Android note taking apps: which will work for you?

March 5, 2014
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You have a smartphone for a reason, or more likely several. Gaming, chatting, navigation — there are a ton of reasons to have a mobile device. One of those reasons is taking notes, and keeping track of life. With plenty of options out there, which are the best? Is there any one app that will do it all for you? We take a look at a few of the more popular note taking apps to find out.

Tasks

Wait, what? Google Tasks? Yeah, there is still an app for Google Tasks. It’s still really, really good, too. The app is simple, effective, and built by a team recently snapped up by Google. For a long time, many considered this app to be the default Google Tasks app, even though it technically wasn’t.

If you need a plain, easy to use note taking app, Tasks or Tasks Free is one to look at. There isn’t much to it, but it does that one thing well, which is all we can really ask for. It works with Google Now using the little know “note to self” command, too. There’s a Dashclock widget as well, so you can keep track without unlocking your device. Re-ordering tasks is easy, allowing for prioritization in a snap. As a simple note taker, Tasks is an easy recommendation.

Google Tasks AC

Keep

When Google decided they needed a more robust note taking app, they went with Keep. Instead of adding functionality to Tasks, Google built Keep, and it’s actually pretty wonderful. Not as full-featured as some others, it’s still got just about everything you may need.

One of the neat functions of Keep is the checklist functionality, where you could create a list and check items off as they are done. That’s something that can be done with Tasks, in that you can create separate lists, but the card layout of Keep makes it a much easier format from the main screen. If anything, the checklist functionality makes us realize how much of a step up Keep is over Tasks.

You can also take a simple note, should you have a single item to remember or longer form stuff. Keep also lets you snap a photo (or add one from Gallery) should you need a visual hint as to what you’re talking about, and it works with voice notes as well. Just click on the mic and speak your note — a surprisingly useful item when you’re out and about.

Google Keep AC

Google Now

One of the lesser known features of Now is the note taking functionality. It’s voice centric, of course, but offers a unique twist on note taking and timely reminders. We like Now for simple tasks, but we’re not sure we’d rely on it as our sole app.

You can tell Now to remind you to do something at certain times, or even pick a location where Now will push a notification to you — like not forgetting to pick up more whatever at the store next time you’re there. Scrolling down to the bottom of your cards in Now gives you the finger with string on it where you can manage your notes, too. Great for a simple “hey, do this!”, but not one we’d want to use for anything more than that.

Google Now Note AC

Evernote

The Evernote suite of apps is one that could (and should) find their way into any productivity discussion. With an array of widgets and apps god for all kinds of fun tasks and boring work stuff, Evernote is always one to look at. For the sake of argument, we’ll take a look at the note taking feature within Evernote — otherwise, we’d be here all day.

Summarizing Evernote’s note taking, it’s like Keep on steroids. You can save web pages to it, make text bold or italicized — even take handwritten notes. Highlight text, create public or private lists, and even make numbered or checked lists. You can even create bullet points for your topics. There is just so much to Evernote!

We like Evernote for a variety of reasons, but it’s pretty cumbersome for day-to-day use. Unless you have a family, and want to spend time creating really detailed lists, Evernote is probably going to be a bit much for the average app user. We really like it for a small business or disorganized professional, but it’s depth and breadth of services is probably just too much for the average use-case.

Evernote AC

Any.Do

The nice thing about Any.Do is that it integrates well with their calendar app, which is one of the nicest available on Android. The to-do/note taking app is just as simple and gorgeous, and is a breeze to use. Simply type your task into the top bar, and it adds them to your “today” list, simple as that.

If you want more, Any.Do can do that, too! You can set alerts, schedule a task for a certain day (again, calendar integration), or add more detailed notes to a task. You can also invite people to the task or reminder, or send it to someone via Android Beam. Of course, both of those require the other party to be using Any.Do.

Simple, easy to use, and effective. We weren’t crazy that the default setting is for the tasks to show up in your notification bar, but if you were really using it heavily, it might be a bonus. Calendar integration is nice, too.

Any.Do Note AC

Conclusion

Which is right for you? Like most other things, it depends on your needs. You simply can’t go wrong with Evernote, but it’s pretty bulky — and may put some people off with the learning curve. Google Now is easy as pie to use, but not good for creating task lists or anything more complex than simple reminders.

We like Any.Do’s simplicity, and we already use their gorgeous calendar app. If you schedule your life in a calendar, Any.Do is likely a good option. It’s a step up from Google Tasks, which we are honestly surprised isn’t dead yet. If you’re looking for the silver bullet, though, it’s Keep.

Google Keep is a great note taking app, and integrates really well with the desktop — especially with the Chrome extension. It does just about anything we need it to, and having it across devices and platforms is nice. The card interface is really clean and simple, and has the benefit of being the best looking app on this list. We also think Google will leverage Keep throughout their other services in the future, so it can only get better with time.

While there are other note taking apps out there, we wanted to take a look at a few whose functionality makes sense for the average user. If you have a suggestion for note taking, feel free to leave a comment below. We’re always fans of sharing information openly!


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  • JPB

    Keep for quick stuff and lists, Evernote for long form and saving useful web pages.

  • companyemails

    My favorite by far is Tasks (which I use in chrome and on my Android devices), but I’ve also been known to use Keep and ColorNote. I also use Google Now for the occasional quick reminder, but thus far haven’t gotten into it as much.

    As an aside to the author: I use tasks for check lists all the time, in fact, for places that I use a lot (like Costco or the grocery store) it is fantastic. I just keep each set as a category (since each is frequently used). Part of the reason I prefer this over keep for places where I frequently use check lists is due to the ease of modification of said list on the fly (checking stuff off, moving stuff up and down the list, adding or deleting things, or moving things to other lists). It’s pretty brilliant when used that way.

    • gmaninvan

      I used to be a heavy tasks user but I tried anydo and no way I’m going back

  • Adam Tuck

    Where’s OneNote?! I use it because it’s fantastic for quick note taking as well as for full lecture/tutorial notes at university, and works really well between my Android phone/tablet and laptop. I used to use Evernote, but found that I was hitting the monthly data limit (for free version) whenever I needed to add images to notes. OneNote doesn’t have this issue and looks far nicer to boot!

  • imutau

    As good as CAL is I just do stuff right in it and skipped Any.Do altogether.

  • Zachary Morris

    Keep is king.

  • http://twitter.com/jdrch jdrch

    Evernote >>>

  • SirSid

    If you use a device with an active digitizer I’ve found papyrus has the absolute best writing feel and pressure sensitivity support. It supports pdf annotations now as well.

  • gmaninvan

    This article doesn’t really make sense. It is a mix of tasks and note taking apps. They aren’t the same category.

    Keep is good for quick notes but useless for task management. There is no way to view upcoming tasks and no way to quickly organize them.