Regular note-taking is one of the most productive habits a person can practice. The ability to take notes online and access them anytime, from any location is priceless. Over the last few years, I have personally tested nearly 100 different ways to do this. Some of these note-taking systems are worth mentioning, and some are worth forgetting.
Here are the systems worth mentioning… a list of 40 useful online note-taking techniques and web applications, categorized and listed in no particular order:
Casual Online Note-Taking
When your note-taking requirements call for speed and simplicity…
- Gmail Yourself a Note – I used to do this several times a day. If you have a smartphone with email access, this is one of the quickest and most basic ways to create an online note on the fly. I setup a special “to-do list” Gmail label (folder) for storing and processing all of my notes.
- Delicious-Tag a Note – Quite frequently we find articles online that remind us to do something, or inspire us to try something. Tagging these articles with a “personal note” tag and entering an insightful comment in each bookmark’s “notes” area turns Delicious into a productive note-taking (and collaboration) tool.
- Tweet a Note via Twitter – Create yourself a separate, private twitter account with protected updates strictly for note-taking purposes. Direct-message notes to this private note-taking account from any Twitter client (via web, iPhone, etc.).
- Use Dropbox to Sync a Note Across Multiple Computers – Dropbox is a web-based file hosting service that uses networked storage to enable users to store and share files across the Internet using file synchronization. So imagine creating a note-taking or to-do list document that was synchronized across all of your computes (work, home, etc.) Every time you modify the note on one computer, the changes are instantly accessible elsewhere on your other computers.
- Luminotes – This is one of my favorites. It’s a simple and efficient personal wiki notebook. The key feature of Luminotes is its ability to easily link one note or notebook to the next. You can also attach small files to notes and share them with your friends.
- Notefish – If you’re doing a lot of online research, Notefish is for you. It’s a web application that allows you to take notes from portions of web pages by copying and pasting content into one handy online note page. You can then organize the notes by moving them around, changing their colors and breaking them down into categories and titled subsections.
- list.it – A pet project of MIT CSAIL researchers, list.it is a Firefox browser plug-in designed for simple, efficient online note-keeping. Its key focus is on speed and simplicity. If you register for their free sync service, your notes will be securely backed up online. Also, if you install list.it on multiple computers, your notes will be mirrored to all of them.
- Yahoo! Notepad – If you already have a Yahoo! account, you can give Yahoo! Notepad a try with your current login credentials. It’s a very basic, straightforward online note-taking application. Yahoo! also provides a widget front-end for Yahoo! Notepad. This widget allows you to add, edit, organize and delete contacts from your Yahoo! Notepad directly from the widget.
- 3tags – A simple online note manager that provides web users with a secure way to store and manage their personal information online. Data security and user privacy are the key features. In short, user data is encrypted before it is sent to and stored on 3tags’ servers.
- WebNotes – With WebNotes you can highlight text and stick customized notes onto any web page. All highlights and notes are cataloged and organized in folders within your WebNotes account. Pages you take notes on can be shared through email or via online links.
- TiddlyWiki – If you already run a web server and prefer to host your own note-taking service, TiddlyWiki is for you. It’s a reusable non-linear personal web notebook that can be run locally or hosted on a web server. It creates a single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki, including all of the content, the functionality (editing, saving, tagging and searching). My company used it as an online collaboration notebook for about 6 months during a product launch, and it worked well.
- Mojonote – A simple online interface for storing and managing your ideas, goals, recipes, contacts, memos, notes, schedules, wishlists, playlists, etc. Mojonote has a pretty decent calendar and ‘to-do list’ reminder system. It can send you reminders via text message or email.
- MyStickies – Great for online research, it allows you to place little yellow digital notes anywhere on any website. MyStickies also offers a powerful interface to browse, search, sort, and edit your notes from any computer that has internet access.
- Diigo – Also great for online research, it’s basically a combination of MyStickies and Delicious. Diigo combines online sticky notes, website highlighting, and social bookmarking in one convenient package.
- Fruitnotes – Allows you to create and organize notes online. Fruitnotes’ key feature is it’s ability to accept voice notes by calling a specific phone number, though currently this feature is only available in the US and UK. It also allows you to create a blog for sharing your notes and collaborating with other users.
Quick Online Notes for Public Sharing
When you need a quick, temporary online repository for notes and data that can be shared with others…
- TinyPaste – Paste in text, add pictures and video links, and TinyPaste creates a public URL you can visit later or share with friends.
- Pastebin – An online public note repository for programmers. “Collaborative debugging” is their tagline. If the notes you’re taking revolve around code, Pastebin is an awesome tool.
- YourDraft – This is an old fan favorite for quickly storing snippets of text, code, etc. YourDraft allows a user to share text notes privately or publically for review at a later time. It’s getting somewhat dated these days, but it’s still worth a mention.
- CopyTaste – Similar to TinyPaste, CopyTaste enables you to quickly create your own private URL with the notes you wish to share with your friends or colleagues.
- NotePub – Geared for sharing notes on Facebook. NotePub allows you to create simple online notes with text, images and small file attachments that can then be shared via email or Facebook.
- CL1P – Allows you to create a customized URL for sharing notes and data. CL1P supports text, images, links, small files, etc. No registration or login required. Notes are stored for 7 days.
- Webnote – Create virtual sticky notes in your own public online workspace. Move your notes around, change their colors, and edit and delete them from any web browser by visiting the URL of your workspace.
- Free Text Host – The site allows visitors to host text notes without any form of registration. Options include the ability to enter a password to allow users to edit or delete their text, and the choice to use rich text and make hyperlinks.
- Friendpaste – Designed explicitly for sharing notes, Friendpaste is another web service where you can paste your code, notes, or anything else and give the link to your friend. Multilanguage support separates this one from the pack.
- Text Snip – Similar to many of the others sites in the category, but with an emphasis on clean text formatting for all notes.
- Privnote – Their tagline is: “Send notes that will self-destruct after being read.” Privnote allows you to create a custom URL with a custom online note and then send it to someone. Once the note is read once, it automatically deletes itself.
- Jottit – One of the easiest and quickest ways to create a basic website. You can literally create a website in less than 30 seconds where you can share online notes and other content with others. However, there is no way others can leave comments or collaborate.
Full-Featured Online Notebooks
When your note-taking requirements call for depth and collaboration…
- Springpad – Pretty much a full featured online planner. Springpad offers several prebuilt templates for planning trips, romantic dates, weekly meals, etc. One of the key features is its ability to interact with all of Google’s web services and other web applications such as Yelp.
- Evernote – Evernote is currently one of the most popular online note-taking applications. It attempts to be a “universal capture” tool. A few of the key features include iPhone and Windows Mobile integration, private email updates, a drag-and-drop desktop application, and offline note viewing capabilities. Encryption is also available in version 3.
- UberNote – A little more sophisticated then the average casual note-taking web application, but not quite as feature-rich as some of the other full featured online notebooks. A key feature is its ability to store to-do list tasks in various notes and then view all the open to-do list tasks in the “Open Tasks” list on the sidebar. I also like the way UberNote allows you to create notes via email, Firefox bookmarklets, AIM, and the iPhone.
- Notely – Geared specifically for students, Notely is designed from a student’s perspective to help students get organized, with all the features a student would need: note taking, calendar, to-do list, task list, a file upload area, etc.
- Springnote – A note-taking application for serious note-takers. Akin to an online office suite, Springnote is geared for long, detailed note-keeping. The Springnote note editor is feature-rich and you can choose from a variety of custom templates and add-ons. The interface supports photo, video, and audio attachments to enhance your notes. You can share your notes with other users, or post them on your blog.
- Backpack – Backpack is a web-based application that makes organizing your information incredibly easy. Backpack lets you make pages which can contain any combination of notes, to-do lists, images, files, etc. You can keep these pages private or share them with co-workers, friends, or family. It also includes a calendar and a convenient email and text message reminder system.
- Google Notebook (discontinued support) – If you use some of Google’s other services (Gmail, etc.), you already have a Google Notebook account. Its key features include multi-user collaboration, quick clipping of web pages using the Google Toolbar, public sharing and publishing of notes, and integration with Google Bookmarks and Google Docs. One big problem though… Google recently announced that it is no longer supporting new development for this service. Google Notebook will continue to exist, but there will be no new software updates and, even worse, the browser extension will eventually be discontinued.
- Zoho Notebook – A solid Google Notebook alternative, Zoho Notebook works similar to Google Notebook but adds an extended capacity to collaborate and share your notebook with other users. Also, you’ll have access to all the other tools in the Zoho suite like chat, voice recording and a browser extension that works much like Google’s offerings.
- WebAsyst Notes – A feature-rich online note-taking web application. WebAsyst has features to create, organize and print notes using custom templates. You can also add files and photos, and collaborate with other users.
Odds and Ends
A few additional ways to take notes online…
- Google Docs – Sometimes you need to generate more than just a simple online note. That’s where Google Docs comes into play. Create, store, and share word processor documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online. (If all you require is an online word processor, Writeboard is a great alternative to Google Docs.)
- Personalized Browser Start Pages – Your browser’s default start page… Can you think of a better place to put an online reminder note? I think not! Most of these services have convenient web-note modules for quick note-taking. I use iGoogle, but Netvibes, Pageflakes, My Yahoo!, ProntoPage and MySurfPage are decent alternatives.
- Penzu – An online journal service that focuses specifically on personal and private journals and diaries. Obviously, it can be used for note-keeping as well. You can sign up for free and keep a secure record of your thoughts and ideas. Penzu also offers an offline/online sync so you can make entries offline as well.
- FLEXlists – With FLEXlists you can create simple database lists of anything you want, with fields for sorting and filtering data. Create lists of notes, tasks, addresses, to-do’s, etc. You can share the lists with others, invite them to edit the list or just keep it for yourself. Lists can be monitored using RSS, imported and exported from and to CSV files (compatible with Excel) and integrated into your blog.
Please share additional online note-taking options and ideas in the comments area below.
Photo by: Nathan