A comparative chart of modern notes apps

A personal take on note-taking apps (in French, but there’s a chart that Google Translate should have no issue with), with a respectful nod to our @MacSparky :

My conclusion is: no note-taking app is currently perfect or feature-complete. The only one without true dealbreakers remains… Evernote.

(Bring on the torches and pitchforks! :grin:)

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The list does not include a lot of great apps.

Notebook apps are such a personal choice. There’s no such thing as the perfect notebook app.

Evernote isn’t something I can consider. It might be the perfect for some folks but not for others.

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Perfection is highly subjective indeed. I am more disappointed by the fact that no application really seems intent of becoming feature-complete.

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Yeah… there’s no one size fits all. Some users will have more intensive demands than others.

I’ve settled on Agenda for meeting notes and CRM history keeping. Then I have DEVONthink for file reference and PDFs. Notes for various writing projects goes into Ulysses for current writing assignments. 1Password is my secure silo for sensitive note such as personal info ranging from social security numbers, passwords, and sensitive text that need to stay away from prying eyes.

I haven’t found a place for Bear yet and I suspect I won’t know until something requires me to use Bear

I have specific apps for different note requirements. I think I’m learning to accept the idea that different apps will be silos for different requirements.

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How are you defining “feature completeness” for “notes apps” – what is your reference baseline of features?



:point_up_2: so much this!

:black_square_button: Citations
:black_square_button: References
:black_square_button: Images
:black_square_button: Tables
:black_square_button: Nice output
:black_square_button: Equations
Choose any five.


UM, some of those on your list are not what i would call note-taking apps at all. Evernote and DEVONThink are not really note app specific. And I think you’re missing many other apps that I’d consider real note taking ones, GoodNote and Notability just to mention 2 of them.

So, for me the question is, what do you consider important in a note taking app?

Basically what is in the chart. There is no app with a good web clipper, that is private, enjoyable, with powerful and yet simple formatting options.

Maybe I should have said « Personal Knowledge Management » apps. Which Goodnotes and Notability, which I both use and enjoy though, are not.

I think for any developer – one-woman shop or 2,000 person enterprise – what to put on offer is a balance among: :one: what they perceive to be market demand <–> :two: what they believe they can support economically <–> :three: what their own feature preferences are.

It’s probably not possible to satisfy all niches. It’s one reason I like to have apps like TapForms around so I can cobble together my own solution – yes, you can quickly make a fairly robust notetaking thingy with TapForms.


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Bret Terpstra maintains a pretty comprehensive comparison of text editors, too:

Indeed, the link from OP is more personal knowledge management than text editors, though there’s overlap.


I would consider DEVONThink to be a personal knowledge base system that is private, enjoyable to use, extremely powerful, has a great web clipper tool and I can format stuff in more ways than I care to.

For me notes are either small typed or handwritten items that will be further processed (into DEVONThink for reference and future ideas, into Omnifocus for active projects or actions and into calendar for appointments) or longer pages of always handwritten notes on lectures, books, etc. I use the Cornell system for those notes. I would consider using Siri to send an item to my Omnifocus inbox as a verbal notetaking app but my use is really limited.


Very interesting discussion!

Striving for “feature complete” typically leads to an app dying under its own weight a la Microsoft Word so the Apple ethos tends toward “smart minimalism” and “focused app design.”

So to stay focused where do we draw the line between note taking and personal knowledge base? Should we have to?

It feels like the apps need to be limited (“focused”) because we haven’t yet invented a reliable way to bring reference material together with note taking effectively in the digital realm.

So we end up with these choices where we feel constrained. Note taking has “evolved” to plain text (markdown) without images* at one end to handwriting with  Pencil with legibility issues and questionable sync/access on macOS at the other.
*(I know Ulysses can have imgs but your files are not actually plain text so you lose the portability benefits)

And we all seem to struggle with linking notes to the source reference material (see the multiple threads that go on for weeks here where we try to figure out how to effectively implement DEVONthink.)

Lots of attempts at the ”perfect“ note taking technology and reference system for a few decades now but here we are in almost 2020…is this the year? :sweat_smile:

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@LucCogZest’s Hook app seems to have solved this, allowing hooking multiple related files together.

Closest “feature complete” app I used is Notebooks.

It can do it all: plain text, exporting in different formats, WebDAV, PDF annotation, database, linking, works both on Mac and iOS (even Windows), even has a task system.

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I have really, REALLY wanted to use DT for everything and it has lots of things I love, BUT the iOS app is really not up to par and, especially, I find writing formatted text in that app to be a pain (no styles… and the markdown editor really is too basic).
For storing data, it is wonderful. But for writing and mobile availability… that’s where it breaks down IMO.

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Are you using it on a regular basis and storing lots of data in it?
Is it really actively developed?
I tried it but my first impression was of clunkiness. Does it hold its own under heavy load?

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The app is being actively developed, and it works pretty well. There are small issues from time to time, but nothing serious. It can handle almost any data type and thanks to plain text and markdown files, it’s also future proof.

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I have looked at it more closely and it does seem very interesting - the most feature complete app in the list. I have not seen the ability to link to other documents in iOS though - am I right in assuming that this only exists on the Mac at the moment?