Chapter 5: Making a Choice
After four chapters of comparing Evernote and OneNote, we declare a winner. Our choice is based on the priorities we've highlighted and we provide a few questions to ask yourself in case your priorities are different. We also briefly cover a few of the best competitors to Evernote and OneNote as a window into what's available.
While both Evernote and OneNote thrive as Personal Productivity Platforms, Evernote is more tailored to that use case and has built a better ecosystem around it. Except for those who are more comfortable in the Microsoft ecosystem, we recommend Evernote.
As a PPP, Evernote is more than the sum of its parts. Evernote itself focuses on the baseline capabilities of being a great PPP; flexible information capture and quick retrieval. Whether you are doing project management, saving child videos or doing web research, Evernote is well suited to capture, store, share and retrieve your information.
To complete the productivity process, Evernote integrates with many more calendars, task apps and other 3rd party tools to serve its role as the base of a larger system for taking effective action. Getting information in is great, but getting it out and making it useful often involves other tools.
Additionally, Evernote thrives in both business and personal use cases which is necessary to assist you in all aspects of life. Likewise It works similarly on every device making it a better universal companion or second brain.
Lastly, the robust community of productivity enthusiasts Evernote has cultivated ensures endless insight in how to best use the product to become more effective. This same community pushes Evernote itself to improve.
Choosing for yourself
While we've determined Evernote is the right choice for most, choosing your own Personal Productivity Platform could be overwhelming given the vast number of note-taking apps available. Although a potential PPP’s feature list and pricing can be a great place to start, I hope this comparison guide shows that you’ll need to dig deeper to find a companion worthy to be labeled, your second brain.
Let’s look at some key questions to consider when hunting for the best PPP:
How do you think?
Knowing your thought process is the first step in choosing the best PPP. Does your brain interpret data as a map of objects, or does it slice it and place things in categories? Maybe your mind tends to organize information in a linear sequential manner or tabular format. Now compare that to how different note-taking or other productivity apps organize information. The idea is to identify a PPP that aligns with how your brain gathers, interprets, and organizes information. That way, you won’t have a hard time putting down your ideas in the app or accessing them later.
What information do you need most?
Most note-taking apps are equipped with an array of organizational elements to help you organize information. It could be tags, emoticons, labels, color codes, tables, or lists. They also store different types of information in different ways. It’s imperative to identify the information you'll store and how you'll easily organize that information before settling on a PPP. If you need audio notes or do lots of drawing, that could easily sway your choice.
Which PPP features matter to you?
A PPP’s feature list is obviously one of the common determinants for most people on whether they choose a particular app. Therefore, when selecting a PPP, it’s essential that you identify the features that you'll use most and write them down. Mostly, the kind of notes you take and their use can help you identify the features that are indispensable to you. It could be markdown editing, syncing across devices, cloud syncing, notes backup, web clipping or user interface. Once you list your preferred features, it’s easy to compare the available productivity apps using their features, but be aware your productivity needs will evolve as you do.
What are your usage environments?
Choosing the right PPP for your "ecosystem" can save you many compatibility issues in the future.
Don't assume you'll limit yourself to your current usage environments forever unless you and your collaborators have been consistent over time. We see many people feel stuck with a decision that seemed right in years past.
How complex or simple do you want your PPP?
App complexity is a critical criterion when choosing a PPP. A bare-bone note-taking app is guaranteed to leave you feeling underwhelmed if you prefer a feature-rich complex app that allows you maximum flexibility and customization. Likewise, a sophisticated app will likely leave your head spinning if you prefer a simplicity and a distraction-free setup. Defining your preferred level of app complexity before-hand will help you choose the right PPP for you.
What’s your budget?
Pricing is always a consideration, but we don't want you to be pennywise and pound foolish. If a PPP makes you more efficient, it's likely worth the few cups of coffee it costs. If in doubt, try our free Time is Money Calculator to see for sure. Frankly, except for students, exchange rate issues and those on extremely tight budgets, the investment in a good PPP should always pay off.
Where are you in your journey?
Productivity and effectiveness are a journey. We all evolve, but over time we gain productivity habits and workflows that stick. Therefore, if your habits have been sustained for years, it will be easier to feel confident in choosing a PPP custom-matched to your workflows. However, if you're still evolving rapidly, it might make sense to choose a PPP that has features you don't yet need, but could anticipate.
Competitors & Alternatives
As Evernote and OneNote continue as heavyweights in personal productivity, there are many newcomers at all levels. While we believe the longevity and future of Evernote and OneNote make them ideal as PPPs, if you're more adventurous and looking for something different, there are no shortage of options.
As players in this space come and go, we expect this list to evolve, but these are currently notable alternatives to Evernote and OneNote.
Founded in 2016, Standard Notes is a free and open source note taking app that focuses on privacy as its core selling point. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even has a browser version.
Nimbus Note is a cross-platform productivity app designed to keep your thoughts and ideas in one place where you can easily retrieve them.
Notion is a powerful productivity tool that combines the functionalities of a note-taking app and spreadsheets. The app has other collaboration capabilities and features other functions such as an integrated calculator and rich text editor.
Roam Research is a browser only note taking app that focuses on a different approach to note organization. You can link a note to another, eliminating the need for tags.
Bear is an Apple-focused note-taking app that prides itself on a smooth writing experience and powerful markdown capabilities.
Apple Notes is an iOS and MacOS exclusive note-taking app. The app offers solid organization and note-taking features seamlessly integrated with the Apple ecosystem.
Just like its name suggests, Simplenote is a simple productivity platform with an intuitive and clean user interface. It’s best suited for people seeking a simple keyboard-centric note-taking app with essential features such as notes, reminders, and to-do lists.