Taking notes is a time-consuming affair for all students and if you don’t do it efficiently, you lose both time and the information. While there’s nothing wrong with a notebook and a pen, note-taking apps have come a long way with innovative features such as real-time collaboration, markup and markdown tools, cloud storage, etc. If you’ve been looking forward to improving your note-taking game then you’re in the right place. I’ve made a list of the best note-taking apps for students. Let’s check those out.
Where Do Students Take Notes
Practically, every device with a screen and a modern OS is capable of taking notes and there are tons of apps available. Whether you use a laptop, a Chromebook, an iPad, or a smartphone, there’s an app for you. In the list below, each note-taking app selected is good at something unique, making it easier for you to pick your tool of choice.
1. Standard Notes | Customizable Note Editor
If you use Apple Notes to jot down your class lecture on the MacBook, then it’s time to look beyond the walled garden. Standard Notes is a simple yet feature-rich notes cross-platform app that offers a better editor or should I say a few different editors. The app uses extensions to add different editors such as markdown, code editor, spreadsheets editor, etc. These custom editors allow you to tailor the note-taking app to your requirements, and support for themes to change the user interface is a well-deserved plus.
Standard Notes provides E2E encryption, cloud backups, heightened security, and access on unlimited devices. Standard Notes is primarily made for macOS but you can find the apps for Android, iOS, and Windows as well. It also works from a web browser. You can start using the note-taking app for free and enjoy most of the features. Paying for a subscription gets you 10 different editors, custom themes, and automated backups. The subscription costs $9.99 per month but much less if you go for a 5-year plan.
- E2E encryption
- Custom Editors
- Customizable Themes
- Automatic Backup
Platforms: Web, macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS.
Get Standard Notes (free, in-app purchases)
2. Bear Notes | Notes app with Markdown
While Standard Notes checks a lot of boxes, it is certainly an overkill for most students as they usually need an app that gets the job done, effectively. Bear is a beautiful note-taking app that gives you the power of markdown on your fingertips. As the app uses standard markdown shortcuts, you can quickly create detailed notes using lists, headings, strikethrough, links, quotes, checklists, etc.
Unlike Apple Notes, Bear displays useful information such as word count, read time, paragraphs, modification date, etc. The app also lets you export the notes as a PDF, Word doc, or HTML which is a useful feature to have. Bear is free to use and comes with a subscription that costs $1.49/month which gives you access to themes, sync between all devices, and advanced export options.
- Markdown-based editor
- Custom themes
- Export as PDF
- Sync between devices
Platforms: macOS and iOS.
Get Bear (free, in-app purchases)
3. Typora | Minimalist Note-Taking App
The most distracting part while taking notes on a computer is the computer itself with its packed toolbar and the usual unnecessary buttons that no one wants. Typora addresses that by offering a minimal note-taking experience on Windows, Linux, and Mac. Even though it looks bare, the app has all the markdown features that would allow you to create comprehensive notes. However, my favorite part is the focus mode and typewriter mode that add to the minimalism of the app and improves focus.
Along with that, there are five different themes, an outline panel, export options, and a file organizer. Typora is free at the time of writing this list but it would cost $9/license when it goes out of beta.
- Focus Mode
- Typewriter Mode
- Markdown Editor
Platforms: Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Get Typora (free-trial, $9/license)
4. Google Docs | Real-Time Collaboration
Technically, Google Docs is a word processor and therefore it shouldn’t be on this list. However, I speak from personal experience when I say it is one of the best apps for students to take notes. For starters, anyone with a Gmail account can create a document and share and collaborate with others in real-time. This makes it incredibly convenient to work on group projects efficiently. The tools available on Google Docs exceed any note-taking app so far. Ranging from text formatting to focus mode, it’s got all and the best part of Google Docs is that you can highlight a segment and leave comments that are incredibly useful.
Google Docs is completely free to use with most features available at zero extra cost.
- Real-time collaboration
- Rich text editing tools
- Comments and revision history
Platform: Web, Chrome OS, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Check out Google Docs (free)
5. Evernote | Multi-Purpose Note-Taking App
Evernote is a really popular note-taking app that can take notes in a variety of formats like text, audio, image, and handwriting. There are templates that effectively shorten your note-taking time as you can just pick a template and start writing. The infamous web clipper comes in handy to capture the important bits from the web browser. Simply use the official web clipper extension to add images, links, and pieces of text directly to your notes. Along with that, you can scan entire documents, search the contents, and annotate PDFs.
On top of that, app integrations enhance the capabilities of Evernote. For example, Slack integration allows you to add Evernote notes directly in your conversation. Evernote is free and gets you 25MB note size, 60MB monthly upload limit, and syncs to two devices. Subscription starts at $7.99/month with unlimited devices, 10GB monthly upload limit, and 200MB note size.
- Templates for notes
- PDF annotation
- Web clipper
- App integrations
Platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Web, and Chrome OS.
Get Evernote (free, in-app purchases)
6. Roam Research | Organize Your Research
Roam Research is a different kind of note-taking app that takes a new approach towards creating networked documents. Professionals from across the industries use this app for various purposes such as journaling, long-form writing, research, task management, project management, and studying. Roam Research works with bidirectional links that allow you to traverse a series of documents in every direction.
While there is a slight learning curve to understand formatting shortcuts, it’s intuitive and the in-depth help page would bring you up to speed in no time. The rich text formatting enables you to create professional notes with all the standard styling elements such as bold, italics, lists, checkboxes, headings, etc.
Roam Research is a paid tool that costs $15/month and has a 30-day free trial to get you started. Roam Research works from the web browser.
- Bi-directional linking
- Advanced text formatting
- Comprehensive keyboard shortcuts
- Graph view
Get Roam Research (free-trial, monthly subscription)
7. Notion | All-in-One Workspace
Notion is so much more than a run-of-the-mill note-taking app. It’s better categorized as an all-in-one workspace. You can take notes, create docs, manage projects, make Kanban boards, and track tasks with Notion but let’s talk more about note-taking. The markdown editor is fully capable of handling anything you throw at it. Meaning, you can add images, links, text, etc. to your notes with ease. Along with that, other participants can join in on the notes and collaborate in real-time to make changes.
Notion also has widgets that enhance the functionality and you can also make use of existing templates to speed up your work. Notion is free for personal use and the paid subscription starts at $4/month.
- Powerful Project Management Tools
- Intuitive Notes Editor
- Web Clipper
- Third-party widgets
Platform: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Web.
Get Notion (free, in-app purchases)
What’s Your Pick: Best Note-Taking Apps for Students
These are some of the best note-taking apps for students that you can consider when looking for options. Apps like Typora, Bear, and Standard Notes are easy to use and focus on individual note-taking. On the other hand, Google Docs, Evernote, Notion, and Roam Research have specific use cases. You should choose Notion if you want one app to rule them all as it has the functionality of apps like Evernote, Trello, Docs, ClickUp, etc. What would you pick as the best note-taking app for students? Let me know on Twitter.