Riddle me this: What precisely is a “note-taking app”?
It appears nearly painfully apparent, I do know — nevertheless it’s a query I’ve discovered myself struggling to reply as I have been exploring a brand new breed of information-storing companies.
The companies assist you to accumulate and set up ideas, lists, and all kinds of different supplies. They additionally, nevertheless, present a strong framework for mapping out complicated tasks, processing giant quantities of knowledge, and even writing paperwork. And so they’re all designed to assist some fairly refined types of collaboration.
So are they note-taking apps? Are they phrase processors — or possibly spreadsheet editors? Or are they process administration instruments, undertaking administration instruments, or even perhaps simply broad “collaboration utilities”?
In the end, I believe what we name ’em relies on how we’re utilizing ’em at any given second — as a result of what really units these apps other than the extra typical note-taking packages is the truth that they’re shape-shifting genies. Their versatility permits them to play a staggering variety of roles and switch into virtually something you want them to be.
In the present day, we’ll concentrate on how they’ll complement no matter extra conventional note-taking software program you are utilizing and enable you to create a extremely custom-made and exceptionally versatile system for info group. So with out additional ado, here is an in depth comparability of three standout instruments that might significantly shake up the way in which you concentrate on notes — and a lot extra.
1. Workflowy: The deceptively easy bullet-based organizer
Best for: Multilayered, text-centric observe group and collaboration
Should you’re on the lookout for a easy but power-packed place to retailer and set up info, Workflowy is perhaps simply the revelation you have been ready for. The service is constructed round expandable bullet factors, every of which additionally doubles as its personal standalone doc.
Sounds uncommon, proper? It’s — however when you wrap your thoughts across the idea, it is truly an extremely intelligent and logical framework for observe assortment. And the service does a unprecedented job of constructing positive you perceive what it is all about from the second you sign up.
A pattern listing — a node, in Workflowy lingo — greets you upon your first sign-in and introduces you to the Workflowy manner. Workflowy is “an infinite doc,” it explains. It is like a sequence of interlinked bullet factors, solely along with increasing and collapsing the layers of data inside every level, you may open any level after which work inside it, as if it have been a doc, just by clicking the dot at its begin.
The methods you possibly can use that “infinite doc” setup are, quite appropriately, nearly infinite. You possibly can create fast ‘n’ easy notes as their very own nodes or preserve multilayered lists for duties, targets, and even assembly outlines. Or you possibly can suppose via complicated firm tasks and use Workflowy’s bulleted layers to construction each final element of your varied steps and phases.
Fundamental construction apart, Workflowy has loads of sensible options — every part from a built-in tagging system for further group to a sequence of sensible shortcuts for zipping across the apps shortly. It even has instruments for mirroring objects and permitting them to look in a number of nodes directly and stay synced throughout all of these locations.
After which there’s the world of sharing and collaboration: With one click on on a menu alongside any bullet level, Workflowy allows you to export your complete level — with any related sublayers — for simple copying, pasting, or attaching (as an HTML file). You may as well create public internet hyperlinks for both a whole node and even only a particular bullet level inside a node after which share these with anybody for collaborative viewing or modifying.
Workflowy is on the market on the net in addition to in native apps for Home windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. The service is free with a restrict of 250 new lists and objects per 30 days. A Professional plan — which removes that restriction and likewise provides in additional customization choices, a Dropbox backup risk, and premium-level assist — runs $49 a yr or $48 per person per yr in a crew association, with administration talents included.
Workflowy’s easy construction and text-centric nature are distinctive benefits that make the service each efficient to make use of and straightforward to handle — however in case you’re on the lookout for one thing extra strong, nicely, hold studying.
2. Coda: The all-in-one doc command heart
Best for: Doc-driven note-taking that brings a number of parts and information sources right into a single spot
Whereas Workflowy revolves round bullet factors, with expandable paperwork out there at each stage, Coda goes in a unique route and brings the paperwork entrance and heart.
You possibly can truly simply use Coda as a Google Docs-like phrase processor, in truth, however that is solely scratching the floor of what the service has to supply. As a part of any doc inside Coda, you may create every part from interactive spreadsheet-style tables to completely purposeful buttons for performing superior actions inside your workspace. It is nearly as if a service like Airtable had been dropped into a bigger doc and had much more prospects added in round it.
This, for instance, is the opening web page of a doc template Coda provides you for managing a undertaking:
The objects on the left characterize totally different pages throughout the doc, whereas the bigger space of the display screen is the at the moment lively web page. And the sky is the restrict for what every web page can include — since as an alternative of being paperwork in any conventional phrase processor sense, Coda’s paperwork are all composed of blocks. And people blocks can maintain something from plain textual content to formatted lists and even calendars that sync to your Google account and assist you to each view and edit your present agenda information.
Right here, for example, you see an interactive desk with duties adopted by a reside Google Calendar module and, starting beneath that, a sequence of expandable bullet lists (much like the Workflowy model):
And nothing in Coda is static. You may hover over that “Motion objects” desk to seek out instructions for hiding columns, filtering and sorting the desk’s contents, and altering all kinds of variables about its show.
The place Coda actually stands out, although, is on the cellular entrance, the place the service seamlessly transforms all your creations into app-like interfaces — with pages mechanically was bottom-bar-tab sections and your complete doc taking over a local cellular really feel.
Coda is not fairly as granular as Workflowy in its collaboration capabilities, nevertheless it does assist you to share complete paperwork with colleagues, shoppers, or anybody else in your orbit — both immediately or by way of a non-public internet hyperlink — and to decide on whether or not these individuals can view, view and remark, or edit the knowledge.
Coda is on the market on the net in addition to on Android and iOS. The service is free with quite a lot of limitations — as much as 50 objects and 1,000 rows per doc, amongst different issues — or $120 per yr for a much less restricted Professional plan. In crew eventualities, the service prices $30 per “doc maker” (which means the one who truly creates new paperwork) per 30 days and is free for any workers who solely view or edit current paperwork.
Very similar to the service itself, the pricing of Coda is somewhat difficult and one thing that takes some time to wrap your head round. But in addition very similar to the service, it is fastidiously thought out and full of potential. The one actual query is that if it is smart for you.
3. Notion: The all-purpose data machine
Best for: Visible observe group with a mixture of paperwork and boards
If Coda is type of like having a style of Workflowy inside a broader doc type, Notion is nearly like a Bizzaro World model of Coda with much less exterior data-source assist however extra concentrate on Trello-style board-based group.
Similar to Coda, Notion revolves across the, erm, notion of wealthy content material blocks inside paperwork. So you possibly can create a doc with a mixture of textual content parts, interactive lists, and even separated subpages:
Or you possibly can comply with the lead of the service’s “Roadmap” template and go together with a card-driven board view to maintain your notes, duties, and concepts organized into classes and even ranges of completion.
Whereas Coda has a board view possibility, too, Notion goes a step additional with a full Trello-reminiscent system of interacting with information in that card-based atmosphere. Clicking on any card inside a Notion board opens up a form-like view the place you may see and edit all kinds of detailed info based mostly by yourself customized alternative of fields and parameters. You may drag and drop playing cards between columns and work with them fully inside that association, both by yourself or with invited collaborators.
Notion does assist you to embed sure forms of exterior content material, too — together with purposeful Google Maps, scrolling internet pages, and playable movies — however the listing of prospects and the interactivity of these parts is notably much less substantial than what Coda gives. And whereas the service can take a while to completely perceive and grasp, it comes with an enormous array of templates that makes it straightforward to get began — every part from the product roadmaps we simply went over to easy constructions for single-page notepads, hubs for multi-paged observe collections, and spreadsheet-organized techniques for issues like crew directories and analysis databases.
Notion is on the market on the net in addition to in native apps for Home windows and Mac, Android, and iOS. It additionally has a particular internet clipper extension for Chrome or Firefox that makes it doable to avoid wasting any web page into the service with a single click on out of your desktop browser — and even add notes, tag crew members, or create duties across the web page proper there.
Notion is free for particular person, private use, with the one actual limits being a most of 5MB per uploaded file and a most of 5 “company” for sharing and collaboration. A $48 per yr Professional plan removes these restrictions, whereas crew plans provide the identical setup together with an organization workspace and administrative instruments for $8 per person per 30 days.
And with that, the ability is formally in your palms. Work out which of those companies most accurately fits your information-juggling wants — and prepare to tackle note-taking like by no means earlier than.