Top 6 best note-taking apps for students (September 2021)

by | Sep 13, 2021

It’s clear that the digitalization of note-taking has brought increased efficiency and convenience to the table for us all.

Today, there are several digital apps aimed at helping you take notes. But a problem arises as to which note-taking app you should be using!

After all what constitutes the “best note-taking app” ? 

That’s where this article comes in. Let’s narrow the multitude of apps you can choose from. These are the 6 best note-taking apps for students that you need to know about!

After assessing each of these apps, here’s a table pitting general functions of each app against one another for those who are looking for specific functions.

General functions of a note-taking app

From the table, it looks like OneNote takes the cake for the best note-taking app in terms of the functions available.

But functions are just one factor to look at! There are several other factors like the user interface, price, storage and more.

In our review below, we will explore the user experience of these apps, listing their advantages and disadvantages!

OneNote's note-taking Interface

OneNote is one of the best note-taking apps for windows. The user interface is simple to understand.

Coupled with the fact that it has all the features listed in the table above, makes this one of the most powerful notebook apps.

This is one convenient tool that left me really happy because there were so many functions and customization options to pick from.

Price: Free
Advantages:

  • Integrates with Microsoft Outlook
  • Free 5GB of storage
  • Contents (drawing, image, text) are placed in boxes that can be moved freely within the page.
  • Several designs and formatting options

Disadvantages:

  • Lacks sorting options. For instance, the sorting of notes or sections by date, name or size
  • May lag in syncing, typing or drawing if the size of the notebook is huge

Notion

Notion's note-taking Interface

Sourced from pinterest

Notion is a great note-taking app that provides several templates and customization options. 

For instance, check out our active recall and spaced repetition templates!

Notion’s main selling point is the options it offers to manage databases, format blocks and its minimal user interface.

This is my favourite note-taking app simply because of its versatility in use for any aspect of my life.

This note-taking app is available on all platforms including the iPad!

Price: Free / Personal pro: $4 per month / Team: $8 per member per month

Advantages:

  • Contains internal links between databases and pages for easier navigation
  • Allows for a variety of embed links from PDFs to Google maps to Spotify
  • Allows for many ways to customize a notebook’s structure and design. It’s so good you can even build your own webpage or wiki!
  • Unlimited pages & blocks
  • Great sorting & filtering features
  • Intuitive block formatting system. Think of blocks as paragraphs. You can format blocks into bullet lists, different heading sizes and more
  • Allows for integrations with many other systems

Disadvantages:

  • Can’t format more than one block at the same time.
  • Collaboration between members of your team is only available @$8/month
  • Mobile App needs more support. For instance, copying and pasting is only limited to one block at any one time.
  • Can’t import PDFs

Notability

Notability's Interface

Sourced from idownloadblog

Notability is one of the best iPad note-taking apps.

Tailored specifically for iPad users, they track the Apple pencil’s position really closely, producing a highly responsive touch with built-in palm rejection and pressure sensitivity that gave me the best all-rounded user experience.

Price: USD $9.99
Advantages:

  • Provides a wide variety of colours and sizes of pens
  • Option to insert Gifs, digital sticky notes & stickers
  • Note replay feature allows you to record lectures, convert them to text and sync with notes that were written down at that time.
  • IPad contains a split-screen view that allows you to work on two notes at the same time

Disadvantage:

  • Doesn’t allow for simultaneous collaboration
  • Have to make a separate purchase on macOS and iOS

Goodnotes 5

Goodnotes 5's Interface

Sourced from macstories

      Like notability, Goodnotes 5 is another popular iPad note-taking app.

      In fact, there have been many videos and blogs comparing these two iPad note-taking apps — Goodnotes and notability.

      Goodnotes user interface is simple to navigate through and aesthetically pleasing as it offers you the option to customize the covers of your folders.

      If you ask me, I prefer Goodnotes 5 simply because I can create unlimited layers of organisation.

      Price: USD $7.99
      Advantages:

      • Images, pdfs, videos can all be stored as standalone files
      • Provides a wide variety of colours and sizes of pens
      • Allows you to create unlimited layers
      • Allows you to switch between notes fast by using a document tab format
      • Contains a presentation mode that hides the user interface when connected through an HDMI cable

      Disadvantages:

      • The size of exported PDFs is huge

      Evernote

      Evernote's interface

      Sourced from Evernote

      Since its launch in 2008, Evernote has grown to be one of the best and most popular note-taking apps.

      The user interface takes some time to get used to but is fairly easy once you’ve gotten the hang of it.

      Evernote also prides itself on the use of its tag system which I found to be really convenient when searching through hundreds of notes in my database.

      Price: Free / Premium: USD 5.98 per month

      Advantages:

      • Offers several templates to work with
      • Allows for many integrations with other systems
      • Excellent search functionality & tagging system
      • Web clipper function offers several options of clipping content

      Disadvantages:

      • PDF annotation, document text search and offline access are only available with a premium plan
      • Can’t convert text for editing
      • The basic plan’s storage isn’t enough for a student but they do offer a 50% discount for their premium plan

      GoogleKeep

      Google Keep's interface

      GoogleKeep is the kind of note-taking app you use to throw in ideas or write notes on the spot.

      Its user interface is really simple, your notes look like post-it notes and they will be organized in a tile format when you enter the app.

      I tried using it to take notes for academic purposes but found that it wasn’t effective due to the lack of storage and limited layers of organization.

      Instead, I decided to use it in group meetings to take meeting minutes. After which, I’ll be able to share access with my team and set deadlines for our Google Team Calendar.

      Price: Completely Free on the App Store & Play store

      Advantages:

      • Contains a google chrome extension that saves URLs, text, images in new notes
      • Easy to use note-taking interface
      • Includes reminder options

      Reminders set automatically sync with Google Calendar
      Disadvantages:

      • Google keep can mine your data
        You can’t customise fonts, text colours and text size
      • Changes can’t be undone once notes are closed
      • Limited to 1 layer of organization
      • Lack export and import options
      • Offline access is not available on Windows and macOS devices

      What should you get?

      These notebook apps serve different purposes and users. Users of iPads should look at using Notability or Goodnotes.

      If you want to jot down and access notes quickly, Google Keep is a great idea.

      On the other hand, OneNote and Evernote offer several functions and features perfect for any student while Notion provides an innovative take on note-taking.

      If you’re still wondering which note-taking app would be perfect for you, here are some questions to help you decide:

      • What is the platform on which you’ll be taking notes? (Laptop, Tablet, iPad etc)
      • What functions are you looking for, if any?
      • What is your budget?

      Hopefully, after reading this, you will be on your way to picking the best note-taking app that would fit your needs!

      Don’t be limited to these note-taking apps alone, here are 20 other apps perfect for students.

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