Ideas. Comparing note-taking apps is a very complicated task because, in the end, comparing the human mind's own flow of thought.
Unlike other segments with very specific purposes, such as second screens or text reading, annotation applications serve different purposes depending on the person. You can use them to write long texts with unfiltered thoughts, to draw / record everyday inspirations, to do the grocery shopping list, to write the next great literary novel or simply to put a reminder of something important.
In other words, everyone uses note apps in a different way. One thing, however, is certain: if the app does not have some basic functionalities, a well thought out design and the possibility to accompany you anywhere, it will not work properly or even with great humor.
Therefore, we have gathered here the six main competitors of the segment for a fierce dispute: Evernote, Simplenote, Google Keep, Notability, Microsoft OneNote and himself Grades, from Apple. Who will be the best? Let's see below.
As subjective as this point may be, I used as a metric to judge the winners those who managed to unite in the best possible way an attractive user interface with easily accessible functions and intuitive method of operation. In this sense, the two options that did better were Google Keep and Apple's Notes. Both have an attractive, clean design, without many visual frills (I'm looking at you, Evernote) and with the tools in an easily accessible place.
Notes, from Apple
Right below, we have Notability and OneNote, both with a clean and organized interface, but leaving a little to be desired in terms of ease of finding the resources offered (which, in both cases, are many). It is worth noting that the Microsoft competitor, in many ways, is the “difference” of the group, with a visual logic that is based on tabs, pages and files much more than on the competition notebooks and sheets of paper. In particular, this gives me a positive impression of organization, but your experience may vary.
Simplenote brings, as its own name already announces, an absolute simplicity that a double-edged sword: although it brings a welcome (and, frankly, inspiring) visual lightness and extreme minimalism, it ends up hiding many of its resources underneath intuitive access menus. Finally, Evernote is a good example of bloatware: Unless the user is already used to his environment, it is very difficult to assimilate and adapt a huge amount of options, menus, resources and ways to carry out the same task for this reason, he was last in this area.
Here, it is fair to declare a technical tie between all the competitors: none of them showed flaws in performance or functioning to the point of deserving a negative highlight. It is true that Notes, being a native application of all iOS devices, ends up earning points towards integration with the system and general fluidity, but in practice, this advantage is not enough for the application to gain a position highlighted in the item.
When it comes to purely the number of things possible to do within the app, there is no one for anyone: Evernote wins the wash item. In the elephant app, you can save notes of all types (texts, drawings, audio, web pages and much more including mixing them), search the notes and images, organize them in notebooks, scan documents and business cards with Scannable (another company application that integrates with the main one), which has beautiful character recognition technology, and much more. The problem is the lack of accessibility of the interface (which we already talked about) and the price they charge for this rain of resources (which we will talk about soon).
Right behind, OneNote comes with an enviable flexibility in building notes. It is true that the application can present itself a little differently from its competitors, but the possibility of opening a new note and clicking anywhere to start adding texts, images, lists, audio notes and other types of content immediately liberating. The collaboration features of the Microsoft application are also extremely robust, not owing to much more advanced tools from the Office suite, such as Word and PowerPoint, or Google Docs.
Notability represents the “average” of the segment, offering the most usual resources but rarely extending beyond that it is possible to create notebooks with notes that combine texts, handwritten, audio and images. An interesting feature is the annotation in PDFs, present only in its more robust competitors described above. Simplenote brings only the basics, but it has a card up its sleeve that can be useful to many people: the history feature makes it easy to recover lost or accidentally deleted notes. There is also the possibility to share notes and enable collaboration with another user, although more limited than in OneNote, it also works well.
Apple's Notes has evolved much in recent years but still a very simplified solution that should satisfy the wishes of only those less demanding to get an idea, the only notable feature recently added is that of blocking notes with a password (or with Touch ID, if available). Finally, Google Keep serves more as a good platform to gather “ideas” and clippings from the internet, but the note-making tool itself is extremely simplified and without additional resources.
with much regret that this one who writes to you informs you that (still) he does not have an iPad Pro to test the integration of the infamous applications with Ma's magic pencil. However, considering that the Apple Pencil seems to have been thought especially for this type of activity , it seems reasonable to me that at least I list the competitors that support the accessory.
Notes, for obvious reasons, is the quintessential example of integration with Apple Pencil and was the application chosen by Apple to show first hand the capabilities of the accessory. Evernote also supports pencil, as well as OneNote and Notability. Google Keep and Simplenote are the only ones in the group that do not work together with Pencil.
All competitors present, in one way or another, a presence on the vast majority of large platforms today. Simplenote gains in general terms by offering applications for iOS, Mac, Windows, Android, Kindle Fire, Linux and even a web app for accessing notes anywhere. OneNote brings support to all platforms above except Kindle Fire and Linux similar to Evernote, which also includes an application for iMessage on the cake, integrating with Apple's native messenger.
Google Keep offers official applications only for mobile platforms (iOS and Android), making it necessary to use the browser if you want to access your notes via computer. Notes presents a similar situation, but excluding Android support, while Notability, a loser, brings only iOS and Mac applications, without even offering a version of the service on the web.
Of all competitors, only Evernote and OneNote bring versions of their applications to Apple Watch, both, however, have very basic implementations, allowing only visualization and creation of basic audio notes or through dictation.
Notes, Google Keep and Simplenote are completely free. OneNote can also be used for free and uses OneDrive's free storage to store your notes; the experience, however, improves if the user is an Office 365 subscriber (R $ 30 / month) in addition to the huge 1TB of storage, the application integrates perfectly with other sute software, such as Word and PowerPoint. Notability asks for $ 10 for your Mac app and $ 5 for the iOS app, these being the only amounts to be disbursed to use the tool.
Evernote, in turn, changed its price policy some time ago, in a very polemical movement that caused a revolt (and mass disbandment) by its users. Today, there is a free service plan, but it brings basic features and sync to a maximum of two devices simultaneously. The plan Plus (R $ 40 / year) adds unlimited synchronization, offline access and email support, while Premium (R $ 80 / year) also includes support by chat, annotation and research in PDFs and Office documents, digitization of business cards, history research and other resources.
At the end of the day, the decision about the best note app decides a lot about your expectations and desires for what you want from that app. If you have your feet on the Apple platform and you don’t want to elaborate on your notes, the Grades, from Ma itself, is certainly the simplest option and, best of all, it is already there on all your devices ready to use.
For a more elaborate and yet free option, OneNote as an honorable winner. Microsoft's solution has a nice interface, very elaborate features that will basically satisfy everyone and it costs nothing to subscribe to Office 365 only improvement the experience, but even without paying a cent the user has all the tools available.
The other four competitors, although presenting their advantages, have more pronounced flaws: Google Keep sins for inflexibility, Simplenote for exaggerated Spartanism, Notability for the lack of a web version and Evernote for its high value and confusing interface.
And you, do you have any favorite note apps among the six above, or any other not mentioned in the comparison? We discussed in the comments.