10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Note-Taking App

Oy! There are so many options: Evernote. OneNote. Apple Notes. Simplenote. Google Keep. Workflowy. DEVONnote. Tinderbox. nvALT and other plain text editors. And more. To narrow down the list, ask the following questions.

How many notes will you keep?

If you use your app to keep a commonplace book, then you might end up with hundreds or even thousands of notes. Choose an app that can handle the volume.

How much flexibility do you want in organizing notes?

For example, Apple Notes allows you to sort files by title, date created, or date edited. That’s it. In contrast, OneNote allows you to group notes into separate notebooks with sections and individual pages.

Do you want to share notes?

Apps that allow this include Evernote and OneNote. In some cases, two people can edit the same note in real time.

Do you want to sync notes across devices and platforms?

This is a strength of Google Keep, Evernote, and OneNote. They’re available on desktop, tablet, and mobile on Apple and Windows.

Do you want to format notes?

If you like boldface, italics, clickable links, styles, and bulleted and numbered lists, then choose carefully. Not all apps offer these features.

Do you want to add media to your notes?

Some apps allow you to embed images, audio, video, and PDFs in your notes. Others don’t.

Do you want to import or export more than one note at a time?

This can be a big deal if you end up switching from one app to another. Often the only option is to copy and paste one note at a time.

Do you want to clip content from the Web?

Web clipper extensions from OneNote and Evernote allow you to capture the contents of a Web page with one click.

Are you willing to pay for premium features?

Many note-taking apps are free. Getting the cool features, however, can cost you anything from a few bucks to an annual fee.

Are you willing to depend on individual developers?

For example, Brett Terpstra took the source code from Notational Velocity and turned it into nvALT. He’s working on a successor called BitWriter, but the delivery date is uncertain. I get it. Life gets in the way. In contrast, Evernote and OneNote are regularly updated and here for the long haul.

Learn more: For an in-depth discussion of note-taking apps, listen to Mac Power Users Podcast #312: Notes Shootout.

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