Getting bonked on the head by an apple led Sir Issac Newton to discover the law of gravity in 1665. He would have appreciated having a note-taking app to quickly scribble his discoveries as he sat under the apple tree contemplating the universe.
We know that a good idea can strike at any time, and we should record them before we forget. Scientific research confirms that 20% of the breakthrough ideas of the day strike when the mind is wandering and not actively engaged in any work.
Whether you want to jot down your thoughts about a new work project, scribble the weekly grocery list, or save an image that inspires your new collection, having a note-taking app on the go is essential.
What is a note-taking app?
A note-taking app is an online application that lets you record notes on the go. All the information is saved in one place, so you can get back to it later.
It can be used on a device of your choice — a smartphone, PC, or Mac. In this era of information overload, taking notes on an online note-taking tool helps you store them safely and sync across your devices, and share them with your team.
Use note-taking apps to:
- List the things you need to buy – groceries, shopping, or party supplies, for example
- Jot down your to-do list for the day
- Outline your meeting agenda
- List tasks classified by due dates, clients, or projects
- Share designs, audio, or video files with your team
- Work on code snippets with some team members
- Summarize the most important topics, concepts, and formulae for school or work
Benefits of note-taking apps
Even if you love your pretty pen and handy paper planner, a note-taking app has some profound benefits. Let’s dive in.
Imagine bringing along a bunch of planners or files to every meeting! With a digital note-taking app, you can safely access your notes from anywhere (your back will also thank you).
Accessibility is essential, especially when you are traveling. If you’re on public transport, your note-taking app can save the day by helping you jot down your ideas on the go. You don’t need to rush home or open your laptop in odd places.
There will never be instances of documents getting lost or forgotten at a client's office, ripped apart by a child, or chewed up by your furry friend. All you need is internet access, even though a few apps also let you work in offline mode.
Adding multimedia elements
Many people need the ability to save videos, audio files, website links, podcasts, and images.
As a researcher, college student, or manager, you will have many multimedia files that need to be saved and organized for your project. A note-taking app that lets you add these to your notes will save you time and effort.
Freedom to edit
Everyone loves having beautiful and well-organized notes. Fast-paced meetings can leave you with no time to take notes properly or even format them.
After a sprint meeting or client presentation meeting, you may find yourself with a bunch of weird phrases, half-sentences, and scribbles that make no sense. Since they aren't in a readable condition, you won’t be able to send them to the team for action.
You can reformat digital notes easily by spacing out important ideas, adding bullets, and including links or images. Then, after taking a few minutes to tidy up your notes, they can be sent to the team for execution.
Notes scribbled by hand tend to get misplaced. No one likes to spend hours searching for their lost documents.
Note-taking apps can give instant peace of mind. Since they store everything online in a centralized database, nothing ever gets lost. All the random ideas you noted down years ago are saved in the note-taking app’s servers and can be retrieved.
Online note-taking apps have the innate ability to keep your notes private. Handwritten notes, loose sheets of paper, and good old post-its do not keep your data confidential and private.
When collaborating with your team on a project, the need for privacy and confidentiality is of utmost importance. Note-taking tools keep your notes private by default. They typically use robust industry standard encryption software, SSL (secure socket layer) technology, and a combination of TLS protocols and cipher suites to safeguard from unauthorized access. Simply put, no one will be able to access your notes except you.
How to choose the best note-taking app
All note-taking apps are not made the same. With a new tool popping up every other week, choosing the one that works for you can be overwhelming.
Before diving in further, it is important to note that no note-taking app can do the work for you. The perfect note-taking app doesn’t exist, as various apps are designed to meet the needs of different kinds of audiences.
When you’re ready to pick an app, ask yourself these questions and note down the answers (pun intended!):
- Will you be making simple text notes?
- Do you need to add links, images, videos, or podcasts?
- Will you be working on the notes with your team?
- Do you need your notes to be accessible on multiple devices?
- Do you need a mobile app to use on the go?
- Are text formatting options important to you?
- Do you need in-app storage?
- Will you have access to the internet every time you use the app?
- Are you a heavy, medium, or light user?
- Do you need the ability to make folders with drag-and-drop features?
- Do you plan to integrate the note-taking app with other apps?
- Do you want a paid subscription, or would you prefer a free note-taking app?
Note-taking and remote work
The act of taking notes is very personal. While many people like writing in their notebooks, others may want to stick post-its on their laptops or use a note-taking app on their tablet with a stylus.
During the pandemic, remote work became the norm. Teams went from using conference rooms to Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings. As a result, how teams work and collaborate has changed.
Note-taking apps can be used to make remote work easier regardless of whether your team is situated across cities or continents.
- Meeting prep: Prepping notes before meetings is a good way to organize your thoughts and put down your ideas and concepts on paper. Besides saving time, it also informs team members of the remote meeting agenda, helps them stay on the same page, and facilitates brainstorming.
- Capturing accurate information: Using only Zoom calls and emails for remote work can become monotonous and crucial information may get missed. Creating action items can get tricky if the right business data is not present.
- Improves collaboration: Most teams are made up of people from different cultures, backgrounds, and countries. Note-taking apps can help people collaborate more seamlessly, irrespective of their location, time zone, or language. Team members from multiple countries can simultaneously work on a single note, add their thoughts, and provide comments on it.
Best for personal note-taking
Organizing your personal life may sound like a chore. But when you start taking notes and tracking your to-do list, you’ll see so many tasks getting done. This helps streamline your personal and professional life and leaves you with much more time on your hands!
Use one app to track your reading list, project tasks, and travel plans. Whether you want to make a quick to-do list, curate recipes, or schedule freelance projects, you need a simple note-taking app such as Google Keep.
Google Keep lets you easily share your to-dos with family and friends across any device. You can filter notes by color, priority, date, or attachment.
Best note-taking app for workflow collaboration
Collaboration can be tricky even if everyone is in the same room. Whether you have in-office or distributed teams, getting work done is critical. The right tools and software can empower your teams and make workflow collaboration easier and faster.
Evernote is a minimalist and intuitive application that lets teams focus on collective knowledge and prioritize work while eliminating distractions. It offers multiple pricing plans and extensive cloud storage and allows distributed teams to work in real time on shared assets.
Use collaborative documents, employ asynchronous communication, and set up customized notifications to ensure work isn’t lost or duplicated. Customize your project roadmap, manage multiple projects and create a personalized data view — table, list, or calendar.
Teams can organize their work using premade templates, comment on shared notes, and track their tasks without switching between multiple apps. Notes can be created from emails, attachments, Slack messages, and Google Drive files.
Best note-taking app for project managers
Project managers need to juggle multiple milestones, tasks, and deadlines simultaneously. Since no two projects are the same, the app they use should be robust, flexible, and customizable.
Use Wrike to create tasks and sub-tasks and assign them to the relevant team members. Increase accountability and ensure project milestones stay on track by using @mentions to boost transparency.
Consider Wrike your single source of truth for storing all project data and meeting notes. Notes can be searched and pulled up at any time, as all the documents are backed up and stored in the cloud.
Best note-taking app for creative teams
Most creative teams work with documents, text, audio, and video files across multiple projects with various clients. They also regularly engage with external vendors, independent contractors, or client representatives. With their distinctive requirements, they need a note-taking tool that fits their preferences.
Bit is a digital note-taking and document collaboration tool that works well for creative teams. They can create different workspaces for teams, clients, and projects with customized roles and permissions. Real-time collaboration on notes and documents is easier with chat and in-line comments.
Bit’s minimalist user interface allows you to add numbered lists, checklists, and different formatting options to your notes. You can also embed links, audio, video, images, and even GIFs.
Best note-taking app for product management teams
A product manager’s role has a lot of interdisciplinary elements, as they work at the intersection of design, tech, and business. They also work on different requests, projects, and data from various stakeholders.
While most linear note-taking apps work in a hierarchy or a set pattern, product managers need a tool that lets them apply an explorative approach. Instead of thinking about ideas and concepts in a silo, they prefer using interconnected ideas that help them discover new insights and reduce information redundancies.
Roam Research is a non-linear app that perfectly fits product management note-taking needs. It lets you save notes in the form of index cards instead of individual pages. You can also add bi-directional links to other notes similar to the note you’re working on. Use geofencing, geolocation, bullet point widgets, and data mapping to organize your thoughts and ideas.
Performing data analysis, ideation, data workshopping, and quarterly planning is simple with Roam.
Best note-taking app for leadership teams
Leadership teams require stable systems and processes to successfully manage a fast-growing list of goals, high-performing teams, and stakeholder requests. They need a robust and powerful note-taking app that can be used on the go.
OneNote from Microsoft is a digital notebook perfect for leaders and executives. They can use the app to easily segregate information into pages and sections and add annotations and comments.
One of the most interesting features is the ability to add audio notes. This is a great time-saver and makes the tool accessible to a wider audience.
Audio notes can also be transcribed back to text, saving you hours of typing. Online content can be saved with a single click using the web clipper tool. You can also share your thoughts, ideas, and plans with the team by creating a shareable library.
You can sync your data with Microsoft tools such as Excel, Outlook, or MS Word.
Wrike can help you turn your notes into next steps
Prevailing wisdom tells us to set specific, measurable, and actionable goals for everything that we want to accomplish.
However, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy says focusing on the process rather than the goal may be the difference between success and failure.
To drive accountability and execution, it is essential to turn your notes into actionable items. Organize your thoughts, capture collective insights, and establish effective workflows using Wrike’s actionable meeting notes template.
Use this premade template to:
- Turn your notes into actionable tasks and assign them to the relevant team members
- Increase project accountability using @mentions, tagging, and calendars
- Organize your thoughts for future reference
Get a free Wrike trial to empower your team with no-code automation, customizable dashboards, and real-time collaboration to see work done faster and better.