Best note taking app in 2023
There are more note-taking apps to choose from in 2023 than ever before.
No two note-taking apps are alike, and which you choose depends on your goals and what you aim to achieve.
While this guide is written by a company that offers its own note-taking app, it presents an honest assessment of choosing the best note taking app based on use cases and goals, and does not bias towards our product when we believe it is not the right tool for the job.
This guide is based on insider experience and knowledge in the note-taking industry, and will set you up to be more productive and organized by choosing the right note-taking app for you.
- Every day driver
- Managing checklists, todos, and calendars
- Creating a complex database of notes and documents
- Sensitive information (passwords, keys, documents)
- Writing a book or research paper
- Scanning and searching documents
- Clipping content from the web
- Long term storage for text, photos, videos, and documents
- Daily lifestyle journal
Every day driver
Contenders Standard NotesEvernoteGoogle Keep
Winner Standard Notes
The best note-taking app for everyday note-taking that covers a wide range of use cases is Standard Notes. It is the clear winner for a variety of reasons:
- It offers easy to use applications on all platforms, including desktop (macOS, Windows, Linux), web access, iOS, and Android.
- You can organize your notes under tags, and organize tags within each other (nested tags). This allows you to create powerful organizational structures.
- You can create checklists, rich text notes, markdown notes, and spreadsheets
- It offers a very simple experience without complicated configuration options that get in your way. Just open the app and access your previous notes or create new ones.
- Upload documents and files and attach them to notes.
- Create daily notebooks that help you create journals of things you want to track daily, like health, fitness, and work activity.
- Completely private and end-to-end encrypted, so you can be sure no one can read your notes but you.
Managing checklists, todos, and calendars
Contenders NotionStandard NotesEvernote
If having powerful calendar functionality, along with todos that remind you via notifications on your phones, is important to your workflow, Evernote may be the suitable option. Here's why:
- Evernote features dedicated tasks and todo functionality, with powerful features such as recurring tasks, reminders, and delegation.
- There is also rich calendar functionality with events and reminders.
Evernote does not offer end-to-end encryption on the other hand, so your data is visible to Evernote employees and subject to legal access warrants.
Honorable Mention #1: Notion
Notion also allows for calendar functionality, but its more broad and configurable design makes this use case harder to configure.
- If you're a power user who likes to tweak functionality and build your own workflows, Notion could be a better option, but Evernote services this use case directly.
Honorable Mention #2: Standard Notes
Standard Notes allows for checklists and todos, but does not offer reminders or recurring tasks.
- If you don't need all the intricacies of very fine-grained task management functionality, and would prefer managing todos in a loosely structured way, Standard Notes makes a great option, while allowing you to keep your todos next to all your other important information.
Creating a complex database of notes and documents
Notion is a power user tool that allows you to create very flexible structures and documents.
- This is thanks to a powerful editor that can just about do it all.
- You can embed smart tables and databases within a document and create powerful workflows to fit any format you have in mind.
- Configuring your Notion to work as you want can be a time-consuming affair, so if you want something that "just works" out of the box, Notion might not be the best fit.
- If however you are a technical user and like to spend time designing your applications to work according to your needs, Notion can be a powerful companion.
Sensitive information (passwords, keys, documents)
Contenders Standard Notes
Winner Standard Notes
When it comes to the category of storing sensitive information, such as passwords, keys, legal information and documents, diaries and journals, and just about anything that is personal to you, Standard Notes stands on its own and was built specifically for this cause. Here's why:
- Standard Notes features end-to-end encryption, which means your data is encrypted with a key only you know. This means even employees can't read your notes.
- The source code for its cryptography, applications, and servers are open for the public to see, and has been audited four times by industry leading security researchers.
- It supports two-factor authentication and hardware token authentication to lock down your account.
- File attachments are also end-to-end encrypted, with 100GB of file storage available in the paid plans.
Writing a book or research paper
Contenders ObsidianNotionStandard Notes
Writing a book or long document requires dedication to careful structures and linking these structures together. Obsidian is a document management tool dedicated to this use case. Here's why it might be the ideal choice for this use case:
- Obsidian is based on a concept of local files, and does not connect with a server out of the box. Instead, you choose a folder where you'd like to store your text files, and it saves your files as markdown to your local disk. This makes it easy to just start writing without having to configure an account.
- Obsidian hyper-focuses on the use case of linking notes together. This allows you to create structured documents, which could be useful in a research paper that might need to link many topics together and make them easily navigable.
- Obsidian is somewhat of a power-user tool, so if you aren't technical in nature, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the interface, which is reminiscent to coding apps like VSCode.
- In addition, syncing your data across your devices must be done manually by placing your folder into a synced folder like Dropbox or Google Drive, which hinders mobile compatibility. Obsidian recently began offering its own sync service, but it is largely a secondary focus and not their central offering.
Honorable mention: Standard Notes
Standard Notes also allows you to link notes together to create complex structures. It also allows for convenient sync across all your devices, so you can start writing on your desktop computer, and easily pick up where you left off on your laptop or mobile device.
Scanning and searching documents
Contenders EvernoteApple Notes
Scanning documents like PDFs and photos and making their contents searchable typically requires that these documents, sensitive in nature or not, be readable by the cloud servers of these services.
- This is because scanning documents and searching their contents can be computationally expensive not possible to do privately on-device.
- Document scanning is a popular feature of Evernote and core to their user experience. Apple Notes can also scan documents, but their platform is only available in the Apple ecosystem, while Evernote is cross-platform.
Clipping content from the web
Contenders EvernoteGoogle KeepStandard Notes
Winner Take your pick
All three contenders offer a web clipper extension that allows you to easily clip web content, such as excerpts from an article you're reading, or the entire page of a recipe you'd like to hang on to.
- Your decision might come down to where you'd like to store this information, and whether you'd like this information to be encrypted or plainly visible in the servers of your provider.
- If privacy is important to you, then Standard Notes would be the clear standout, and offers the same feature set as the other options and more.
Long term storage for text, photos, videos, and documents
Contenders Standard NotesEvernoteObsidianGoogle KeepNotion
Winner It depends
It depends on how we define "long term storage." For our case, we'll define this to mean that your data is protected by a reputable service, while also allowing you to retain your own local and offline copies of your information, so that if the service disappears one day, you still own your data.
Only two contenders make local and offline access a priority: Standard Notes and Obsidian.
Standard Notes takes a hybrid approach to cloud and offline access.
- Your data is seamlessly and securely synced to your other devices, but a local copy is kept on your device so that your data is accessible offline.
- On desktop platforms, you can configure Standard Notes to automatically retain a copy of each note as a file in your filesystem, along with backups of all the files you've uploaded on any devices.
- Obsidian also services this use case by defaulting its operation to be based on a local folder of text files on your computer.
- When considering other services like Evernote, Google Keep, and Notion, while they are all backed by reputable companies, they do not cater to the offline and "worst case scenario" use case. They also do not make exportability of your data a primary concern.
Daily lifestyle journal
Contenders Day OneStandard Notes
Winner Day One for certain platformsStandard Notes for cross-platform
Day One is a great tool for daily journaling, and is available on iOS, Android, and macOS.
- It's a great tool if your primary and only use case is journaling. It does not try to be a general purpose note-taking app.
- It features the ability to create multiple journals, rich text, photo and file attachments, end-to-end encryption, and easy exporting. Day One however does not offer web access, or a Windows or Linux application.
Standard Notes also makes for a great journaling tool, allowing you to configure a folder as a Daily Notebook. Once you turn on Daily Notebook for a folder, the layout shifts to being calendar oriented, and allows you to conveniently track a single note for each day.
The Moments feature in Standard Notes also sets it apart:
- It takes a photo of you every day and stores this photo in your encrypted files.
- This allows you to create a record of your evolution over time, and look back to see how you've changed.
- Even more, when a Moment is snapped while you're writing a particular note, that moment is linked to that note, so you can see exactly what you looked like while you were writing a particular piece.
- Evernote vs. Standard Notes Comparison
- Google Keep vs. Standard Notes Comparison
- Simplenote vs. Standard Notes Comparison
- Obsidian vs. Standard Notes Comparison