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The best apps for taking notes

Joel Mathis | Sept. 3, 2014
Man, it's a great time to be a note-taker.

Man, it's a great time to be a note-taker.

For a couple of decades — first as a student, then as a professional journalist — I filled notebook after notebook with notes, covering classes, press conferences, interviews, and more. When I was done, I'd have to find someplace to store them until (most likely) I'd throw them out. The notes I did keep? Useless. My on-the-fly handwriting is a horrible thing.

The result: A lot of personal and professional history gone to waste.

The process got better when laptop adoption became widespread and I could start typing my notes in real time as a speech or lecture was being delivered. It improved yet again when Google Docs came along, and storage ceased to be a worry.

Mobile devices, though, transformed everything. The productivity charts in the app stores are awash in great note-taking apps, ranging from the complicated — Evernote would let you describe every part of your life with enough detail to satisfy three of the five senses — to the useful-but-relatively-one-dimensional (think of the naive Notes app on iOS). For the first time in decades, I don't have to carry pen and paper everywhere I go. All I need is my smartphone, and I'm ready to go to class, conduct an interview, or cover a fire as a breaking news story.

So which app is the best?

To determine that, TechHive picked a number of note-taking apps, popular either with the public — as determined by the iOS and Android app store charts — or which have received sterling notices in the tech press. And to test them, I used each in my everyday life — for reporting and writing news stories, as well as everyday tasks like making grocery lists, or to store away a great thought or quote.

I had three criteria for judging these note-taking apps: They had to be versatile. They had to help me get organized, easily and intuitively. And they had to be accessible — a note that will live on my iPhone and my iPhone only is not a note that's ultimately useful to me: I might take the notes on a mobile device, but I might write a paper or a story on a laptop or desktop — so I want quick, easy access to the notes in both locations.

Oh, and while I used Apple gear in the testing of these apps, I didn't want to preclude the idea that someday soon I might switch to a Nexus tablet instead: The apps had to be available on both major mobile platforms, to give users maximum flexibility.

The winner: Evernote

Um, surprise?


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