Looking for the best note taking app for Mac, iPhone, or iPad? Before the prevalence of tablets, laptops, and smart phones, most college students took notes using a pen or pencil and a notepad.
If you can write fast, or even better yet, know shorthand, this is a good way to take notes. And some people still prefer taking notes this way. There is something gratifying about putting a physical pen to real paper.
If you prefer using an electronic device instead of writing things down longhand, you have a lot of options. And, if you like writing by hand instead of typing, you might even use a stylus on a tablet as a way to take notes.
You can also get a Bluetooth keyboard for your iPad to turn your tablet into a mini laptop of sorts.
In this article, we will take a look at a variety of apps and software programs you can use to take notes using your Apple device, whether it is a Mac desktop, an iPad, or even your small iPhone.
What Is A Note Taking App?
A note taking app is either a mobile app or desktop software that you can use to take notes, keep lists, or write journal entries. Different types of software will have different features. Some will focus more on the note taking aspects, while some might offer additional functionality with to-do lists or writing a diary.
A lot of people use these software apps to take notes during lectures or classes, for example, at universities. These note taking apps can also be helpful at business meetings or just for your own personal ideas and thoughts.
Some note taking apps also keep your notes “in the cloud” so you can access them anywhere.
Other features might include the ability to add multimedia files such as photos or even videos, tags or categories to organize your content, and OCR (optical character recognition) for scanning other documents.
Apps Are Not Interchangeable Between Mac And iPhone
Before we look at what might be the best note taking app for Mac or iPhone, it is important to understand that these are different platforms. If you already understand these distinctions, you can skip ahead to read about the note taking app and software options.
So, you have an iPhone and a Mac desktop. Sure, they may both be Apple products, and they might look the same on the surface, but the underlying software is different.
Therefore, an app you have on your iPhone cannot be installed on your Mac desktop or laptop, and software that is installed on your Mac cannot be installed on your iPhone or iPad. Now, many companies, such as Evernote, have separate apps for both the iPhone and Mac. Just be aware that there is a difference.
Apps For iOS: iPhones And iPads
The word “app” is short for application, which is a shortened version of the phrase “software application.” Prior to smart phones, all “apps” were software applications or computer programs that you installed on your computer, whether it was a desktop computer or laptop computer.
When smart phones came out, and Apple launched the iPhone, the shorter term “app” became the default term used to describe software programs that were put on smart phones.
Apps, therefore, are generally mobile software applications. They are typically installed using Apple’s “App Store.” You click a button and the app is quickly installed.
Apps are much smaller in terms of size and footprint than traditional software applications.
Now, an “operating system” is a computer program that serves as the environment in which software applications are installed and run.
iPhones and iPads run iOS as their operating system. iOS has had many different versions. If you have a really old iPad, such as an iPad 2, you can’t run any version of iOS higher than iOS 9. This is because the hardware cannot handle the newer versions of iOS.
As of this writing, the current version of iOS is iOS 11.
If you are running an older iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and your iOS version is below iOS 11, your selection of apps will be more limited. You may be able to run some note taking apps, but they will be older versions of the software.
Another potential wrinkle is that some iOS apps are designed more for iPhones, and some are designed more for tablets. You can install iPhone apps on your iPad, but they might not be optimized for the larger screen area. They are also listed separately in the Apple App Store.
Software For MacOS: Mac Desktops And Laptops
If you are using a Mac desktop or laptop, your operating system is not the same as the iOS used on iPhones and iPads. Instead, you are running macOS, which was previously called Mac OS X.
“Apps” for desktops and laptops (and this includes Windows as well) are more likely to be called “software programs” or just “software.” However, more and more, the term “app” is being generalized from smart phones to all types of devices.
The current version of macOS as of this writing is called “High Sierra.” If you have an older Mac desktop or laptop with an older version of Mac OS X, then you may not be able to install the latest software. You can upgrade to macOS High Sierra for free if you have a laptop or desktop that was built in late 2009 or later.
What To Look For In Note Taking Apps Or Software
Everyone will have different needs for their note taking software and mobile apps. Here are some things to consider:
Do You Want Simplicity? Or Options?
Sometimes having a simple system that does not overwhelm you with add-ons and confusing options is better.
Does The System Need To Be Cross-Platform?
Do you need a system that can be used on both your iPad and your Mac desktop? Or did you just want something that works reasonably well on your iPhone? Do you need something that works on both Mac and Windows platforms? What about a service that is available via a web browser, so you do not have to install an app or software program at all?
Do you want to just write notes or be able to record audio? Sometimes it is nice to record your school lecture, so you can listen to it later. You usually pick up things on second hearing that you missed the first time around.
Do You Need Different Apps for Different Uses?
There is no law that says you can only use one “best” note taking app for Mac or iOS. You might want to have a few different note taking apps for various purposes. For example, you might use one app for your business notes, another software application for your journal entries, and a third program for brainstorming and idea generation.
6 Note Taking Apps For Mac Desktops And Laptops
The best note taking app for Mac is the one that works for you and your needs. We cannot anticipate what exactly all your needs are, but we do have some software for your Mac you might want to look into:
This is the granddaddy of notetaking. This is a full featured application with lots of options. On the downside, some people consider it bloated and unwieldy. There is also an iOS version.
Microsoft Office comes with OneNote, which is Microsoft’s take on a note taking app like Evernote. The Mac version is not as good as the Windows desktop version when it comes to some advanced features, but all the basic functionality is there.
Apple Notes is the default note taking software that is bundled with macOS. It is pretty basic and not filled with features, but, it’s free and already installed. Might as well use it, right?
Bear organizes your notes with tags, and also offers notes that link with each other. You can also add inline images to your notes. Using it on one device is free and syncing with other devices requires a subscription (as of this writing, $15 per year).
Pear Note lets you record audio while you are taking notes, which is a fantastic feature for people taking notes in classes and lectures. You can even record video as well.
Zoho offers a full free office suite online and also has applications to support their web-based programs. Their Notebook application for Mac is also free and has lots of great features.
6 Note Taking Apps For iPhones And iPads
The main difference with using an iPhone or iPad than a Mac is that you can hold your phone or iPad like an old fashioned writing tablet. If you have a stylus or Apple Pencil then you can write on these devices as if you were writing on an old fashioned paper notepad. Some, not all, note taking apps for iPhone and iPad capitalize on this. Here are some note taking apps for iPhone and iPad you might like:
Simplenote is one of the best apps for note taking because it is so, well, simple. Evernote can be overly complicated, and the same thing goes for Microsoft OneNote. This app is simple, elegant, and easy to use out of the box. There is also a web interface so you can input your notes without even using an app. And, it’s free.
This app is not free but costs $7.99 in the Apple App Store. However, if you want the best app for using a stylus or the Apple Pencil, then this is the app for you. You can actually write on yellow lined pages just like a paper notebook. The app is able to index notes even when you have bad handwriting.
If you prefer using a stylus, this is a really neat note taking app that really encourages drawing and creativity. You can import images and even whole webpages into this app.
So, let’s be clear: This app is not the best when it comes to organizing or storing your notes, because it is not designed to do that. The Hanx Writer is a typewriter emulator, and it is the brainchild of actor Tom Hanks.
If you want to write notes while having that satisfying typewriter sound, this is the app for you.
With some add-on purchases, you can get additional typewriter styles and also use the typewriter as your main Apple keyboard.
This app does cost money in the App Store, a whopping $9.99 as of this writing, but is also a good option if you like handwritten notes. You can convert these notes to text, so they are then searchable. You can also annotate these notes later.
This is another paid app ($7.99 as of this writing) that is designed for an Apple Pencil or stylus. It bills itself as follows:
“Noteshelf prides itself as the best note-taking app that offers the most beautiful handwriting effect – this is one of the key reasons why our users fall in love with Noteshelf. It perfectly mimics that intuitive ink-on-paper feeling so smoothly, it’s as if you’re using a real pen and paper.”
6 Note Taking Apps For Mac Desktops And Laptops
This is a full featured application with lots of options.
Mac version is not as good as the Windows desktop version.
It is pretty basic and not filled with features, but, it’s free and already installed.
You can add inline images to your notes.
Pear Note lets you record audio/video while you are taking notes.
Full free office suite online and also has applications to support their web-based programs.
6 Note Taking Apps For iPhones And iPads
This app is simple, elegant, and easy to use out of the box.
The best app for using a stylus or the Apple Pencil.
Neat note taking app that really encourages drawing and creativity.
The Hanx Writer is a typewriter emulator, and it is the brainchild of actor Tom Hanks.
Good option if you like handwritten notes.
It perfectly mimics that intuitive ink-on-paper feeling so smoothly.
Taking Notes With Apps
The best note taking app for Mac, iPhone, or iPad really depends on your personal preferences. Do you want a simple app that does things quickly and easily, or a more complex app that has a lot of great technical features? Do you want a web-based solution or just a small app for your iPhone? With so many great options out there, you can find a solution that meets your needs.