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
Barbara Swafford says
Hi Marc – Thank you for the great resource. Who knew there were so many ways to stay on top of our to do lists.
Now I don’t have any excuse to not get it done. Darn! 🙂
Jonathan Mead says
Probably the most comprehensive list of note-taking possibilities I’ve ever seen. If you’ve read this post, you now have no excuse to forget anything, ever again.
Jonathan | EnlightenYourDay.com says
Excellent set of resources to tag and bag on the net. Thanks…. I had no idea there are so many options to choose from.
Stephen - Rat Race Trap says
I use Evernote. Until Google announced they would no longer support Notebook I used it a lot. MS Onenote is I also do the Gmail email myself a note. I never thought about the Delicious personal note idea before. That’s a great idea!
Laurie | Express Yourself to Success says
This is great information and so useful. There are several in your list that I’m going to check out this evening. Thanks for putting the list together; it’s really helpful!
Eric Hamm | Motivate Thyself says
I’ve recently started Gmailing notes to myself. I love this because of the excellent search features that Google provides. Thanks for the great list. Very bookmarkable post! Eric
Here is what I use:
OmniFocus (especially if the note is a task)
And in the past I found the Scrapbook extension for Firefox very useful.
[email protected] says
Wow! That’s quite a list. Which one is your personal favorite?
I have a Windows Mobile phone and started out using simple text files to keep track of notes, to do lists, shopping lists. I’ve been converted to Evernote recently and now I use that. Love that I can access my notes everywhere now. I’m sure I can use it better but it’s a start.
Good list, but I’m surprised Zotero wasn’t listed: http://www.zotero.org/
@Ron: I use Luninotes, Delicious, and Google Notebook on a regular basis… although I may begin transitioning from Google Notebook to Zoho soon.
@All: Thanks for the additions (and comments). Please keep them coming.
Nice compilation here, though I think the Google method deserves extra attention.
From a purely note-taking perspective, you can’t beat the Google Docs + Google Chrome combination. You can use the latter to create a desktop shortcut that directly opens a Google Docs document, which essentially gives you one-click access to your note-taking pad.
Chrome starts outrageously fast, it remembers the orientation and size of the document window, plus it gets rid of all the extras (address bar, browser menus, etc) when you take this desktop shortcut approach. It basically runs like a normal app except faster, better.
Clean, fast, powerful, shareable, accessible. This is Google at its finest.
John Rocheleau says
Working from my home studio and office, I enjoy a well-organized iGoogle browser home page, using the “sticky note” gadget among others for news etc., plus tabs for topic-specific gadgets.
When I’m mobile, I revert to the trusty pen and pad or I simply make a point to remember.
Sherri (Serene Journey) says
Awesome list. There are quite a few that I hadn’t even heard of!
I agree with miles’ comment above about Gdocs and chrome an awesome combination that has so far fit all of my needs! I know my husband uses (or has used) a lot of the other programs you list here each having their pros and cons. I think he uses TiddlyWiki quite regularly now and loves it.
Thanks for the great reference.
Marc, thanks for mentioning WebNotes! We are currently in invite-only Beta right now, so let me know if you would be interested in some Beta invites to distribute to your readers.
Great list Marc. I would like to add one to the “Full-Featured Online Notebooks” section if I may: Office Live Workspaces. I know it is a bit more comprehensive than some of the more basic online note-taking services mentioned in this post, but still relevant nonetheless.
This free online service lets users save, access, and share notes, documents, and files in one convenient online location. Its scalability is great; use it to store personal notes that you can access from anywhere, or use it to collaborate on various projects with many users. More info and a few demos can be found at http://www.workspace.officelive.com
Office Live Outreach Team
This is a great list, thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely have to check out the online notebooks. I’m currently using Evernote which is a great resource because they have an app for the iPhone. 🙂
@Miles and Sherri: Thanks for the positive insight regarding Google Docs and Chrome. I really haven’t taken full advantage of this… But now I intend to. 😉
@Jeff: I’ve never tried Office Live, but it does sound like it could be used as a productive note-taking system. I’ll give it a try sometime soon. Thanks.
@All: Regarding Alex’s comment above… let me know if you want a free beta trial key for WebNotes.
Albert | UrbanMonk.Net says
Hey guys – this is awesome! I used to use a crappy old MS NotePad, but now I can go high-tech and not clutter up my desktop. 😀
Mike Peck says
Don’t know if you reviewed Salesforce.com but u can get a personal free version and its great for keeping track of what to-do.
Marc, please consider to review Knowledge NoteBook, in essence, it’s the Cornell Method in digital form.
GoEverywhere Team says
What a great comprehensive list!! I use Zoho and Google Docs daily on my webtop, but sometimes it’s bulky and time consuming to open up just to send myself a note. I love the idea of using Twitter since it’s already somewhat of a stream of consciousness anyway … I can just go back and see what I need to get done. Thanks for the tips!
My favorite is Evernote, and really love it!
Very much satisfied and it has helped me a lot.
Thanks for an outstanding list!
Thank’s for sharing…
I wanted a REALLY fast and hassle free way of adding a note-to-self. I use Chrome when I browse, and it is ALWAYS open. It has a feature to make shortcuts to searchengines. So instead of a searchengine I sent the “search words” to http://www.theinfopad.com/addnote.asp?note=%s
Which in short adds a note to my noteslist, and returns me to the site I was at. Lightning fast and always available no matter where I am.
eg. To add a note “buy milk” I can take any open Chrome browser and just type “n buy milk”. This conduct could probably be applied to (m)any online notetaking apps.
Ron C. de Weijze says
If you want to take notes of whatever interests you and bring these notes together for some reason, eventually into logical structures, then consider this app (of mine) http://www.pmm.nl Basically free for a limited number of objects (notes, sheets, relations).
Dave Gifford says
Try my adaptation of TiddlyWiki called NoteStorm
Martin Tajur says
I launched http://listhings.com earlier this year and it is becoming more and more popular. It’s an eco-friendly web application for storing notes on one or many canvases. Take it for a spin and try out – it’s really simple and straight-forward.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, hassle free and totally free notes keeper, try http://primekeeper.com. You can add many access names as you wish, up to 10 notes per access name and can be organized up to 3 groups. No personal information (name, email address, age …) required, just register any access name and password then you are ready to take note.
great list. But I miss my favorite apps here:
1> MS OneNote – I Sync it using DropBox.
2> A private WordPress.com blog (sounds crazy?). Well, there is a useful “Press This” bookmarklet too.
3> Scrapbook add-on for Firefox – for clipping web pages 🙂
Great collection! Thanks
Bruno Cancellieri says
Great survey indeed! Thank you very much for sharing it, Marc.
I have recently implemented “OnlineNotes” (http://www.onlinenotes.net), a free, online sharable database and personal organizer that should satisfy the most demanding users . Here is a summary of the main features:
* Database with powerful filtering and sorting functions
* Contact and link manager
* To-do list and note manager
* Email scheduler
* Social bookmarking
* Online notepad
* Record viewing as grids or maps
* Possibility to embed videos, sounds, images and slide shows
* Sharing of selected records: with no one, with specific users, with anyone (registered and unregistered)
* File upload and download
* Automatic creation of image galleries, thumbnails and slide shows
* Social network of users who share information and communicate with one another
* Search results are unique web pages indexed by Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.
In http://www.onlinenotes.net/online-organizers-comparison-matrix there is a comparison matrix showing that OnlineNotes is functionally richer than Evernote and SpringPad.
I am offering OnlineNotes as public service or as a custom application with a dedicated database in a user-owned domain.
Please take a look at it and post your comments and questions here and/or send them to me by means of the OnlineNotes “contact” page.
David F. says
I use Daileez.com where you can write your online diary in form of icons. Coool 🙂
For simple note creation and sharing my favorite is: simplesharednotes.com
A private WordPress.com site is a very good idea! You can setup the site to accept both posting via email and by phone call. *Using the “category” shortcode, within your email can direct the note to one or more categories. Each WP category automatically has an RSS feed. Attach a photo, and it is included in the note.
These sites are “mobile friendly,” so it’s easy to view your notes on your Android phone, iPad, PC, etc. You might try the “P2” WP theme, which creates a Twitter-like interface for posting notes.
Great list, you can also review Carrynotes.com to remember, manage and save your learning’s for free. Its great for keeping track of what to-do.
It’d be nice to have an online note system that would let me continue to use Daytimer pocket sized. It’s nice to have a pencil and paper always handy, but a nuisance because the information can’t be searched later (except tedious page-by-page…).
So is there an online note system that can be printed out as a daily or weekly calendar to be stuffed in a Daytimer wallet (complete with pen) to carry around?
That’d be the best of both worlds: complete portability, easy note taking (can’t beat a pen and paper) and most info could be printed on the pocket version from on-line calendar and contact info. So the only data entry would be end-of-the-day entries – not too much trouble.
Any leads much appreciated!
Also check out Celly, it has a built in note taking feature that works from any phone. All you do is text @me to 23559 and it is stored on your account to be read later. You can retrieve your notes via SMS text or using the Celly website. Like most other note apps, Celly is also free to use.
For more info: http://cel.ly/help
Sadly, Springnote has discontinued its service and it’s official. Now i’ve got to look for other wiki services, which is a tedious job. *sigh*
I prefer akanoo (akanoo.com) it is the simplest tool for online note taking I could find. Having less features makes live much more easy.