best note taking apps
The best note taking apps can help you organise your life. Source: AFP

Are you still searching for the best note taking apps before the start of a new academic year? 

Maybe you are inspired to try out the iconic KonMari method after watching Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”. 

Or you want to keep up with the niftiest tools that will help you remember more and learn better at school or uni. 

Either way, you’ve come to the right place.

Important information had a 34% chance of being remembered if they were contained in notes. Those not in note only had a 5% chance of being remembered — that’s nearly six times less probability.

The best note taking apps today increase our chances even more.

While note taking has developed into an art form with technology, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. 

Remember, don’t let TikTok reels and Pinterest boards fool you into the aesthetic trap. 

Having an elaborate Kanban board on your app’s homepage looks nice, but spending too much time decorating your spread takes time away from your goal of jotting and organising your notes efficiently.  

So, what should you consider when choosing the best note-taking apps? There are three important factors:

  • The device: Some apps are compatible only with certain operating systems or gadgets. 
  • Your thinking patterns: How you think affects how you store and process information.
  • Your note taking style: Do you mostly type or use a stylus on a tablet? Some apps are good for both, while others are better on keyboards. 

Before we move to our picks on the best note taking apps, let’s dive into the philosophy behind the Kon Mari method and the benefits of note taking.

What is the Marie Kondo mindset?

KonMari is a decluttering and organising system that promises nothing less than improvements in every aspect of your life. 

You take all your worldly belongings, put them in a pile, hold up each one, and ask yourself if it sparks joy. 

If it does not, you’d thank the item and get rid of it. If it does, you will stow it in an orderly fashion.

These principles are easy to apply to physical items such as clothes, books, papers, and many more. 

In “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,”  Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, known for her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” does just that when she visits the homes of American families to declutter their life. 

But what about the things that clutter your life without taking up any physical space? 

Channelling Kondo’s spirit, we can apply her tidying philosophy to various categories of digital clutter.

Go through each one of your notes, give it a good look and ask the only question that matters: does it spark joy? 

That is the crux of Kondo’s tidying philosophy — not “Do I use it?”, not “Might I need it?”, just “Does this actually make me feel good?” 

If you find yourself looking at an outdated note that you have not read for a long time, discard them or archive them  — but remember to thank it for its service first.

best note taking apps

Everyone has a different note taking style, so it’s important to choose an app that suits your routine. Source: AFP

Why is it important to choose the best note-taking apps?

A good note taking app can help you in so many ways. 

According to practising physician and researcher Elizabeth Butler, here are a few benefits of having an effective note taking habit:

  • You can capture insights: By having a personal knowledge management system, you are practising an intentional, mindful way to organise and manage all the information that flows into your daily life. This lets you make unique links between them which can lead to novel ideas. 
  • You can get ahead at work: Employers value those who can quickly access crucial information at work. Plus, there are no backups in a paper notebook. 
  • You can efficiently finish your thesis or dissertation: PhD research is intense and requires strict discipline. There are lots of data analysis and project management — which will depend on solid note taking. 
  • You could craft content for your blog: A good note taking habit is the foundation for a solid content management system which allows you to manage, source, and build on new ideas.
  • Stay ahead when things get busy: A resilient, flexible note taking workflow in your personal knowledge management system can help you prepare for those extra busy times at uni that can come out of nowhere. 
best note taking apps

Never lose sight of what’s on your mind again with these apps. Source: AFP

Here are the eight best note taking apps in 2023 for students:

1. Notion

Good for: Those who want to organise their entire life 

What’s not great: Can’t work offline, 5MB limit

Available on: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Web

Notion is a versatile app that, while not specifically designed for students, offers an excellent way to take and organise notes effortlessly.

The best part is that it is compatible across all platforms, allowing seamless synchronisation between your phone, tablet, and computer, ensuring you can access your notes conveniently from any device.

Apart from note-taking, Notion provides lots of features that cater to students’ needs. It includes calendars and Kanban boards that enable the creation of checklists and efficient management of assignments and tasks. 

A unique feature is the ability to turn anything into a customisable template for future use, enhancing the user’s experience.

For collaborative note-taking, Notion is an ideal choice. It is a powerful, database-driven app that offers flexible pages with a template engine, tables functioning as databases, nested hierarchical organisation, and a hybrid editor supporting Markdown and UI formatting. 

You can even drag entire web pages into the workspace. With the use of blocks that act like tags, the application’s functionality becomes limitless. 

However, it lacks offline support, making an internet connection necessary. The free plan comes with a 5 MB file upload limit.

2. Evernote

Good for: Those who want to scan book pages and documents

What’s not great: Limited organisation features 

Available on: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Web

Evernote is an exceptional note-taking application suitable for personal, academic, and professional use, gaining popularity since its inception in 2004. The app provides many features to help students in taking and organising notes effectively.

One noteworthy feature is the ability to upload images and scans, which Evernote converts into fully searchable text using OCR (optical character recognition).

Though lacking a handwriting feature, Evernote offers Penultimate, a digital notebook ideal for handwritten notes. The best part is that Penultimate syncs seamlessly with Evernote, allowing OCR scanning of handwritten notes for easy searching.

Evernote stands out as a top contender for note-taking software. However, its drawback lies in its cost, which may be difficult for students on a budget to afford.  

best note taking app

Microsoft One Note offers a cross-platform experience with all the features found in Evernote. Source: AFP

3. Microsoft One Note

Good for: All features are free

What’s not great: Notes can’t be organised by newest or recently modified 

Available on: Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, Web

OneNote shares many features with Evernote, and it even outperforms the latter in some aspects. For instance, OneNote excels at handwriting notes without requiring any additional tools. However, it does have its drawbacks, such as a cluttered interface and limited organisation features.

In 2014, Microsoft made OneNote free to download and use. It has become a fantastic note-making app for students, though the free version has some restrictions. 

OneNote is the best free note-taking app on this list, offering a cross-platform experience with all the features found in Evernote. It allows users to work across unlimited devices and provides freeform text boxes and drawing capabilities.

The app offers various templates for various purposes, including e-books and university-focused templates, enabling students to organise their semester’s work effortlessly. The “draw” option provides complete freedom in taking notes without any limitations.

4. Obsidian

Good for: Those who want to create mindmaps

What’s not great: Have to pay extra to sync across devices 

Available on: Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows

Considered the top choice for regular note-takers, Obsidian is a Markdown-based note-taking app that utilises a local file and folder structure, ensuring accessibility and simplicity for all users.

It offers extensive customisation options, allowing users to develop their own plugins and toggle features based on their preferences.

Obsidian boasts powerful organisational features, including inter-page linking and a graph view to visualise note connections.

The app is available across multiple platforms and can be used offline without an internet connection or account. 

However, it has limited image support, and note syncing across devices requires payment. 

best note taking apps

Google Keep is a simple, cross-platform note-taking app that integrates smoothly with other Google tools. Source: AFP

5. Google Keep

Good for: Anyone who uses Google a lot

What’s not great: Poor at organising notes

Available on: Android, iOS, Web

Google Keep is a simple, cross-platform note-taking app that integrates smoothly with other Google tools. Its only downside is the lack of organisational features.

For students seeking an online note-taking solution, Google Keep is an excellent option. This free Google app is well-suited for light usage and seamlessly syncs across platforms.

It easily integrates with many Google services, such as Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Docs, and Sheets. Google Keep also allows users to create audio notes on mobile devices.

If you heavily rely on Google applications for your work, Google Keep is the perfect choice, ranking at the top of the list of best note taking apps for Google users.

Use up to 50 tags to categorise notes and highlight them with colours for effective studying. Time-bound reminders can be set to ensure important tasks are never missed. 

6. Zoho Notebook

Good for: Those who want to use audio notes

What’s not great: No built-in PDF annotation

Available on: Android, iOS, Web

Similar to Evernote and Microsoft OneNote, Zoho Notebook provides a range of features that streamline the note-taking process. 

What makes it different is its unique experience of organising notes into notebooks and notecards, each tailored for different types of content, such as smart notes, text notes, sketches, checklists, audio notes, photos, and files. 

What makes this app better is the absence of ads, even in the free version. However, some features may require upgrading to a paid plan.

best note taking app

Apple Notes offers simplicity along with most of the essential features students need while eliminating the need to download additional apps. Source: AFP

7. Apple Notes

Good for: Syncing notes across different devices 

What’s not great: Only available to Apple users 

Available on: iOS, Mac

If you are an Apple user looking for a free note-taking app, here’s your answer. 

Apple Notes is the perfect college note-taking app. It offers simplicity along with most of the essential features students need while eliminating the need to download additional apps.

Apple Notes provides reliable organisation and formatting features, making it an excellent choice for students. 

One unique aspect is its ability to edit notes across devices with a browser through iCloud, removing the necessity for separate file-sharing services. This integration with iCloud and Siri is particularly beneficial for users deep in the Apple ecosystem.

The app supports folders for organised note-taking and allows users to insert images, text, scanned documents, and even hand-drawn content. 

amazing english words form hindi

The Bear app is one of the best note taking apps in 2023. Rest assured, no bears were harmed in the making. Source: AFP

8. Bear

Good for: Those who want to archive notes

What’s not great: Free subscription has limited features 

Available on: iOS, Mac

Bear is a unique blend of word processing and note-taking, offering users the best of both worlds. It serves as a powerful Markdown-based note-taking tool with an exceptional writing experience. 

The organisational system relies on tags and nested hierarchy, including an archive feature to save notes. It is particularly well-suited for those seeking creativity, ensuring no ideas or inspirations are forgotten. 

The app boasts a clean interface and the premium version provides additional themes. However, a downside is that Bear does not support Windows and has limited organisational capabilities.