Whether it is jotting things down in a journal or carefully grouping months of notes on a pin board, we all have our ways of collecting our thoughts so that we can harness them more productively later. Everyone does this, from the blog editor hastily writing down the premise of the next big article to a mother planning out the big meal for a family gathering. However, in today’s hustle and bustle, it can be hard to get those thoughts down before they drift away.
Fortunately, there are many solutions, both analog and digital, for avid notetakers to keep track of their biggest ideas. While sticky notes, planners, and journals are more than sufficient for some, the rampant growth of the digital age has led to powerful notetaking apps being widely available on your phone. Many of these are free and have additional features that users can take advantage of to clarify and group their thoughts.
OneNote is one of, if not the, largest notetaking apps available today and is ubiquitous in its uses. OneNote is not only prolific among notetakers but has expanded into businesses as well, with everyone taking advantage of this powerful, free app to categorize and store notes.
Each project is called a Notebook, which is modeled off of a traditional ring binder. Subsections are portrayed as tabs and open up into as many pages as you need. You could have a tab that is entirely for business meetings and give each date a different page or have a tab for recipes and place each new recipe on a different page.
What makes OneNote particularly useful is how freeform it is. All kinds of information can be placed into it, from standard written notes to photos to drawings. It was originally meant for students but has since expanded into a universal tool for anyone taking notes.
Since it’s built off of Microsoft’s suite of programs, OneNote is also fairly intuitive and supports Microsoft’s other programs like Excel and Word. If you have used any of these before, which is likely, then you are well equipped to use OneNote.
For those that live their life in their Google account, Google Keep is an essential tool. Far beyond a simple notetaking tool, Google Keep interfaces with all Google apps seamlessly (except for Youtube). It is quickly becoming more prevalent among tech reviewers and content creators for its innovative uses.
While the features of the actual app are a bit lacking, its ability to interface with all of Google’s apps means that it can be immensely useful to integrate your notes with more practical action. Situated as a button on the side, you can use Google Keep while using Gmail to bring up relevant notes and drag and drop relevant notes directly into the email. Likewise with Google Docs and Google Drive.
For those looking to turn their notes into more practical effects, Google Keep offers seamless integration between notetaking and Google’s Suite of useful applications.
Notion’s main feature is its collaborative nature. While typically suited for project management, where having many people collaborate on notes is a huge benefit, it can be used for typical notetaking endeavors.
Notion separates out its spaces into private notes and public Teamspaces, where members of your team can collaborate on tasks. For those that do not need or want to use Notion’s collaborative features, the private section still maintains all of the multimedia functionality that that the Teamspaces use.
This app is best for notetakers who enjoy working with others. Whether that be for a book or just planning a vacation or even a school project, Notion can accommodate groups of any size (just expect to pay for it if you use it as a team).
Apple Notes, otherwise known as Notes or iCloud Notes, is a free, built-in notetaking app for Apple devices. While not entirely restricted to Apple devices, it is the best option for those devices simply because its free and included intrinsically as an app.
It is not as feature-rich as OneNote but continues to have support from Apple and is continuously evolving with additional features as time goes on. It is Cloud-based and syncs easily with all Apple devices, and can even be accessed on Android and PC.
Much of the features it does have right now are already in use by other notetaking apps but it is nevertheless a solid and completely free choice for Apple users.
Obsidian is a notetaking app with great potential. It is essentially just a notes app that uses text files that can be customized more leniently. A big feature is that you can use internal hyperlinks to link to other notes.
Internal hyperlinks allow you to link to related pages and connect related pages to each other. In essence, it turns your notes into a massive wiki. The learning curve is high and is only really meant to be used by the most intensive of notetakers.
In this fashion, it is ideal for writers and planners who are responsible for massive projects that require lots of information that need to have references to other notes. For example, a writer who is worldbuilding could use it to make a massive timeline with links to persons, places, and events for each point that allow them to accurately keep track of everything.
For most, the versatility of Obsidian may be too much but can be a lifesaver for power notetakers. For the rest of us, we can get by using a visual bookmark manager to keep track of various pages we may need.
Which One Should You Use?
All of these apps are useful in their own right but which one is best depends entirely on your own preferences. For general notetaking, OneNote is most ubiquitous but for more specialized applications, each one has a place. Apple Notes is great for Apple users and already implemented. Google Keep can help integrate notes with Google’s Suite of apps. Notion is great for groups and Obsidian is perfect for intense notetakers.
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