To that end I’ve tried every notes app known to the Apple world; some free, some not, a few that are crummy, and a few that are excellent. What I’m going to compare today are two of the best, they’re mostly free, and they’re totally different.
Simple, Everywhere, Free
Let me start out with a Mac notes app that works the way note taking should work. Simple. Notes are all about a few things and nothing else. Then, I’ll finish with a look at what I actually use the most.
Notes are lists, ideas, tasks, snippets, something to share, and they need to be accessible, easy to organize, easy to find, easy to use.
Otherwise, what’s the point. Notes need to be everywhere so you need a note taking app that can travel.
New and unheralded is Simplenote (from the same people who run WordPress). What it does is not much and that’s exactly the point.
Take a note in Simplenote and your eyes are not bludgeoned with word processor tools, or menus, or features or options that may or may not be related to what you’re trying to do– capture some information.
This is simplicity personified.
Search is fast and easily organized with tags and pins in Simplenote. Notes can be shared and backed up online and synchronized between devices– Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Simplenote is more or less a bare bones notes app and that’s the point. It’s all about the notes and nothing about bells and whistles you probably don’t need or won’t use anyway.
Contrast that with what I use for most of my note taking. Evernote. Why? It’s everywhere and it’s mostly free. Unlike Simplenote, you pay when you use Everenote too much.
Look at the visual differences.
Evernote has been around awhile, and it’s on nearly every meaningful device– Mac and PC, smartphones, tablets. If Evernote won’t run on what you’re about to buy, don’t buy it.
The app is more of a platform than a note taking app. It’s like a mini-word processor that handles everything– photos, PDFs, clippings, and, of course, it synchronizes online and to every other worthy device available.
Therein lies the problem. Evernote is loaded with features, a victim of digital feature creep that tries hard to become the be all, do all, end all of anything remotely to do with capturing a snippet of information.
A boatload of features are what apps use to justify a price tag. While Evernote is free, it gets expensive if you use it too much. It’s such a data grabber that it’s also a pain to take your notes and run elsewhere (a bit of lock-in). The most attractive features are the low barrier to entry (free is good), and the laundry list of features you’re not likely to use.
That said, I can’t get this thought out of my head. Small is beautiful. Less is more. Evernote is neither. Simplenote is both.