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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.

Notability ($3) remains among my favorite note-takers: It's like a mix of Evernote and Penultimate, letting users create notes using a range of techniques — handwriting, typing, taking pictures, capturing audio, and more. It's best feature? If you've recorded a lecture and taken notes simultaneously, Notability syncs the two — just tap a word in the middle of your notes, and the app will find that same spot in the audio, helping you rediscover and remember the context of your half-formed thought.

The shortcoming? It's a standalone app — you can access your note on computer, yes, but only by syncing the notes with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, or webDAV. Students may find its audio sync feature especially helpful for taking notes during long lectures.

Super Note (free) shares a lot of Notability's features, but with a simpler and perhaps more intuitive user interface: It only incorporates typed notes, pictures, and recordings. It may also go a little further in helping you get organized, with color-coded arrows to guide the way. You've got one option for syncing to your desktop computer: Dropbox.

NoteMaster ($4) has separate apps for the iPhone and iPad. They both feature plenty of formatting options, easy organizing rules, and the ability to insert photos. You can sync the notes using Google Docs or Dropbox. (However, if you're thinking about using the Google Docs app to take notes on a mobile device: Don't. Get this app, and you'll have a more pleasant visual experience, at the very least.)

Vesper ($3) isn't really a classroom app: It's an iPhone-only offering (though that may change soon) that's built more for an individual's on-the-fly thinking. Got an idea for that song you're writing? Jot it down quickly. Want to make a poem about that pretty flower? Take a picture and jot down your thoughts. The app has limited syncing options — basically, unless you send the notes in an SMS message or an email, will only be able to access it from... your other iPhones also equipped with the Vesper app. But stay tuned: This app may have a different story to tell next semester.

There is no shortage of good note-taking apps out there, and your criteria may differ from mine. Though Evernote will likely be the best choice for most users, you should feel free to try several of these options — most of them have free versions — and see what works for you.


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