Top 10+ Best Free Note Taking Apps For Android And iOS
Top 10+ Best Free Note Taking Apps For Android And iOS

Having one of the best note-taking apps on your smartphone is a no-brainer, precisely because inspiration can strike at any time. And when it does, why not turn to the device that's closest at hand to record your thoughts?

It's more critical than ever to have a great note-taking app, especially as screens get larger — or in the case of devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, foldable. Phone makers even offer devices with built-in styluses now, from the pricey Galaxy S22 Ultra to the cheaper Moto G Stylus (2022). Clearly, that's driven by people who want to turn their phone screen into a whiteboard or canvas for capturing ideas. Whether you're taking shorthand, whipping a to-do list or just jotting down a reminder, there's an app out there that can meet your note-taking criteria.

Here are the 10+best free note taking apps that you can use for Android and iOS.

What is note taking apps?

Note-taking is the process of capturing information from a source or event. This usually takes the form of recording, writing, jotting, paraphrasing, sketching, labelling, outlining, and annotating. Note-taking applications enable users to type, write, and draw on their devices just as they would on paper. Many applications have their own unique features, storage, organization, and sharing capabilities, and it’s up to the user to identify which note-taking application will work best for their needs.

Who can use note taking apps

Education – Note-taking is not a new initiative in education. Students are encouraged to take notes on their lectures, class assignments, readings, and other learning activities. Faculty share notes with students to outline and summarize the content in the course. The Office of Disability Services work with faculty, able-bodied, and disabled students to make sure the students have the notes they need to succeed in class. In recent years, students, faculty, and departments around universities are turning over to applications that will allow them to store and share their information more efficiently.

Workforce – In order to increase the knowledge and efficiency within organizations, sharing and tracking of information has become a priority. Note-taking applications have made a dent in the professional market, with most organizations committed to at least one application. Individually, business professionals may choose to use their own note-taking applications to track their roles within the company.

Lifestyle – With the increase of information available at every corner of the globe, it would be daunting to remember every bit without the use of note-taking or note-tracking. That’s why individuals choose to use note-taking applications in their everyday personal lives, to track their daily tasks, or to reach a personal goal.

What are the 10+ best free note taking apps that you can use for Android and iOS?

1. Evernote

Photo: Evernote Help & Learning
Photo: Evernote Help & Learning

iOS rating: 4.4

Android rating: 3.8

Pricing: Free with advanced plans starting from EUR 6.99/month

Ideal for: People who just need a great, generic note-taking app with some cool features.

Evernote is the gold standard for note-taking apps. Its feature-rich and platform-agnostic solution means you’ll be able to tailor it to whatever your note-taking needs and preferences are.

Evernote lets you take notes, format them, add images, make to-do lists, as well as search and share your notes with remarkable ease. Even with the free version, you can sync your notes across two devices allowing you to, for example, record ideas on your phone on the go and then find them in front of you when you open your laptop.

The paid versions have some useful features that might come in handy for those of you who are looking to do more than just take notes. For instance, all paid plans allow you to add reminders and notifications to ensure your note is brought back to your attention at the right time. But for casual note-takers, the free plan will do just fine.

Evernote’s OCR is very accurate and can effectively recognize even words written in sloppy cursive handwriting. That is great news for users who like to digitize handwritten notes instead of creating digital ones. Evernote can recognize 28 different typewritten and 11 handwritten languages. It can also scan uploaded images and photos for handwriting to recognize—think pictures of whiteboards or photos of handwritten Post-it Notes, for example.

The other aspects of Evernote’s search capabilities are also very strong. Evernote has a diverse range of advanced modifiers and its own search syntax, which makes finding stuff much easier. Evernote can also search for text strings across a wide range of document formats, including Microsoft Office files and PDFs. Unfortunately, that feature is restricted to Evernote’s Premium and Business plans. You can search by the date a Note was created, or even the location where it was created.

2. Otter

Photo: Otter. ai
Photo: Otter. ai

Otter is one of the best speech-to-text apps available, and it basically enables users to transcribe voice conversations. It’s available on desktop, Android, and iOS devices, and there is a limited free plan for new users to try it out.

Plans and pricing

Otter offers three plans which vary according to the tools and features they include. The free Basic subscription is the simplest available and enables users to record up to 600 minutes of audio per month. This can then be played back, exported as text, or edited with a variety of tools. Speaker identification is also available.

A Premium subscription costs $8.33 per user per month if you pay annually ($9.99 with monthly payments). You’ll get up to 6000 minutes of audio recording, along with a selection of more advanced features.

Finally, a Teams subscription costs $12.50 per month per user ($14.99 with monthly payments). It includes everything in the Premium plan, along with team management tools such as user statistics and centralized billing.

Features

With a great range of features. For starters, it enables users to record and automatically transcribe conversations using either their phone or their computer. On top of this, it has the ability to recognize and differentiate between different speakers.

Otter also enables users to edit and manage transcriptions directly in-app. Audio records can be played back at different speeds, and images and other content can be inserted directly into transcriptions. You can even import audio and video files to be transcribed.

3. Microsoft OneNote

Photo: Microsoft
Photo: Microsoft

iOS rating: 4.7

Android rating: 4.3

Pricing: Free with plans for extra space

Ideal for: People familiar with MS products looking for a free and feature-rich note-taking app

When it comes to price-performance, Microsoft OneNote is incredible. Almost all features are available for free and you’ll only need to upgrade your plan if you run out of space. And even that will take some doing because Microsoft offers a lot of it – 5 GB. So if you just want to jot down your thoughts in quick notes and don’t care about images or doing any advanced stuff, you’ll never have to pay.

In terms of features, you get everything you need and more. Organize your notes, clip and save content, add tags to categorize your items, and record information however you find it more comfortable – typed, drawn, as video or audio.

Microsoft fans and power-users will appreciate being able to add Excel tables and connect the app with other Microsoft products.

Interface and in use

The Microsoft OneNote user interface is clear, intuitive, and packed with useful tools. For starters, the desktop app provides you with a note-taking page that you can use to store various types of information. Create a to-do list, highlight important information, create reminders to come back to at a later time, and much, much more.

Various note taking and design tools are available via the menu bar at the top of the screen. Simply click on the menu tab you want to access, and a suite of tools will appear. What’s more, you can organize your content by creating different digital notebooks, separating each notebook into sections, and adding pages to each section. Switch between notebooks and sections via the selection options at the top of the screen, and manage pages via the panel on the right.

The web interface is similar, albeit with slightly fewer editing and design features. And the mobile apps are also very well built, with everything you will need for note taking on the go.

Support

If you have trouble using Microsoft OneNote, the best place to begin looking for answers is in the OneNote help & learning library. Here, you will find numerous guides, tutorials, and even full eBooks outlining various actions and functionalities of the program. There is also a useful troubleshooting section, as well as various FAQs and video guides.

Failing this, there is an active community forum where you can ask for more technical answers. Unfortunately, though, live support is quite disappointing. You can submit a help request via the online ticketing portal, but don’t expect a fast or detailed answer.

4. Nebo

Photo: paperless X
Photo: paperless X

iOS rating: 4.5

Android rating: 4.4

Pricing: $11.99

Ideal for: People who love to get creative with their notes and prefer handwriting over typing

If you’re handy with a stylus and love using it, then Nebo was made for you. Sure, other note-taking apps also allow for handwritten notes, but Nebo stands above them thanks to their proprietary technology. Even if, like most people, you’ve never used a stylus, then you’ll still find Nebo appealing and straightforward.

Color and highlight with your fingers, annotate anything and everything, add diagrams, equations, and images, share your notes, work with PDFs, and more. But all of this can be demanding on your device. If you’re looking for a simple note-taking app to quickly capture your ideas, then Nebo might be a bit of an overkill.

Furthermore, while Nebo is technically available for your iPhone, you can only use their viewer app that allows you to view and share the notes, but you won’t be able to take new ones unless you have an iPad. And the app is quite pricey.

All that said, the community thinks highly of Nebo and its users quickly become fans. Hence, the high ratings. But if you need something simple, this probably won’t be for you.

5. Google Keep

Photo: Infiflex
Photo: Infiflex

While you can always take notes in a physical notebook if you’d prefer, you may find a digital option to be more practical. Whether you’re using Google Keep or another one of the best note-taking apps, you can add notes from any device and access them at any time.

Plans and pricing

Like other Google productivity apps, Google Keep is entirely free to use. Free users get a full 15 GB of free storage, and this is significantly higher than similar platforms like OneDrive and iCloud, which offer just 5 GB each.

Additional storage is available through the Google Workspace subscription, along with a wide range of other perks. Business Starter ($6 per user per month) comes with 30 GB per user, while Business Standard ($12 per user per month) and Business Plus ($18 per user per month) upgrade that limit to 2 TB and 5 TB, respectively. Custom storage plans are also available for larger organizations.

Features

Even though Google Keep has a relatively basic and straightforward design, it still comes with a surprisingly robust set of tools for taking and sharing notes. Like Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets, Keep notes can easily be shared with other users via email. Unfortunately, Keep doesn’t allow you to use sharing links or share notes for reading only.

But users can add reminders to their notes and configure them to repeat daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or at a custom interval. If you need to organize your notes, you can sort them by color coding or adding custom labels.

Interface and in use

You shouldn’t have any difficulties adjusting to Google Keep if you have experience with any of Google’s other productivity tools. You can start notes at any time by clicking Take a Note at the top of the screen, and other elements, like checkboxes, reminders, and images, can be added in just a few clicks. There’s also an option to toggle between grid and list view in the upper toolbar.

The Google Keep mobile app performs all the same functions, and it arguably has one of the best designs of any note-taking app on iOS or Android. That said, there’s no way to access notes offline within Google Keep, and notes can only be exported to Google Docs rather than PDF or Word files.

6. Notion

Photo: Crunchify
Photo: Crunchify

iOS rating: 4.1

Android rating: 4.2

Pricing: Free with advanced plans starting from $4/mo

Ideal for: People, and especially teams, that use note-taking apps to enhance their day-to-day work

Notion is a household name among note-taking apps. It probably has every feature imaginable and unites them all in an intuitive interface that you’ll quickly get used to. But it might be too much for a single person.

Indeed, the biggest benefactors will be teams. Notion combines basic note-taking functionalities with advanced features, such as task planning, calendars, wikis, and document organization. In that sense, Notion is more akin to a project management tool than a note-taking app.

That said, note app power-users might appreciate just how much they can manage, organize, and control all their notes, documents, and lists. Notion has dozens of ready-made templates that you can make use of including everything from meeting notes to term planners and semester dashboards. As such, it’s more than just a tool for recording spontaneous ideas (although it can be used as such) – it’s a personal assistant.

7. Simplenote

Photo: Simplenote.com
Photo: Simplenote.com

Not all note-taking apps are created equal. The giants of the space, Evernote and OneNote, aim to do it all, offering rich features and support for multimedia. Simplenote, owned by Automattic (which also runs Wordpress.com and Tumblr), is a good option for anyone who doesn't need all that. It's a straightforward synced note-taking app that's cross-platform and free, and it also includes collaboration options. Only text notes are supported, however, meaning there's no uploading images or recording voice memos. You can use Markdown language (more on this below), but otherwise you don't get formatting or styling options for the text. This app is made for those who focus best when they aren't distracted by extra frills. For those firmly in the less-is-more camp, Simplenote is worth a look.

Simplenote Is Free

You don't ever have to pay to use Simplenote—there are no upgrade offers or in-app purchases. There's no limit on storage, as long as you don't abuse it, according to the company's terms. That's a less risky strategy than it might sound. Simplenote doesn't support uploads, multimedia, or even formatting—just text—so you'd have a hard time abusing limitless storage with that.

What Does the Competition Charge?

There are a few other note-taking apps that don't charge a dime. In fact, most apps have a generous free plan, with the notable exception of Evernote. OneNote is free, for example—though you get more space and a handful of advanced features if you're a paying Microsoft 365 member. Joplin is free, but you have to provide your own storage.

Apps and Organization

If you're okay with having a text-only app, you might not mind that Simplenote keeps things simple all around. There aren't any formatting tools. You can use Markdown if you like, but it's optional. Markdown is a simplified language for typing symbols around text to stylize it. You may have seen people text messaging app put asterisks around a word like *this* to make it bold: That's Markdown. Markdown doesn't give you much beyond bold, italic, headings, and a few kinds of stylized lists. Simplenote has a little Markdown cheat sheet that you can pull up at any time if you need a reminder on how to add a particular style.

In addition to being text-only, Simplenote doesn't offer folders or subfolders, notebooks, sections, stacks, or other organizational tools. Those tools are keystone features in Evernote, OneNote, and Joplin.

When you create a note in Simplenote, the top line becomes the title, and everything that follows is the note text. If you paste in a hyperlink, however, it does stylize and link out. When you paste in formatted text, all the formatting is erased.

8. Bear

Photo: bear.app
Photo: bear.app

iOS rating: 4.7

Pricing: Free with advanced plans starting at $1.49/mo

Ideal for: people who use notes apps for work and want to organize a lot of information

Bear boasts a sleek design, is intuitive to use, and you’ll find it equipped with everything you might need from a note-taking app. It syncs with your Apple devices, so forget transcribing or exporting and importing things. But if you DO need to export something, Bear has got you covered with options for HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG, and more.

Advanced markup options and in-line images will keep your notes organized and looking good. The themes are also worth a mention. They will literally make anything you write look cool and professional, which makes the app exciting to use.

All of the things discussed above are supercharged in their pro plan – syncing, more themes, more export options. Give the free version a spin and if you like what you get, you certainly won’t regret paying for an even better experience. I’d definitely rank it as one of the best notes apps out there, especially among note-taking apps for mac and iOS.

9. Apple Notes

Photo: AppleInsider
Photo: AppleInsider

iOS rating:

Pricing: Free

Ideal for: people who don’t much care about any features beyond note writing and organizing and just want to use what’s available

This is the default note app for mac and iOS. Chances are it’s already on your device and you’ve probably opened it once or twice and didn’t think much of it. But you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually do with Notes.

Apple Notes offers easy note-taking, free sync across devices, adding photos, tables, and all sorts of attachments. It even features an in-built document scanner that can help you save some time every now and again. Its powerful search function will allow you to quickly locate notes and attachments. Share things easily with editing permissions or as view-only.

As far as default apps go, Apple Notes punches above its weight. If you just need a simple free notes app to stay organized, then you’re all set – don’t bother browsing, installing, and paying for anything else.

10. GoodNotes

Photo: GoodNotes
Photo: GoodNotes

iOS rating: 4.8

Pricing: $7.99

Ideal for: people, especially students, who enjoy taking notes by hand

GoodNotes is another entrant that focuses on handwritten notes and document management. And it does these things incredibly well, which will make it particularly appealing to students of all ages.

GoodNotes lets you search your handwritten notes, annotate PDFs and PPTs, collaborate with others, and do everything else you’d expect from an app like this. Again, as with some other similar apps on the list, using GoodNotes for your day-to-day note-taking and tasks might be a bit of an overkill. For most people, writing a to-do list out by hand is less convenient than quickly typing it on the keyboard.

But if you’re already using it for classes or meetings, or document annotation, then you can just create a folder for your to-do’s and have everything in one place. GoodNotes is the best at what it does, so if the price tag seems scary, then know that you’re getting the best value for your money.

Other best free note taking apps that got positive reviews

11. Noteshelf

Another best note-taking app on our list is Noteshelf. This app allows a more flexible and more customized note-taking experience through virtual keyboards, a wide variety of stylus compatibility, and an ink engine. With Noteshelf, you’ll enjoy a diverse range of audio recording tools, photos and annotations, diagrams, and highlighting notes.

12. Todoist

Todoist isn’t just a basic note-taking app. It offers an all-in-one solution for note-taking and project management. Individual items within projects can also be customized within the app accordingly. This best note-taking app allows you to add subtasks, flags, recurring reminders, and due dates.

13. Penultimate

If you prefer the manual way of writing down notes instead of typing them, Penultimate is the best note-taking app for you. Developed by Evernote, this note-taking app includes handwriting and scribbling in mind. That said, Penultimate is integrated with an expressive ink technology, automatically adjusting the page to support handwritten notes.

14. Dropbox Paper

Dropbox Paper is the result of the acquisition of HackPad by Dropbox. It’s one of the best note-taking apps developed with teamwork and collaboration in mind. From there, you can embed audio files, pictures, URLs, videos, revisions, and comments. Everything you need in terms of collaboration is available within the Dropbox Paper. And of course, you’ll enjoy cloud storage service from Dropbox itself.

15. Microsoft To Do

In case you’re wondering what has happened to Wunderlist, it’s now known as Microsoft To Do. Hence, Microsoft To Do is the result of the acquisition of Wunderlist by Microsoft in 2015. One of the noteworthy features of Microsoft To Do is My Day. Through My Day, you have a personalized planner with suggested to-dos to help you stay organized and focused.

16. Joplin

Joplin is an open-source note-taking app and doesn’t require any subscription to enjoy its services. Hence, it’s the best note-taking app for anyone who’s not looking to purchase anything from Google Play Store and App Store. This app offers users a Markdown-designed note-taking interface, arranged by notebooks and utilizes your existing cloud storage account as the syncing feature.

17. Remember The Milk

Remember The Milk is the minimalist’s choice for the best note-taking app. With feature-rich integrations, you’ve got everything you need in one comprehensive app. You can create task lists and embed objects such as time of completion, notes, tags, due dates, and comments.

18. Notability

Notability is a $9.99 note-taking app without the unnecessary fuss. It offers everything you need from a note-taking tool including support for sketching, embedding photos, videos, texts, and formatting. With Notability, you can also integrate photo, PDF annotations, voice recordings and organize them into different folders.

19. Any.do

Are you looking for a productivity and to-do organizer app in one? Any.do is the best note-taking app for your needs! It is built with Moments Daily Planner to help you prioritize your important tasks. A centralized timeline provides you with an overview of appointments, reminders, and scheduled notes.

20. Squid

Unlike other digital note-taking apps, Squid emphasizes handwritten diagrams, drawings, and notes. This app has a vector-based rendering technology that helps you zoom in and out of your drawings and notes without compromising their quality. Hence, Squid supports active pens and passive stylus.

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