10 Best Note Taking Apps for Windows in 2020
Gone are the days where you needed a pen and paper to take notes, jot down your ideas, and write your to-do lists. Don’t get me wrong, you can still use this surefire method if you prefer, but with today’s technology, you are doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t taking advantage of convenient note-taking applications and note-taking software.
One of the best note taking apps that entrepreneurs used to use was TreePad. Unfortunately, TreePad is no longer available, but these are some alternative note-taking apps for Windows that I had tested and want to share with you today. I will also include which I feel is the best note taking app Windows has to offer.
1. Sticky Notes
Best Standard Windows App – 3.9 out of 5 stars
The Sticky Notes app comes standard on PCs with Windows 10 or higher. You do not have to download or install additional note-taking apps or note-taking software if you have a Windows 10 PC or higher. Sticky Notes is a basic, simple, and effective app for taking and saving notes and reminders. Sticky Notes can be pinned to the desktop or home screen, come in a variety of colors, and can sync with Microsoft OneNote.
Sticky Notes defaults to a size of approximately 2×2 when opened on a PC, but the notepad can be expanded or condensed as needed. If using a Microsoft Surface Pro, you can write notes directly on the area of the Sticky Note using a stylus pen.
- Comes standard on Windows 10 or higher operating systems
- Ability to sync with Microsoft OneNote and calendars
- Different colors available
- Can pin to desktop or start menu
2. Microsoft OneNote
Best Note-Syncing App – 4 out of 5 stars
The good news about Microsoft OneNote is that you can use it in a couple of different ways without having to pay a dime for the app. It is completely free and works with Windows 7 operating systems or newer. If you have a Microsoft account (Hotmail, Windows Live, Outlook), you can access Microsoft OneNote directly from the application you are in. For example, if you are in your free Hotmail email account and need to create notes, calendar events, or organize information, you can do it directly from the Microsoft OneNote add-in that is included.
The other way to use Microsoft OneNote is as an application on a phone or tablet. As long as you are signed into your Microsoft account, all your Microsoft OneNote files will sync, and you will be able to access them on any desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone that uses the application.
Microsoft OneNote saves your notes into your “Notebook” for you to access from any Microsoft-based application. Microsoft OneNote is free, but if you need the full Microsoft Office 365, it costs $69.
- Free and paid versions
- Easily access your notes by signing into your Microsoft account on any device
- Syncs with Microsoft programs and other note files on your computer
- You can add pages and sections to each note
- You can create more than one “notebook” on OneNote, making organization easier
Most Popular Overall – 4.2 out of 5 stars
I wanted to go ahead and knock out the two most common note-taking applications that come standard with Windows operating systems today before I dive into the details of Evernote.
Evernote is the most popular note-taking application for Windows – and for a good reason. Evernote gives users the option to choose a free version or a paid plan. As for myself, I like options. Maybe I want to spend a little money on an application if it’s worth it, or maybe I can be perfectly happy with a free version; at least give me the option, and that is exactly what Evernote does.
Evernote Basic is the free version of this notes app, and it doesn’t cut any corners. You can access your notes from any device when you log in, you receive 60MB of file storage each month, and you can save a webpage directly into a note with the “Web Clipper” add-on. You can also create a to-do list with the Evernote Basic version.
Evernote Premium is $7.99/month, and I would recommend it if you needed daily organization in your life. If you have multiple meetings, deadlines, and projects, Evernote Premium may be worth the $7.99 each month. Perhaps the best feature of Evernote Premium is the access you have when you are offline. You can also attach emails, Microsoft Office and Google documents, PDFs, business cards, and handwritten notes with Evernote Premium making it a highly organizational note-taking application.
- Basic (free) or Premium (paid) versions available
- Large storage capacities each month with a cloud-based file system
- Web Clipper add-on lets you save webpage information directly into a note
- Multiple types of files can be saved in Evernote Premium
- Connect the Evernote application to your smartphone to use voice commands to add notes (Hey Siri, Hey Google)
Best Text-Only App – 4.3 out of 5 stars
Another free note-taking app for Windows that I have tested is Simplenote. I like Simplenote because it is free, simple, and functional for the note-taking I do. I don’t need to add audio files, pictures, and attachments to every note I take which is what makes Simplenote so appealing to me, but this may not be enough of an application you need.
The good news about this application is that it is free, so you can at least download it and add it to your repertoire of note-taking applications if need-be. Maybe there are basic text-only notes you need to take and organize? Simplenote is perfect for organizing text-only notes which is what makes it one of the 10 best.
- Text-only notes
- Tags for easy searching
- Online publishing
- Access your notes on any device
5. Google Keep
Best App for Google Lovers – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Google has become my go-to for docs, sheets, and cloud photo storage or organization, so I was excited when I discovered Google Keep. Google Keep is the best note-taking application for those who enjoy Google-based applications. Google Keep has that same Google feel you get in other Google applications.
Organizing your notes in Google Keep is simple and straightforward. You can organize your notes according to how you label them. Google Keep has three preset labels that you can use to organize your notes, or you can remove them completely and make your own. You can create a label for work, personal, financials, sports, or as many or as little categories as you need.
Google Keep allows you to add a collaborator, which is someone who can also edit the note. You can also change the color of each note and add images in addition to text.
- Google feel and design
- Effective organization through colors and labels
- Add text and images to notes
- Invite a collaborator to add and edit notes
6. Dropbox Paper
Best App for Groups – 4.4 out of 5 stars
Most of my notes are not required to be shared with others, but there are times when I have wanted an application that my colleagues and I could each access, edit, and publish. Dropbox Paper gives me exactly what I need when needing to share information with others. On the flipside, Dropbox Paper is great for me to go into to see what my colleagues have added so that I can stay up-to-speed on the latest project. For a complete list of cloud project management software checkout this guide.
I think the best feature of Dropbox Paper is its immediate integration with the Dropbox application that allows every file I have uploaded to Dropbox to be accessed and attached to the document on Dropbox Paper if need be.
- Easy sign-in on computer or smartphone to access documents anytime anywhere
- Dropbox files are synced and accessible to add to documents
- All file types can be added to documents
- Cloud storage for documents created
Best App for Formatting – 4.3 out of 5 stars
There are times when I need to immediately access a note, which is why I recommend the Sticky Notes application. Then, there are times when I need to create detailed and organized notes that I may not frequently access yet I need them on standby. This is when I would use Typora.
If you are a visual person like me, you respond to titles, headings, and specific formatting of text. This is what landed Typora on this list. Typora is extremely customizable. You can make any note in any format you choose. The markdown editor formats text as you type, making note-taking quicker and more effective. You can even create a table of contents to look at specific headers, titles, and outlines.
There is one setback to this app – once you create a note, you have to save it as a document to your computer. You cannot save it within the application and come back to it later to view it or organize it within the application. The good news is that you can create quality, detailed notes with the Typora app and save them on your computer for quick and easy access whenever you need it.
- Extremely organizational with titles, headers, and outlines
- Customizable with markdown editor that formats text as you type
- No mobile app version available – desktop only
8. Microsoft WordPad
Best Get-the-Job-Done App – 4 out of 5 stars
The pioneer of note-taking apps is Microsoft WordPad. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, and this note-taking application has lived up to the test. A basic note-taking application for you to add text, bullets, and outlines.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to grab a pen and paper, open up Microsoft WordPad on your desktop computer and begin writing. It’s that simple, and it has stood the test of time. Microsoft WordPad first debuted on Windows 95 and it is still going strong today. Microsoft WordPad has evolved since Windows 95, but it has still retained its basic interface.
- Comes standard on all Windows operating systems
- Limited customizing options; colors, font-size, bullets, and outlines only
- Notes must be saved to the computer they are created on
9. Standard Notes
Best for Private Notes – 4 out of 5 stars
Private notes should be private, and Standard Notes has ensured just that. Standard Notes has promised that your notes have AES-256 encryption. This means that only you can read the notes you create and no one else. The best part is that the free version of Standard Notes offers you more features than some of its competition’s paid versions.
For example, in the free version of Standard Notes, you can edit documents while offline, there is no data limit, and the notes you create are automatically synced and available to access.
The paid version is still affordable at $2.48/month. The benefits of the paid version include receiving encrypted copies of your documents that can be stored on Google Docs or Dropbox, automatic backups so that you never have to fear losing anything you have created, and Two-Factor Authentication to ensure your privacy stays private.
- Free and paid versions
- Automatic sync
- No data limits
- Offline accessibility
The All-in-One Note-Taking App – 3.4 out of 5 stars
Notion has been described as the organizational note-taking application that can take all the information from Google Docs, Google Sheets, and other databases and combine them into one organizational app. Notion can be used individually or in an office or group setting. Not only is Notion used for creating notes and documents, but you can also assign tasks, create questions and answers, and record spreadsheets and databases.
Notion comes in different tiered plans. There is a free plan, a $4/month plan, and an $8/month plan.
- Free plan includes 1000-block storage, 5MB upload limit, and bulk export of files
- $4/month plan gives you unlimited block storage, no file upload limit, priority tech support, and bulk export of files
- $8/month plan gives you unlimited block storage, no file upload limit, priority tech support, admin tools, and bulk export of files
What is the Best Note-Taking App for Windows?
Now that I’ve given you my tried-and-true recommendations of note-taking apps that work, it’s time for the big reveal.
The best note-taking app for Windows is Evernote.
Evernote was founded in 2000 and has been evolving ever since. In 2018, CEO Chris O’Neill announced he was stepping down from the company. He was replaced by current CEO Ian Small. Ian announced that Evernote was going to continue building the future, and they have delivered.
Evernote has something for everyone, and you don’t have to pay for the app if you don’t want to. Their free version is effective, and you don’t lose any of the operational features of the app. The paid version is affordable, and you do get a few more options, but I like the features I receive from the free version.
I also like that Evernote can transcribe handwriting. If using a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet or a smartphone with the Evernote application installed, you can use your finger or stylus pen to write handwritten notes and Evernote will turn it into a document, organize your notes, and save it.
Why You Need the Best Note Taking App for YOU
Everyone is different, so what may work for you may not work for another. Identify the reason why you need to be using the best note-taking app.
One of the features I have found that is worth its weight in gold is being able to access the app while I’m not online. You may need the same feature in your line of work. Perhaps you are on-call even when you are on vacation in remote areas where Wi-Fi service is non-existent. Being able to access or create valuable notes pertaining to the phone call you are taking may be a selling feature of one application over another.
Applications that have both desktop and mobile app versions make it so much easier to access notes on-the-go. You can be sitting at your desk updating a note and then grab your phone for a meeting and continue adding to the note when the meeting starts. Applications that have handwriting recognition can also help you record notes as you jot down key points from a meeting.
Storage, Storage, Storage
The number of notes you write each month may determine the application you choose. You will not want to choose an application with a monthly upload cap or a storage limit.
While Notion is a great note-taking application, it does not offer much storage allowance at all. This may be the factor that determines if you use Notion or another application. Dropbox Paper, Evernote, OneNote, and Standard Notes might be a better option for you in this case.
As you can see, I made mention of Evernote multiple times throughout this article. Evernote is hard to beat with all of the features, both free and paid, that are offered in the app, but Microsoft OneNote is a close second.
When searching for the best note-taking app for Microsoft Windows, a Microsoft product is hard to beat. Just remember you must have Microsoft Windows 7 or newer to be able to download both of these!