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Looking for the best note taking app? Start by streamlining your existing notes first

This is the missing key to finding the best note taking app.

Elizabeth Butler
Elizabeth Butler
4 min read
Looking for the best note taking app? Start by streamlining your existing notes first

Table of Contents

How to find the best note taking app: where to start

Searching for the best note taking app? Wish you could find the perfect note taking app to suit your specific needs? Whether you’re looking for the best note taking app for Windows or Mac or iPad, you’ve found yourself staring at your laptop screen late into the evening, feeling like if only you could find the perfect note taking app, the one that has all the right features, your note taking workflow and system would finally fall into place. Your information management would finally feel effortless and light. You would feel like you had your research and notes and files (and life) organized.

Start with reviewing your existing notes

When our note taking system feels like a mess— bloated, disorganised, out of control— the last thing we want to do is take a look at the notes themselves. It’s (completely understandably) much more tempting to spend time searching for “the best note taking app” or “new note taking apps” rather than sitting down and processing through our old notes.

But here’s the truth— when we process through and organize our old notes, we strengthen our personal knowledge management systems.

Build yourself a minimalist, streamlined note taking system: clear out your old notes

If you bring along all the notes from your old system, you’ll feel weighted down by duplicates and no-longer-relevant notes. If you start completely fresh in a new note taking app, your app will feel shiny and new but you’ll find yourself constantly checking your old app for important notes and information you left behind there.

Even if you’re ultimately going to choose to export your existing notes to a new app, you need to make sure they’re neatly edited, refreshed, and up to date.

So grab a tea or coffee, put your favourite work music on your headphones (I like Brain.fm myself) and do the work to edit, prune, and update your note taking system. Your future self will be very grateful.

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Want more step-by-step guidance on the process of reviewing your existing notes? The first two modules of the Calmer Notes course give you a deep-dive with guided framework to effectively and efficiently evaluate your current note taking system before building a bespoke note taking system that fits your life.

Re-evaluate the need to choose a new note taking app

After you’ve cleared out your old notes, you may feel a sense of relief and ease in your existing app. The cruft is gone, the dregs are gone— your note taking app may be moving literally faster, and certainly metaphorically faster. You may feel you have more elbow room and mental space to breathe in your freshly-clean note taking space.

If you realize after this step that you no longer feel that craving for a new note taking app— congrats! You just took a project off your task list. Enjoy your newly-edited notes. 

The best note taking app (is the one that fits your life)

The perfect note taking app (unfortunately) doesn’t exist. The reason the tools for thought and personal knowledge management software and note taking app space has proliferated is that everyone has different needs, preferences, and priorities. Personal knowledge management has to be truly personal for it to work for you in the long run.

What makes a great note taking app?

If you do decide to go shopping for a new note taking app, you want to make sure that you’re not choosing one that will just frustrate you again all over down the road. When you’re browsing through note taking app options, keep these criteria in mind.

A great note taking app needs to be:

  • Universally accessible
  • Simple
  • Flexible and future-proof
  • Delightful and aesthetically pleasing
  • Quick and responsive
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Want to know more about these 5 criteria for a note taking app? Check out this post on building a sustainable note taking system with the Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management.

The best note taking apps to get you started

After all that— you may absolutely need a new note taking app. Sometimes we all need a fresh approach. Especially if you’re going through a time of transition or new responsibilities— those are times when your note taking needs change, and your system needs to change and adapt as well.

If you’re still considering a change, some of the best note taking apps in 2022 are:

Check out my roundup of the best note taking apps to get started with personal knowledge management  to learn more, or explore my full archive of posts about note taking apps for more ideas.

Build your perfect note taking system with the Calmer Notes method

Still feeling frustrated by trying note taking app after note taking app, wishing you could find the perfect software?

If you’re stymied by personal knowledge management systems that never quite seem like the right fit, the Calmer Notes method might be just what you’ve been looking for. The Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management walks you through a step-by-step framework to help you create a completely custom, fully tailored personal knowledge management system that suits your life. No more cookie-cutter approaches. No more trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

If you’d like to design your own bespoke digital note taking system (and take a strategic approach to picking the perfect note taking app), Calmer Notes may be the right fit for you.

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

Note Taking AppsPersonal Knowledge Management

Elizabeth Butler Twitter

Your guide to the world of note taking and mindful productivity. Creator of the Calmer Notes method for personal knowledge management. Physician, PhD, parent, tea drinker.


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