The Best Note-Taking Apps for Medical Students | MedSchool Resources

The Best Note-Taking Apps for Medical Students | MedSchool Resources

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    Overview

    Note-taking is a key part of the study process. We use notes to collect, categorise, synthesize and review the large amount of information that we learn in medical school. 

    Many medical students take notes digitally, and there is a massive number of apps available for note-taking on different devices. This page is a guide to the most popular and most widely used note apps available.

    Key Features

    There are several features that we look at when deciding to use a note-taking app. These can be broken into usability, the ability to organise notes, and the ability to communicate with other apps and devices.

    • Usability

    • Easy to use – the app should be easy to get started with, easy to enter information into, and allow for easy organisation of notes.
    • Rich text – the best note apps allow for standard features such as bold and italics; it is also desirable to be able to add headings, dot points, checklists, images and links.
    • Organisation

    • Nested hierarchy – notes should be easily organisable, ideally with the ability to add many nested folders of notes.
    • Tagging – notes should be able to be tagged (e.g. #cardiology), so that similar notes can be grouped together.
    • Search – notes should be able to be searched, so that we can find the information we need more easily.
    • Communication

    • Multiple devices – the app should be usable across devices, as many of us use our phones, tablets and laptops together.
    • Cloud sync – the app should sync with the cloud, so that we can open our notes on other devices and have our changes visible as soon as possible.
    • Interfaces with other software – ideally, the app would be able to communicate with other related software. For example, Microsoft OneNote works well with other Office apps.
    • Collaboration – in some circumstances, it is desirable for the app to allow use to collaborate with others in writing and editing notes.

    Microsoft OneNote

    • Platforms

    • Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, web
    • Cost

    • Free, with no premium version

    OneNote is one of the most popular note-taking apps available. It is packed with meaty features such as the ability to clip webpages and extract text from images. 

    OneNote can be used on unlimited devices, and allows for easy collaboration with others. The app also works well with other Microsoft 365 apps. Most importantly, the app is completely free – there is no premium version.

    Unfortunately the app allows little opportunity to organise or tag notes.

    • Pros

    • Free
    • Use on unlimited devices
    • Easy collaboration
    • Integrates with other Microsoft apps
    • Cons

    • Little ability to organise
    • Can be slow

    Evernote

    • Platforms

    • Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, web
    • Cost

    • Limited free version, with premium available for $9.99 per month

    Evernote is a very popular note-taking app available on almost any device. It can take and organise multiple file types including PDF and powerpoint files, and has the ability to clip websites. 

    Notes can be tagged and searched easily, however there is less hierarchy – notes are organised into notebooks and there is no ability to create nested notebooks. 

    Importantly, the free version is relatively feature limited (you will use your 60MB quickly) and the premium version is rather expensive.

    • Pros

    • Many useful features
    • Easy to tag and search notes
    • Cons

    • Less hierarchical organisation structure
    • Limited free version and expensive premium version

    Google Keep

    • Platforms

    • iOS, Android, web
    • Cost

    • Free, with no premium version

    Google Keep is essentially a way of storing digital post-it notes. This app is incredibly easy to get started with an use, and can be used across devices. Google Keep has some features such as the ability to colour notes and extract text from images, but is text-only and there is no ability to organise or tag notes.

    • Pros

    • Free
    • Incredibly quick and simple to use
    • Use on any device
    • Cons

    • No rich text formatting – text only
    • No hierarchy or tagging of notes

    Notion

    • Platforms

    • Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, web
    • Cost

    • Free personal version, with premium available for $4 per month

    Notion is an absolutely feature-packed and flexible app that can do much more than notes. Notion is database-driven, meaning that pages work together and reference each other. As a result, the app is extremely flexible and customisable. There are a lot of templates that can be used to get started.

    Notion allows for a clear, nested hierarchy allowing you to organise information in any way you can imagine. The app also allows you to share pages and collaborate with others.

    The benefit of the app can also be a downside – the number of features can be overwhelming and there is a learning curve to getting started. The way that pages are formatted (in blocks) can be difficult to use when you’re writing large amounts of information. Currently the app requires an internet connection to use.

    There is a free personal version, with a relatively expensive premium version available.

    • Pros

    • Extremely flexible and customisable
    • Clear hierarchy
    • Free personal account
    • Allows collaboration
    • Cons

    • Can be overwhelming with a learning curve to start
    • Can be difficult to edit large amounts of text
    • Need to have an internet connection

    Bear

    • Cost

    • Free version, with premium available for $1.49 per month

    Bear is a note-taking app available on Apple devices that has a large number of features. The app is easy to use and allows advanced markup, clipping of webpages. Notes can be placed in nested folders and also tagged, allowing for easily organisation.

    Unfortunately the app is not available on Windows and Android. Syncing between devices requires a premium account.

    • Pros

    • Simple interface
    • Feature-packed free version and inexpensive premium version
    • Cons

    • Available on iOS and mac only
    • Syncing requires a premium account

    Apple Notes

    • Cost

    • Free, with no premium version

    The Apple notes app is a simple option for notes with a decent number of features. Notes can be formatted with headers, dot points, images, drawings and checklists. Notes can be organised into nested folders, but not tagged. Information can be synced between iPhone, iPad and Mac devices very easily, and can be shared with others to allow for collaboration.

    Although some formatting can be done, there are no advanced features like clipping of webpages. Notes ships for free with Apple devices, and is not available on Windows or Android.

    • Pros

    • Free
    • Simple and easy to use
    • Nested hierarchy
    • Sync between devices
    • Cons

    • iOS and Mac only
    • Limited formating tools

    SimpleNote

    • Platforms

    • Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux
    • Cost

    • Free, with no premium version

    Simplenote is a free, very simple notes app. The app allows for simple formatting only, with no advanced features. Notes can be tagged and searched, but with no ability to organise notes in a hierarchy. Simplenote syncs with the cloud allowing for use on multiple devices.

    • Pros

    • Free
    • Very quick and simple to use
    • Cloud sync – use on multiple devices
    • Cons

    • No hierarchy
    • Simple formatting only – lacks advanced features

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