There are currently plenty of note-taking apps. Evernote is as evergreen as it ever was and continues to evolve with time. Google Keep by the search engine giant is another feather in its cap. Apple Notes received a huge update with the recent release of iOS 15 bringing it on par with the rest of the pack. Here we examine Google Keep vs. Evernote vs. Apple Notes to see which one is better and why.
User Interface (UI)
Evernote received a much-needed update recently where the UI was redesigned to keep up with the note-taking industry. It’s much cleaner now with recent notes at the top, Scratch Pad for taking quick notes below, and the option to create new notes in different formats at the bottom. The rest of the options – like tags, categories, tasks, etc. – have been tucked away in a sidebar menu.
Where Evernote really shines is its ability to customize the homepage so you can add/remove elements like calendar, tasks, etc. from the homepage to customize it for you. Just tap on the “home with pencil” icon at the top to add/remove elements.
Google Keep has fewer options – hence, a cleaner UI with notes appearing in chronological order and a bottom bar menu. Settings and some advanced options are tucked away in the sidebar menu. A familiar multicolor plus icon is placed at the bottom to create new notes.
Apple Notes has a dated UI where you will need to go back and forth between folders to access notes. There is no sidebar shortcut or recent notes option as in Evernote. Tags can be a quick way of locating notes, though, as is the search bar at the top which comes to the rescue.
Winner: Evernote. Evernote’s UI is not only functional but also customizable so that you can add/remove elements like Scratch Pad. This helps reduce distractions.
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Creating and Formatting Notes
Beginning with Evernote, simply tap on the New button at the bottom of the homepage and choose a type of note to create. You will notice Evernote supports a number of note formats like text, to-do, audio, camera, drawing or sketch, and with attached files. Inside, you can choose from one of the hundreds of templates. There is also a robust formatting menu that’s easy to use.
Creating a new note in Google Keep is easy; however, there are fewer types of notes supported. Also, a note can either be a text note or a to-do but not both at the same time, which can be pretty limiting for some users.
You can color-code your notes or choose a background from given options, but there is no way to upload your own background or choose a template. Finally, there is no format menu bar available other than some markup shortcuts like bold and italics.
Apple Notes supports lists, tables, images, and text notes with a decent number of formatting options that fall somewhere in between Evernote and Keep. You will find all commonly used options there, and using it is as easy as pie.
Like Evernote’s Scratch Pad, Apple Notes offers Quick Notes, but currently, it is restricted to iPads only.
Winner: Evernote. Unlike Google Keep and Apple Notes, Evernote supports the most number of note-taking formats. The text-formatting options are the best in class, even on mobile apps.
Categorize, Search, and Retrieve Notes
Evernote uses a combination of notebooks/folders, stacks, and tags to categorize notes. You can search for notes using keywords or use tags and folders to locate them. Evernote doesn’t support nested folders or tags even though this has been a popular demand from users for quite some time. All tasks that have due dates or are assigned to someone are listed separately.
Google Keep takes a different approach. There are no folders, but you get labels just like you get in Gmail. You can also assign a background color to notes and find them by that color. Google will automatically try and detect food, place/location, people, travel, etc. in the notes and create smart categories for them. Finally, all notes with reminders, URLs, recordings, etc. are categorized separately automatically.
Tip: A little-known Keep hack is using tags. While there is no way to assign tags directly, what you can do is add a “#tag” inside a note, then use Keep’s powerful search bar to find all notes that have those tags.
Apple Notes takes the folder approach but not nested – just like Evernote. With the release of iOS 15, you can add tags that are listed separately, and there is the trusted search bar at the top. An intuitive feature is smart folders, where you create a custom folder and assign tags to it. All notes with chosen tags will be listed under that smart folder. You can think of it as categories in a way.
However, Apple Notes offers some smart filters, too, like the ability to filter notes by location, reminder, date, flag, and priority. When you tap on the search bar to type a query, you will notice Apple is grouping notes by checklists, drawings, attachments, scans, etc. for faster retrieval. This makes it even easier to locate certain types of notes or notes with specific data and attributes.
Winner: Apple Notes. Evernote comes a close second, as it was designed to be a digital archive. Apple exceeds by offering a number of smart filters right off the bat, making it that much better.
Sharing and Collaborating on Notes
Evernote has multiple options for sharing notes or notebooks. Open a note, and you can either create a shareable link to the note or invite someone to view/edit the note via email. A copy of the note can be emailed for their perusal, too. It is quick and easy to revoke access to the note at any time.
Google Keep has fewer options but works. You can invite someone to collaborate on the note, but you can’t control whether they can only view or also edit the note. By default, they have editing permissions. There is also no way to share a link to a note. You can copy the note to Google Docs, which offers more granular control like Evernote but isn’t the same as a note-taking app.
Like Evernote, Apple Notes allows users to share notes with others but also allows control of whether they can view and/or edit. There is no way to create a shareable link, though. Both Evernote and Apple Notes also allow you to control whether users invited to the note can further invite new users to that note or not. These are admin-level rights.
All three note-taking apps support @mention which means you can quickly add family or team members to a note and assign them tasks, for example.
Winner: Evernote. While all three note-taking apps allow sharing and collaborating, Evernote goes a step further and offers control. You decide who gets to interact with the note and how.
The above are standard features that make or break a good note-taking app. But there are also additional, thoughtful features that make a great note-taking app, distancing it from the herd.
- You can encrypt text like passwords inside a note, but there is no way to encrypt the note itself or a notebook. Also, even though the text is encrypted, it can still be deleted accidentally, which could be catastrophic, in some instances.
- You can attach all sorts of files to a note like images, videos, documents, etc.
- Evernote follows a freemium model, where it offers certain features for free but keeps some advanced features behind a paywall.
- Evernote works on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and the Web, and also has browser extensions.
- You can only attach images to a note but not other file types.
- It is completely free.
- Like most Google apps, Keep was designed with a Web-first approach in mind and works on the Web, Android, and iOS.
- iOS 15 supports system wide translation, which also works in the Notes app.
- Activity View allows you to track edits made by other users and how they have interacted with the note. Highlights view will list all changes made by other users in a neat list.
- Like most Apple apps, Notes is restricted to the Apple ecosystem but benefits from its deep integration with other apps.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Evernote’s Free Plan Have a Limit?
The free plan allows 60MB of data uploaded per month for life with each note capped at 25MB. You may use it on up to two devices. Learn more about plans here.
2. Can You Use Google Keep Offline?
No. Like most Google apps, Keep doesn’t come with a desktop version. Both the Web and mobile apps require an active Internet connection to work and sync data.
3. Does Apple Notes Have a Limit?
There don’t seem to be any limits. Apple has not specified anything explicitly.
The Winner Is …
Evernote is a more rounded product and suitable as a digital archive. The free plan is good enough for most users while advanced and pro users can explore the paid plans.
Google Keep is more suitable for occasional needs and some quick jot-downs or simply organizing your day. It is not suitable for creating projects and tracking progress, for example, but for creating quick lists or jotting down thoughts in the middle of the night.
Apple Notes has become a more-rounded note-taking product with the features that were added in iOS 15. If you are deep within the Apple ecosystem, Notes is a solid contender and will deliver where required. Read on to learn of other great note-taking apps for iOS.