The Best Note-taking Apps for Small Business and Beyond

By Helen Bradley | Posted November 05, 2013

Is your computer littered with sticky notes? Still writing reminder lists with pen and paper? If so, you may want to consider a digital makeover. Today's powerful notepad applications can send your lists everywhere you go; write a note on your desktop, and it will sync automatically to your mobile devices. Store content from a Web page in your notepad app, and it remains there long after the webpage has expired.

When you need to do research or remember anything, digital note-taking makes good sense. Need an app that meets your note-taking needs? Here are four programs to consider.

Take Notes: 4 Apps That Write, Draw, Sync and Share

1. Evernote

Evernote is probably the most popular note-taking application, and the basic version is free. You can buy a premium version that offers better searching, faster syncing and more storage, and you can also get Evernote for Business, too. However, most people will find the free version sufficient for their needs. You can find links to download Evernote at Evernote.com - there are versions for Windows, Windows 8 Touch, and Mac OSX. You'll also find apps for most mobile devices, as well as a browser app.

small business note-taking apps


Figure 1: Evernote supports a range of computers and mobile devices, and it lets you share notebooks across those devices and the Web.

Evernote works on a model that requires you to create one or more "notebooks" in which to store related information. You can store a range of data in a notebook including text, Web pages, images, and pdf files. You determine which notebooks you want to sync across all of your devices and which ones you want available only on the local machine.

You can capture photographs from your mobile device camera directly into an Evernote notebook, or you can import images stored on the device such as in the Photo Gallery on an iPad. Evernote notes are searchable, and you can search for text in notes as well as inside images. Note: if you need to search inside attached files—such as Microsoft Office or iWork worksheets, presentations and documents, or inside scanned PDFs—then upgrade to the Premium version for that capability.

Penultimate: smalll business software

Figure 2: Penultimate, a handy iPad handwriting and sketch app, can sync with Evernote share notes across other devices.

The recently released Chrome browser extension—Evernote Web Clipper—helps you save Web page data directly into an Evernote notebook from inside the Chrome browser. This extension can extract and store just the important content from a Web page or the entire page. You can also use markup tools—including arrows, text and highlighting—to annotate the page. Evernote stores and synchs the markup along with the page.

2. Penultimate

Penultimate (from the creators of Evernote) is a free iPad app for sketching and handwriting notes. Since it's an Evernote app, you can synch Penultimate notebooks and have them appear as a folder in Evernote on your other devices. This lets you sketch diagrams and write notes on the iPad and make those notes available wherever you have Evernote installed.

3. OneNote

Part of the Microsoft Office suite OneNote is also one of the Web Apps available for free on Skydrive. Even if you haven't a paid for version of Microsoft Office, you can still use OneNote to create notebooks and to store information via a Web browser. OneNote is also available as an iPad app, for Windows 8 Touch and for Android mobile devices.

Onenote from Microsoft

Figure 3: Microsoft's OneNote is available as a free Web App for iPad, Windows 8 Touch and Android devices.

On the desktop, OneNote is a fully featured note-taking application while the apps and Web App provide some, but not all, of the functionality of the desktop program. On the desktop and the Web, you can capture content from a website by copying and pasting it into a notebook. You can insert images and clip art, and you can create links and tables in which to store your data. If you are familiar with using Microsoft Office applications, then using the OneNote interface will be very familiar.

Once you create a notebook in OneNote, you can sync it across all your devices and make the notes accessible anywhere.

4. Google Keep

Google didn't win a lot of friends when it dumped Google Reader, and some users are concerned about storing information in an application that might suffer the same fate as Reader. If you're prepared to take the risk, and if your note taking needs are very simple, then the new Google Keep might be just the ticket.

Google Keep is a browser and Android app for recording short notes, lists, images and reminders. It is simple to use—click and type a note or checkbox list, select a color for it and, if desired, add an image or a reminder. Finding and viewing notes is simple—you can view them in list or thumbnail view and search for words or phrases using the Search bar.

Which App is Best for You?

You'll find plenty of great apps for storing research and personal data. Which one is best for you will depend on your operating system, mobile device, existing software, and your note taking needs. If you use Microsoft Office, then OneNote is an obvious and sound choice. Evernote—with or without Penultimate—is a great all-round application for a range of devices and, if your needs are very simple, Google Keep is worth considering.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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