There are note taking apps and then there are note taking apps. Let me explain. You must be familiar with note taking behemoths like Evernote and OneNote. The kind of apps where you log details of your life using other services, where you archive things from the internet, create and share notebooks, collaborate with your team mates etc. These are note taking apps for power users. But not everybody needs them. Not even power users, not always.
I employ a system where I make use of Evernote and a minimal note taking app and both of them work in harmony. Evernote is for the big picture stuff, for long term planning etc. The minimal app is for quickly noting things down and managing things that will be taken care of in a few days (research for an article vs research for a book for example).
If you want to employ the same system or you’re just looking for a minimal note taking app that’s not overwhelming to use, read on to find the best app that suits your needs.
1. Google Keep
Google Keep came out of nowhere and stole the hearts of Android fans. It’s a great note taking app for people who are already invested in Google’s ecosystem. It has checklists, simple note taking functionality and even reminders support. Plus all the notes are arranged in a sticky note type UI and can be color coded. If you employ a system for color coding between types of notes and the note urgency, navigating through Keep can be incredibly fast.
It also has a widget for Android homescreen from where you can dictate audio notes directly and even save a picture (with OCR support). It’s good to have checklists for groceries or tasks docked on your homescreen like that.
Google Keep doesn’t have an iOS client but it does have a Chrome app and is accessible via the web. The Chrome app essentially gives you a separate window just for Keep. If Android is your only mobile device, Keep can serve you well.
Fetchnotes is minimal in style but extensible in functionality. You can use it as a minimal note taking app if you want to, but you should give the features a try. Fetchnotes has great management and collaboration features.
For example, you can use inline hashtags on notes and they’ll be searchable or sorted that way. Other apps do this but they have a special interface for tags. Fetchnote makes tagging easier. It’s the same with sharing. Just typing an email address or a name in your address book followed by the @ symbol means the note will be shared with them and it can be accessed without them having to install the app. Collaboration is also easy with Fetchnotes with notifications for edits on shared notes.
3. Apple Notes App
This is the Notes app millions of people already have installed. And it’s not bad. Sure it doesn’t have any of the power user features like some of the other apps listed here, but it is reliable and readily available, two things that can’t be overstated. Not exactly cross-platform but if you only use Apple devices, notes app might be enough for you as it syncs between iPhone, iPad and Mac quite easily.
If it’s not powerful enough for you, it might be for a friend or relative. It’s the app I recommend to new users, the users I don’t want to get troubleshoot messages from. To quote the cliché, “it just works”.
Simplenote is my note taking app of choice and I’ve been through all the apps listed here and then some. I had to give up Keep when I moved to the iPhone. Simplenote was always a good service but it became great when there was a complete feature and UI overhaul last year, after it was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. What stood out with this update was not that it added headlining features or some crazy interface, it was what the app took out.
Simplenote is simple in the truest sense of the word and that’s why I love this app (there are no formatting options, heavy features, reminders etc). I mean the app doesn’t even have support for checklists; I create them manually. Thankfully it does support tags. Simplenote looks beautiful no matter where you use it: on the Mac, iPhone, Android or the web. It doesn’t have a Windows client but I’ve created a shortcut in Chrome for the Simplenote web app that opens in a separate window and behaves like its own app.
Simplenote is also fast and reliable (especially when it comes to searching). It has never disappointed me in the months I’ve been using it.
If you’re looking for a truly minimal, beautiful, cross-platform, and free note taking app, Simplenote is it.
If you’re just going to be taking notes on Android, I’d take a good hard look at Keep.
If Simplenote is too simple for you, try Fetchnotes. It’s cross-platform, free, and minimal but also feature-rich at the same time.
Last updated on 03 February, 2022
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