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3 Note-taking Apps, Used Together

For the past few years, I’ve been using three note taking apps side by side. Two of the three apps have stayed the same over the years, while the third has changed a couple of times. Why three apps? It’s partially a function of the strengths and weaknesses of the apps I use, but it’s largely a function of my brain liking to keep different types of data segregated into different apps. In my system, each app serves a different purpose:



Evernote has been my digital filing cabinet for many years, as readers of this site know. A couple of years ago, though, I stopped using Evernote for any sensitive data, such as storing copies of my bills. I still use Evernote for non-sensitive data and web clippings.

Examples of what ends up in Evernote: manuals, web clippings, books, legal research, menus, newsletters


I stopped using Evernote for sensitive data because I didn’t feel comfortable keeping such data in the cloud, on an unencrypted server. As a result, I switched to DEVONthink Pro Office, and now store my sensitive data locally in an encrypted disc image (with redundant backups). Anything that would have gone into a physical filing cabinet years ago, goes into DEVONthink

Why not just use DEVONTHINK for both senstive and non-senstivie data? DEVONthink’s Achilles’ heel is its lackluster iOS app, and it has no web app. Evernote, on the other hand, is everywhere. The ability to capture information into Evernote from almost anywhere is also hard to beat. If DEVONthink could overcome those limitations, I might use it for all of my data. Of course, if Evernote introduced encryption at rest on its servers, I might use Evernote for all of my data.

Examples of what ends up in DEVONthink Pro Office: bills, receipts, tax documents, medical records


Last but not least, I use a separate app for actually taking text notes. I’ve probably tried them all. For note taking, I wanted an app that didn’t feel too “heavy,” but still had more than a single level of organization to it. I’ve used nvAlt, Simplenote, and OneNote for periods of time, and have recenlty moved on to Notebooks. I don’t use Evernote and DEVONthink for this, because neither ever felt right for me as just a note taking app.

I primarily use plain text with Notebooks, and love how plain text really frees my content to be used elsewhere, if I so choose. The app almost feels like just a very clever user interface wrapped around a file and folder structure. You can drop a text file into a folder from outside the app, and Notebooks will then include it within your documents (assuming the file is located within your Notebooks folder structure). Notebooks is cross platform, with apps for iOS, Mac, and Windows. The Mac and Windows versions, though, really lag behind the iOS version.

Examples of what ends up in Notebooks: notes; the occasional PDF


Am I crazy to use three different apps, instead of consolidating into one? Perhaps, but it works for me. And don’t get me started on iOS, where I juggle a multitude of note taking apps.