Best Apps for Building a Second Brain in 2023

Generally speaking, the second brain is a way to preserve and manage our knowledge, inspiration, and insights through digital note taking software or a note management system that expands our memory and intellect to better manage and use our knowledge and increase productivity. There are many apps that can help you with building you second brain. However, they all have their own pros and cons, which makes it difficult to choose the right one. We look at some of the top apps and discuss which one is best for you.

Comparison of the 8 hottest second brain apps for 2022

We asked people on Reddit about their favorite software, and each person had their own preference. Different apps have different styles. However, some stood out, and we noticed that most youtubers and bloggers chose notion or obsidian as their containers for building a second brain. Since Obisidian boasts an easy-to-use structure and supports markdown by default, the discussion is getting hotter and hotter. Obisidian is of course our first choice.


taking note in Obsidian

Founded in 2020, Obsidian is a new face in the note-taking world, but definitely has some serious power.

Firstly, Obsidian supports Markdown natively, so if you're familiar with the programming syntax of Markdown notes, Obsidian is a great second brain application. Text, images, and to-do items can be stored in (.MD) files in Obsidian. As expected, you can create internal links at the page, block or header level.

When using Obsidian locally, this note taking software works very well, and the operation is intuitive and the display is appealing.

Additionally, Obsidian has a backlinking feature, a feature not available in any other note taking software, making it easy to automatically link notes together. For example, you can backlink most terms, such as companies, names and key terms. This will increase accidental discoveries and can build connections in several notes instead of leaving each note isolated.

However, it is not the best for cloud backup, so if you are looking for an out-of-the-box cloud backup solution for your notes, it is probably not the best option for you. For cloud syncing, you can use external clouds, such as Dropbox. You may have to pay for some cloud sync features.

As Obsidian's user base continues to grow, we can now seek answers to questions in the community or forum, which is wonderful.


taking note in Notion

Notion is definitely a star of note taking software, everyone seems to be talking about it. The main benefit of Notion is its flexibility, which makes it ideal for building a second brain.

Flexibility and personalization are two main features of Notion. In Notion, each page consists of a block, which can be customized to perform specific functions.

Would you like a bullet point? Add a block. Need a checkbox? Add a block. Want to create an H1 header? You guessed it, another block.

You can create a Dashboard to manage your life. I use your Dashboard whenever I need to access some notes, decide what video to make next, or write a blog post.

For each project you work on, you can create a separate admin page. The master database page allows you to keep track of the books you are currently reading and those you have read in the past.

Furthermore, the Notion community is quite active and can help you with problems you encounter when using it.


taking note in Evernote

Evernote's greatest strength is its reliability. The concept of digital notes was first introduced by Evernote, and while the limelight was quickly taken by the next generation, Evernote remains one of the building blocks of second brain technology today, and although some features are outdated, the cloud sync feature and reliability are still commendable.

My second reason for using Evernote is its extremely accurate optical character recognition (OCR), which makes it a great tool for storing important documents or receipts. OCR means Evernote can search actual text in a PDF or JPEG, not just the text written in the program like Notion or Obsidian. I use Evernote to store home documents, receipts that I don't want to lose, or manuals I need to retrieve from storage, which is exactly what I do.

You can use standalone apps that perform excellent ocr as an alternative to Evernote's ocr functionality.

Evernote does the best job of combining OCR functionality with digital notes.

One of Evernote's main issues is that its structure is too fixed, and it is hard to customize to each individual's needs. Notes are stored in stackable notebooks in Evernote.
Notebook storage is appropriately named "notes" and can be organized using /#tags. Although Evernote has a hierarchical structure, you cannot manipulate notes as easily as you can in Obsidian. On the other hand, Notion and Obsidian are more flexible.

In Evernote, free users are restricted in the number of login devices and the total size of notebooks.

Roam Research

taking note in Roam Research

Although I am not a roam research user, people often compare Roam Research with Obsidian, which makes it a great choice as a digital note-taking tool for building a second brain.

Its advantage is that it allows bi-directional links and can be used to track the knowledge graph of connections between notes. Markdown and /slash commands are supported, along with image, video and multimedia embedding.

Roam Research is very good at two things. It lets you create bidirectional links between notes. Also, based on the concept of graph databases, it visualizes connections between notes as knowledge graphs. It seems to be working so far.

Roam's user experience, on the other hand, is not as clear as we would expect from one of the best second brain applications. There is a learning curve and little guidance, so you are mostly relying on guesswork and community support.

Since it charges individual users and doesn't have a mobile version as of April 2022, it ranks a bit lower on this list. If you're willing to pay for your e-notes, it isn't a big deal.


taking note in Bear

Compared to Evernote, Bear Notes is a minimalist, distraction-free writing app. But that's where the similarities end. Bear is a fast, modern, and very user-friendly text editor (if you like markdown).

Are you a fan of images and videos? We have some bad news for you. Media support in the app is somewhat limited since it was designed with writers in mind. There is no support for Windows or Android apps, so if you have an Apple product, consider it.

Bear does not have notebooks or folders like the other tools on our list. Instead, it allows you to aggregate entries within nestable tabs. Each parent tag can have multiple child tags, so it's easy to create clusters of related topics.


taking note in OneNote

Though Microsoft introduced OneNote 18 years ago (during the computer era), the application has been overhauled several times and is now a surprise second-brain contender in 2022.

OneNote is installed on millions of computers worldwide, either alone or as part of the Office Productivity Suite. It is free to download and use indefinitely, is available on multiple devices, and is supported by an active development team.

OneNote represents one of the most accessible and widespread opportunities for everyone to create their own second brain.

As with other tools in the Office family, OneNote's interface uses a ribbon-based interface. If you're a Word/Excel lover, it should be right at home. It's not as "cool" as more modern applications.

Building a second brain in OneNote boils down to notebooks, sections, and pages that are cross-linked in multiple ways. OneNote handles multimedia well and comes with a handy web clipper for capturing quick web content.

OneNote can be logged in and synced across multiple devices. Syncing across devices is convenient.


taking note in Things3

Mac users can use Things3 GTD time management software, and I saw some very interesting examples of it being used for building a second brain project.

The Things3 Quick Capture tool is very handy. If I come across an article I want to read, a video I want to watch, or a company I want to research, I simply press CTRL + SPACE and a small window appears in the center of the screen. Things3 automatically captures and puts the URL of the current tab into a comment. Then, I type one of my many action verbs, such as watch:, read:, or look up:, and describe what it is, then press enter.

Shortcuts can boost productivity and increase efficiency significantly.

It works for me, and I'm not saying it would work for everyone but what I like is:

  1. Projects and areas - projects can be tagged, given due dates and intentions and can be completed and disappear
  2. Having a "when" date and time for reminders separate from the deadline. not being able to set a deadline time is also very helpful Not being able to set a deadline time is also very helpful for my application of GTD
  3. it's so pretty which makes me really want to use it and enjoy it. i'm always on top of my work

It works quite nicely with Bear. A beautiful and simple way to attach multiple attachments to a task with a link.

However, without attachments, I really like supplementing it with a notes app. KeepIt was great, but the sync was too unreliable. Bear doesn't have folders 🙁 but it's so simple and easy to use.

The system is fee-based, so if you have multiple Apple devices like a macbook or an iPad, you will need to buy them separately for each device. This is why I think free users would not prefer things3.


taking note in Craft

Craft is a new note-taking app that can work as your second brain. Craft, which launched in 2020, allows users to create engaging and rich notes on Mac, iOS and web browsers. At first glance, it may look like Apple Notes, but that's where the similarity ends.

Notes in Craft are stored as "pages" that are organized into "folders". But Craft's hierarchical organization enables the creation of sub-pages (called "cards") and even the bundling of content blocks into "groups".

It is imperative that such a complex hierarchy is linked together, and Craft has an intuitive cross-linking mechanism that aggregates all notes associated with a given page. Craft also features collaborative features and sharing (web) pages.

Nimbus Note

taking note in Nimbus Note

For building a second brain, Nimbus Note is worth checking out. It's similar to Evernote, but more powerful and flexible.

Evernote was used for years, but I switched to Nimbus two years ago & I'm happy with it.

Here are some key points about Nimbus:

It works offline (Notion does not)
Multi Level folder structure (Evernote has only one level)
It has a superior web clipper (better than Evernote).
OCR PDF & Photos (meaning your pdf files and photos are searchable) (Notion does not)
Nimbus notes can also embed videos, widgets, and websites.
Columns are supported for layouts
Supports tags (including auto-tagging)

This is a nice mobile app that has a doc scanner (I always take pictures of documents, instructions, business cards, even handwritten notes, and they become searchable)

IOS Reminder

taking note in IOS Reminder

This is not a note-taking tool, but more of a note-taking aid. Using iOS Reminder and Notion recording will allow you to capture a few moments of inspiration at any time. I find that this is a very effective way of developing a second single brain.

IOS Reminder can be a handy tool for capturing information on the go, and it's built right into your iPhone. I use reminders to keep track of anything I wish to accomplish at my desk later.

Whenever I listen to a podcast and have an interesting idea for a good blog post, I tap the Siri button on my car and say, "Adding the 10,000 hour rule to my reminders is the right thing to do, but the 100 hour rule is also the right thing to do - the hour rule blog post idea."

You can say to your siri, "Remind me to call Belen and schedule a haircut. Or, they may be less actionable, such as, "The 10,000-hour rule is right, but the 100-hour rule lets you do what you want."

This has greatly improved the efficiency of building my second brain. When I return to my desk, that reminder is waiting for me in my Task Manager's Inbox. From there, I can open Notion and create a new page with this idea.


taking note in Dynalist

Almost four years ago I asked myself the same question, and after trying a bunch of apps out there, I stayed with Dynalist and it doesn't seem I will change my mind any time soon.

The main features I was searching for were:

Cross-platform: I was using Windows and I knew I would switch to Linux anytime. I also wanted to use the app on an Android device and as a web page. So this was a deal-breaker that filtered off many apps.

No limits on how much content I write in the app, as it is very frustrating to keep in mind how much space I had in the free-tier. This had me off of Notion, since it had a 1000 block limit, but it was removed last year.

Had to be simple (minimalistic). Notion also had so many features that I spent more time thinking about how I should organize my ideas than writing them.

Sounds a little silly but it seems like it's not, but it had to have a Dark Theme. This was the reason I dropped Evernote (which was my main tool and then the origin for my search for another platform), as it seems they implemented this very recently.

Dynalist accomplishes all of this, and also has very good features like LaTeX support and code formatting, which as a Software Engineer, comes very handy.

Also has very good key bindings to speed up the process or writing, and the document or text search is lightning fast.

It's been four years, and I had written all of my notes about college subjects, online courses, programming languages snippets, independent projects, math theory, etc., and didn't gave any problems.

Why we need to build a second brain

If you are new to this, I will start by explaining it. The second brain is a knowledge management system based on digital notes. In fact he can manage not only knowledge, but even your life, career, and goal achievement. Its full name is the build a second brain (BASB) approach, created by Tiago Forte of Forte Labs.

In short, BASB (let's stick with the acronym) is a framework for capturing and organizing information to create a more reliable " backup brain".

Using the second brain, you can store all the information you encounter on a daily basis in one place, whether it is notes, documents, quotes, images, or videos. Every time you start a new project, you can find useful information quickly. We have provided a detailed explanation of the process of building a second brain in our posted article.

Any note-taking software that allows you to record, organize, and connect your notes is ideal for storing this kind of critical information. Several apps are decent choices, but we'll cover those later.


Choosing any second brain app won't won't provide superpowers overnight, but they will help you aggregate knowledge and create complex maps of thoughts, observations, facts and ideas. If you're new to this, then don't hesitate to pick from Obsidian and Notion, or if you're expecting a stable cloud service, Evernote and OneNote are your thing. Which is your favored eNote? Share it with us in the comments!