Before we go any further, I should note that Evernote is probably the best free note-taking software I’ve ever used. Its interface is more or less intuitive and well-organized. It’s integrated with Scannable, Evernote’s great document-scanning app that I still use. It’s well-synced between its phone app and its desktop app. Evernote’s essentially a word processor and organizer for notes, which is exactly what I wanted and needed to keep track of story ideas, blog events, homework, and anything else that came to mind.
Simplenote: Too Simple For Me
The main reason why I trusted in Simplenote was because it’s made by Automattic, the same company that makes WordPress and all of WordPress’ built-in apps like Akismet, PollDaddy, Jetpack, and WooCommerce. I didn’t know much about Simplenote, but I came to the conclusion that it was a try. If they did notes half as well as they did WordPress, I would be fine with that.
And it worked, for a while.
Simplenote is beautiful. I love the online presence of it and the simplicity of the design, but ultimately, it didn’t have enough features. Simplenote, while great, makes it so that you have to format your notes through Markdown. To give you an idea of what a headache this was, here’s what my recipe for brownies looked like (left) and what formatting it looked like (right).
It’s not that big of a deal, but I wanted my notes to be seamless. I’m a lists and bullet points and headers kind of person, especially with my notes, and using Markdown for every single thing that I wanted to format was too much for me. If you want really minimalistic style in your notes, I would definitely recommend Simplenote first and foremost, but I needed a little something more.
For a while, I seriously considered moving all of my notes to Google Docs. I’m a huge fan of Google Drive, and I already use Docs on a daily basis, but trying to take notes on Docs was going to the other extreme end of formatting. To create a doc for each note would defeat the point of having a note, so I turned to the next best thing–Google Keep.
I’d tried to get into Google Keep once before, during my time with Habitica, but it didn’t work out. There was no need for it. I wasn’t the hugest fan of Keep, and I had Evernote anyway. When I hopped on the Keep train once again, I cleared out my old notes, made new tags with corresponding colors, and dove right into it… and ran into almost exactly the same issue I had with Simplenote.
This time, it wasn’t about Markdown. It was that Keep has no functions for bolding, italicizing, and underlining. It did, however, have a great, simplistic to-do list function.
I learned to love the three main aspects to Keep that I could truly appreciate: the pinned notes, the to-do lists, and the note structure. I can’t make the text look any different, but I can jot down what I need, slap some tags on it, and then refer back to my section of pinned to-do lists.
But that still left me with a need for a place to put and organize my story ideas, my super lengthy notes, and miscellaneous thoughts. Even though I’d tried really hard to avoid it and think that it wasn’t for me, Apple Notes kept on appearing on lists of notes that people were using. I got to the point where I was willing to try pretty much anything, so I moved everything I had on Evernote over to Notes.
Apple Notes always felt a little bit grungy to me before I came back to it. My mental image of it was a much older iOS Notes, and back then, it was not pretty. There were few options, the font was like glorified Comic Sans, and the overall appearance was unappealing. Here’s the kind of visual I’m speaking to:
Since then, Notes has undergone major changes, and it’s actually pretty similar to Evernote now. It has many of the same features, and it even allows imports from Evernote (for those of you who are interested in easily switching over). You can collaborate, make checklists (though they aren’t as convenient and maneuverable as Keep’s, create headers, password-protect notes, sort them into categories like with Photos, and more.
I’ve been using Keep as my task manager and Notes as my place for deeper thoughts for the last couple of weeks now, and the system works well for me. All things considered, here’s how I would break down these apps:
SimpleNote: If you’re looking for fast, minimalistic notes, I would recommend SimpleNote first and foremost. It’s clean, lightweight, and syncs across pretty much all platforms.
Keep: If you love checklists and short notes as much as I do, I would recommend Keep. It’s online and works like Google Drive when it comes to automatically saving your notes, allowing for collaborators, and integrating across Google’s platform.
Apple Notes: If all of the above leave something to be desired, I would go with Apple Notes. There are many more options to this software than I previously knew about. I’d say it’s the single best note-taking software after Evernote, and I’m looking forward to exploring it further.
Do you like using notes? Do you hand-write or what apps do you love?