Productivity May 12, 2020

What are the best note taking apps?

Gordon Frayne @gordon

I am currently using Notion.so and the local notes app on my mac for taking notes.

If I think of something on the fly I usually jot it down in the Mac Notes app and then I refine it and put it into Notion later.

I have tried using Evernote in the past but never really committed fully to it.

What note taking apps do you use on a daily basis?

Are any Indie Hackers making note taking apps?

  1. 9

    I'm working on a notes app called bytebase.io.

    It started with a frustration that I had to use two different tools for the two different phases of notes (the "get-it-down" phase and the "refine" phase).

    With Bytebase, you jot things down into a temporary space called "No Man's Land." Then you organize your notes using keyboard shortcuts.

    Would love any feedback from the community - if you ping me at my email with Indie Hackers in the subject line, i'll open up your access right away.

    1. 2

      Building around the workflow of braindump ==> sort through sounds very promising.

      I've tried everything under the sun, and so far Dynalist.io was as close to this flow as I could find. Happy to try Bytebase out! (signed up for an invite)

      1. 1

        awesome! just opened up your access.

    2. 1

      @cara love the concept. I have been currently beta testing https://obsidian.md but would love to try bytebase.io. Signed up for an invite. Will try it out.

    3. 1

      Hey @cara, bytebase looks great. This somewhat addresses an issue I mentioned in one of the other comments. I often find myself jotting down a note as an idea for an article and then I want to flesh it out shortly afterwards. Sounds like you are addressing this too from your own experience. I have submitted my email for sign up :)

      1. 1

        Awesome! Just sent an invite link.

    4. 1

      This comment was deleted 5 months ago.

      1. 1

        Thanks for checking us out! Very sorry about this - the issue is now resolved.

  2. 5

    I'm calling my first child Trello.

    1. 1

      And mine will be named "Taco"

    2. 1

      Hahaha, those trello boards don't fill themselves @petecodes!

  3. 5

    I use Google Keep. Fast, free, offline, has links to notes, supports media — everything I need.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the reply @borodutch. Google keep can be very handy.

  4. 5

    I use https://bear.app but I also have my own in the pipeline as I've never been able to find the perfect solution for my workflow. Afraid I can't say too much about it at the mo, but mind if I jump in quickly with a research question??

    Roughly what percentage of your current note-taking is recording something you've just read vs. random idea/thought?

    1. 3

      Not OP but my 2 cents.

      Practically 80% of my notes are recordings of knowledge I read/watched etc... so they act more as a knowledge base. I might use also some "temporary" notes to help me develop concepts or as a draft for something and eventually delete them.

      For random ideas, tasks etc... I like to have them in a different place, currently Microsft's TODO

      1. 1

        Thanks for the input @albertovilva. I definitely like to use note apps for lots of drafts and for fleshing out ideas further.

    2. 2

      Hmmm bear.app looks interesting @solomon_teach. Thanks for this suggestion. In relation to your other question, it has got me thinking.

      If I was to try and estimate I would say about 50/50. I find myself using note apps for drafting post ideas as well as documenting interesting topics I have just read about.

      I'll also use them for saving links to interesting articles or website.

      Bullet pointing ideas for articles, products, services is also another use case for me.

      Hope this helps. I look forward to seeing what you have in the works.

      1. 2

        Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! Will let you know when it's done :)

        1. 1

          My pleasure. I look forward to it ;)

  5. 4

    Lots of good stuff already here. I'm building 👉 emailmeapp.net

    I want Email Me to be fastest way to write yourself a quick note or reminder on your iPhone.
    You can also configure it in different ways and make it work with to other Notes Apps.

    If anyone wants to try it I can share some promo codes. Any kind of feedback would be super valuable. 😊

    1. 1

      Thanks for sharing @manuelescrig. This is very interesting. I used to send myself emails the whole time with links when I would come across things I wanted to save for alter. Definitely a good idea for people on the go.

      1. 1

        Let me know if you want a give it try. I can share with you a promo code. 👍

  6. 4

    I had the same struggle several years ago, and like you, I had to focus on my priority use cases. Here's what I learned.

    TL;DR - Choose something with staying power that matches your primary use cases for power or simplicity.

    1. Just like task apps, many companies will come and go and unless you want all your ideas to go on that roller-coaster, there is value in sticking with a company that you know will be around as you will look back and have a decade of your life in these tools. I see these tools as Personal Productivity Platforms (blog post coming . . .) and therefore I'm in it for the long haul.

    2. Note-taking apps are largely unstructured databases and there is tradeoff between complexity/power of structured databases (e.g. Trello, Notion) and the simplicity and speed of capture in unstructured ones (e.g. Evernote, Google Docs).

    3. Having an ecosystem is important as many use these apps as a "second brain" and hub for all their ideas. Being able to connect these ideas to action (e.g. tasks apps/calendar) is important. Being able to collaborate with a wide group is often important too.

    4. The allure of all-in-ones is substantial (think Notion), but no one has been able to pull it off long-term. The more complex the product, the longer to widespread adoption and therefore the weaker the ecosystem (IMHO). Trello has done the best at this, but it's not really a note-taking app.

    As for me, I was stuck at #3 above and decided to build https://taskclone.com/ to connect to Evernote and later OneNote. Also, sometimes, paper is the best option for many reasons and I recently built https://taskcam.com to connect my paper notebook to my task list.

    Right now, I'm stuck between Trello and Evernote dealing with exactly the issues in #4.

    1. 1

      Wow thanks for this response @troychristmas. You have clearly had a lot of experience with this over the years. I agree that there will always be some sort of trade off as we all have slightly different needs when it comes to how we like to structure things and getting the golden product that will also stand the test of time is hard.

      I think you summed it up really nicely with choosing something that has a good blent of staying power and simplicity. I think note taking apps should be simple to use. After all, I often see them as a way to get thoughts and ideas out of my head to simplify them further.

      Taskcam and Taskclone look like interesting tools. Well done on tackling this problem and coming up with some cool solutions. Thanks for this input.

  7. 4

    My go to app for note taking is Notion. I use it for just about everything, even writing my book.

    1. 1

      Sweet @genemachine. That is awesome. Cool that you are using it for something as long form as a book too!!

  8. 4

    I started working on notebag.app recently, because none of the other options felt suited to my hyper-specific workflow.

    Currently working on the first post-release version which will bring along a lot of UX improvements and bi-directional links! ✨

    1. 1

      Thanks for the response @pretzelhds. Notebag looks interesting. I will have to take a deeper look at it in the next few days but thanks for the input. Looking forward to seeing how you evolve this :)

  9. 3

    I'd to recommend notion.so and bear.app

    However, my favorite one now is the default Mac OS note taking app.

    1. 1

      Thanks for these suggestions @tatthien. The MacOS notes app will always get some use on my end. Appreciate the input :)

  10. 3

    NOTION 🙏 is God's avatar!

    1. 1

      Haha, love it @neu. Notion is a great tool. I am relatively new to it but learning to harness its power.

      1. 2

        I wish you plenty of success!

        1. 1

          Thank you very much.

  11. 3

    Dynalist.io - similar to Workflowy but better features

    1. 2

      Thanks @marclar. Dynalist looks like a clean and minimal tool. I'll check it out in the next few days. :)

  12. 2

    one note is definitely not the best one.

    I heard roam is really good at notes and organizing

    1. 1

      Thanks for this my man. Yes, Roam has gotten a few mentions in this thread. Looks like a robust tool, but I am yet to give it a proper test drive!

  13. 2

    Just started using https://dynalist.io/ and it's really growing on me.
    It's an almost perfect match for my thought process and workflow. It's multi-level nested notes allow you to document optional/alternative scenarios for each note item. Just enough complexity without the excessive clutter of other similar solutions. (I'm looking at you Notion)

  14. 2

    Looks like I'm late to the party, but for developers I made a note-taking app as well that's focused on a powerful search engine and IDE-like experience for writing code:

    https://codernotes.io

    1. 1

      Thanks again for sharing @Kevcon80. Hopefully a few more late partiers will find your link :)

      1. 2

        Thank you! Great job with these posts by the way.

        1. 1

          Thanks very much my man! Much apprecaited

  15. 2

    If you need something with journaling and planning features along with notes, I made https://noteplan.co (Mac and iOS app).

    1. 1

      This is great @eduardme. Thanks very much for sharing. I will check it out. Cheers

  16. 2

    Hi, I'm using Tasquet that I'm developing to meet my own needs.
    As a note-taking app, it's like Evernote with live inline Markdown support.
    I also design it as a task management tool and outliner seamlessly integrated with the Markdown editor.
    Though it's not perfect yet, it's worth to check.
    Actually I already switched from EverNote to the app, Tasquet.

    1. 1

      Thanks for this suggestions @tuttieee. Much appreciated.

  17. 2

    I mostly use Evernote macOS and iOS apps. I also made QuickCheck https://onmyway133.com/quickcheck/ for easier adding todo note items. Later I will revamp my Hacker Pad app https://www.producthunt.com/posts/hacker-pad to support more and more features.

    1. 1

      This is great @onmyway133. Thanks for the input. Keep up the great work on Hacker Pad ;)

  18. 2

    I just heard about Roam Research. Anyone tried it yet?

    1. 1

      Thanks for this suggestion @Clevercrow. it looks like an interesting tool. Looks like it is still in Beta at the moment?

  19. 2

    I have tried them nearly all... Evernote, Notion, Bear (great product but since I am cross-platform - mac, iPhone, Android - it does not fit into my workflow 100%), Roam, Simplenote, Joplin, iA Writer (still great when I want to focus on my writing), but I am always coming back to Workflowy.

    I just love outliner apps, their simplicity, and their structure. Sometimes, I also write a complete blog post within Workflowy since I am just in the zone. I love it. But I am also a sucker when it comes to note-taking and productivity apps, so it is likely that I will soon try out something new just so I can come back to Workflowy.

    1. 1

      Awesome stuff @philipptemmel. I will take your word for it and give Workflowy a try. Thanks for the suggestion.

      1. 1

        There are also a couple of youtube videos which demonstrate who powerful Workflowy can be.

        It is just a great and simple tool!

  20. 2

    I built a productivity focused quick note taking app called Thought Train:

    https://www.thoughttrain.cc/

    It sits in your menubar, I call it a companion to your other task apps, so you can quickly get your note down then use it later.

    1. 2

      Thanks for this @marcperel. It looks like a neat little tool. Much appreciated my man.

      1. 2

        Missed your comment, thanks brother!

        1. 1

          Haha no worries at all. :)

    1. 1

      Thanks for the suggestion @gdocter. Much appreciated.

  21. 2

    Scapple https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple/overview

    If you use it with shortcuts, you got yourself a digital whiteboard at your fingertips.

    The problem with regular linear notes: they're tedious to look at.
    If you're revisiting a scapple file, you can recognize your notes with just a glance, simply via its location or unique visual look.

    1. 1

      Thanks for this @J0hannes. Looks like this could be good for something like mind mapping too. Cheers

      1. 1

        Mindmapping (while having its value )is rigid and hierarchical.
        With Scapple you have the freedom to organize your thoughts in whichever way you like.

  22. 2

    I use WeNote - https://wenote.me

    Why? Because it is created by myself and meet 100% of my own need :)

    1. 1

      That is awesome @yccheok. So cool that you can solve your own problem and make a useful tool for others at the same time!!

  23. 2

    I love Simplenote. I use it to type up my articles on iPad mini (it syncs with laptop), before I then edit/upload. It's free, and created by the folks at Wordpress.

    I like it for it's simplicity and clean/minimal interface. (Calmly and iAWriter are others I've used previously, and also sync. Simplenote is my favourite because I can avoid going on the web to use it (unlike Calmly) and it's free (unlike iAWriter).

    The only other 'notes' I take are for my journalling/planning, which I do by hand.

    1. 2

      Thanks for this advise @jas_hothi. Simplenote has gotten a couple of mentions now. Looks interesting for sure.

      It's always good to do some things by hand.

      1. 2

        no worries :) yeah, I'm a bit old-school... I write everything out (e.g. blog posts, podcast intro's) before typing it up on Simplenote... I've not yet come across anything 'digital' (e.g. tablet) that feels enough like the pen-n-paper experience.

        1. 1

          Haha, I feel you. Maybe that could be your next business idea....but it really is hard to beat pen and paper sometimes.

  24. 2

    I’ve been using beta.keplerproductivity.com for task and note capture for a little while. I really like it.

    1. 1

      Sweet @KyleLeMarbe. This link looks password protected. I guess it is still in Beta testing?

      1. 1

        Sign up is required, but is free.

  25. 2

    Hands down emacs with org-mode. I've been using it for many years already on a daily basis. Sure it got this learning curve but that's part of its hidden power.

    1. 1

      Sounds interesting @mickaelk. I have never herd of it before but will look into it. Thanks for the info :)

  26. 2

    I have been using Mac Notes app for years now and have found it to be just enough for my needs.

    I recently discovered the ability to create folders in Notes which has allowed me to organize them in a much better way.

    Are there any features missing from Notes that you feel you need?

    1. 1

      Thanks for the reply @pseudo. I did not know I could create folders in MacNotes... haha, I'll have to check that out.

      I guess just the ability to access the notes across different devices would be my only gripe... but this is not the biggest deal for most things.

  27. 2

    I use evernote.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the input @o2. I could never fully warm to Evernote in the past,. I might have to revisit it soon and give it another shot. Cheers.

  28. 2

    Wow, kudos on using notion for note taking, I think its the only thing it actually sucks at :)

    I am a big fan of Bear Notes => great structure & markdown available with great exports.

    1. 1

      Haha thanks @kirso. There have been a few suggestions for Bear notes so I think I will have to check this one out also. Thanks for the recommendation my man.

  29. 2

    https://typora.io is my favorite. Haven't come across another note taking app like it -- it seamlessly converts markdown into rich text as you type (no ugly two pane views).

    1. 1

      Thanks for the suggestion @richardchu. I've had a couple suggestions for Typora now so I guess I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the input :)

  30. 2

    Lots of good suggestions here! One I haven't seen mentioned is Standard Notes. It's another independently made app, works on all platforms, fully encrypted and open source. You can use it for free but you can also go on a premium plan in order to get more features and help keep them sustainable. Worth exploring for sure!

    1. 1

      Thanks for this @markosaric. Appreciate the suggestion. Standard Notes looks clean and simple. I'll have to give it a try soon. Thanks my man.

  31. 2

    I'm a huge notes nerd, and after trying all of the note taking apps, I think there is no perfect one for every workflow

    so I use Notion for everything work based and long read same as you, I guess.

    I use Things for drafts. if I need to remember something or type down, I just cmd + space to things and put a task with long description

    and I use day one for all personal related, diaries, strange ideas

    but if I need to pick one, it might be Ulysses. it's fast, customisable has password protection and perfect for blog posts or long reads

    1. 2

      Thanks for this response @satanworker. Notion is powerful for sure. I will have to check out Ulysses also. The password protection and its use for long blog posts and long reads sounds appealing.

  32. 2

    I may be old school but i prefer fast, desktop apps that can work without internet connectivity (no loading time) and save stuff locally.

    I was looking for an open source alternative to windows onenote and stumbled upon cherry tree

    I downloaded it to test it and have been using it since a year now. its great for taking quick notes

    image

    it can order notes by hierarchy, auto save, some keyboard shortcuts.

    The thing about notes is its best to have it easily accessible hence I prefer it to run in the system tray.

    1. 1

      Thanks very much @RamanaRobertNisarga. You make a good point about having something on the system tray that can be used without internet. It is always nice to have a good old reliable option without the need for the cloud. Thanks for the Cherry tree suggestion. Much appreciated.

  33. 2

    The best one I have found so far in terms of features and work flow complexity is Coda.io.

    1. 1

      Nice one @Alonso. Coda looks interesting. Could be very useful for meetings by the looks of it too. Thanks for sharing.

  34. 2

    [EDIT] I have completely moved over to Notion and I'm loving it. It meets all my needs (even though i wish tables were more lightweight and not necessarily like databases)

    • Long form note taking: OneNote
    • Keep tracking of different lists: Trello
    • Documents / Papers: Google Docs / Microsoft Word
    • Quick idea capture: Google Keep
    • Lists: workflowy
    1. 1

      Thanks for this @mukulraina. Some great insights. You seem to utilize a host of different tools... do you still find it efficient to use this many?

      1. 2

        Hi @gordon you're absolutely right. Most of the time I stick to OneNote for notes and Trello for ToDo lists.

        Other tools I have used heavily in the past

        1. 1

          Sounds good @mukulraina. I find it is best to have one or two that you can really focus on and use most of the time. Cheers.

  35. 2

    @gordon I actually created an app for taking notes for meetings ... minutes, is an iOS app

    1. 1

      Great stuff @jorgevmendoza. Do you have a link to it?

        1. 1

          Thanks very much. I'll check it out.

  36. 2

    Emmett Shearer goes through an example customer interview based around the idea that note taking can be improved here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHs9hQBSoJU

    1. 1

      Thanks very much @hshidara. I will check this out !!

    1. 2

      Thanks for this @levidxyz. It looks like an interesting app.

  37. 2

    I created a 'Inbox' page in Notion that I use to capture any quick notes and try to organize them into the right bucket once a week.

    1. 1

      For me it is an 'inbox' table. It is tempting, though, to add a couple more properties to that table and just leave most of the quick notes there - not sure I really need to triage them at all.

    2. 1

      That is a great idea @bchangTO. I have something similar going on in Notion. It is just the organizing part that I need to nail down now also.

  38. 2

    I use Evernote for quick notes and as a brain dump, and Notion for more refined notes and also for creating documents that I share with others. Evernote is also great for taking pictures of whiteboards and notebooks, as they have OCR-based search which works pretty well.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the input @dhamaniasad. Interesting to know about the OCR-based search on Evernote. I didn't know about this before.

  39. 2

    Microsoft OneNote has just everything one can possibly need. I see no reason it searching for "fancier" alternatives :)

    1. 1

      Thanks for this @Yareki. I am not currently embedded within the Microsoft ecosystem, but will keep this in mind for future. I never really fully embraced OneNote.

      1. 2

        OneNote is the naughty child of Microsoft Office - it's available for free on every platform (Mac, Win, IOS, Android, Web). As long as your platform isn't Linux ;-) I've been using it since 2008 and it fits my needs for freeform note taking.

        1. 2

          Haha, "the naughty child". Great that it suits all of your needs. I may need to give it a second chance in the future!!

  40. 2

    I built my own Customer Relationship Management system, in it I added a tab that allows me to add goals and notes. That is where I save my notes

    1. 1

      This is awesome @Beta_one. I suppose that is one of the advantages of being able to build your own CRM tool!!

  41. 2

    Hi Gordon! Just recently I released a notes app for macOS, called PopNotes. It runs from the status bar so keeping notes is instant. It comes with some nice features as well.

    If you're interested, you may take a look here or straight on the Mac App Store.

    1. 1

      Hey @gabth, thanks for this my man. PopNotes looks clean and simple to use on first glance. I might try it out in the next few days. Appreciate your input.

      1. 2

        Thanks a lot of the positive feedback! I'm sending you a promo code on your email, no matter whether you'll eventually use it or not.

        1. 1

          You are welcome @gabth. Thanks very much my man. I appreciate it. :)

  42. 2

    If you use Google Drive. I can recommend Fulcrum.wiki.
    It is a personal wiki integrated with Google products.

    Disclaimer: I am the developer.

    1. 1

      Thanks very much @rockiger. Appreciate your input. Google drive is certainly still my default for many things like writing articles and keeping spreadsheets. It really is a great resource. Fulcrum.wiki looks interesting too. Does it seamlessly integrate with Google Drive?

      1. 2

        It stores its files in Google Drive and you can easily embed files (PDFs, Docs, etc.) from your Drive in any wiki document.

        1. 1

          Sounds like a great tool @rockiger. I'll have to five it a proper test run soon. Thanks for all the info.

          1. 2

            I am glad to help. If you have any comments or questions just message me.

            Any feedback is appreciated.

            1. 1

              Thanks my man. Will do!

  43. 2
    • For ideas/tasks Microsoft's TODO

    • For notes, knowledge base etc... I have used a bunch over the years. Evernote at first, it felt very heavy and too complicated, eventually moved on to Bear, loved the experience but didn't work on Linux. Right now using Notable, experience is a tiny bit worse than Bear, but it is completly cross-compatible so I share it in my Mac and Linux via a private github repo with my notes.

    1. 1

      Thanks for this @albertovilva. Sounds like Notable is a good fit for the type of work that you do across Mac and Linux. I might check it out myself, although I do not do much software or coding myself.

  44. 2

    I stick to the Notes.app, it's reliable, fast and I know i don't put my data on some random person's side project or startup that will maybe go bust in a few months.

    1. 1

      This is also a good point @dewey. Knowing where your data is being stored is becoming increasingly important as all of us become more tech savvy. Thanks for the response my man!

  45. 2

    Here's what I use:

    • For quick notes (mostly, temporary ones): Simplenote (does not support inline images). It also doubles up as text editor to copy-paste text without formatting.
    • For filing / long-term notes / future reference: Evernote. I have a love-hate relationship with Evernote... Since 2010...
    1. 1

      Thanks very much @shalintj. SimpleNote looks like a nice clean and easy to use app. I might give it a try in the next few days.

      Haha, I feel you on Evernote. I could never truly warm to it for some reason.

      Thanks for the suggestions :)

  46. 2

    Google keep for quick notes and also personal notes. And notion for work notes.

    1. 1

      Awesome @aekiro. I do also use Google keep on occasion now that you remind me haha.

  47. 2

    Pretty similar to you ha. If it's something I'll want to reference long-term (which is rare), I use Evernote. Everything else Notepad.

    For taking notes during meetings I organize, I use my own product tendii.io. It keeps notes/action items centralized and easily shareable with teammates and clients.

    1. 2

      Nice one @krgraver . Does tendii keep meeting notes natively on the platform? Can it sync to Google drive? Or is the idea that I can store notes on Tendii like I would on Evernote?

      1. 2

        It acts as a repository for meeting notes and assets. So like Evernote, but specific to meetings. What's nice is you can pull up recent meeting documentation in the current meeting you're running, which saves you from having to jump over to Drive and scramble to find stuff.

        1. 2

          Oh sweet, that is pretty cool. I will have to give it a proper test drive soon my man. Keep up the great work.

  48. 2

    Notion (for more important stuff) and Mac Notes (as a Notepad) for me as well - they're the best combination for me right now, after having tried everything under the sun.

    1. 1

      Haha this is good to know @AndreiM. I am not too far from an 'ideal solution' with what I am using right now. It can be hard to beat the simplicity of Mac notes and then Notion to flesh out the important stuff. Thanks for the input :)

  49. 2

    For quick and on-the-fly notes I use SideNotes, and set the hot key so I can expand/collapse the drawer quickly.

    1. 1

      This looks very interesting @zakke. Downloading it to test out as we speak. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

  50. 1

    Hi @gordon, if you have some spare time please check out FastestNotes app, a keyboard first oriented app for notes, tasks and projects: https://www.indiehackers.com/post/fastestnotes-a-keyboard-first-oriented-app-for-notes-tasks-and-projects-e9047bdafa

  51. 2

    This comment was deleted a month ago.

    1. 2

      This comment was deleted a month ago.

      1. 1

        Thanks very much @youce. This is a very cool little tool. Also, you are right, you can't go wrong with a good old pen and paper sometimes!!

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