Evernote is one of the most feature-rich note-taking apps available today. Sam once called it “one of the most awesome bits of software ever made.” But the features that make Evernote great can also make it feel bloated and slow.
Evernote’s new features, such as Work Chat, are poorly implemented. Its apps also tend to lack polish and consistency across the many platforms it operates on. The problem has grown to such an extent that one of its prominent users called Evernote a “bug-ridden elephant.”
Since new leadership has been put in place (some ceremoniously and others not so ceremoniously), Evernote has attempted to tighten its belt by laying off a number of employees, shutting down its e-commerce efforts, and closing down its screen capture app Skitch.
But new leadership has not made a large impact on the core product, creating an opportunity for many other contenders to be your note-taking app of choice.
Thinkery is a free app available on the web, iOS, and Android. Billed as the app that will “get your brain together,” Thinkery bears a striking resemblance to Evernote in features and goals.
Thinkery’s web app is responsive, making it a bit more usable on than Evernote’s somewhat kludgy web option. All notes can be tagged or identified by hashtag. And, of course, you can search all the notes you store. You also have the option to make your notes public or private, but its collaboration features are not on par with Evernote’s options.
Thinkery’s most impressive feature is its ability to pull relevant information from a web page and display it in an appealing fashion. For instance, if you bookmark a link from Amazon, Thinkery will automatically feature the products price and description. This information is also immediately searchable.
Thinkery also has a robust web clipping feature available as a bookmarklet or a chrome extension. You can store links, import bookmarks, or (some) data from your Evernote account.
If you are looking for a solid alternative to Evernote that is gaining feature parity every day, Thinkery is the right train to hop on.
If you are not a fan of the unwieldy (and very green) Evernote Mac app, but you are unwilling to leave the Evernote ecosystem, Alternote is made just for you.
Alternote uses your Evernote login to sync your notebooks. Alternote supports much of Evernote’s core features, such as searching by tags and rich-text formatting. And if you are the type who needs to write on a blank screen, Alternote does have a “distraction-free” mode that will slightly dim the UI as you type — a clever, if not entirely necessary, feature.
Beyond that, what you get from Alternote is really a more elegant user experience that prioritizes note-taking and does, admittedly, rival Evernote’s official Mac solution. That said, a prettier UI that focuses just on notes will cost you $6.99. If you are not ready to take the plunge, Alternote does offer a three-day trial through a direct download on their website.
OneNote can match most of Evernote’s features. That said, the way OneNote goes about organizing your information is going to be a different experience. OneNote uses a skeuomorphic virtual notebook (colored tabs and all) while Evernote just borrows the notebook metaphor. It isn’t a simple dumping ground for links, images, and notes, which Evernote does quite well. And while OneNote does offer a web clipping option, it is not near as robust as what Evernote offers.
That all said, if you are looking for a free option that works across multiple devices, excels at taking and organizing your notes, and plays nice with the Microsoft Office suite, OneNote is a serious contender.
It is Google’s stated goal to organize the world’s information, and that includes your notes. Two years ago, Google announced its competitor to Evernote, called Keep. Though as you will shortly find out, there isn’t much competition.
While you can add notes, lists, photos, and audio to your Keep account, everything is stored as a note that you can only attach a label to. The notebook organizing scheme that Evernote uses is non-existent in Google Keep. Keep also foregoes the concept of tagging and only lets your search through your notes based on their content.
Its app situation is also lackluster. Google Keep is only available on as an app for Android (where it does hold some clout with a 4.5-star rating) and on the web.
Although it’s severely lacking in feature-for-feature parity with Evernote, not all is lost. Google Keep is dead simple to use, free, and integrates with Google Drive quite well. If you are a lawyer who is not a fan of frills and happens to be a part of the Google ecosystem, Google Keep is a viable option.
Simplenote focuses exclusively on creating notes and lists. It does not lend itself to storing your audio and image files, a feature that Evernote heavily touts. Its sole purpose is to allow you to write quick notes without having to worry about formatting (though Simplenote does support Markdown, if you are so inclined to learn). You can also search your notes by tag, see each note’s revision history, and publish notes to the web in one click.
But its best feature is probably its beautiful UI. In my short test of the iOS and Mac App, there were no odd bugs, UI quirks, or difficult to find features. The features you need are instantly accessible.
If you exclusively take a lot of notes, want them to be searchable, and you are a fan of beautifully designed apps, you really can not go wrong with Simplenote.
Like Alternote, Notability is limited to the Apple ecosystem. Notability’s desktop app is available in the Mac store for $5.99, and its iOS app is $3.99. And if you can move past its lack of support for other platforms such as Android or Windows, Notability can be an attractive alternative to Evernote.
Notability’s most noted feature is its ability to let you take notes and record audio at the same time. It even lets you attach multiple documents to an audio file. Notability also lets you draw sketches, annotate PDF documents, and “replay” your notes. All notes are synced between your devices and can be exported using Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and a number of other cloud storage services.
While it’s upfront cost is more expensive than Evernote, it’s much cheaper over the long-haul (Evernote’s basic plan costs $4.99 a month). Its audio and note-taking features are also implemented very well and could prove invaluable during client meetings and depositions.
If you are wholeheartedly a part of the Apple ecosystem, the new-and-improved Notes app is a solid Evernote replacement. With the release of iOS 9, Apple took one of its most basic apps and gave it a complete overhaul.
With Notes, you can now embed pictures, links to external apps, practice your hangman skills, and create checklists. Of course, you can also sync your notes across all of your OS X and iOS devices, provided iCloud will cooperate with you.
Notes is completely free to use, but if you use your iCloud storage for other documents regularly, you will have to pay for more than 5 GB of space. Of course, if you use Android, Windows, or Linux, Notes is an essentially useless alternative note-taking solution.
While not a complete replacement for Evernote, Workflowy is a very intuitive note-taking app. One of its note-taking strengths is its nested lists feature. Farhad Manjoo, a tech writer for The New York Times, uses WorkFlowy for all his tasks, articles, and grocery list.
WorkFlowy is primarily meant to be used in the browser but offers an app on both Android and iOS with above average reviews. Most of WorkFlowy’s features are available for free. For power users who want more, WorkFlowy offers backup to Dropbox, unlimited lists, password-protection collaboration, and support for $4.99 a month or $49 per year.
If you don’t embed media in your notes often, WorkFlowy is certainly a worthy replacement for all of your notes.
Originally published 2015-06-09. Last updated 2016-02-14
Featured image: “ Working with the laptop and taking notes” from Shutterstock.