Google Docs is perhaps the most widely used service for writing something up and sharing it with others, despite being a more traditional word processor. There are several key aspects of Docs that make it a powerful notetaker.
First, its flexible collaboration features allow you to share notes with others in real time. Multiple team members can edit the same document at once, and easily traceable changes prove useful during cross-functional tasks. You can leave a suggestion on various words or images and start a comment thread to allow for easy back-and-forth. Leveraging this feature allows collaborators to discuss and reach conclusions without ever leaving the app. Additionally, Docs (and Google Drive in general) has a simple organizational structure with folder set-up that makes it easier to keep track of where you keep all of your documents. The search capability within Google Docs is one of the better ones out there as well, allowing for flexible search queries to pinpoint the exact document you are looking for.
On the flip side, other notetaking apps have more extensive organizational structure capabilities so if complete order is necessary for you, some of the other applications may be more intuitive for day-to-day use. Furthermore, the search parameters are hard to learn so even though they are powerful, it is far from easy to use.
Price: Free up to 15GB of storage across all Google apps
Google Keep looks exactly like the Post-Its that you would have on your desk, and that is largely how Google wants you to use them. You write down your thoughts, stick them in a place where you can get back to them later, and maybe even move it somewhere permanent. Keep makes it easy to get started since having a Gmail account is all that’s needed to get writing. The benefit of being part of Google is that it plays very nicely across the rest of the Google Suite, allowing you to drag Keep notes directly into Docs or have them up side-by-side with things like Calendar and Drive.
Unfortunately, there is no real organizational structure with Keep so having tons of notes will look like a wall of messy Post-It notes, but for quick and easy note-taking, Keep is a great solution from Google.
Price: Free up to 15GB of storage across all Google apps
Notion is one of the most powerful applications on the list because it offers a flexible, database driven experience. You can create master templates that are easily accessible for repeated use. This feature may be helpful for standardized processes such as conducting user interviews; you can create a master template and recycle it for every user interview session to automatically have structure as you start your calls. Notion also allows you to create charts that act as databases, where each row becomes its own page that you can update. The organizational capabilities of Notion also mean that it’s easy to structure your documentation and information in the way that suits you best. On top of all of this, Notion is aesthetically pleasing with a minimal design language that feels great to use on a daily basis. If simple notes and sentences is all you need, then Notion is probably overkill. However, the overall package Notion offers is something that can really drive productivity.
At Xoba, we use Notion for our internal documentation, and its hierarchical organization means we even use it for our own company intranet!
Price: Limited free tier, Paid plan from $8/month/user
Roam Research offers a writing experience that is excellent for the power user. With strong Markdown support out of the box, you can start to write the moment you launch the application. The standout feature of Roam Research is its note linking capabilities. Once you have multiple notes written out, you can link them together to create a web of ideas and information, ultimately alleviating the need for folders. The app provides a Graph Overview that shows these connections in a web format, which is a welcome alternative to the typical folder structure you see in other notetaking apps, especially for the more visual organizationalist.
Some things to consider when looking at Roam is that the learning curve is high due to different syntax and the Graph capabilities. In addition, there is no way to access the app offline. Roam is also in beta so there are bugs that occur that make the app difficult to use at times (e.g. it has crashed completely before).
That being said, Roam provides a welcome refresh to traditional notetaking apps and those with the ability to get through the learning phase can find themselves using this every day.
Price: From $15/month
Evernote is one of the most popular notetaking apps and was an early leader in the segment. It blazed the trail for what a notetaking application should do. It’s very feature complete as well, allowing for text, image, audio, document, and many more types of notes. The organizational method is intuitive, and the search capability allows for a quick find of your notes. Evernote also allows you to scan and save images, so you can store them in your notes as well. Unfortunately, there is no Markdown support so more flexible notetaking is not possible. Overall, Evernote has done a great job capturing the entire notetaking experience but it does come at a cost.
Price: Limited free tier, Paid plan from $7.99/month
Perhaps one of the best things that OneNote has to offer is that it can do everything that Evernote can but is free – everything works right out of the box. The biggest difference is that writing on OneNote feels like writing on paper. When creating content, you can go anywhere on the page and add content there. The experience makes it feel as if you are writing or drawing on a large canvas. Just like Evernote, notes that are written, visual, or audio can all be part of your OneNote. However, the organization capabilities are lacking and OneNote can tend to feel overwhelming with more and more notes. Can’t beat free though.
At Xoba, we understand that notetaking is a necessary part of work. We wanted to do our research before settling on tools and base our decision on our personalized needs. We found that Google Docs and Notion keep our company running. We also know that searching across all of these notetaking tools is a huge pain. Today, we support search across your Google Docs and plans to expand across the rest of these applications are in the works!
There are a lot of great choices for notetaking apps in this day and age, so feel free to try them all out and see what works for you. Unlike the Greeks with their notetaking, nothing is set in stone.