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The 5 Best Note Taking Apps of 2020 to Get Your Life Together

January 27, 2021 • April Miller

There’s an old saying — “I finally got it all together, but I forgot where I put it!” If this describes you when it comes to keeping your notes and documents (not to mention your life) organized, it’s probably time to find a note taking app that works for you.

The best note taking apps are those that satisfy core users as well as some niche-specific ones. Students away at university, recipe-clipping moms, busy executives and everybody in between needs someplace where they can stash off-the-cuff ideas or settle in for a longer note-taking session.

Check out these selections to find the best note taking app for whatever life throws your way.

1. Apple Notes

For lots of note-takers out there, the built-in Apple Notes is the most convenient and useful option. There’s nothing to install, it’s free and — as the saying goes — it “Just Works.”

There are all the basic formatting tools here that you could want, including italics, bold, charts, checklists, bulleted lists, file attachments and even markdown tools like pens, pencils and highlighters. In other words, feel free to scribble with your finger, or a stylus, to your heart’s content.

Organization is also intuitive. You can nest folders within each other. It’s also a snap to add Notes to Control Center so that a fresh note is only a single swipe away from your lock screen. The downside? Apple Notes is only native on Apple-made devices and as a web app on iCloud.com.

2. Evernote

The best thing about Evernote is that it’s truly cross-platform — there are native apps for Android, iOS, Windows and macOS, plus a web app version.

Evernote is ideal for students and anyone else who wants to organize their own notes alongside PDFs, PowerPoint presentations and others. There’s also a scanner so you can digitize textbooks (or anything else) plus a web clipper so you can read online articles later on.

The downside is the price. You can use it for free, but the premium experience (featuring team functionality) will set you back $8 per month. Some users say the organization tools aren’t as robust as other offerings, too.

3. Standard Notes

It’s cybersecurity that sets Standard Notes apart from its peers. With end-to-end encryption, this is one of only a very few note taking apps out there that takes user privacy absolutely seriously.

You can use Standard Notes for free “out of the box” and have a robust notes app at your disposal. If you need something more powerful, the Extended Plan ($2.50/month for five years or $9.99/month) unlocks a rich text editor, code editor, Markdown editor and alternative themes.

Like other notes apps, Standard Notes also provides tag functionality so you can always find what you’re looking for quickly and intuitively. Standard Notes is available on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux and as a web app.

4. Microsoft OneNote

The closest comparison to Microsoft’s OneNote is Evernote, although the two take radically different design and functionality approaches in a handful of places.

OneNote looks and behaves a bit like a paper-based binder. You can create multiple notebooks, each with their own sections, tabs and attachments. Unlike Evernote, OneNote lets you tap or click anywhere on a page to add text exactly where you want it, almost like a piece of paper.

OneNote’s editing and organization features are powerful. You can type, import and rearrange images and other attachments, highlight, record audio directly, sketch, add lists and much more. OneNote is free and has Windows, macOS, iOS and Android apps.

5. Roam Research

We saved Roam Research for last because it thinks a little more outside the box than the others when it comes to organizing one’s thoughts, findings and research. Roam is in beta right now and currently only exists as a web app, although the founder promises offline functionality and native apps are on their way.

The first thing you’ll notice about Roam is that it invites you to write a “Daily Note” when you first open the app for the day. That makes it ideal for journaling enthusiasts — or anybody who wants to start journaling but needs a reminder.

The marquee feature here is what’s called note-linking. You can intuitively and instantly link each note to another, in order to create a “web” of information that flows naturally. A Graph Overview gives a birds-eye view of the web as you’re building it. It’s pricy at $15/month, but many users already swear it’s changing the way they take notes, stay organized and even develop fresh ideas.

There’s an App for That (And for Everyone)

Did you find a note taking app here that suits your workflow? The best note taking apps are ones that stay out of your way until you need it, and that have all the features you need for your career or lifestyle.

You can prioritize free or low-price note applications, or you can spring for something more powerful and watch your professional life or creative spirit take off in no time.

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