Note-Taking Applications

April 15th, 2007 Da Vinci

note-taking.pngOver the last couple of weeks I tested various note-taking applications. I was looking for software to help me to better organize my typical daily notes, memos, ideas, to-do lists and to clean up the myriads of text files that I have used for the purpose. KeePass is perfect for saving and organizing passwords, but there are many other important snippets of text that didn’t have a good home. The criterion is that I wanted a free, light-weight and portable note-taking application to help me be more productive. There are hundreds of on-line tools, but I prefer off-line tools for this purpose and I also discovered dozens of sticky note applications which I find generally messy. Wherever I looked, EverNote showed up and it turned out to be my favorite, but other applications that I reviewed include TiddlyWiki, NeoMem and wikidPad.


EverNote portable note taking software

EverNote can easily capture, store and quickly access common everyday memos like to-do lists, expenses, telephone numbers, and Web clips. With EverNote you can save your notes in categories, which really behave more like tags. It supports text, HTML, images and drag & drop type functionality. The EverNote database can be encrypted and you can also encrypt text within a note. Another nice feature is neat printing functionality – something that is missing from many similar tools. It’s not as light-weight as I had hoped (the portable version is about 12MB in size) and it took me a while to familiarize myself, but now I love it!


TiddlyWiki note-taking app

When I first discovered TiddlyWiki I saw it as a very neat piece of HTML code, but didn’t really see a purpose for it. More recently I realized its use as a note-taking application. It’s highly portable and has amazingly cool functionality for a single HTML file. Some users have complained that it becomes slow when it grows too large. There are also many enhanced versions like GTDTiddlyWiki and MonkeyGTD, both Getting Things Done adaptations of TiddlyWiki.


wikidPad note-taking application

wikidPad isn’t portable and it’s also not really light-weight, but it’s another very popular choice. It’s a standalone desktop wiki and actually very neat and fun to play with. It’s main feature is the ease with which you can cross-link notes, but it lacks rich features and the ability to copy and paste HTML and images.


NeoMem note-taking app

NeoMem is like a word processor and database combined. It’s a more technical solution that allows you to define “classes” which describe the items that you want to store information about. It’s a good application for storing structured lists, but I found it too complex for regular note-taking.

Others Solutions

For a comprehensive list of mostly on-line tools, check out Fifty Ways to Take Notes. I left out Microsoft OneNote because it’s not free and some other solutions, like ZuluPad don’t offer much in their free versions. For now I am going to stick with EverNote.

15 Responses to “Note-Taking Applications”

  1. Julio Angel Ortiz Says:

    Nice article. I tried NeoMem and EverNote, but wasn’t too crazy about them. Although no longer supported, I’ve yet to find a replacement for KeyNote, which is free, portable, and allows me to present information in a way I have yet to see in other note-taking applications (such as the multi-tab view). I use it every day, and have my GTD template built on it.

  2. Leonard Says:

    Julio, thanks for your feedback. It’s interesting that you mention KeyNote because during my research I found a number of references to it by people that said that they still preferred it, in spite of it no longer being supported. I figured that unsupported software, or rather software that is no longer being updated or improved, will not be popular with newbies. Following your comment I decided to download and try it. I can see why it’s popular and in most ways it was what I was looking for. It doesn’t have all the features that EverNote has and it’s not as slick, but it’s very functional and has a smaller footprint. This is a good option for minimalists/purists – I wish that someone would pick up the project. Here’s how the creator described it:

    “Keynote is a flexible, multi-featured tabbed notebook, based on Windows standard RichEdit control. It’s always accessible with a single keypress, even if you work in another application.

    The basic idea in KeyNote is that you can have many separate notes within a single file. This means that you do not need to open several files – for most purposes it is enough to create only one file and several notes inside it. With the addition of the tree-type notes, you now have a three-dimensional notebook: many notes within one file and a multi-level, nested pages within a single note.

    Optionally, KeyNote can encrypt your data securely using the Blowfish or Idea algorithms. Keynote’s interface and behavior are extremely configurable. “

  3. Julio Angel Ortiz Says:

    I agree, it’s functional but not as slick as some other apps. It does look a bit dated. And the fact that it was written in Delphi doesn’t help (even though it is open-source). But I thought it was a worth a look, and thanks for doing that.

    By the way, I’ve enjoyed your blog. You’ve just been added to my Google Reader subscriptions. ;)

  4. Kristijan Velkovski Says:

    WikidPad is portable, i use it on my USB stick all the time.
    Just move the WikidPad.config file into the directory where you installed it and its portable.

  5. Dan Says:

    Don’t forget to check out Luminotes at

    Luminotes is a light-weight web-based personal wiki, so you can easily make links between your notes and even optionally share your wiki with friends and colleagues. There’s a full-featured free version, too. As for portability, it’ll work anywhere you have a net connection. This won’t meet everyone’s criteria, but not being tied to a single computer or even a certain USB stick does have its benefits.

  6. Note-Taking Applications | Says:

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  7. Joey Coder Says:

    @Julio Angel Ortiz

    I’ve checked out many programs over the years. Recently, I delved into Evernote 3. Always, I stay fixed on Keynote.

    Keynote delivers. The programmer made it USB-ready. He gave it virtual notes for each notebook. He did it all.

  8. Robert Larriva Says:

    Hi everyone! When you mentioned Keynote you hit my key! I used Keynote very happily for years. Then I found Essential PIM (freeware) to be a terrific replacement. It not only imported all my Keynote files & kept them organized nicely, but also added a sort of trimmed down version of MS Outlook as a great organizer. Take a look at it & you might be pleasantly surprised!

  9. Subhash Chandran Says:

    I have launched a Media-Wiki syntax based online notetaking application

  10. Christopher Theis Says:

    At first glance, I love Evernote. My problem is that what you get free is essentially a demo model because it places limitations on storage space (I like a lot of screen shots in my class notes). And if seems as though you don’t really run it off of a usb, more like you have a small program on your usb but the actual storage is online. I can not take my notes from machine to machine with a usb without synching online. Too bad because it seems really promising.

  11. Ronnie Lowe Says:

    I use Evernote for years now. It is really useful and my desktop is cleared from endless notepad files that have to remind me for something. But it is good to have the original Evernote, because the free version, doesn’t include important options.

  12. TheExpert3333 Says:

    I miss a combination of notetaking and mindmapping software as both methods really contribute to each other. The only tool i know is YouMinds Composer and should be on the list. You can create notes, drag all kinds of objects and then choose how to present the information. You have the option of mindmap, notebook, slideshow and even diagram or webapp. I have never seen anything more flexible and comprehensive.

    I love it.

  13. Joe Cramer Says:

    I think this is one of the best notetaking applications out there. They have a lot of them nowadays that I’ve been using this one for many years and would not change.wikidPad there is no God that you can do the things that this offers.

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