TiPb Top 5 iPhone Notes Apps

top_5_notes_apps

Today’s TiPb Top 5 is directed towards our iPhone and iPod touch wielding readers who love to take notes on the go. Just like our other TiPb’s top 5 must-have posts, all of these applications are available in the App Store. For the full run down, follow us after the break!

Notes

Okay, all the applications are available in the App Store but this one -- Apple's Notes is built-in and comes pre-installed on every iPhone and iPod touch. And it's not bad. Harkening back to the old PalmOS Memo app, you can add a note, start typing, hit Home, and the Note is automagically (and persistently) saved. That's right, no explicit user action is needed -- not even to name it as Notes just pulls the first line and uses that as the name. You can add new notes, edit old notes, and delete what you no longer need. You can also sync Notes via iTunes now (though not via MobileMe... get on that, Apple!)

Set up to look like a yellow, legal-esque note pad, the only drawback is the almost universally panned use of the Marker Felt font. If you can stand that, it's simple but it's free and you don't even have to download it. For some users, that's all they'll ever need. For me, it's perfect to jot down a hotel room, phone number, parking space, or anything else I want to remember and keep with me.

iphone_30_notes_landscape_keyboard

Simplenote (and Notational Velocity + DropBox)

Simplenote [Free - iTunes link] came to our attention via Daring Fireball's John Gruber and has stayed there thanks to the Notational Velocity awesomeness highlighted by 43Folders' Merlin Mann.

Simplenote by itself is just as the name implies, quick, clean, and highly usable. Instead of tethered iTunes sync over USB, Simplenote offers secure wireless sync to the cloud (their WebApp). You can keep using it free with fairly unobtrusive adds, or for $8.99 a year (less than $1 a month) you can go "premium" which removes the ads and gives you auto backup (versioning), create by email, an RSS feed, unlimited API use, and some cherries on top like early access to future features.

If you're a note ninja, however, combining Simplenotes with Notational Velocity could dang-near blow your mind. Notational Velocity is a desktop client that offers modeless operation (search is your gateway), incremental search (start typing, it starts filtering), and keyboard-optimized operation. DropBox can store the data/files so you can enjoy not only iPhone to desktop, but cross-desktop sync as well. Getting things done indeed!

This is pretty much the nuclear option when it comes to note-oriented productivity, and the scaling from just Simplenote to the cross-platform sync solution is impressive. If you're the high-order geek and notes are where your life lives, this combo can be hard to beat.

Simplenote

PhatNotes

PhatNotes [$9.99 - iTunes link] is a big, bold drought of note taking. On the surface, it's covered in icons and colors. Under the hood you can organize "thousands" of notes in folders and groups. It also supports handwriting recognition so you can scribble your note on the screen and Phatnotes will OCR it and turn it into editable text. (A process which works pretty well (and yes, internet, it does OCR and print curse words without any censorship).

You can sync PhatNotes for iPhone with the PhatNotes for Windows desktop client (no Mac client... yet?). Given the price tag, PhatNotes will most likely appeal to hardcore on-device users who want to do as much as possible on their mobile, especially if they already use PhatNotes on the PC and see the sync as a bonus.

For those who like the handwriting recognition but don't want the higher price and fuller organizational features, the same developer offers WritePad [$1.99 - iTunes link] PhatNotes for iPhone

Appigo Notebook

Appigo's Notebook [$4.99 - iTunes link] earns a spot immediately simply by virtue of its integration with the excellent Appigo Todo, but proves its own worth with clever offline/online note sync handling, password protection for secure notes, Toodledo.com sync, and TextExpander [$4.99 - iTunes link] support.

The user interface is simply gorgeous and the workflow is quick and easy. Notebook isn't free but it's not premium priced, it's not bound to the desktop or the cloud, and if you're invested in Toodledo, TextExpander, and/or Appigo Todo... well, you likely have it already! If you don't, and you want a flexible yet elegant note-taking solution, give it a look.

Appigo Notebook

Evernote

We're not just including Evernote [Free - iTunes link] so that Chad (and Leo Laporte) don't smack us around for not including, though that's certainly a plus. Evernote is literally -- and iconically -- the big elephant in the note-space. Unlike the apps above, Evernote isn't primarily focused on traditional, text-based note taking. It puts pictures and voice right up front alongside text. What's more, it will make text included in your photos searchable (though it won't OCR that text and make it editable -- please ad?)

You can sync Evernote for iPhone with Evernote for Windows or Mac, or for other mobile devices running Android or BlackBerry OS. If the free functionality isn't enough for you, you can "go premium" for $5 a month or $45 a year. Premium gets you 500MB of monthly upload bandwidth, support for Office docs, PDF, and videos, share and collaborate with other premium users, and SSL encryption.

Evernote is a great choice for people who want to include a wider range of material and basically scrapbook their notes as they go. It's also especially handy for cross-platform users with different desktop and mobile platforms. If you're not already using a different cloud-based or desktop solution, Evernote is something to check out. Evernote for iPhone

Conclusion

iPhone and iPod touch users are fortunate to enjoy a wide range of high quality note apps, everything from the built-in to tons of App Store downloads (we barely scratched the surface here!), from free to premium, from cloud-based to desktop-bound. Which one is best for you will depend on what, if anything, you're already using and what functionality matters most to you.

If we didn't mention your favorite, or if you have any ninja or pro tips to share to take our iPhone note-taking to the next level, let us know in the comments!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 33 comments. Add yours.

fastlane says:

I change the Marker Felt font in Notes to Helvetica by typing any Japanese character within the note, then deleting it.

Scott says:

Notespark is also an outstanding alternative.

Mike says:

Missed Awesome Note, Notespark, Note Master...

Jellotime91 says:

Notes is the only app I'd ever use to take notes. There is no point to any of the other ones in my opinion. It's just inputting text. Big whoop. Apps can't have much of an effect on it.

CJ says:

Evernote is my personal favorite. I never have to worry about a hard drive dying on my PC or my phone being lost or stolen because all my notes are saved to the cloud. I can also login to my account on a desktop and create/edit notes that will automatically sync to my phone. All this and the app is free.

L says:

I find the Note app that comes with the iPhone is fine for me. Works well for normal note taking use.
http://www.diverse-group.com/menu/blog.html

Webvex says:

Evernote FTW! Don't waste your time and money on that outdated, desktop-bound junk. Evernote does the cloud right, not just syncing/backups, with real editing from any device or platform. And it's free!

Alli says:

NoteMaster is another favorite. I use that and Evernote (totally different uses). NoteMaster is for full docs/editing that automatically syncs with Google docs. Evernote is for notes and clips.

Mike says:

I use Appigo's Notebook and it is freaking awesome! I can create folders for my different notes, I can also insert the date and time, create bulleted lists, change the font size, etc, etc, etc
I love how easy to use it is and how many features it has.... Totally worth its price!

Dino says:

I use Awesome Notes for small quick stuff. With picture support and backup to Google Docs it's great.
For more serious purposes I like Evernote even if I find the windows app a bit clunky. Great cross platform functionality and OCR scanning is handy.

aspenboy says:

I just wish Evernote did rich text editing and that the checkboxes from their desktop app got transferred over to the iphone app when syncing.
Still looking for that perfect organizational/note app. Something like Journler for the iPhone.

mwebsterpgh says:

Awesome note intragrates with Google Docs and Evernote with the ability to add pictures.... Da?

solar_plexus says:

I use a combination of Evernote and Awesomenote.

Steve says:

You got the words "add" and "ad" reversed. "Ad" is short for advertisement. You're a writer, so I thought you would want to be reminded of this.

Zak says:

um what about Notespark?

Neil says:

I use the Awesome Note/Evernote combo. I love it! I have lots of appointments that I note the time/date/notes/pictures/sound bits etc for when I see people and just having my iPhone I can sync all with my office, home and others' computers. Oh yeah, and Awesome Note is really a nice looking user interface.
N

Kurt says:

MobileOrg for those who use emacs org-mode

Droporific says:

The author apparently doesn't understand what synchronization is. The solution you recommended with Dropbox simply will not work. Multiple copies of Notational Velocity set up with Simplenote will ALREADY SYNC BETWEEN DESKTOPS. So when you add Dropbox on top of that, you're going to have infinitely duplicating notes:http://wiki.github.com/scrod/nv/synchronizing-with-dropbox
It must be some kind of retardism that causes people to think like this.

Rene Ritchie says:

@Droporific,
You can do either, sync across desktops/laptops via DropBox and then have one main system sync to Simplenote, or you can have one main system sync to DropBox and the others all sync to Simplenote. Doing both, like the link indicates, probably isn't a good idea.
I'm currently doing the latter (all on Simplenote sync, one syncing to DropBox, but if anyone thinks the other way is better let me know)

Droporific says:

Well, according to that page what you're doing now (the second way) is just fine, but the first way (having only one system sync to Simplenote) is not possible. This is because in the process of syncing the notes, Dropbox will also synchronize the Simplenote settings themselves, making any separation of the two futile.
In the end it just seems simpler to leave Dropbox out of the equation, because you'll get Mac-to-Mac synchronization no matter what.

Andrea.Richardson says:

Awesome note! Awesome note! I've had this app for quite some time now and continue to absolutely love it! It has a great user interface and syncs with Google docs, a really important feature IMO. It is chock full of features that allow the user to file notes and create due dates. Really nice app.

Sandro says:

Can anyone recomend a 3Gs app that will (1) transfer my 10 years of Palm Memos into some kind of nicely displayed format and (2) allow me to use my PC to add and paste notes, then synch to my iPhone?
As suspected, I am a Luddite, but I have some great Palm Memos (it was a great 10 years) that I don't want to lose.
Thanks

Alena says:

Anyone checked out Codebook? It has some nice organizational properties and the encryption tech is super safe.
http://zetetic.net/c/codebook-forum

Epic118 says:

Awesome Note is prob. the best notes app I have come across. It makes Apple Notes
look like rubbish.

Matt says:

If you use gmail on Apple mail just use the notes section in "reminders" - it will sync to ipad/iphone and is very simple.

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eggs says:

great arrival. mind is blown by simple note + national velocity

VKnights says:

Evernote is my favorite among the list. Been using it for quite some time now, along with Snap-A-Note, a photography app that can also be used as a reminder tool, which I have downloaded for free. I'll try to take a look at some of the apps you've mentioned. Keep on posting!

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Laura Litebulb says:

I highly recommend NotesDeck - my notes show up on all devices instantly (iPad, Mac and iPhone). NotesDeck syncs with Evernote and Dropbox and Simplenote (!!!) so all my notes from other apps are already in it.

So much cleaner than that yellow Notes app. Much more professional. ----> http://www.notesdeck.com

bangdolloer says:

If you're looking for an simple & fast note taking app, you can try 'Jotta'.