Note-taking apps are essential tools for organizing things, and there are plenty of them available for macOS. A good note-taking app has all the features you need and none that you don’t.
Plus, there’s no one app that’s perfect for everyone, so we’ve compiled a list of the best ones so you can make an informed decision.
Free and simple for Apple users: Apple Notes
If you mostly use Apple devices, Apple Notes is a great option. The app has come a long way since the early days of iOS, with Apple not only adding powerful features, but also making it a lot more enjoyable to use.
The app supports attachments including photos, maps, web links and documents that you can “scan” using the built-in document scanner on iPhone and iPad. There is simple text formatting, tables and the ability to create checklists. You can even lock notes with a password and use Face ID and Touch ID to unlock them on supported devices. There’s also support for one-finger markup or Apple Pencil on compatible devices (not on Mac for now though).
Apple relies on hashtags and folders for organization, and you can even choose to keep notes out of iCloud and only on your Mac or mobile device. Your data is indexed and easy to find on Apple devices thanks to Spotlight Search, which can often fail with third-party solutions. You can even use smart folders to collect notes based on tags.
Notes also has some powerful collaboration features. You can add other users with an Apple ID to your notes and even use inline mentions to grab their attention with a notification.
Feature-rich and powerful: Microsoft OneNote
Microsoft OneNote is a heavy note-taking app that includes a huge number of features and doesn’t cost a dime to use. A subscription is not required to access all app features, including cloud sync across platforms. If you use more than one Mac, you’ll be happy to know that OneNote has native apps for almost every platform, including Android, Windows, and the cloud. There is also a native version of Apple Silicon, which works excellently on the latest Apple computers.
This approach is liberating for power users and overkill for anyone looking for a simple note-taking app. It’s great if you’re organizing meeting notes, taking photos of whiteboards, and jotting down product designs or concept art. That’s a little too much if all you want to do is make a grocery list or take a quick reminder (but it still works).
This comprehensive approach is reflected in OneNote’s approach to organization, which uses notebooks, sections in notebooks, and pages in sections. You can select built-in tags like “To Do” and “Important” to quickly organize things or create your own. Reordering and sorting notes, sections and notebooks is also quick and easy.
Collaborative features are strong too, with a simple “Invite to Notebook” link allowing anyone to contribute. You can share view-only links, check when your note was last synced with the server, and see other people making changes in real time.
Text only and cross-platform: Simplenote
If you want simplicity but need better native support than Apple Notes, check out Simplenote. The clue is in the name, but Simplenote is as no-nonsense as a note-taking app can get. This comes at the expense of features, but it makes the note-taking experience fast and enjoyable.
Simplenote doesn’t support attachments, which means it’s a text-only note-taking experience. It’s completely free, with free synchronization between the many native versions available. This includes macOS, Windows, Android, and a large variety of Linux versions. If you don’t want to use the Mac App Store or the Google Play Store you can download Simplenote directly from GitHub.
The app supports plain text, Markdown, and simple checklists. The organization takes place exclusively through tags, which have a dedicated field at the bottom of the notes. Searching and syncing is extremely fast which is further aided by the fact that the app has a native Apple Silicon version for chips like the M1.
Despite the no-nonsense approach, Simplenote still manages to include support for basic collaboration. Type an email address in the tag field and the recipient will receive an invitation to contribute to your note. You can even see and revert to previous versions of notes – a benefit of the app’s text-only approach.
Glossy and Premium: Bear App
Bear is a beautiful all-purpose note-taking and writing app for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS. There is no native version of Windows or Android, but a web version is in the works. If you’re not strictly limited to Apple devices, Bear probably isn’t for you.
The app takes a highly refined approach to capturing your thoughts and other written content, with a strong focus on Markdown. Bear is a little different in that it features Markdown as a rich preview as you write, beautifying words on the page before you’ve exported or previewed them. It’s about making the writing experience more enjoyable, which in turn could help you do more.
The editor also highlights over 150 programming languages (perfect for code snippets) and can recognize elements such as email addresses and web links. You can add attached files to your notes and there is inline support for images. The organization is done exclusively via hashtags, except that there is no separate field (they must be mentioned in the body of the note).
Most of Bear’s features are free, but you’ll need to pay a monthly or annual subscription ($ 1.49 per month or $ 14.99 per year) to access syncing between devices. You’ll also get the ability to lock your notes, more export options, and some additional themes.
Collaborative development: empowerment note
If you’re a programmer or web developer who uses a note-taking app differently than most people, Boost Note might be a good solution. It’s a Markdown editor aimed directly at developers, with an emphasis on collaboration. Boost Note describes its interface as “IDE-like” with a flexible organization system that allows you to nest notes in multiple folders.
At the heart of Boost Note is collaboration. You can have multiple teams within a shared workspace, working on the same projects simultaneously in real time. It is also possible to generate public URLs to share documents with clients or external collaborators without having to set up additional accounts.
Boost has a native version for most major operating systems, including Windows and Linux such as Debian (Ubuntu) and Red Hat, as well as mobile versions for Android and iOS. Boost Note also has a web version that you can access from most modern browsers.
Boost is free as long as you have a small team of three or fewer members. You only get 3 days of version history, 100MB of storage, and 10MB of uploads at that level. The price then increases on a per member basis, to $ 3 or $ 8 per member per month. You get more storage, more versions and extended support depending on whether you choose the Standard or Pro tier.
Apple Notes is a great place to start
There’s a reason Apple Notes is first on this list, and that’s because you get a huge number of features in one easy-to-use package for free. You’ll need to continue using the Apple ecosystem, but if you’re already a Mac or iPhone user it probably won’t be a problem.
You can even access Apple Notes on Android and Windows if you’re happy with a web version. And for iPad users, there’s no easier way to jot down handwritten notes or draw perfect shapes.