We've talked about how overwhelming it can be to decide on which software to use to build your personal knowledge management system. Here are some stand-out note-taking apps that offer a robust set of features for note-taking, digital note management, outlining your next research paper, building a digital mind garden, organizing your digital life, or drafting a book, thesis, dissertation, or other writing project.

What makes a great note-taking app?

There are many, many great note-taking apps that didn't make this list. They'll probably get featured in a later list. (Be sure to check out the Apps tag in my blog archives if you want to go down the rabbit hole!) This specific list was developed as a starter guide of seven user-friendly, flexible options for getting started with digital note taking for personal knowledge management.

Here's how this list was developed:

  • The apps had to be aesthetically pleasing. Beautiful apps are a pleasure to use, which in turn makes digital note-taking a regular habit.
  • The apps had to be quick and easy to use. Some have a higher learning curve than others, but every app on this list basically lets you get started in short order.
  • These apps generally have robust export options (but test them out first before you build your entire personal knowledge empire in them!). It's important for future-proofing your PKM that your digital notes are transportable if you decide to move to another platform, software, or system.

What is personal knowledge management (PKM)? What does PKM have to do with note taking?

Personal knowledge management is, simply put, having an organized, methodical approach to managing your notes and files. When you have a PKM system in place, you always know where to file your ideas and how you can easily find them again. (If you'd like to build a personal knowledge management system that fits your life, you might be interested in exploring my Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management.)

The best note-taking apps

  • Bear for speedy, Markdown based text-based notes across the Apple ecosystem (Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch)
  • Craft for collaborative, stylish documents for the Apple ecosystem (with Windows and Linux access via the web)
  • Evernote for cross-platform notes with email functionality and OCR searching within images, PDFs, and Word documents
  • Inkdrop for cross-platform and mobile Markdown notes
  • Notion for flexible, customizable web-based notes accessible on any platform
  • Obsidian for a highly customizable, flexible knowledge base built on local Markdown files with tons of plug-ins and extensions
  • Roam Research for a note-taking tool focused on networked thought to support long-term research

Bear

Craft

Evernote

Inkdrop

Notion

Obsidian

Roam Research

PS - Looking for some guidance as you build your personal knowledge management system? Check out the Calmer Notes method

Hi friend! 👋 If you're searching for posts about the best note-taking apps, you might be the kind of person who's interested in personal knowledge management. But maybe you feel like you're too busy to create an organized, methodical note-taking system. Even if it will save you time and free up mental energy in the long run.

I've created Calmer Notes: Personal Knowledge Management for Busy People based on my own two-decade experience of applying personal knowledge management in a wide variety of work environments. The Calmer Notes method will take you through the process of creating and maintaining a tailored, mindfully-designed personal knowledge management system to organize your digital notes and files.

This self-paced course (which includes digital book + workbook + PKM app database) is now available for purchase at Gumroad.

If you'd like to learn more, check out an overview of the Calmer Notes approach or visit Calmer Notes. You can also download your free seven-day plan to craft your personal knowledge system when you sign up for my newsletter. 👇

Wishing you all the best on your personal knowledge management journey!

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