The 10 Best Note-Taking Apps in 2019


– Hey, what’s going on guys? So it has come to one of those fairly infrequent points in my life where I start to reevaluate
some of the tools that I’m using to get my work done. And this time around my critical eye has fallen on the apps that hold my
thoughts and machinations. I like that word, it’s a
good word, machinations. Anyway, yes, it is time to
talk about note taking apps because after about a full
week of let’s be honest here far more research than I should
have done for this topic. I am now ready to present to you my top 10 note-taking apps in 2019. Now before we dive in I do want to talk a little
bit about my criteria for this list. First, the apps on this list primarily use text as their input method because I can type a lot
faster than I can write and I want to be able
to type and get data out at the speed at which I think. So while we’re gonna talk about apps like Evernote and OneNote which can support drawing to an extent, we’re not gonna focus on apps that primarily use hand writing
as their method of input like Noteshelf 2 for the iPad. Plus a lot of those apps have integrations with Evernote anyway. Secondly, every app I’m
gonna talk about here has some form of cross
platform availability. Not every app on the list is
available on every platform but nothing on this list is
available on only one OS. And finally criteria number three which I find to be the
most important criteria, I don’t think an app
is the note-taking app unless it combines its
note-taking or editor area with its UI for browsing files or notes. I think this is crucial
for note-taking app, because I’m constantly
referencing different notes, searching for things, and I want to have all that
available in one window. So that means apps like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, Dropbox Paper are all not going to make the cut here. Though I do have to admit the
Dropbox Paper in particular has probably the best writing
experience in writing app that I’ve ever tried. Though we do have one app on this list that does come very close
to that level of greatness. So stay tuned for that app. Before we get to that one though, we do have to go to the
other entries on my list. And where better to
start than with Evernote. Yes, Evernote. The granddaddy of
syncing note-taking apps. I’ve been using Evernote for darn near nine years at this point and I have to admit that
it’s a very powerful tool that I basically can’t get
myself to break away from. Its got a pretty capable rich text editor, the ability to share
notebooks with other people. It’s got tags, the
ability to save searches and a ton of different
integrations with other apps. It also features optical
character recognition which means that you can
scan in images with text and it can make that text searchable and you can also annotate
images in the app as well. But for all its strengths,
Evernote frustrates me, and that’s primarily because you cannot create nested
hierarchies of notebooks. You can do notebooks and
you can notebook stacks, but that’s it. Now some people out there, like the writer Michael Hyatt for example, advocate using a tag based structure to gain that hierarchy instead. But that doesn’t really work because on the Evernote mobile apps those tags are not going
to show in their hierarchy, they’re all alphabetical,
so it kind of breaks down. Still, Evernote is incredibly powerful, it’s available on
basically every platform. And because of those reasons
I am continuing to use it at least for certain parts my work flow, even though I have many
other options in 2019. Speaking of other options,
let’s now talk about OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is probably the closest competitor to
Evernote in terms of features as you’re gonna find
similar image support, optical character recognition, the ability to annotate images and honestly the editor area is a lot more flexible and
customizable than Evernote is. Additionally, Microsoft OneNote
is free, like actually free. The only way you’d ever
pay for Microsoft OneNote if you decided to upgrade
your OneDrive storage as that’s the only way
the ever charge you money, they just use OneDrive for their storage. That being said, I personally
just can’t get into OneNote. I know a lot of people out there love it, it’s incredibly powerful
which is why it’s on my list, but it doesn’t work for me because you cannot sort
notes within your notebooks by date modified, date
created or alphabetically. You can only drag them around like they’re actual note
cards or pages in a notebook. And that combined with
limited tagging capabilities and the same number of
organizational levels of hierarchy as you get in Evernote,
you don’t get more, it makes OneNote kind of
a no go for me personally. That brings us over to Bear, which is an absolutely beautiful app that I wish that I could use as a daily driver in my work flow. But Bear is a Mac and iOS exclusive and that’s kind of a bummer because I also use
Windows on a daily basis alongside my Mac and iPhone. That being said, if you are a Mac and
iPhone only kind of person, Bear is definitely worth
your consideration. This is primarily because
unlike Evernote and OneNote, Bear has a beautiful
hybrid markdown editor. And if you’re not familiar with markdown, it’s a markup language that allows you to format
your text as you type by putting different
symbols around your text. So for example, you can
put two stars around a word to bold that word. Now a lot of markdown editors force you to write in plain text and then you can only
preview your formatted text. But Bear doesn’t do that, it actually format your text as you write which I really really like. Additionally, Bear also has a pretty interesting organizational system that does let you create as many levels of hierarchy as you like and they use tags to achieve this. By typing hash tags in your document and then using slashes to
create additional tags beyond it you can create your own
organizational structure. Now some people don’t like having tags right in the editor window like that but some people might not mind that. And I also have to give a shout
out to their archive feature which lets you archive notes
and take them out of search and your organizational
hierarchy but not delete them. Of course if you are an Apple
exclusive kind of person then we do have to consider
Apple’s own notes program. Mainly because it’s free and unlike Bear, if you happen to not have access to an Apple computer at some point or you’re a part-time Windows guy like me, you can at least access
your notes at icloud.com. Now though Apple Notes doesn’t have the awesome hyper markdown
capabilities of Bear or some other apps we’re gonna talk about, it does have really nice formatting tools. And to my eyes, the default formatting looks better than it does on Evernote. Additionally, yep, you guessed it, you can indeed create your own nested list of hierarchical folders and I love that feature. Moving on to the next item on our list, we are now at Google Keep which is a pretty nice
and simple note-taking app that’s available in the browser and also on pretty much all
of your devices as well. Now when I was testing Google Keep the number one word that kept coming up to
my mind was simplicity, it’s a very simple note-taking app. Very simple but effective
formatting options and you can even change the
background color of your notes to visually distinguish them. The problem for me though is there’s only one level
of tags that you can create, you cannot create a hierarchical level of basically anything, so there’s no hierarchical organization. So I guess if you’re gonna use Google Keep as a note-taking app, you’re gonna want to rely
mostly on their search function. And I guess with it being Google, that search function is
probably pretty good. But that being said, since it lacks true
organizational hierarchy, I don’t see this as a viable alternative to Evernote or OneNote
or anything more complex. But if you want a scratch
pad for taking notes and setting reminders for later, Google Keep could be a good bet. That brings us over to Notion. And I know a lot of you
guys were waiting for me to talk about Notion. It’s definitely the app that I get the most
questions about these days and for good reason, because
notion is stupidly powerful. It’s definitely the most
flexible tool on this list, allowing you to layout
pages however you want, create an infinite hierarchy
organization on the sidebar and even interlink between pages easily. It’s also got a great
hybrid markdown editor that’s very similar to the
one you’re gonna find in Bear, though it does have some quirks that keep me from really loving it, such as the fact that you
cannot precisely select text if it goes outside a single
block of information. But my gripes about the editor aside, Notion can do things
that no other app can do, that’s mainly because the combination of a couple of different features. First, their table feature is
actually a database feature, so every row in a table
actually links to its own page And secondly, they’ve
got a templating feature that allows you to make basically
anything into a template. And I have combined these two
features to build Notion out into an incredibly powerful
video management platform that has made our editing
process so much smoother. So in one area of the app I’ve got a database with all of our videos who’s sponsoring them,
their publish dates, all kinds of good information like that. But if you click into any video you’ll see there’s a very
well laid out template that allows for us to create a B-Roll database, a script and also has some checklists that are automatically populated every single time you do a video. So for very complicated processes like going through the publishing process, we can just go to that
automatically generate a checklist and make sure nothing gets left behind. Now like I said, I get a lot of questions about Notion over on
Twitter and on Instagram. So if you guys want to see a more detailed Notion video on this channel, definitely let me know in
the comments down below. Right now the verdict is out on if it’s a great note-taking app, but it’s definitely a great
organizational app in general and it’s, again, very flexible. All right, let’s talk
about Standard Notes. Now Standard Notes as far as
I can tell, I could be wrong, but I think Standard Notes
is the only app on my list that is developed by one single developer. Given that fact, I’ve got to
say that I’m pretty impressed with everything the developer has been able to accomplish with this app. For one it is easily the most
security focused app on list as everything you write
is encrypted by default and only you can access it. Now you’ll immediately notice that the free version of Standard Notes is just a plain text editor. There is a note browsing window but you can’t write markdown,
there’s no rich text editing, it’s just plain text. But upgrade to their extended version and you get a whole bunch of extensions that you can optionally turn on or off. There are several different
editors to choose from, including multiple markdown
editors, a rich text editor and even a code editor. And this is really cool, you can choose which
editor you want to use on a note by note basis. You can create custom
folders with your tags and these are infinitely nestable and you can even define custom searches based on those tags or
even other information and then save those
searches within the app. Standard Notes is not perfect though. For one, the image support
is kind of lacking right now as you have to host your images elsewhere to have them displayed within the app. And you also cannot drag and drop notes between different folders or tags. Still, I’ve got to say
that I am pretty impressed with what the developer
accomplished so far. Now we are on to, me taking a break and playing with this puzzle because, well, there’s a
lot of items on this list. Alright, enough of that,
let’s talk about Slite. Slite is by design a very
team focused note-taking app that could also work pretty
well for a solo note-taker. It’s got an absolutely
fantastic hybrid markdown editor that I found pretty similar
to the one in Dropbox Paper which allows you to format
your text on-the-fly and also embed images and
videos and even tables. I’m also a big fan of their
table of contents view which lets you quickly zoom to different headings within your note. And this is something you’ll find in Google Docs and Dropbox Paper and it’s something we even
built into the articles in the latest version of College Info Geek but it’s very rare to
find in a note-taking app, so props to Slite for including it. Now Slite also allows you to create a nested hierarchy of notes within the app so you can organize things. Though the way they
implement it is kind of weird because one side you’ve got channels and then within the middle part of the app that’s where you can
create these collections which are infinitely nestful. The only problem is that you can only sort by a recency on a channel level. So their sorting options
are a little less powerful than other apps can offer you. Now much like Notions, Slite
is built primarily for teams, so you can collaboratively edit a document with somebody in real time. There’s also this great comment section that puts comments in a nice little window to the side of your
editor, I really like that. Slite is also available on
mobile apps and on the web and basically every platform out there. So at least from a design perspective it seems to be one of
the best note-taking apps that I could actually find when doing the research for this video. My main gripe with it right
now, at least right now is the experience of using it. Because it can be slow at times and I’ve also run to some bugs where a text actually isn’t formatted after I’ve put the
formatting tags around it. That being said, Slite
is a pretty new company and I do have to admit that
when I tested a few months ago it was much slower than it is now, so they’re making big improvements and I’m gonna be keeping an eye on the team’s progress going forward. But that is talk about the future and we are living in the present. And at present, in my
opinion the note-taking app with the best organizational
structure of them all is our ninth app on the list, Ulysses. Now Ulysses is often billed as an app for serious novelists and writers but I think it can also work really well as a note-taking app. And that’s because primarily it has that amazing organizational system that I just alluded to. Not only can you create a nested hierarchy of as many folders as you want, but when you go into a top-level folder you’re able to see the
notes within subfolders along with notes in that
top-level folder as well and I love that. Additionally, you can
define sorting options for every single folder in the app. You can create custom
searches, you can do tags, there’s an archive view,
there’s an inbox view, there’s a favorites view,
there’s recency views. Ulysses basically has it all
and I absolutely love it. The biggest bummer is, just like Bear it’s only on Mac and iOS platforms. So I can’t use it unless I want to just totally give up my Windows
PC as a writing device. So that leads us to this question. What does a guy who uses a Windows computer and a Mac
computer on a daily basis and who really wants a great
writing experience to do? Well in my case, the answer is to use the last app on our list which is Typora. Typora is a desktop writing app that has the best writing
experience I’ve ever had next to Dropbox Paper. It’s got that hybrid
markdown writing system that automatically formats
your writing as you type, it’s much faster than Slite. And unlike Bear, again it’s on Windows along with Mac and even Linux. It’s also full of features
for serious writers like a focus mode that dims the text that you’re not currently working on. A table of contents mode for zooming between your outline headings just like in Slite, and
themes, lots and lots of themes which you can customize
with CSS if you want. However there are some caveats. Like I said, Typora is
a desktop writing app. There is no mobile app right
now which is kind of a bummer. The other thing is that Typora
almost didn’t make my list because unlike everything
else that I’ve talked about, it doesn’t actually store
or sync your notes itself, it’s purely a markdown editor. The reason still fits my
definition of a note-taking app is because of its file browser. Once you’ve opened up a folder in the app you can easily drill down
into all the subfolders and open up as many documents as you want. But again the biggest downside here is the lack of a good mobile app. Now I don’t really care
too much about this since I’m really only using
Typora for serious writing, for like finishing
articles or video scripts. But if you really need to
access your Typora documents, remember they are just markdown files within your folder
system on your computer. So if you’re using
Dropbox or Google Drive, then you can get a markdown editor for your iPhone or Android that can access those cloud
platforms such as iA Writer. So now it’s time to come to a verdict. Which app on this list wins? Honestly, it is pretty hard to come to a definitive conclusion on this because everyone has
different features they want, different needs, different
devices they use, different budgets. So instead of just recommending one app I’m gonna name some winners
in a few different categories and then it’s up to you to choose. For the actual writing experience, again, the win goes to Typora. Slite is also pretty good, but I’m waiting for it to
get a little less buggy and a little more snappy. So I’m gonna be keeping my eye on that and using Typora in the meantime. For note organization,
the win goes to Ulysses. Again with infinite nestable folders and tags and custom searches, really nothing else out there
beats it, at least in my eyes. For overall capability and
my general recommendation, I still have to give the win to Evernote. Yeah, it doesn’t have markdown support which I really really want
along those nestable folders, but otherwise it’s got
a ton of capabilities. Though I do have to say
that Notion in particular is really nipping at the heels of Evernote in the capability department. And if you care more about those database and templating features, then you might actually
think it’s more capable. Now I do want to make one last note here. With all these devices and
apps and capabilities we have, it can be really easy to
overcomplicate things. Because if you’re anything like me, having all these capabilities makes it very tempting
to try and do too much. And that’s why I am once again listening to Greg McKeown’s excellent book Essentialism: The
Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This was one of my
favorite books from 2017 and it’s one that, at least
for me is worth returning to because it has great
advice for figuring out how to narrow down your focuses in life. And honestly this is one of the areas where I tend to struggle the most. Now if you also want to get more focused with your priorities, you wanna start digging into essentialism, then you are in luck, because you can start listening to it for free today on Audible. All you need to do is go
over to audible.com/thomas or text Thomas to 500-500 on your phone and you can download that audiobook or any audiobook of your choosing for free and you’re also gonna get a free 30-day trial of
their service as well. And once you start that trial you are quickly going to find out that Audible is the best place to get audiobooks on the entire internet. They have an unmatched
selection of audiobook titles across tons of different genres, including biographies and
psychology and sci-fi. And once you download an audiobook it is yours to keep forever regardless of whether or not you cancel, you’re always gonna be
able to listen to it across all of your devices. So if you want to gain the
ability to learn new things wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whether it’s going on a long bike ride or cooking or doing chores, then once again go over
to audible.com/Thomas or text Thomas to 500-500 on your phone to get that free audiobook download and a free 30-day trial of their service. Big thanks as always to Audible
for sponsoring this video and being a supporter of the channel. And as always guys, thank
you so much for watching. Hopefully you got a lot of
value out of this video. Hopefully you’ve got something
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