Add other users to your notes and collaborate by tapping Add People at the top of the note and entering their email. Because Notes is deeply integrated into iOS, you can save items as notes from almost anywhere using the Share button, then choosing Notes. Sync takes place over iCloud, with all users receiving 5GB of free iCloud storage space.
As long as you're logged in to the same iCloud account, synced notes will appear on any other iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac devices and on the web at iCloud. The clue is in the name when it comes to Simplenote. This is an aggressively simple note taking platform, with a version available for every major platform.
The app allows you to capture plain text notes that take up very little space on your device. You can use Markdown by tapping the Information icon and enabling the Markdown toggle, then swipe the page to the right to view a Markdown preview. You can't embed images or audio files, add PDF attachments, or include checklists.
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Since everything is stored in plain text, the app is highly responsive, and notes take very little time to render and display. Organization takes place by way of tags alone. There are no notebooks or folders—simply deploy your own system of tags in the tag field on your notes. These tags then live in the sidebar to the left of the screen, so you can browse by tag with a tap if you want. Since Simplenote is free, there are no features hidden behind in-app purchases or subscriptions: You get access to everything. That includes passcode or biometric security, a dark mode theme, and syncing with other instances of Simplenote.
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All you'll need to use and sync Simplenote is a free WordPress account. If your idea of note taking relies on the typed word alone, Simplenote is the perfect tool for the job wrapped up in a delightful free package. Standard Notes is a Simplenote alternative with a focus on end-to-end encryption. The app supports locking notes with passcodes or biometrics, archiving notes for later recall, and the ability to work offline. It has a slightly different look and feel than Simplenote while satisfying the same basic plain text demands.
Ultimately, Simplenote's wholly free ecosystem tips it over the edge when comparing the two offerings.
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Google Keep is Google's own cross-platform note taking app, with other versions available for Android and the Chrome browser and OS. As of this writing, there are no desktop versions of Keep, which is a shame because the native iOS app is a pleasure to use. Google Keep places a strong emphasis on the visual aspect of note taking, presenting all of your notes in a scrolling list on the home screen—it ends up feeling like a scrapbook.
The app allows you to take simple text notes, but you can't add formatting. You can capture checklists, sketches and handwritten notes, audio recordings, and images from your device's camera or the Photos app. It's also possible to mix any combination of these things within a single note. To keep your notes collection organized, Keep uses Gmail-like labels.
The labels aren't color-coded, but you can apply multiple labels to a single note by tapping the three dots in the lower-right corner of a note and then choosing Labels and ticking all that apply. Tags can also be deployed anywhere within a note like a regular hashtag, allowing you to filter by tag using the search engine. Finally, each note not tag can be color-coded with one of 12 background colors. These colors help differentiate your notes from one another on the slightly cluttered home screen. There are other ways to keep notes top of mind.
At the top of a note, tap the bell icon to turn your note into a reminder at a date and time or place of your choosing. You can also pin a note to the top of your home screen using the pin button.
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Notes can be collaborative too. Tap the three dots on a note and tap Collaborators to add other users to a Keep note, allowing them to edit the note. You can also send notes from this menu without having to add users as collaborators. Sync takes place for free over Google's own servers, with anything stored eating into your total Google account storage.
While technically a note taking app, Drafts 5 offers so much more in its unique approach to typing on your iOS device. The primary focus is on creating actionable notes, rather than storing anything and everything though you could use it for that too. So what is an actionable note?
In this case, it's an email you're drafting, a text message you need to send, a blog post you might be working on, or simply a passage of text that you want to use elsewhere. When you first launch Drafts, you're greeted by a blank canvas where you can start typing. This is the first major change compared to most note taking apps: Drafts is always ready to go.
In no time, you can capture plain text notes and audio recordings. All of your new notes are first stored in your inbox, and from there you can decide what to do with them. Organization mostly involves tags, though it's also possible to flag and archive notes. Both flagged and archived notes appear in separate sections for easy perusal. You can search for your notes as you would in any other app, or use Drafts' system of filters for applying multiple tags to a search query.
The real magic of Drafts is what happens to your notes once you've written them.
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Tap on the Drafts icon in the top-right corner of the screen to see a list of one-tap actions you can perform with your note. These include sending the text to the Messages app, launching a new Mail draft with your text ready to send, or saving your text to Files as a separate file. This doesn't take place via the usual iOS share sheet, but instead instantly sends your text to the app of your choosing.
These actions are varied. You can use Drafts to search Google, create a new Reminder, save to third-party cloud services like OneDrive and Dropbox, compose a Tweet, or create a task in third-party apps like Things and OmniFocus. Not only is Drafts a note taking app on its own, but it's also an extension that plays nicely with some of the other big players like OneNote and Evernote.
Take Drafts to the next level with a Pro subscription that allows you to create and edit your own actions, unlock custom icons and themes, use additional widgets and share extensions, and more. Zoho Notebook is another free note taking platform that strikes a great balance between ease of use and functionality.
It's the perfect alternative to Apple Notes for users who don't solely reside within the Apple ecosystem. There are Zoho Notebook apps also available for Android, Mac, and Windows platforms, and they're all free to use. Zoho takes a card-based approach to note capture. Every note you take is a card, with different cards used for different types of content. There are cards for rich text notes, checklists, audio recordings, photos and images, sketches, and files like PDFs.
By composing a new text card, you can mix any number of these different elements in a single card.
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Notebooks with customizable cover images are used to store your cards. It's also possible to deploy tags anywhere within a note by typing a hashtag, then tapping on the tag box that appears. Individual notes can be color-coded using one of 14 pre-selected colors or a color wheel.
These colors make it easy to differentiate different note types, provided you pick a system and stick to it. Use the camera feature to take photos directly into notes, or scan documents and business cards for safe keeping. You can also use your fingers or a stylus to sketch or handwrite notes, but unfortunately, your handwriting isn't searchable. Syncing is fast and invisible. You'll need a Zoho account in order to use the app at all, which is how the Notebook handles syncing with other instances of the app.
The whole platform is free, with no restrictions on the number of devices you can sync and no upload quotas. Notability is a complete note taking app with support for both typing your notes and writing them out by hand. The app is probably best for iPad Pro users with a Pencil since the inking technology has been optimized for use with Apple's stylus.
But it's still easy to take handwritten notes on an iPhone or regular iPad, with or without a stylus. The app supports simple text input with bullet points and checkboxes for creating lists or to-dos. Tap the input method icon at the top of a note to choose from handwriting, highlighting, an eraser, or a lasso tool. You can also tap on the camera icon to add images from your camera or Photos library.
On an iPad Pro, you can use the Apple Pencil to draw and write directly on the page. On an iPhone, an assistant in the lower-right corner of the screen allows you to enter handwriting with your finger. The assistant will scroll the page for you, allowing you to enter small and neat handwriting.
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In reality, it's a slow process, so Notability's handwriting prowess is best reserved for iPad users with a stylus. In addition to recording text and handwritten notes, Notability also includes the ability to record audio. This is perfect for use in lectures or business meetings since you can use a feature called Note Replay to play back both the audio and the ink recordings in time with each other. When you replay an audio recording and enable Note Replay, your notes and drawings will appear just like they did when you initially made them. Notability's superior inking abilities are put to further use in its capacity as a PDF markup tool.
Organization takes place by way of dividers folders and subjects subfolders. And you can search the entire contents of your notes—including handwriting—from the search bar. You can even convert your handwriting to text by selecting it with the lasso tool, tapping it, and choosing Convert to Text you'll get a preview first too —and it works surprisingly well. Sync is performed over iCloud with other instances of Notability, including the separately-sold Mac app.
Notability is a powerhouse of the note taking world, with excellent handwriting conversion and business-class markup features, at a sensible price point. Just like Notability, it has excellent inking features, a range of pens, pencils, and highlighters to choose from, and a library of paper styles and templates. For this reason, Noteshelf 2 might be the better choice for someone already working with Evernote who wants a superior digital inking experience—provided you don't need OCR.
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