Return to

Are there any good note taking apps?

I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote both for private and professional note taking for the last couple of years. While its not perfect, at least there is a good Windows desktop and Android app and a decent web app available. The biggest advantage of it is the Cloud Sync capability. To always have your notes synced and ready to go is really neat.

However I would like to break free from closed source as much as possible and I do care about my privacy and I don’t really trust Microsoft. If they for some reason cancels my account or kills the app or the cloud service behind it, my notes are potentially gone.

So I’m looking for alternatives but I find it hard to find a Note Taking application that is Open (source), respects your privacy and also offers some kind of synchronization capability. Think like a “ProtonMail” alternative but for note taking. Is there even such a thing out there?

1 Like

standard notes?


Thanks, that looks like something that I am after. I tested it briefly, is there a way to group notes into sections/directories? I Couldn’t find it in the free version.

Should be able to write tags under the note titles, then the sidebar will show all tags and you can click on them to filter.

Take a look at it uses text base markdown files, so it is completely ‘open’.

You can use links and backlinks to link noyes together. If you really want to dive down the rabbit hole of note-taking, search these terms:

Personal Knowledge Management
Second Brain
Linking your Thinking
Maps of Content

I like it so far. Big improvement over Oneonta. I’m synching across multiple devices using Syncthing, because I want to avoid storing my personal notes on OneDrive


Agreed with geoncic that Obsidian is great. However it is closed source so not really ‘open’ in that sense, however the notes themselves are open like he says. The obsidian team seem like decent folk.

I have also looked for good, open source alternatives like you’re asking about and came up empty which is why I now use obsidian.

I do use a paid Standard Notes account and I like it so far.

There are also alternatives such as Joplin and Turtl but I havent really tried them. I will look into a self hosted solution once I have a proper server running.


I suppose there is Org Mode for Emacs, if you’re willing to go down that rabbit hole.

QOwnNotes is my suggestion to look into. It has self hosted options with NextCloud/OwnCloud integrations. Notes are taken in Markdown. It is pretty easy to use it’s files with other markdown editors. Works on Windows, Linux and MacOS. Has a Vim mode if you need that. The issues I have had with it are mobile related, the notes app in nextcloud works fine, just not perfect. Any markdown editor seems to work ( have only tested nextcloud notes). If you do not want to host a nextcloud it has a portable mode. I have had success using Syncthing to move around my notes instead of nextcloud. It also is written In C++ so no need for an electron wrapper, pretty low on resource consumption. It also has encryption options if you were to sync it around dropbox or google drive. AES-256, keybase or PGP.

1 Like

Yeah, they aren’t open source. I’m sorry if I misled.

However all of the files are text base, so you don’t have to worry about losing your data in some blob you can’t get to if they close their doors.

And you can also still work if their servers go down.

There are plug-ins that can start to lead you away from human readable format (using queries and such)

1 Like

For me, if we’re talking as a journal / detailed notes, then I would say Joplin has worked the best for me - it used to be really slow and heavy (that it makes more sense to go full OneNote) but it has gotten pretty fast, though I haven’t filled it with too much notes yet.

It has that similar sidebar with workbooks and sub-pages structure, and you can modify how it treats some syntaxes. The ability to toggle between markdown mode and rich text editor mode is great (I’m more used to markdown syntaxes, but sometimes I just want to make quick edits so the rich text mode is good for that). It’s what I would recommend if you’re used to OneNote.

I would advice periodic back-up, however, as I recently decided to try it again and while appreciate all the improvements, it nuked all of my old notes synced via OneDrive. If you use their own Joplin Cloud syncing option, that’s probably not going to become an issue again, but otherwise it’s something to remember whenever they change the way sync works.

I’ve tried Turtl and cherrytree but found them to be clunky for my use case, but they are good options to look at too.

Now, if we’re talking about ‘sticky notes’ like quick notes experience like Google Keep, I’d say Standard Notes or Simple Notes. Though Joplin has improved enough that I would use it for quick notes as well.