The 10 Best Apps for Note-Taking in 2020

Taking notes is easy if you have a smartphone, tablet, or computer

The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home
The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home

Whether you're a full-time student, taking a course, or just trying to stay organized in business or at home, note-taking apps for computers and mobile devices make it easy to gather, sort, and store information. Here are our picks for the 10 best note-taking apps for students, or anyone who wants to stay on top of the flood of information in their lives.

The note-taking apps on this list include apps for iOS and Android devices as well as Windows and Mac desktops.

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Best for the Apple Universe: Notes

iOS Notes app with hand-written Camping notes and a groceries list
What We Like
  • Preinstalled on iOS and macOS devices.

  • Supports the Apple Pencil for iPad note-taking.

  • Use Siri voice commands to create a note.

  • Share Notes for group lists.

  • Syncs between iOS devices with the same iCloud account.

What We Don't Like
  • No support for Android or Windows devices.

Notes is Apple's note-taking app, and it's deeply integrated with iOS and macOS. This handy tool lets users jot down quick notes or use an Apple Pencil or your finger to take handwritten notes. Easily create checklists and share with others, so everyone can tap to check off an item or edit the Note. Thanks to iCloud, keep all your Notes in sync across all your devices.

Notes is incredibly powerful and feature-rich. Pin important notes to the top of your list, add photos, create sketches, scan paper documents into Notes, add attachments and tables, search Notes, and use Siri to start a Note.

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Best for Group Projects: Notability

Notability app on an iPad with drawing of a bike
What We Like
  • Edit PDF documents.

  • Group notes by subject and create dividers.

  • Supports the Apple Pencil.

  • Syncs notes with audio so you can listen to the original source.

  • Work two notes side-by-side.

What We Don't Like
  • No Android or Windows support.

Notability is a third-party note-taking app for Apple devices that's a good alternative for those who don't like the feel of Notes. Notability is solid when it comes to creating and editing text and image notes, but its real appeal is its ability to edit and annotate PDFs.

Notability's audio features are also noteworthy. Have collaborators leave audio notes when working on a project, or record a lecture or meeting and let Notabilly sync your notes to the recording so you can replay what was said. Share Notability notes via Google Drive, AirDrop, any email service, and Dropbox.

Notability is $8.99 on the App Store and $1.99 on the Mac App Store.

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Best for the Google Universe: Google Keep

Google Keep open in browser with several notes on the screen
What We Like
  • Bright, colorful design.

  • Easy to find content.

  • Set location- and time-based reminders.

  • Share lists to collaborate with others.

  • Notes sync across devices.

What We Don't Like
  • Users say the browser-based version can be buggy.

Google Keep is a free Google service that lets users create and edit notes that automatically sync to the cloud via their Google account. In addition to the usual note-taking features, such as lists and audio recordings, Google Keep lets you set location-based and time-based reminders, organize notes with labels and colors, collaborate on notes, and much more.

Download Google Keep on your iOS or Android device, install its Chrome extension, or use its web version.

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Best for Multiple Devices: Notebook

Zoho Notebook app on an iPad with various travel notes
What We Like
  • Has Firefox, Chrome, and Safari browser extensions for clipping and saving media.

  • Available on multiple platforms.

  • Group notes together into notebooks.

  • Recipe Card feature pulls photo and instructions from supported sites.

  • Record meetings with Audio Card feature.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need to make a Zoho account to use the product.

Notebook is a fantastic free app available on multiple platforms, with supportive browser extensions that make it easy to gather notes from the web. The app automatically detects when you're creating an audio, video, or another type of note and formats it accordingly. For example, a sound recording will display audio controls, while a note with location data will feature a map.

Notebook offers a variety of ways to capture and organize thoughts, supporting text, video, audio, PDFs, information from other programs like Word or Excel, and much more.

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Best for the Microsoft Universe: OneNote

Microsoft OneNote on an IPad with bicycle and other notes
What We Like
  • Converts handwritten notes into editable text.

  • Works with the Surface Pen and Apple Pencil.

  • Acts as a digital sketchbook.

What We Don't Like
  • Syncing notes can take some time.

OneNote is Microsoft's free note-taking app, and it's available on multiple platforms for smartphones, tablets, desktops, and even the Apple Watch. OneNote lets users create text and media notes, record audio, and use the Surface Pen on compatible Surface devices. It's compatible with other stylus devices, as well, including the Apple Pencil.

OneNote saves all data to the cloud and syncs with other devices through a free Microsoft account. Many users will already have a Microsoft account in use with OneDrive, Office, Outlook, and more.

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Best for Real-Time Collaboration: Microsoft Whiteboard

Microsoft Whiteboard app for taking notes.


What We Like
  • Streamlined design.

  • Offers real-time collaboration.

  • Use your finger or a stylus.

  • Generates an email summary of your board.

  • Mark "Do Not Erase" to keep a board safe.

What We Don't Like
  • No Android support.

  • Must use on a device with integrated touch.

Microsoft Whiteboard is an innovative tool that aims to replace traditional physical whiteboards. Draw or write on the digital whiteboard within the app, and team members with access can see your changes in real-time. Anyone with access can add their own edits and comments as if you were in a meeting in the same room.

You'll need a Microsoft account or Microsoft 365 account to use this free tool.

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Best for Long-Form Content: Bear

Bear Notes app on iPad, iPhone, and computer screen
What We Like
  • Focus Mode helps you avoid distractions.

  • Supports the iPad's trackpad.

  • Great for journaling.

  • Supports multiple export options.

  • Organize ideas with hashtags.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need to upgrade to a paid subscription to access important features.

  • No Android version.

Bear combines the features of a note-taking app and a word processing app to create a powerful tool for long-form content and journaling. It supports syncing between Macs and iOS devices, creating to-do lists, and multimedia elements. Bear really shines when it comes to its text formatting, which is on par with programs such as Microsoft Word. 

Bear is free to download and use, but you'll need to upgrade to a monthly ($1.49) or yearly ($14.99) Bear Pro subscription to unlock additional features and functionality.

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Best for Reliable Note-Taking: Evernote

Evernote on phone and computer with San Francisco notes open
What We Like
  • Sync content automatically between devices.

  • Dictate notes on your Apple Watch.

  • Set reminders and get notifications.

  • Clip articles fro the web.

What We Don't Like
  • You'll need a paid subscription to access more features and storage.

Evernote is a popular cloud service that lets users create, organize, and store various media types, including text, photos, videos, audio files, and web pages. The app has a solid reputation for its quality, features, and reliability. Capture and organize ideas, create notes, scan and digitize your paper documents, and share everything when you want to collaborate.

Evernote is free to download and use, but you'll need to upgrade to Evernote Premium for $7.99 monthly to use advanced features.

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Best for Data Management: Notion

Notion note-taking app on a computer
What We Like
  • Has Chrome and Firefox web clipper extensions.

  • Arrange content with drag-and-drop functionality.

  • More than 20 "block" types to choose from.

  • Collaborate in real time.

  • Syncs across all your devices.

What We Don't Like
  • The block system can be limiting.

Notion takes a more informational approach to note-taking, using databases, wikis, calendars, reminders, and more to help users manage all aspects of their projects. Instead of folders, Notion uses a nested-content approach to organize information to create an all-in-one workspace. Take notes, add tasks, manage projects, and collaborate in real-time with your team.

Notion is free to use and download, but consider upgrading to Personal Pro ($4 per month) or Team ($8 per month) for additional features and tools.

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Best for Researching: Roam Research

Roam Research note pages
What We Like
  • Focus on connecting thoughts.

  • Link notes to organize ideas.

  • Great for journaling.

What We Don't Like
  • Works only in a browser with no offline functionality.

Roam Research is a unique tool built on the idea that ideas feed off of each other, allowing you to fluidly link notes into a web of information. Quickly create new notes and open other notes at the same time. Create personal wikis, link ideas to other ideas, and easily find the information you stored earlier.

Roam Research is available only in a desktop browser, but the company says apps are planned. Try it free for a month, and if it's worthwhile, pay $15 per month or $165 per year.