paid annual): Perfect for one member, you have unlimited blocks, unlimited file upload and unlimited guests. This is ideal for a one-person team or personal use.
Team Plan ($10 per month, per user, $8 per month, per user paid annual): This is for teams, allowing them to add unlimited blocks, unlimited file upload and unlimited guests and the ability to collaborate with others.
There’s an Enterprise Plan, but this is more suitable for teams looking to convert large amounts (100+ members) to Notion as their project manager/wiki.
It’s hard to pinpoint who Notion is for.
Notion is for those who want to store notes, manage projects, organize their life and plan ahead. Notion has so many different use cases.
Some people use it simply to manage their week ahead, others to manage their finance, others to manage team wikis and so much more.
I’d recommend Notion for those looking to map their personal lives out. Personally, I use it to plan house items, finance projections, projects for YouTube and much more. I call it my planning brain.
You can learn more about Notion on our YouTube channel, with endless videos on how to apply it to your everyday, if you’re keen to learn it further - you can get the full course here. This will take you through all you need to know, and updated monthly - with new videos and resources.
MS OneNote is a classic note-taking resource used mostly by academics and students, with plenty of Office 365 and pro users taking advantage of the note-taker. OneNote brings together a portfolio notebook like experience, allowing you to create sections and pages inside each notebook, much like your work or school notebook.
OneNote is like Microsoft Word, if they created a note-taking app version.
With a range of special tools, MS OneNote embeds drawing abilities, sharing tools with other OneNote users and a friendly interface that allows you to customise your notes.
Sketch Abilities: One of the features many students love is the ability to use the horizontal canvas to manage visual notes and sketches. Perfect for revision and recall, this will help you to remember items.
Sections & Pages: Much like a paper book, or tabbed notebook, you have what’s called “Sections” and “Pages” - a useful way to manage and organize your notes per area or use.
Sharing with Office 365 users: Collaborating on notes and documents is easy, you can invite another Office 365 user or someone with an Outlook account to work together on a document or note.
Available on iOS, Android, Mac and Windows and Web too.
Some versions like iOS and Web will lack experiences that Windows do well on.
OneNote thrive by allowing users to manage notes together too, no matter what device, and whether they have or don’t have a Office 365 account.
PRICING & SUBSCRIPTION
The OneNote subscriptions can get a little complicated.
Free Plan: All you need is a Microsoft account. This is free. Includes all features but limits are 5GB for the total account.
If you’re a student, check if this comes with your student Microsoft plan. This normally does, and the same with educators.
Premium Plan ($69.99 per year): This is known as Office 365 and doesn’t just include OneNote, but the total suite of Office products. This is includes 1TB storage upgrade and available on a monthly pricing of $6.99.
We always recommend OneNote to students and it’s especially awesome if you have a Windows Tablet or PC with touch or Surface Pen abilities.
OneNote is a happy medium. Don’t want the structure of Evernote, but the power of annotating documents, sketching and reliability, OneNote is perfect.
REMEMBER: OneNote is really best for those who use the Microsoft Suite, you can begin to store everything in one place and help manage documents, notes, projects all in one location.
4. BEAR NOTES
Bear Notes is a cuddly option for Apple lovers.
Bear is an iOS and Mac application designed to have the simplicity of Apple Notes but the markdown complexity of apps like Standard and Dynalist. This is why Bear isn’t just used by casual note-takers, but writers too as a way to scribe long pieces.
With friendly hashtags and easy to use search, Bear is a nifty option for lightweight note-taking app lovers.
Hashtags: Bear throws the concept of notebooks out the window. Hashtags are subtle, more casual way to organize notes. Create a hashtag and create a note within to help organize a topic or specific title. You can add more than one hashtag to each note, to span across them all.
Markdown: This ability to add markdown in Bear is favoured amongst developer for adding code snippets and writers who like the basic abilities that markdown offers. For newbies to markdown, it’s not a huge issue to get used to.
Exporting: Locked in Pro, there are a few abilities to export notes into PDF, HTML and many more options. Once exported they are a great way to send to others without any hassle.
Available on iOS and Mac only, with plans to come to other devices.
Bear is a polished app for Mac and iOS users, but requires Pro to sync between the too. This is something to read about in the pricing and subscription section.
Bear doesn’t have burning plans to add Android, Windows editions - so this won’t be any good for anyone on those platforms right now.
PRICING & SUBSCRIPTION
Free Plan: You can use Bear on iOS and Mac with no limits on amount of notes added. The only limits come when you want to sync, free does not include sync.
Pro Plan ($1.49 per month, $14.99 a year): This offers more advanced features, including sync between all your devices, over a dozen beautiful themes, and more powerful export options.
Bear is perfect for casual note-takers who want to upgrade from something like Google Keep or Apple Notes.
It’s very much an Apple lovers heaven and is famed for it’s writing abilities too, ideal for the article writing - with relaxed full-screen mode too.
Bear isn’t ideal for Evernote level skills like annotation, scanning and search. It lacks in areas like this, but doesn’t try to compete.
5. STANDARD NOTES
Standard Notes is a privacy-focused, open-source note-taking app.
Standard is one of the many new applications focusing on sustainability. Their development team is small, and they focus on bringing a simple, yet powerful experience for users. For Pro users, Standard comes alive, but for the free account, you’ll gain a secure way to take notes and keep things basic.
Extensions: This is part of the Pro experience, but comes packing a punch. Standard offers a way to add “add-ons” to your note-taking experience, like themes, data back-ups, 2FA authentication and more. There are 29 extensions to explore in the Extensions gallery.
Ethos: The company has a strong ethos and this is rare for many productivity softwares. They want to be around for a while, so they don’t over-promise and make sure to deliver the best experience with a 5-year paid plan too! You can read their statement here.
Encryption: As mentioned the focus is on security. Standard has AES-256 encryption as default on all notes. No one reads them, except you. It is open-source and even has a Linux experience. You can even upgrade to the Pro plan to get 2FA authentication.
Available on iOS, Android, Mac, Linux and Windows and Web too.
You can use it on unlimited devices, with offline access too - on the free plan.
Standard also allows you to add the Extensions on mobile devices too.
PRICING & SUBSCRIPTION
Free Plan: AES-256 encryption, unlimited devices, no limits, offline access, web access. This is a good package for the free plan.
Pro Plan ($149 for 5-years): All free plan features, automated back-ups with Google Drive, OneDrive and more, note-version history, all and future themes and extensions, 2FA and attachments encrypted.
Those worried about Evernote and Microsoft’s security and privacy policies.
Standard is slowly becoming the popular solution for those who want full encryption and privacy being number one.
It’s worth looking at their paid plan, as they look to build to it further.
The note-taking space is becoming very interesting, with new entrants, powerful new options and an ever changing innovation cycle.
Remember to take the time to explore the many more options, like SimpleNote, Google Keep, Dropbox Paper, Quip and many more. We always applaud to check out every application so that you reduce switching and improve your longevity with the app.