From those paper-based notebooks to note-taking apps, note-taking has been in use for a long time. Today, there are enormous tools, but only a few always get to the top. So, here is an article covering those few best and free note-taking apps for Windows 10 and 11.
Disclaimer: All are tested on Windows 11
Pros: Synchronisation | Multiple note types | Web clipper
Cons: Browser-based | No rich text | No note-type mixes
Google Keep is a simple browser-based app from Google. It can be accessed by going to keep.google.com in your browser. What makes Keep one of the best apps for Windows is its simple user interface.
You find the search bar on the top with a text field to add a new note. The tool supports the below note types on Windows:
Other options include adding people to collaborate on a note, pinning notes to the top, converting notes to Google Docs files, and adding labels to separate notes. Furthermore, it suggests the grocery items while adding items to your shopping list (example).
One of the downsides of Keep is that to install the app, you either need Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge because the company has not provided a native desktop app.
Another drawback is that it does not support some note types in a single note. For example, adding a checklist in a text note will convert all the existing text to checklists.
Pros: Desktop app | Rich text editing | Synchronisation | Integrations | Web clipper
The first app, probably the best note-taking app for Windows, is Zoho Notebooks. With several features and rich editing options, it is an all-in-one app. It offers below rich text editing tools:
- Bold, italicise, underline, and strikethrough text
- Add background colour to text
- Text alignment
- Text indent
- Unordered and ordered lists
- Add photos
- Add separators
- Add code blocks
The app is available on most platforms and syncs data with your account. Some other noticeable features of Zoho Notes are:
- Spell check (Zia spell check assistant)
- Change the note background colour
- Share note
- Save a note in ZNote, ZIP, and PDF formats
- See notes’ history
- Password protect notes
- Print notes
- Merge notes
- Add tags
- Search for text in notes
- Drawing notes
- Audio notes
- Integrations (Slack, Google Workspace, Zoho Mail etc.)
Furthermore, it comes with a web clipper that screenshots the whole page, a part of the page, or the focused area. You can also save the content part of the page. Here is a video to see the web clipper in action.
All the mentioned features are without any price tag or any commitments. Zoho Notebook can be installed from the Windows Store or their website.
Pros: Desktop app | Web clipper | Draw on text | Rich text editing | Immersive reader
Cons: Can be overwhelming
A native app from Microsoft, OneNote has somehow managed its position. Being a part of the Office apps, it adapts the Office apps’ styles. The tool, especially on desktop, comes with some great features:
- Section within notebooks
- Pages within sections
- Password protection on sections
- Collaboration tools
- Hand drawing above text and images
- Sharing with others
- Translate text
- Immersive reader (A tool for simplifying the note text for easy reading. It also supports the speech-to-text feature)
These are the pillars of OneNote, but along with those, you get rich text editing options. Some of those are:
|Unordered lists||Fonts||Font colour|
|Highlight text||Bold text||Font size change|
|Italicise text||Underline text||Insert tables|
|File attachments||Attach pictures||Embed online videos|
|Links||Add audio||Add meeting details|
|Add symbols||Add equations||Attach PDF|
|Change page colour||Subscript||Superscript|
|Strikethrough||Text indent||Attach other files|
One problem with OneNote is that you don’t find all the above features on its mobile app. The app does come with rich text editing tools, but not most of the options mentioned above.
The web clipper is also a part of OneNote. You get an advanced web clipper that can clip the whole page, just a region and the article only.
Also read: Google Keep vs. OneNote
Pros: Desktop app | Rich text editing | Integrations | Templates | Web clipper
Cons: Internet is required
The first in the freemium section is Evernote. Evernote, like OneNote, offers so many options to get you started with note-taking. For starters, it provides templates to create notes according to your project needs. Let’s see some of its options:
- Sharing tools
- Export notes as HTML, PDF, or ENEX format
- Stretch notes
- Add task notes
In terms of rich text editing, you get plenty of options:
- Font size
- Text colour
- Bold, italicise, underline, and highlight text
- Ordered and unordered lists
- Add checklists and hyperlinks
- Indent and strikethrough text
- Add superscripts and subscripts
- Insert images, videos, and documents
- Insert tables, dividers, audio, code, and tasks in notes
It also supports integrations to help you get the most from your notes. Some of the integrations are:
- Google Drive
- Microsoft Teams
Lastly, you get a web clipper with options to snapshot the page, copy the readable content, and bookmark the page to your Evernote notes. The free version of Evernote allows for creating unlimited notes with a 60MB of monthly upload limit. The downsides of the free plan are:
- You can only use the app on two devices at the same time.
- An internet connection is required.
More like this: Trello vs. Evernote
Pros: Desktop app | Rich text editing | Integrations | Discount for students | Templates
Cons: A bit complex
Notion is a freemium note-taking tool that takes a different approach. The app uses blocks to create the most complex notes. If you need something with more than just note-taking capabilities, Notion is the tool you should try.
The desktop app comes with an easy-to-follow interface with notes on the left and the opened in the centre. You also find some templates on the left. Some of the noteworthy (ironic) features of Notion are:
- Sharing with others
- Export notes to PDF and HTML files
- Import notes
- Password protect notes
- Create workspaces
- Rich text editing
Now, let’s talk about the blocks that make Notion one of the best note-taking apps for Windows 10:
|Headings||To-do lists||Ordered lists|
|Unordered lists||Toggle list||Quote|
|Divider||Date or reminder||Inline table|
|Full page table||Inline table||Full page list|
|Inline list||Full page calendar||Inline calendar|
|Inline gallery||Embed audio||Embed images|
|Embed videos||Code block||embed Google Drive files|
|Embed tweets||GitHub Gist||Embed Google Maps|
|Math equations||Add breadcrumbs||Embed other content|
Other than that, you can:
- Change text colour
- Mention other pages
- Comment on each block
- Mention users in comments
- Link databases
- Upload files
- Add table of contents
What makes this tool more complex is adding blocks under blocks. For instance, if you add a calendar, the block will allow you to create pages under each day.
Notion also provides a web clipper for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, and you can save web pages’ links to your workspace using the clipper.
More like this: OneNote vs. Notion
Pros: Desktop app | Rich text editing | Integrations | Templates | Team-focused
Cons: Internet is required
Slite is a team-focused note-keeping app supporting blocks like Notion. Organisations can save notes and write documentation. It does not support as many block types, but it has no limits on team members and integrations. Some of its features are:
- Commenting on blocks
- Mentioning users
- Company channels
- Catch up feature
- File attachments
There is a limit of 50 documents per account for free, but you get templates to help you get the most out of the program without creating too many documents.
Note-taking is a good habit, but when you have all the required features, the habit becomes great and fun. Those 6 tools were selected because of their features, popularity, and their brand trust. Anyway, I hope you chose one of those to be your tool. Let me know your views in the comments so others can easily decide.