When I reconsidered my current note-taking process, I came up with a list of requirements for a notes app. Here a few apps that meet them.
Spoiler Alert: Roam doesn’t fit the bill.
I won’t consider an app for note writing without these features. The apps listed here all have:
- Cloud sync between devices. Because it’s not 1999 anymore.
- A mobile app. Because the most insightful notes are written with wet or greasy hands. Usually after a shower or during a meal.
- Dark mode. Because if my little website can have it, they can too.
Notes app contain a massive amount of personal data. Let’s make sure it’s protected and transferrable.
- You can export your data.
- Your data is portable. You can switch to another provider easily (i.e., exports to Markdown or plain text).
Price: $1.49 / month or $14.99 / year
💚 Yay: It looks sleek and beautiful, it’s Markdown-first and the export is great. Made by a small company that takes privacy seriously.
❌ Nay: Apple only (macOS/iOS). I would be OK with just a macOS app for the desktop, but I need my Android app.
Price: Free on 2 devices only. £4.99 / Month
💚 Yay: Beautiful. Lots of integrations with Zapier and IFTTT help you build workflows with it. Folders and subfolders.
❌ Nay: No Markdown support. They use their own weird-ass HTML specification but it’s easy enough to convert the export. Few things annoys me more than repeated marketing banners shouting “TRY IT FREE.”
Price: Free for individual use
💚 Yay: Beautiful, Powerful, and has folders (kinda). It’s definitely the easiest way to organise things and make them look pretty. And it’s free.
❌ Nay: The mobile app is so slow it’s unreal. The desktop app is also too heavy. Copy-paste is a bit flaky. Their Markdown export is nonsensical but it’s better than no export.
Price: $13.50 / month or $81 / year
This is somewhat of an exception since the free version doesn’t give you anything.
💚 Yay: The only app in this list with End-to-end encryption. There’s a variety of writing modes. Very ethical company, take a look at their jobs page if you want to be inspired. You can publish your notes online directly for free using their blogging platform called Listed.
❌ Nay: Dark mode only for paid version. It only exports to plain text files and not Markdown. By trying to do too much, none of the “editors” was good enough. I wanted to like this but I found the paid experience very clunky. They honoured their 30-day money back guarantee and gave me a refund.
💚 Yay: Beautiful, simple, and easy to use. The sync feature is super fast and reliable. The native apps on all platforms are light and fast too. It’s made by Automattic (the creators of Wordpress) so you know your data is in good hands. And it’s free.
❌ Nay: Your notes are stored in their database in plain text. Your data is only encrypted in transit. It’s hard to organise lots of notes (please add folders!). Desktop writing experience could be improved.
My current setup is a bit chaotic.
- Simplenote for “quick notes” like music to check out, groceries, etc.
- Notion for longer and more complex writing (like this article), other drafts and all my work stuff.
- Obsidian as a “second brain”.
For all the apps that I use for everything else, head over to my /uses page.
Please see the requirements above :)
If you think there’s an app that I should include, please send me an email or a tweet. Similarly, if an app shouldn’t be here because I missed something, let me know too.