The Best Note-Taking Apps of 2021

The Best Note-Taking Apps of 2021

Evernote | OneNote | Google Keep | Apple Notes | Zoho Notebook




Maintaining an organized collection of your class notes and schedule can be difficult when you’re balancing several courses, not to mention assignments, exams, and any other activities you’re involved in. This is why it’s so important to have a good note-taking app.


Note-taking apps allow you to conveniently store class notes, checklists, and schedules all in one place. Switching from the traditional pen-and-paper method might be challenging for some, but the unique benefits and features of note-taking apps make the transition worth it for many college students. So what makes a good note-taking app?


We started with a list of 15 apps and narrowed them down based on three criteria: Each app must have team collaboration support, mobile and web compatibility, and a free option available. We then tested out the note-taking apps, assessing their unique abilities, organizational features, interfaces, and overall writing experiences.






Quick Guide to the Best Note-Taking Apps






Comparison of Note-Taking App Features


*Only available with a paid plan







Best Note-Taking App for Advanced Note-Takers


Evernote






Optical Character Recognition
Record Audio
Upload Photos
Web Clipping
Full Offline Support
Unlimited Devices
Draw Function




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*Only available with a paid plan


Evernote helps you organize your notes with a combination of tags and notebooks. With the free basic plan, you’ll get up to 60 MB per month and can upload files as large as 25 MB. In terms of functionality and the dashboard interface, the app is intuitive and easy to use, and has all the formatting features you could ask for.



Pros


Includes a search tool and useful tag features, making it easy to find and group your notebooks.
Features an impressive web clipper extension. When conducting research, students can clip and save an entire web page, including its text and images.


Cons


Many features are reserved for premium users. While Evernote can support offline editing, multiple file formats, and web scanning, these features are exclusive to the paid plan.
Limited number of devices with the free option. Evernote’s basic plan lets you sync up to just two devices. If you want to work across several devices, you’ll have to upgrade to the premium plan.
The premium plan is pricey. Though students get 50% off Evernote’s $69.99 premium plan for a year, there are other apps with similar features that are entirely free.


Our Takeaway

Evernote impresses with its breadth of features and robust functionality, but the high price to fully unlock all of its capabilities makes it difficult to recommend to students on a college budget. If you have the means to upgrade to the premium plan, definitely consider doing it — just remember that other apps offer similar benefits at a far smaller financial sacrifice.



Download Evernote
















Best All-Around Note-Taking App


OneNote






Optical Character Recognition
Record Audio
Upload Photos
Web Clipping
Full Offline Support
Unlimited Devices
Draw Function









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*Only available with a paid plan


Unlike most other note-taking apps, Microsoft OneNote includes nearly its full stack of features at no extra cost, providing up to 5 GB of storage and allowing for file uploads up to 100 MB. The app’s interface may overwhelm the average note-taker, but its overall writing experience is smooth and straightforward.



Pros


Allows you to draw and write freely. As you can on paper, you can click anywhere on the screen and add content to that specific spot — a particularly helpful feature for messy note-takers.
Features a sticky-notes tab for less structured notes. With OneNote’s sticky-notes tab, you can quickly jot down a thought that pops into your head.
Includes real-time collaboration. Similar to Google Docs, OneNote gives students the ability to share and edit notebooks simultaneously in real time.


Cons


Interface looks and feels a bit cluttered. OneNote lets you create notebooks within notebooks and divide notes within dividers. While this interface may seem useful, it can be tricky to navigate at times.
Lack of sorting options. OneNote doesn’t feature many sorting options, such as “newest created” or “recently modified,” for organizing your notes.


Our Takeaway

OneNote’s sharing feature is an excellent tool for learners who frequently work in study groups and on team projects. While the lack of sorting options and messy interface take away some of the allure, OneNote’s variety of features makes it one the most useful note-taking apps for college students.



Download OneNote

















Best Note-Taking App for Google Users


Google Keep






Optical Character Recognition
Record Audio
Upload Photos
Web Clipping
Full Offline Support
Unlimited Devices
Draw Function














The Google Keep interface imitates a sticky-notes layout, thereby eliminating any type of learning curve. The app permits a maximum file upload of 10 MB and provides you with 15 GB of storage, though you can purchase extra storage space if needed. It also features a minimal dashboard and allows you to work seamlessly across Google products.



Pros


A simple, easy-to-navigate interface. Familiar Google icons and a clean sticky-notes layout make this app extremely easy to learn and use.
Works well with other Google tools. With Google Keep, you can drag notes into Google Docs and Google Slides and even sync reminders with Google Calendar.


Cons


No offline support for Macs and Windows devices. Offline support is only available for students using a Chromebook or the Google Keep Android app.
Lack of hierarchical organization. The sticky-notes layout makes it simple to create notes, but there’s no sorting option available for organizing them.


Our Takeaway

Although Google Keep lets you create unlimited notes, without folders and other common organizational features, you’ll likely find it hard to sort and maintain your jottings. Nevertheless, if you prefer using Google Workspace products, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive, Google Keep should be more than sufficient for your note-taking needs.



Download Google Keep
















Best Note-Taking App for Apple Users


Apple Notes






Optical Character Recognition
Record Audio
Upload Photos
Web Clipping
Full Offline Support
Unlimited Devices
Draw Function














A handy note-taking app, Apple Notes is only available to users with an Apple ID; however, the app does offer web support, which is useful if you have an iCloud account. While Apple hasn’t provided any details on file upload limits, it states that users receive up to 5 GB of storage. The app’s interface is clean and user-friendly, and syncs all your notes across your Apple devices.



Pros


Simple organization system. Apple Notes lets you create lists of hierarchical folders and notes for easy sorting and grouping.
New formatting tools. Before iOS 11, users couldn’t add tables, headings, or bulleted lists. Now, the app includes virtually every formatting option imaginable.
Compatible with Siri. Students can give simple voice commands to quickly find notes using Siri.


Cons


Doesn’t include a web clipper. While you can get by with a third-party app to save web page content, Apple Notes doesn’t offer its own web clipper.
Recording audio. Some students prefer recording class lectures rather than writing down information. Unfortunately, Apple Notes doesn’t offer a recording feature.


Our Takeaway

Apple Notes is relatively minimal, but the user-friendly interface makes it easy to create folders and subfolders. If you have an iCloud account and are looking for a straightforward note-taking app to sync your notes across your devices, Apple Notes is among the best in the space.



Download Apple Notes
















Best Note-Taking App for Visual Thinkers


Zoho Notebook






Optical Character Recognition
Record Audio
Upload Photos
Web Clipping
Full Offline Support
Unlimited Devices
Draw Function














Zoho Notebook is a multipurpose app that works best for organizing groups of notes and checklists. Through the cloud, you can upload files up to 5 GB in size, which is far bigger than what other leading apps allow, such as Evernote (25 MB) and OneNote (100 MB). Zoho Notebook also offers unlimited storage and features an aesthetically pleasing interface to give users a fluid note-taking experience.



Pros


Can draw and add custom images on notebooks. With Zoho Notebook, you can draw and customize each note, letting you sort notebooks by classes and quickly identify groups of similar notes.
Flexible formatting abilities. Most note-taking apps require images, audio recordings, and clipped web pages to be in separate notes. But with Zoho Notebook, you can put all of these elements in the same note.


Cons


Doesn’t include optical character recognition. Zoho Notebook offers document scanning, but you can’t convert PDFs or images of text into searchable text.
Lack of organizational features. The limited view and sorting options make it challenging to work effectively with hundreds of notes.


Our Takeaway

While the lack of optical character recognition may be disappointing, Zoho Notebook remains a great option for students looking for a flexible, easy-to-use note-taking app. The ability to add images to your notebooks also adds a nice element to the visual experience.



Download Zoho Notebook










Related Pages


The Best Study Tips for College


Get expert tips on creating an ideal study space and taking effective notes for school.


Online Students’ Top 7 Study Tips


New online students will benefit from these pieces of advice on studying and learning remotely.




Feature Image: svetikd / E+ / Getty Images