We have been writing all our lives. May it be essays in school or a quick jot down of the day's groceries, we have all been dependent on a pen/pencil and a piece of paper, in some way or another.
Now, as the technological advancements around us force us to embrace the changes, the need for paper and pencil has become a thing of the past.
You can now quickly take down the most common piece of information right onto your phone, without exhausting any of our precious natural resources.
The availability of a wide variety of note-taking apps in the Play store has made this reality of ours possible. Coupled with a stylus of your choice, you won't miss the pleasure of handwriting your notes anymore.
The best stylus-supported note-taking apps available on Android are Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep, and Simplenote. Things to consider when you're on the lookout for a new note-taking app are the versatility of deploying the app, developer support, features on board, and user interface design.
All these apps have been tried and tested thoroughly. And all of them stand a good level or two above their competitors.
Microsoft OneNote: The Best Overall Note-Taking App
Ever since Microsoft provided Handwriting support for Android tablets back in 2014, the OneNote app has bloomed into one of, if not the best note-taking app on the Play Store.
A member of the indefatigable Microsoft Office lineup, OneNote is known for its wide array of features and precise implementation of note organization.
The app is supported on multiple platforms, meaning you can transfer and access your notes on other devices.
The cloud saves feature using the OneDrive account enables you to access the notes from anywhere, at any time.
Apart from writing down text, you can add drawings, web clippings, or even excerpts from a PDF onto the note.
You can also scan writings made on paper onto the app, which then transcribes them into virtual texts.
The app allows you to place text, drawings, or clippings anywhere you want on the note. You may want to check out our article on the best stylus for drawing on android.
When it comes to organizing the notes, you have a fair number of options to choose from. You can group your notes into a notebook.
A notebook essentially forms a building block in the hierarchy of sorting and grouping.
Other organizational tools include tags, labels, and to-do lists.
You can also share your notes with your friends and colleagues. They can also remark their suggestions by leaving a comment or adding a follow-up question on the note itself.
Another useful feature available in this app is the provision for an Accessibility checker. This feature scans the notes and then highlights problems like low-contrast notes or missing ALT text for images.
OneNote also supports multiple file formats like PDF, all of the Microsoft file formats, and media formats.
And that's where the rainbow ends. Coming to the demerits of the app, for starters, the app's user interface can seem a bit overwhelming and complex to a newbie.
Even though the app hosts a wide variety of features, it doesn't have support for reminders. A Search for text-based notes is also not possible.
The app is available for free on the Play Store, although you can upgrade your cloud data limit by paying a premium.
Evernote: A Worthy Runner-Up
This is where it all began, Evernote, the earliest and the most successful note-taking app of our time. Launched way back in 2000, it did provide handwriting support at its nascent stages itself.
Fast forward to the present, Evernote has become one of the most widely used apps on the planet.
Its rich feature set, coupled with a wide range of supported platforms, make it a beast, much like OneNote.
It also supports cloud-based storage and access for multiple devices. The company also makes a Web clipper extension to aid the Evernote app to clip web pages and save them.
Multiple format support other than text is also a noted similarity with OneNote.
It also supports collaboration with other users through various platforms like emails and social media, or even through its own Evernote webpage.
And that's where the similarities end.
The rich and user-friendly interface makes it an ideal alternative to OneNote. After years and years of refinement, Evernote is pretty much the best UI with premium features built into it.
A unique feature of this app is that you can use voice commands to take down a quick reminder or even search for a note within your collection.
But, you can only access the app while connected to the internet. If you want to access the app offline, you will need a premium membership.
And this is what made me put Evernote in the runner-up position. Most of the app's features are otherwise limited unless you have a premium membership.
A fine example of such limited access is the multiple-device access feature. With a free version, you will only be able to access the app with two other devices.
You can extend the support with a premium membership, which will then remove these restrictions.
Similarly, you will have a limit on the size of the note on the free version. With a premium membership, you don't need to worry about such restrictions.
Google Keep: Google's Very Own Note-Taking App
One of the most underrated apps in the Googleverse, Keep is a fine and elegant app that allows you to jot down quick thoughts or even sketch a presentation for tomorrow.
Its rich features, along with a straightforward UI, make it one of the most simplistic apps on this list.
You can scan notes and lists using the inbuilt scanner or even upload images and audio and integrate them into the notes.
One of the key features of the app is that you can record voice memos and save them as reminders.
The app also offers transcribing features using the built-in OCR. Simply scan the notes using the camera, and the app will automatically convert the scanned material into text.
You can share your notes with others as well, but unlike other apps, Keep lets the spectators edit and even add new notes to your collection.
It also provides higher storage options, up to 15GB. Coming to the organizational tools, Keep provides color-coded tags and labels for easy identification.
Accessibility is another key feature of the app. You can either use the app as a standalone app or select it from the apps list on the Google webpage. It has support for multiple platforms, and it's completely free.
And that's where the problems start. For instance, even though the app is easily accessible, you will need an active internet connection to operate the app.
The feature list is also a bit underwhelming in comparison to the others on this list.
You can only store the notes in DOCX format, meaning limited file format support.
There is no read-only option, unlike other Google apps, like Docs. Another major gripe is that there isn't any form of formatting available on the app.
Simplenote: A No-Nonsense Note-Taking App
Created by the geniuses behind WordPress, the Simplenote holds the title of the most minimalistic app on this list.
There isn't much to look at here, you are greeted directly with the take note option right from the get-go.
And sticking to its conservative implementation, Simplenote's feature list may seem a bit meager to some. This is because Simplenote isn't striving to be a heavyweight in the note-taking business.
It simply aims to provide a streamlined experience for the Everyman to quickly take down notes and grocery lists, not essays and dissertations.
You will need a Simplenote account to access and store your notes on the cloud. And yes, the app is available on multiple platforms.
You can organize your notes using the tags and labels available on the app. But don't expect hierarchical organizations and other complex sorting methods.
And with such simple execution, the app is blazing fast. This is hugely appreciated, considering some apps can get a bit slow with the build-up of notes with time.
If you want to include media files and Web clippings in your notes, look elsewhere.
Buyers' Guide: Things to Consider While Choosing a Note-Taking App
Ok, so you would like to consider other options before siding with one. Fair enough, I can help you with that. With this Buyers' Guide, you will know what to look out for when surveying an app.
Make sure to check out all these requirements before selecting one. Let's get right into it.
Compatibility and Support
Absolutely crucial for a note-taking app. If an app doesn't have support for multiple platforms, better skip it.
Depending on your use case, it may be vital to share the notes between different platforms for better accessibility. These effective use scenarios can vary from presentations to sharing or even a group activity.
Most apps mentioned in this list provide multi-platform support through cloud-based storage and sharing. Make sure the app supports cloud-sharing/storage for better accessibility.
Like the coveted universal compatibility that you would prefer for all these apps, you may also want to take a look at the best Universal Styluses available right now for making use of the apps.
Another red flag to consider while choosing an app. The organization of your notes is paramount once you have accumulated a considerable amount of notes.
Most apps provide simple organizational options like tags and labels. Some apps, like Google Keep, provide color-coded tags which help further sort notes.
Other tools include reminder labels and priority sorting.
Advanced sorting features include hierarchy-based sorting, like the implementation of notebooks in OneNote. The more organizational tools, the better.
Sometimes, the abundance of features can be a bit vexing. It may make the experience cumbersome and weary. But that doesn't mean more features=less likeability.
On the contrary, most of the time, features do make our day a little bit easier.
Features vary from app to app, some even unique to that particular app. One such feature is the voice-to-text conversion feature Evernote offers.
Another great feature to look out for is handwriting-to-text conversion. This feature can be a lifesaver, especially when taking down notes on an Android smartphone.
Make sure to look out for useful features like the ones I mentioned.
Other common features include support for multimedia integration, web clippings, scanning of notes and texts, etc.
User Interface and Ease-of-Use
The presence of a clean and intuitive UI can make or break a deal.
A great example of such a scenario is OneNote. Even though it is the best note-taking app on this list, OneNote has a cluttered UI.
With a vast host of features and templates dumped into the interface, writing notes can be a bit time-consuming.
On the other hand, apps like Simplenote have a streamlined, no-frills sort of interface that strictly adheres to the basics. This can be alluring to most, but it does lack the features offered by OneNote.
Look for apps with a clean UI, one that doesn't complicate things.
Some more apps that didn't make the cut are INKredible, Squid, and Nebo. Make use of the Buyers' Guide if you would like to explore more options other than the ones in this article.
If you are having a touchscreen device and are having a hard time finding a good stylus for your device, check out our article on the Best styluses for Touchscreen laptops.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which is the best stylus for note-taking purposes?
Generally speaking, if your device supports a stylus, all of them do make the cut. But the best ones do offer better ergonomics and reclusive feature sets. Stylus pens made by Adonit, Staedtler, Wacom, and others, who have a reputation to uphold, do well.
What apps can I use a stylus with?
Writing notes, sketching pictures, editing media, making presentations, and using it as a pointer are some of the useful things you can perform with a stylus. Make sure to find the right app for each of these functions.
Do you need an Android tablet to jot down notes using a stylus?
Absolutely not. You can take down a note or scribble down a thought on any Android device, just as long as it has support for a stylus. Make sure you install the right app on your device for optimal operation.
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