3 wonderful free programs to take notes

Note taking is not really new. It has existed for as far as mankind existed, but the poor sods earlier relied on stone tablets, cave walls and other such platforms.

As we progressed in technology we have now graduated to written content on paper, and on phones, desktops and tablets of a different kind. The principle however, remains the same.

You want something to note down your thoughts – may it be hand-written or typed-in notes, clippings, images, and more.

It is essential in today’s world that you will be able to see and edit these notes across devices and platforms. If you can share the notes with others, or collaborate on those shared notes it is all the better.

Today, I present you 3 of my favourite note-taking applications.


1. KeyNote NF

I discovered KeyNote about in 2002. KeyNote was a nice introduction for note taking applications on Windows, and I used it to keep track of my learning progress in new programming languages, maintaining bits and pieces of code, and even to track things to-do 10 years down the line (that included writing this post).

keynote nf note taking applications

KeyNote NF (NF stands for new features) is a contemporary version of the older KeyNote. It was created after the original author abandoned the project, but kindly allowed development to carry on.

KeyNote NF differentiates itself on multiple grounds. First, is the fact that it is a high quality application that is available completely free of cost (and is Open Source), without any limitations, and free of any expectations from you.

KeyNote displays a well-laid out hierarchy of notes, and you can use any kind of hierarchy to display notes, related notes to the n-th degree. This enables you to visualise related notes and group them together.

Since KeyNote uses rich text boxes, you can easily add images, web clips, and so forth to make notes more visual.

keynote nf note taking apps for windows

If you have been using Windows, you will be completely at home with KeyNote NF. It is a stable, simple program that can run in portable mode and store all your notes without fuss.

Though KeyNote NF remains my favourite note taking program, I don’t use it as much as I used to..

  • My device ecosystem spans 4 devices across 3 operating systems. KeyNote NF has stubbornly remained loyal to Windows.
  • Sharing notes is not easy. Though you can use DropBox for storing backups, KeyNote NF uses its own format which does not have any programs that support its format (files with .knt extension).


Download KeyNote NF


2. ResophNotes

If you are looking at simple note taking, ResophNotes is the program for you.

simple free Notetaking apps ResophNotes


With ResophNotes you cannot add images, cannot create hierarchies (in the true sense), and cannot run the program in any operating system other than Windows. Where it scores is the sheer simplicity of taking notes, and in creating notes that can be shared across platforms. You can tag notes, and see all organized notes in a left pane, while seeing the details in the main window. There are tonnes of shortcuts that make it easier for folks who swear by their keyboard.

ResophNotes also enables you to sync notes with Simplenote. Simplenote app is available both for iOS, Android, and Kindle, and is considered as a good program to keep track of notes on these platforms. By synchronizing notes, you get the power of ResophNotes in desktop, while retaining the power to view/edit notes on mobile devices.

ResophNotes has been featured on LifeHacker [best syncing note-taker for Windows], and AddictiveTips.


Download ResophNotes


3. Microsoft OneNote

No need to panic. Yes, Microsoft makes great programs. And yes, they offer many of those for free.

Microsoft OneNote is a great note-taker that allows you to create notes from myriad sources on popular platforms. You can create notes, attach clippings, images, PDF documents, and create beautiful paintings (well, you need to have patience) on OneNote. The number of things that you can do on OneNote is a long list, but it is enough to say it competes with the best note taking applications out there.

The problem that I faced with OneNote was two fold –

  • I did not find it intuitive when I got started. Or, should I say “the program looked and acted different”
  • It was only available at work since I did not really buy into Office products. They were expensive

My outlook changed because of Microsoft Office became cheaper (around here in India at least), we had a Home Use Program that made selecting Office products a no-brainer (and prevented me from becoming a Open Office campaigner elite), and then Microsoft OneNote became free. Yes, OneNote was made available to all mortals across devices completely free of cost since March 2014.

And, it had to do a lot with the fact that I learned to use OneNote more effectively. I absolutely love the fact that it can be used as easily from Android as from my desktop. I have all my notes backed up against my Outlook account, and automatically synchronized across devices.

beautiful note taking applications that sync OneNote


Download OneNote


In Conclusion

You have seen 3 programs for note taking on Windows, and are now wondering why I did not cover what many consider the king of note taking software – EverNote. Well, it was simple. The free edition comes with limitations since EverNote follows a freemium model – which implies that it makes sense for the company to put limitations in the free edition, and encourage you to move over to the paid editions. With the free edition you can –

  • create a single note not exceeding 25 MB in size
  • only work with 60 MB of data transfer each month
  • do not have any offline access to notes from Android

Since I am perennially looking to save money, it makes sense to have EverNote enjoy its model while I use other “freer” programs.

What do you think? Know of other great free programs for your note taking? Share with me!

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