If you’re moving to Ubuntu (or Linux in general) from another platform, it can be a challenge to find a good note-taking replacement for the apps you’re used to using on Windows and Mac. Sure, you can use the web version of Onenote or Evernote, but it’s not only more cumbersome but also lacks advance options like inserting documents, etc. So, after long and hard research, I’ve curated a list of the best Ubuntu note-taking apps that are free, cross-platform, and works for different users. Let’s begin.
1. Indicator Stickynotes
One of the quickest ways to take notes on Ubuntu is to use Stickynotes. The application uses local storage and can be categorized. The data is persistent through restarts so I don’t have to manually press “Ctrl+S” all the time. You can lock a particular sticky note which prevents accidental change of data.
I was quite happy with the sticky notes but as time passes, the glitz wears off. The moment when I boot into Windows, I miss the cross-platform sync between the sticky notes. I carelessly write off my passwords on the notes which is an unhealthy practice but unfortunately, Indicator Stickynotes has no option of encryption.
- Categorizing of Notes
- No cross-Platform Support
- Lack of encryption or password-protection
- Inability to search notes
Download Indicator Stickynotes
2. Standard note
Another popular note-taking app that gets recommends a lot is Standard note. This isn’t a Linux-exclusive and this is a great thing if you’re looking to leverage your productivity both in and out of the office: There are full-fledge Standard note builds for Windows, OSX, iOS, Android, and Linux. Which means if you’re dual-booting Ubuntu, with Windows as the primary OS, you can take your notes with you.
Another key feature of this free app is AES-256 encryption. Encryption happens locally–before data leaves the app. This means man-in-the-middle snooping is pointless since the data collected would itself be encrypted. This makes Standard Notes, ideal if you’re in a professional (or political) situation where you don’t want your data monitored
However, the free version of Standard note isn’t much of use in the long term, there is no support for formatting, hyperlinks, Automated backups in the free version. And the paid version follows a subscription model starting at $9.99 per month (which is outrageous even for OneNote and Evernote) while the more sensible version ($2.48) will require you to lock in for 5 years.
- End-to-end encryption
- Offline access
- Requires an active internet connection to work
- Limited free version
- Quite expensive
Download Standard note
Who it’s for: Business and other users who don’t want their notes monitored
If you’re the kind of user who has to jot down ideas from time to time but needs those notes to be secure and encrypted, Joplin is the Ubuntu note-taking app you need. Like Standard notes, it’s also cross-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS) and has End-to-end encryption. However, unlike Standard note, the Joplin has many features in the free version such as markdown, inline HTML/CSS styling support (with preview), cloud sync and much more.
- End-to-end encryption
- Cross-platform, so you can sync with other devices
- Offline support
- Markdown support
Who it’s for: Software developers who want to take effective programming notes
It’s cross-platform, too, with support for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. If your primary work machine is running Linux but you still like to write lines of code once in a while, you can do that with MedleyText on the other two platforms and it’ll sync up. There is one big drawback, though. MedleyText used to be free but their business model was changed recently. It’s now a subscription service. It costs a hefty $45 a year. Whether it’s worth it or not at that price is up to you.
- Coder-friendly features like rich formatting, keyboard shortcuts, and embedded code blocks
- Support for over 40 programming languages
- Expensive at $45 per year
Download it here
4. Google Keep
Who it’s for: Users who want to jot down quick, sticky-note type reminders
Google Keep is in some ways the opposite of feature-rich note-taking apps like MedleyText. It’s all about keeping things as simple as possible. Google Keep’s design is strongly reminiscent of a bulletin board. Each note you create gets stuck to it as a colored sticky-note. You don’t get much in the way of formatting options. This keeps with the whole sticky-note mentality. You don’t get a lot of space per note either since they’re quite narrow. You do the option of using bullet points and some degree of font customization.
What this all boils down to is a solution that lets you take quick, general life notes: things like grocery lists and task reminders. It’s ill-suited for advanced uses like coding. On the plus side, though, it integrates into the rest of the Google ecosystem, which is a boon if you’re already using Drive, Docs, and Sheets. Moreover, it’s cross-platform and cloud-enabled. You can write a reminder in Keeps on your Linux workstation and then read it later on your Android phone. Keep in mind that Google Keep is available on Ubuntu as a Chrome app, so you’ll need to install Chrome first and then access the download link.
- Cloud-enabled and cross-platform
- Simple layout makes it ideal for reminders and short notes
- Integrated into the Google ecosystem
- The design makes it difficult to write up long notes
- Lacks advanced features
Download it here
Who it’s for: Users who want a full-fledge Evernote client for Ubuntu
There are lots of things to like about Linux, but one of the main drawbacks is the general lack of support by big, commercial players. There are a lot of great premium apps like Evernote that just don’t get official support on Linux platforms. But if you’re moving to Ubuntu from another platform, you don’t have to let that stop you from using Evernote entirely. Nixnote is an unofficial Evernote client built for Linux. This means that, even though there is no official Evernote app for Linux, you can still connect to your Evernote account with Nixnote. Nixnote allows you to do almost everything you can do in the official Evernote app except for just a couple limitations: You can’t permanently delete notes and you can’t purchase a subscription. As long as you have another device to take care of these two functions, you can do everything else that’s possible in Evernote.
Exactly how you do those things in Nixnote is another problem area. Here’s the truth: the UI’s not that great. Notes are tabulated in plain old lists and it ends up looking more like a spreadsheet than a note-taking app. However, Nixnote does let you do some pretty nifty Evernote things like previewing PDFs you’ve scanned into the app. Another issue with Nixnote has to do with how it connects to Evernote. It uses the Evernote API which is rate limited. If you’re trying to access large quantities of notes, you can get hit with the rate limit. You’ll then have to wait 45 minutes for a valid API call to go through. If you can get past the ugly interface and API issue, Nixnote’s a powerful Evernote client that lets you do nearly as much as the official versions on other platforms.
- Full-fledged Evernote client
- Syncs with the official version of Evernote on other platforms
- API rate-limiting can slow you down when trying to access a large number of notes
- Ugly interface
Download it here
Each of these Ubuntu note-taking apps has its own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re already using Evernote and you just want to use that in Linux, Nixnote is your go-to Evernote client. API rate-limiting and an ugly interface hold it back from true greatness but it’s the closest you’ll get to everyone’s favorite note-taking app. If you just want to scribble a quick reminder, Google Keep has a Linux version you can use just as you would on other platforms. It isn’t useful for much else, though. MedleyText is great if you want a coder-friendly note-taking app, but the steep subscription cost (especially on a platform like Linux where so much software is free in principle) makes it less attractive. Finally, if security is what you’re after Joplin offers the best protection, with its high-end encryption algorithm.
Alternatively, you can also use OneNote web with electron to make it more desktop-like.
What if you’re not on Ubuntu? You might want to check out our list on the best note-taking apps for iPad Pro here.