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The Absolute Best Note Taking Apps for Mac

The Absolute Best Note Taking Apps for Mac

Judy Tsuei
Writer
November 20, 2023

The Absolute Best Note Taking Apps for Mac
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In our digital age, we’re taking in more and more information everyday. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re gaining new knowledge. If you want to capture your best ideas and turn info into knowledge, it all starts with the right note-taking app. In this guide, we’re breaking down the six best note-taking apps for Mac users.

Here are the tools we’ll be comparing: 

  • Apple Notes
  • Evernote
  • Goodnotes
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Simplenote
  • Ulysses

Among the six note-taking tools, we’ll evaluate which tool is the best as a Mac app, while taking into consideration their cross-platform capabilities. 

Apple Notes

The greatest benefit of Apple Notes is the intuitive experience of the Apple ecosystem. Jot down your thoughts, share notes with other Apple users, and use hashtags to organize your notes into folders. Real-time syncing through iCloud also means you can access and update your notes across all your Apple devices. Though often seen as a basic app, Apple Notes offers tons of features like formatting, tables, attachments, and even a Scribble functionality that allows you to insert handwritten notes and drawings into your digital notes. 

Pros:

  • Real-time collaboration with other iOS users 
  • Organize notes by date, and smart folders suggestions based on tags 
  • Notes supports photos, videos, and hyperlinks
  • Scan documents and photos into Notes
  • Sync with Gmail
  • Lock notes for a boost of security
  • Share notes to other apps like Gmail and Dropbox
  • Create checklists and to-do lists
  • Scribble lets you digitize drawings and handwritten notes
  • Offline access to notes

Cons:

  • Limited customization for formatting
  • Only accessible and editable on Apple devices
  • No version history

Pricing: Free

Evernote

Evernote is an excellent platform with an intuitive user interface that promotes users to get started on creating content. With a variety of features and integrations available, users can take their notes to the next level of organization as they embed, identify, and search within their notes. While Evernote may have decreased its level of free features recently, the note-taking application has really set the bar with its tiers by providing task management technology to ensure that your to-do list is always complete. 

Pros: 

  • Organize your notes with tags
  • Search for text in handwritten notes, documents, and images
  • Sync across multiple devices
  • Integrate with other apps like Slack and Salesforce
  • Supports various note formats (text, image, audio, attachments)
  • Offline access to notes
  • Connects Google Calendar and notes
  • Customize notes with tasks that can be delegated and attributed to due dates, flags, and reminders 
  • Scan documents and images and embed them into notes

Cons: 

  • Basic plan has limited features, and 2 devices availability
  • Limites storage space with 60MB limit per month and 25MB max per note

Pricing plans: 

  • Free (Sync up to 2 devices, 60 MB monthly uploads, 25 MB max. note size)
  • Personal, $159.99/year, (Sync unlimited devices, 10 GB monthly uploads, 200 MB max. note size)
  • Professional, $209.99/year, (Save 2x more content with 20 GB monthly uploads)

Goodnotes

goodnotes not

Image source: Goodnotes

Goodnotes is considered one of the best note-taking apps for a variety of users, especially in an educational setting. Free for students, Goodnotes offers a near-natural note-taking experience with minimal constraints. You can download PDFs, annotate, write anywhere on the page, and add audio recordings and sticky notes. Plus it offers a customizable design, so you can adapt your workspace to your unique workflow needs. Needless to say, Goodnotes is the best app for students and educators, as it provides collaborative and flexible functionalities for an affordable price in the App Store.

Pros:

  • Customize templates on a page-by-page basis 
  • Collaborative note-taking
  • Left-hand accessibility 
  • Free for students
  • AI-powered features supporting studying via study flash cards, and AI Math study sets
  • Auto-backup to Google Drive, Onedrive, and Dropbox with iCloud syncing
  • Marketplace available with free and paid options for planners, templates, and stickers
  • Compatible with Apple School Manager, document and audio file importing, and presenting mode
  • Document organizations and management with bookmarked pages, hyperlinks, handwritten recognition OCR search, and nested folders

Cons: 

  • Need annual subscription if you’re not a macOS user 
  • Only 3 notebooks available for free membership

Pricing: 

  • Free (3 notebooks, handwriting AI note-taking features, 20 min limit on audio recording per notebook, limited access to interactive exam practice materials)
  • One-time payment of $29.99 USD (same as annual but no access on Android, Windows, or web)
  • Annual plan $9.99 USD (unlimited notebooks, bonus stickers and templates, export docs without watermarks, unlock app on iOS, macOS, Android, Windows and web)

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote offers a range of templates and customization features which makes it an excellent note-taking app for Mac users. Offering the flexibility of Microsoft application integrations, real-time collaboration with other users, and access from a variety of devices, you can freely use the platform to organize everything from quick memos to extensive documentation. OneNote is a great choice especially if you’re already using other tools in the Microsoft family.

Pros: 

  • Real-time collaboration and seamless export options between applications
  • Accessibility from phones, tables, and other devices
  • Embed web pages, voice notes, articles, and images with annotations and links
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology allows images and handwritten notes to become searchable 
  • Simple organization with assigned tags, color coordination, customizable headers, footers, and paper backgrounds, as well as provided templates for meeting notes and project plans
  • Integrates with Microsoft applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)

Cons:

  • In-depth features lead to steeper learning curve
  • Notes being stored on the Cloud leads to data and privacy concerns

Personal pricing plans: 

  • 5GB Free
  • Microsoft Personal, 1 TB, $79/year
  • Microsoft Family, 6 TB, $109/year
  • Office Home & Student 2021, $169 (One time purchase for 1 Mac device)

Simplenote

Image source: Simplenote

Like Apple Notes, Simplenote is a great option if you’re looking to create quick notes that you can access across devices. It has a seamless user interface, and you can even track changes and access version history. While the app may be free, be aware that private information isn’t protected on the company’s servers.

Pros: 

  • Automatic syncing across devices
  • Tags to organize and search through notes
  • Collaborative working by sharing to-do lists, instructions, or publishing notes online
  • Backed up notes with every change so that you can recover old versions
  • Write, preview, and publish notes in markdown format. 
  • All features (apps, backups, syncing, sharing) are free. 
  • Available across all devices
  • Easy function and navigation
  • Available for use across iOS, Android, web, Windows, Linux, macOS systems

Cons: 

  • No AI features 
  • No study features
  • Only support text notes
  • No notebooks, folders, formatting tools, or web clipper, file attachments, audio, video, or email notes. 
  • Limited security as they’re stored on the company's server as unencrypted plain text files.

Pricing: Free

Ulysses

ulysses note taking app

Image source: Ulysses

Ulysses is the ideal note-taking app for writers who need a distraction-free experience, while having features like proofreading and publishing support that are specific to the needs of writers. Folders, tags, and labels allow you to manage and organize your content with ease. Plus, markdown support means you can structure your notes however you desire. 

Pros: 

  • Simple user interface to keep you focused on writing
  • Built-in proofreader, editing assistant, and markup based text editor
  • Available in over 20 languages
  • Export texts into PDFs, work documents, ebooks, and blog posts
  • Seamlessly publish to WordPress, Ghost, Medium, and Micro.blog
  • Organize scenes, chapters, attachments
  • Set deadlines, daily goals, and character limits as a way to track writing progress
  • Sync across multiple devices
  • Markdown functionality available 
  • Keyboard shortcuts available for quick actions

Cons: 

  • Collaboration with other users is not available
  • Writing templates are not provided
  • Only available on Apple products

Pricing: 

  • $4.99/month
  • $10.99 for six months
  • $39.99 per year
  • 14-day free trial

Going forward

To recap:

  • Goodnotes is the best note-taking app for students and educators who need advanced features like AI powered studying tools, alongside a flexible and intuitive note-taking experience.
  • Apple Notes is best for quick and accessible text notes. 
  • Ulysses is best for writers who need a distraction-free experience.
  • Simple Notes is best for users who want to use a simple note-taking app across a range of operating systems.
  • Evernote is the ideal choice for users who want a wide range of features and extensive organization capabilities
  • Microsoft Onenote is the best pick for users who want to integrate with other Microsoft apps.

About the author

Judy Tsuei

Judy Tsuei is a Simon & Schuster author, speaker, and podcast host. She’s been featured in MindBodyGreen, BBC Travel, Fast Company, Hello Giggles, and more. As the founder of Wild Hearted Words, a creative marketing agency for global brands, Judy is also a mentor with the Founder Institute, the world's largest pre-seed accelerator. Judy advocates for mental and emotional health on her popular podcast, F*ck Saving Face. Follow along her journey at WildHeartedWords.com.

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