(Credit: Min An)

We resort to lots of different ways of trying to stay in control of all the things we have to remember and keep organized. Sometimes all we need is a simple list, and sometimes we need something much more complex, like a DIY project or a big party planner or a seriously major work project.

An approach some note-taking apps take is to provide a single place to organize all our information, both large scale and small. Microsoft OneNote (download for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS) is this kind of app.

SEE: Best to-do list apps of 2019 for managing tasks on any platform

OneNote uses a familiar format of notebooks divided into sections which are divided into pages. Tags help you bring together ideas that cut across sections or notebooks. OneNote can capture everything from to-do lists and standard notes to drawings made right to the screen to audio notes and web clippings. It allows for sharing and collaboration. OneNote is flexible and much liked. But it's not the only organizer around. There are plenty of other options for notes apps.


Evernote -- which is free with limited features or $7.99 a month for the premium version -- can help you organize everything from to-do lists with checkboxes through to major projects. You can add to Evernote in lots of ways, for example, by entering information into it directly, clipping from web pages or, in the paid version, sending it emails. Subscribers also have access to other features like the ability to annotate and search PDFs and connect with cloud services like Google Drive and with communication tools like Slack.

Once upon a time users of the free version of Evernote (download for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS) could synchronize their notes across more than just the two devices that are now allowed. With many of us having a laptop, tablet and phone, the two-device limit could be rather restrictive. The monthly plan gets you past that limitation across desktop and mobile apps.

(Credit: Evernote)

Google Keep

The free Google Keep isn't as complex as OneNote, but it still offers a lot. It doesn't collect notes into notebooks, but you can create both labels and color coding to bring notes together, and you can text search every note at once. Notes can include checklists so you can tick stuff off when they're completed, and if you're using a touch screen they can incorporate handwriting or drawings. There's a Chrome extension for pulling in content from the web, and you can dictate into it too -- it'll turn your spoken word into text and keep the recording. And it can handle images.

You can email notes to other people if you want them to see something, and share notes with a "collaborator" by email if you want to work on something together. There's also a reminder system to nudge you when you have to make a phone call or buy someone a birthday present.

Run Google Keep (download for Android and iOS) on as many devices as you need to, and it will keep synchronized across them all.

(Credit: Google)


Simplenote is a free note-taking app that avoids fancy features, prioritizing instead speed and efficiency. Words are king here, and Simplenote is a text-only app. It can even provide a count of words and characters in any note. It uses tags to help you connect notes on similar topics, and there is also a search function that will look for matches across all your notes.

Notes can be shared with other people so you can collaborate, and they can be published to the web for anyone to see -- Simplenote generates a URL for you to share. Simplenote uses Markdown, a system that allows you to apply text formatting using a series of basic characters.

Simplenote (download for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS) will synchronize across whatever devices you put the app on.

(Credit: Simplenote)


Trello doubles as a notes organizer and a project-management system. It organizes its information into "boards" that contain "cards," which break down everything that needs to be done into manageable chunks you define and name. This means you can as easily use it to keep a to-do list as to work through all the jobs that need to be got through to complete a bit project.

It is easy to share Trello boards with other people, and you can do this in the free version. Trello (download for Android and iOS) is relatively basic as project management apps go, and it doesn't have the granular note-taking controls of the likes of OneNote or Evernote, but as a lightweight hybrid it does a good job. And it's free for individuals, and $9.99 for business users.

(Credit: Trello)

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Sandra Vogel is a contributing writer for ZDNet and CNET's She writes about mobile technology, the latest apps, Microsoft Windows, and more.